Do you see what I see?
Some people go to Rome and shop.
Some people go to Rome and eat.
I go to Rome and visit churches. Museums. Coffee shops.
I go to Rome and check out statues. Fountains. Altars to peace.
Here are a few statues that caught my attention this trip.
Do you see the tiny baby Jesus image that the priest is holding? Apparently, it had been on display since before Christmas. On January 6th, the day that the arrival of the wise men is celebrated, this image was going to be put away until next Christmas. At the end of the mass that evening, the congregants were invited to come to the front and kiss it, touch it, and bid farewell. For weeks they had sung, "Venite, adoremus" - come let us adore Him. They had worshipped and adored. On my last night in Rome, we bid farewell to The Baby.
In a few months, the season of Lent will be upon us. The forty days of preparation before the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. Solemn. Reflective. Sorrowful. Michelangelo's Pieta in the Vatican - there are no words to adequately describe the emotions that I felt when I stood there in front of that statue. Her sorrow. The death of her son. The death of her hopes. Her dreams. Her beliefs about who He was.
I wish I could say I never had doubts.
I suppose I could say it - but it would be a lie.
Far more often than most people would imagine, I think:
"I thought you were the one..."
"I thought you were different."
"I thought you would outlive me. What happened?"
"How did I end up like this - holding my heart and faith in my hands,
both appearing lifeless?"
It's far too easy to ignore beggars. To avoid eye contact with peddlers of junk on the street. The best defense is simply to turn away. When I first saw this statue, I did just that: I turned away. Then the hole in His hand caught my eye.
And I remembered: "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do it unto Me."
And I wondered: How many dozens of people, beggars, travelers, even friends, have I turned away from when they reached out and asked for help?