Never have I seen the throngs of folks wielding selfie sticks like the throngs at St. Peter's in Rome. The whole scene was too much for me and I gave away my tickets to the Papal Mass and a Papal Audience in favor of wandering elsewhere, in particular along the banks of the Tiber.
Here I stumbled upon San Bartolomeo, the Memorial of the New Martyrs.
Bishop Oscar Romero's missal.
A letter written by Blessed Franz Jägerstätter.
Now that moved me.
In the back of the church, a fat German man slurped an ice cream.
I've thought a lot about the phenomenon of posting our life instead of living it. On FB, no-one says I’m having a bad time, this place sucks, I feel lonely, depressed, and unloved, I just ate a ripoff meal. We don’t travel. We just move our body to a new place so we can have a different background for our Instagram pix.
Ticking, say, the seven basilicas of Rome off my checklist doesn't make me a Catholic. What makes me a Catholic—a follower of Christ; fully human—is the way I see the world, experience the world. My poverty and need. My imagination, that sees the whole world as consecrated, redeemable. My human heart that, as all human hearts must be, is pierced through with a sword.
I've been thinking as well of the phenonomenon of photo-taking in general. One kind of photo is a theft, a taking without giving or leaving anything in return. Another kind of photo, no matter how amateurish, is an act of love—taken by a person who has undergone some hardship, usually tiny, sometimes huge, in which the hardship, the love, is given in exchange. That kind of person wants to leave the place, the scene, the building, the sunset, the light, the shadow, enriched, enfleshed, consummated, fulfilled. He or she comes with an attitude of heart that says, My desire is to add something to you, not to snatch something from you.
To me, the most moving thing in St. Peter’s was Michelangelo’s Pietà. Kevin, the seminarian from Boston who yielded his afternoon to give me a tour, pointed out that Christ is almost falling from Mary’s lap.
It’s as if she’s about to deliver him onto the altar from which the whole world will be fed.