All the pictures, all the stories friends shared of their visits, all the guidebooks and maps did not prepare me for the sights, wonders, emotion, and spiritual immersion of Saint Peter's Basilica. I agree with every person who has ever said, "You just have to see it for yourself."
As we walked around the square, waiting for security to open for 7:00 am Mass inside the Basilica, there were moments where I was almost overcome emotion. Simply standing in the middle St Peter's Square made me tingle all over. From the marble steps, we watched the sun break the horizon, illuminating the dome and architectural arms of the colonnade, outstretched and receiving the warming August rays. Moments later, the colossal doors swung open, greeting the sunrise and everyone waiting for the first Mass of the day. It took every ounce of willpower to quickly make our way past all the art and architectural eye candy to the Alter of St Jerome (housing the body of Pope John XXIII) where Mass was celebrated in Italian. My heart felt as if it were going to burst during the liturgical celebration.
I was reminded, as I listened to the Italian and followed using my Magnificat, of the many wonders of the Catholic faith. I was grounded in the Mass, recognizing the cadence and flow as we all worshiped God together, proving the Holy Spirit is the universal language.
After the dismissal, I feasted on the beauty emanating from every inch of space from floor to the ceiling. Honestly, it was overwhelming. St Peter's is more than a church. It is a tribute to God's work through human hands. It is a mausoleum. It is an art gallery. Nothing captures all the elements better than Michelangelo's Pieta, tucked into the corner. Even from a considerable distance, it grasps your attention and your heart. It is the climax of every story written on every surface within the edifice.
I am absolutely terrible at selfies but I had to include it because how often do you get photo-bombed by a nun in St. Peter's?