On entering the massive bronze doors to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, you are immediately awed by the enormity of the Church. Looking straight ahead you see the Papal Altar, with its Baroque bronze canopy, covering the tomb of St. Peter.
Lifting your gaze up to a height of nearly 450 feet, you are overcome with the intricate designs of the of the gold coffered ceiling. But turn right and you see one of the most beautiful and testimonial works of art – The Pieta by Michelangelo. This 5’8” x 6’4” marble masterpiece depicts Mary, the mother of Christ, holding Jesus after the crucifixion. This piece tells the story of a mother mourning her son. It tells the story of a son who gave his life. It tells the story of the pain of the cross, while retaining the hope of the promise. It is a beautiful tribute to the Gospel.
Our visit to the Vatican today was so packed with artwork and tapestry that one could scarcely take it all in. It could be overwhelming at times. However, walking the halls of the museum and the isles of the Basilica, one can easily see the role the Catholic Church has played in sharing the Good News of the Gospel for over 1600 years. Even though we are not Catholic, we cannot help but appreciate the role of Catholicism in bringing the message of the Cross to Europe and then subsequently to the Western world. Today, we, the St. Luke’s team, were able to appreciate and acknowledge the saints on whose shoulders we stand – men and women who faithfully worked to share the message of God’s love. Some of these men and women are reflected in the sculptures and frescos of the Vatican, many are not. Today we could appreciate that we are one Church, one Body, one Faith.
After the tour of the Vatican, the majority of the group enjoyed another delicious multi-course meal which included pasta, pork and potatoes, and pound cake with strawberries. A small delegation of 5 volunteered as tribute to forego lunch and traverse up 551 steps to the top of St. Peter’s dome. This delegation, known as the Steeple Chasers, wound their way up various leveled stairways and narrow climbing passages for the most spectacular views – both inside and outside the dome. They were able to look down into the Basilica from an aerial vision and see many of the mosaics in greater detail. They also had the most spectacular aerial view of the city of Rome from outside the dome – taking in the serene calmness of the enormous city. It was a breathtaking experience!
Both the Lunch Bunch and the Steeple Chasers were able to enjoy getting to know individual group members better, learn more of our unique stories, and share memorable experiences as a family of faith. Following lunch and the Steeple Chaser adventures, group members were able to enjoy free time in Rome and go on personal excursions to explore the city. What a terrific day! We are so grateful to God for the joy of His presence alive in His people – past, present, and future!
– Suzanne Manning