I was disappointed to learn that the pope is not keeping God in a box at the Vatican. Or if he is, that it was not part of the tour.
I didn’t realize it until I had been there, but my half-Catholic blood is always secretly hoping that the Catholics have a direct line to God, while I am politely relegated to the Protestant voice mail system.
After three separate attempts (feast day, papal parade, papal parade aftermath), I finally got myself inside St. Peter’s, theoretically the capital of Christianity, and I was like, This is it?
It’s similar to the way a person can secretly hope that anyone wearing a collar is God. Even if you have clear, early experience to the contrary, of how not-God clergy are, it still burns in your belly. Perhaps this person is God! My priests and pastors have shown me their flaws, sometimes boldly, and I’m grateful for that.
I should have been innoculated from disillusionment in Rome. It’s not like I am unacquainted with the gorgeously rebellious joy of the American Catholic church, which downs its birth control pills and ducks its head just below the radar of the current, conservative leadership– both Roman and local.
God resists being put in a box, of course, which is one of the things I like most about God. The thing that will get you a second date with a person like me is not being able to fit in a box. And so I’ve been in a long-term, quite fractious relationship with God
I found the Vatican the most disappointing of the European treasures I’ve been so lucky to see. When you are hoping for God-in-a-box, though, that is a setup for disappointment. St. Peter’s is very white, and very huge, and very clean. The whiteness and hugeness, I guess, I could deal with, but the cleanliness were really not right. The more worn and falling apart and used a church looks, the better I like it. I don’t want to be praying someplace where nobody ever confessed to adultery, or begged for relief from a hangover on Ash Wednesday, or fought matricidal thoughts. I need to know that very real, messy people have struggled with crazy, stupid problems. Preferably in that exact pew.
I started attending one of the older churches in my hometown here, and was probably the only person sad to hear that they were refinishing the 100-year-old floor. At least the pews kept their patina.
When I saw the pope waving hello, and the glamorous interior of St. Peter’s, all I could think was, this is politics. Politics and power games, which interest me, in their own right, but don’t have anything to do with God, and quite often obscure any spiritual elements.
I still wish that God would get in a box somewhere, so I could go visit. But then God wouldn’t be so hard to get. And if God’s not playing hard to get, let’s face it, I probably would lose interest.