Thursday, January 11, 2007


Diane and I spent Christmas in Rome. It was our first visit to the city and to St. Peter’s square and basilica.


That is the best way to describe my first impression as I walked into the square and then into the basilica. Many of western civilization's most talented artists, sculptors and architects—from Michelangelo to Bernini to Raphael—have given the best years of their lives to contribute to the beauty that permeates everything here. The results are astonishing and awe-inspiring.


That was my next feeling—that I belong to a Church that awakens in these great artists such passion and desire to glorify God, as is evident in every pillar, mosaic and delicate stroke of the brush. Surely there must be profound truth to a faith that inspires such genius.


In the middle of St. Peter’s square is an obelisk that dates to the Egyptian empire, brought to Rome by the emperor Caligula in 37 A.D. During the reign of Nero, it served as a marker for charioteers to make the turn as part of Nero’s Circus. It was also, then, the silent witness to the merciless persecution of Christians under Nero—Peter himself was crucified upside down nearby. As I stood underneath the shadow of this obelisk, I was swept up by emotion, feeling the connection with the early Church and all of its martyrs.

During the rest of the week we were in Rome, we visited St. Peter’s square every day. Each time, it was a religious experience for us. My thanks to the Catholic community of Montgomery and to Fr. Dean in particular for this great gift.

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