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The Inhabitant of St. Peter’s

February 20, 2013

They say that houses take on the personality of their inhabitants. A clean, trim person might have a clean, trim little two-storey with a manicured lawn, while those wild artistic types will be the ones with the mosaic brick chimney and the abstract sculpture of Nirvana by the mailbox. I suppose this idea is true, for two reasons: people always make minor changes to what they own which reflect their personal tastes; but maybe the real reason in that the more we know a person, the more we associate that person with his surroundings, until everything he owns seems somehow perfectly suited to him. Names, for example. My siblings’ names seem to match their personalities exactly, and I can’t imagine changing Mike’s name to Jim any more than changing a zebra’s stripes for spots.

This all turned in my mind as I walked past St. Peter’s Basilica the other day. I don’t know if the people in Rome look on the central church of the catholic world and feel the force of those who live inside it and around it. When Pope John XXIII lived there, did the Romans see the People’s Pope in the big, stocky dome and the two arms of the collonades reaching to embrace the world? Did they imagine Pope Paul VI’s searching intelligence and humanism in the perfect geometry of the facade? And did the people of Rome look at the gigantic power of that mass of marble and see Pope John Paul II striding across the world, boundless in energy and enthusiasm for the Gospel?

As I stood back to look at the Basilica, the presence of Pope Benedict XVI suddenly came to life, suggested by the curve and sweep of architecture. I could see the brilliant theologian in the domed head reaching towards the heavens. I sensed the patient teacher in the statues of the saints atop of the collonades, each one explaining in their very selves the mystery of God’s love. And I could feel the humble servant of the Lord’s vineyard in the wide and welcoming piazza, the cobblestones ready to support the tons of pilgrims who make their way here each year.

These days, as Pope Benedict prepares to relinquish the Petrine Ministry, the Basilica seems quiet, thoughtful, pensive. I do not need to reflect on the support and gratitude which has been offered to the Pope during these past weeks. I can only offer my own, and look out the window at St. Peter’s which, even though sunk in thought, still has hope written in the uplifted dome, looking up to the stars from whence shall come our help.

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From → Musings

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