Eat Pray Love - the Pray bit

I was raised in the Catholic faith. I've had four of the seven Sacraments (Baptism, Communion, Reconciliation and Marriage), I go to Mass and I like to pray. Well, I couldn't have found myself in a better place for prayer than the home of the Catholic Church - Rome. There is something about Roman and Italian churches that is immediately familiar and innately peaceful and soothing. I prayed in St. Peter's Basilica, at Santa Maria in Trastevere at Amalfi's Duomo and at San Pietro in Vincoli before the chains that held Saint Peter as he was led to his crucifixion. I prayed in the Duomo in Naples - the quietest church I've ever been in. It's almost like you can hear God breathing.

Last September we went to a Papal Blessing. Pope Benedict was officiating and he was treated like a rock star, complete with helicopter arrival and bodyguards in Armani.

The Holy Father - Pope Benedict - September 2012

And the Pilgrims who came to see him - St. Peter's Square

The entrance to St. Peter's Basilica, closed for the duration of the Papal Audience. I love those statues of the saints.

The Papal Audience was beautiful. It wasn't just about seeing Pope Benedict and listening to his liturgy - it was also about seeing the people in the crowd. People from the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia, the United States, Japan, India, South Africa, France, Turkey....the Pope acknowledged them all and welcomed everyone. When he named a country, those groups from that country called out in appreciation and waved their flags. It was such a collective affirmation of my faith.

I was back in Rome a few months later. It was winter and we visited St. Peter's again, this time getting inside the Basilica and climbing to the top of the cupola (dome).

St. Peter's Square on a velvety, foggy morning. In the foreground right is a giant Nativity scene (it was two days after Christmas)

Looking toward the altar inside St. Peter's Basilica

From the mezzanine area near the stairs for the climb up the dome. The Saints in the fog.

Yes, we climbed to the top - it's around 300 stairs all up - no photos from the top as the fog floated in and out - but the glimpses of the view were pretty good!
The climb to the top was not for the faint-hearted. I can't imagine doing it in summer. See how the dome curves - well inside that dome is a staircase that spirals in ever decreasing circles until you get to a teeny tiny doorway you need to crouch to get through. Then you're on an outside viewing area - with some flat surfaces to sit and wait for your heart rate to return to normal!
I highly recommend doing this - maybe don't do it our way though - we walked ALL the way. There is an elevator to the mezzanine for seven euros. Nope - I wanted to burn some calories.....(all that pizza and red wine..)  It didn't occur to me to stop and think about the paramedics getting up those stairs with a stretcher.


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