Next to my lovely South Pacific pearl and Mayan coin hangs another medallion. On an adventure to Italy, I visited Rome. While I’m not Catholic, I couldn’t pass up a chance to visit the Vatican. I walked on uneven cobblestones and marveled at the uniqueness of the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world by both area and population. The buildings were large and old. Inside, the buildings varied from newly renovated and extravagant to old and decaying.
It took persistence to see the Vatican. I visited it on three separate days. It reminded me of the persistence that I need to have in my relationship with God. On day one, I saw the outside, and didn’t want to wait in line to go inside. I reveled at the outside architecture without stepping inside.
On day two, I decided that I needed to wait in line, but it was a Wednesday, which is the day that Pope Benedict XVI had a service. I watched the pomp and circumstance as the service began and the stage filled with priests in black with red sashes. Then, in glowing white, the Pope sat in the middle of the stage. Several people spoke and then the Pope began his sermon. I couldn’t understand him because he was so far away and speaking Italian. However, it was a fascinating experience. I learned that on “Pope” days, nobody is allowed inside. So I wandered across the street and meandered through the hectic streets of Rome. I sat outside a small café and ate pizza margarita with slices of egg and ham. I savored my Coca-Cola after slowly pouring from the little bottle into a small glass.
I wandered through some little shops and in one a collection of small medallions caught my eye. I struck up a conversation with the shopkeeper who spoke broken English. We had an awkward but fun conversation as we struggled to understand each other. I told her that I wanted a medallion to add to my chain and gestured to my chain around my neck that held a token from Mexico. She pointed to St Christopher, and explained that he is the saint of travel.
“Well, that sounds appropriate, so I’ll take it!” I added the medallion to my chain and continued with my exploration of Rome, always careful to keep track of where I turned or stopped so I could return to my hotel safely.
On day three, my persistence paid off. I was able to take a tour inside the buildings and marvel at the architecture and huge cathedral and buildings. The Sistine Chapel was large and filled with people from wall to wall. I was disappointed that instead of quiet reflection, I was surrounded by a noisy mob taking nonstop pictures despite a strong warning that no flash pictures are allowed. It was a warning that couldn’t possibly be enforced with the number of people packed in and passing through the holy chapel. I wish I could have visited it alone to spend time in prayer and reflection. I noted the parallel of the need for hectic lives to slow down and the irreverent crowd hurrying for a snapshot of the beautiful ceiling of history without pause to consider each colorful drawing’s story.
After getting home with my new medallion, I did some research on St. Christopher. He is viewed as a saint of protection, particularly for protection during travel and long voyages. He was 7.5 feet tall, and was searching for the greatest King there was. When he saw a human king show fear for the Devil, he turned to the Devil as the greatest. However, he then learned that the Devil fears Christ, and turned to Christ. He dedicated his life to honoring Christ and ended up helping people cross a dangerous river as his service to the Lord. He once carried a young baby, who turned out to be Jesus, as heavy as the world. Struggling, he finally made it through the rushing water to the other side. His story reminds us that as Jesus carries the weight of the world, Christ is carrying me through life.