I have made ten trips to Rome. While the novelty has cooled somewhat, the city still has a strong, emotional effect on me. For better or for worse, it is part of who I am as a Catholic.
My feelings towards Rome reflect my feelings towards my faith in general. Deep down, I love the richness of the history. You can`t help but be moved when you turn onto the Via Della Conciliazione and take in your first view of St. Peter`s Basilica. To say it`s majestic is a gross understatement. The interior magnifies the scale even more. If bigger is better, then St. Peter`s is the best.
Tourist groups and individuals with guide-books and head-sets abound. But my favourite way to tour St. Peter`s is to simply stroll in silence, stopping every once in a while to take it all in; the natural lighting, the coolness of the marble, the beauty of the Pietà, the magnificence of Bernini`s baldacchino. For me, it`s a true experience of the heart.
But then the head kicks in. I ponder the history of how these monuments to human ingenuity came to be. How much sweat and toil? How much fleecing of God`s good people? How much injustice and outright lying with the selling of indulgences? Sobering thoughts compete with the soul-soaring grandeur. Where does this leave me?
Each time I go to Rome and visit the Vatican, I still feel like I`m coming home to my Catholic roots. Yet there is also a sense of discomfort. The fond memories are mixed with disappointment and frustration at the shadow side of our Church; both past and present. Ah, home, sweet dysfunctional home!