When I didn’t have a Spiritual Experience at the Vatican

For Easter 2012, all the women on my Mum’s side of the family (11 of us in total) went to visit Rome and the Vatican as part of our Grandmother’s 70th Birthday celebrations. Ranging from 75 to 16, all of us were raised Roman Catholics, and we arrived in Rome on the morning on Palm Sunday. Although I am not a practising Catholic, unlike the majority of my family, I was really excited to see the Vatican.

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I don’t quite know what I expected when I walked into St Peter’s Square, but some sort of religious revelation. The seat of the Holy See and home of the Roman Catholic religion, I did anticipate some kind of silent spiritual awakening. Perhaps a gentle stirring of my faith calling me back.

I got nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

Even with the people, just finished mass on Palm Sunday, handing olive branches in the shape of the holy cross in the act of sharing of their faith, I felt unmoved.

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I cannot fault that St Peter’s square is stunning. Vast and opulent in its decoration, to see the millions that flock to this place every year and those who visit reaffirm’s their faith, I felt strangely empty.

We also toured inside St Paul’s Basilica, and I had a whirlwind tour of the Vatican museums. The many altars throughout the Basilica and the museum filled with hundreds of pieces of artwork and the Sistine Chapel are all majestic and beautiful but left me indifferent regarding my faith.

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But I did learn something about my faith from visiting the Vatican…

I now understand that my faith is not connected to a place or a people. To me, my faith is connected to my heart and soul. It is related to my inner voice, my inner conscience, my internal moral compass. It is compared to what drives me forward, what makes me want to travel and meet people and understand new cultures. I am not bound by a church or temple, the world is mine to explore.

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