My most favorite site that we visited was St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. We actually visited twice because its free, so why not. The first visit we paid for a small tour through the Vatican Museum first. Our tour guide told us if we looked at every piece of art there for only 15 seconds, it would take us three years to look at it all. Crazy. J and I aren't really art people, but just the age of some of the pieces was amazing, and the stories behind some of the art work by Raphael was interesting. That led us to the Sistine Chapel, which I had high hopes for. But as I discovered in many sites we saw, if we could have seen it by ourselves, it would have been an entirely different experience. If I could have laid on my back in that room for an hour or so, I certainly would have been brought to tears in appreciation for Michelangelo's work. But being pushed through there with 300 other people, shoulder to shoulder, was not an inspirational moment. And they asked for quiet, since it is a chapel, but people couldn't help themselves from talking, so every 5 minutes a guard was screaming "Quiet Please!" in English and Italian. It kind of takes the holiness out of the moment. But I am glad I can say that I have seen it.
So then we were able to go into the Basilica. That part is free, after you go through a long line of airport type security. But when I walked in, my mouth dropped open. You just have to stand there a minute and take it all in. It is the biggest church I have ever seen. And the most beautiful. There are just not words to describe it. We walked around in awe for awhile. Surprisingly you are allowed to take pictures there, so there are some below. Although, you are not allowed to use flash, and surprisingly my little camera did a much better job of pics than my big one. But either way, pictures do not do it justice. Our tour guide took us around and showed us some of the more interesting parts, and then our tour was done, so we stayed a while longer.
We came back our last day. Jason went up into the cupola and took some pictures, and I took my Bible and journal fully intending to have some worship time. But in all its glory, unless you are participating in a mass, there is no where to sit. I found an out of the way place in a corner and sat down to journal. I kind of thought that wouldn't work, but tried anyway. Five minutes in, I was asked very politely to stand up. No explanation why. I assume because they consider it disrespectful to sit on the floor there. I wanted to, but did not, ask the man why I was being disrespectful, while the people walking around talking on their cell phones, or posing for pictures next to dead popes were behaving correctly. I was just trying to have some time with the Lord.
There were so many people there! I think there were two different groups of people. One group was strictly there because when you are in Rome, a good tourist just visits there. Lots of tour groups walking around with their headsets on listening to their guides. But the other group of people were there to truly worship. There were people sitting at confessionals, participating in masses, or praying on their knees in chapels. I supposed I could have pretended to be Catholic so I could go pray in a chapel, but I was afraid it would be obvious I was not. Although just being in there, I wanted to do the sign of the cross out of respect for the millions of Catholics who have come there in history to worship. You can't help it when you see a precious nun who has sacrificed so much to worship her Lord.
But as I sat there, taking in the grandeur of this amazing place, a question popped in my mind. Is this really what the Lord wants in a church? Does a building like that, decorated in precious metals and art by the top artists of the times, huge in not only size but scale and design, does that truly bring glory to Him and for Him? Or would He prefer a tent or a shack in the woods, but full of people who are down on their knees worshiping Him? It did bring me to a place of worshiping Him, but I know many people in that place were worshiping what man had done in building it, not our Father that it was created for. I also know the history of the building, that many parts of it were built by popes using money taken from indulgences and built to bring attention to themselves, not the Lord. I don't know the answer to that, but I did take the opportunity to sing praises to Him in my heart, thankful that I can go to His throne wherever I am.