Tag Archives: Vatican

Guest blogger: RETIREMENT/30/65/GRAD

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Editor (Sara)’s note: For the first time in saratreetravels history, we are proud to welcome a guest blogger to our travel universe – my (tied-for-) favourite travel partner and mother, Mary!!

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What a year!

Sara and I talked about doing a major trip, but her idea and mine of a major trip were two different things. When she asked me where I would like to go, I stretched it to my biggest dreams I could imagine of what I could do in my lifetime. I suggested wild things like a train trip across Canada, or sitting on the beach in Hawaii (which by the way was slowly being covered by lava). I stretched even farther to the Alaskan cruise up the West side of our fair country.

Imagine my amazement when I received the email from Sara who must have chuckled at my ‘amazing dreams’. My dreams were so small. She sent me an agenda that saw us flying to Rome. “Now” she said “what would you like to see now?”

Editor’s note: Small?! Absolutely not how I would describe my mom’s dreams… her life has been my inspiration to dream big!

Now my vision was set farther. Europe was never in my thoughts for a trip I could ever do in my lifetime. Now I had the ticket, just had to come up with an agenda. Sara asked me, “NOW what do you want to see?” I threw out things that I had dreamed of, again, never expecting to see them happen: The Coliseum, the Vatican, Pompeii, Venice, maybe a side trip to Ukraine to see dad’s family again.

Sara took my ideas under advisement, and came up with an agenda of almost three weeks. I got my boat cruise (not the Alaskan Cruise, but on the Danube which I had planned with a friend who had passed away before we could see it). I got my train trip (two actually), I walked the Coliseum (oh yes, it was at the end of our street in view of our hostel) and the Vatican. I walked Pompeii and marvelled at the amazing lost city. I took a gondola on the canals of Venice and visited the lace museum in Burano. We experienced the amazing city of Vienna and the Matyas heritage in Budapest including public baths and the Matyas church and castle.

Wait, what’s that we spy from our front door? Could it be… ??!!

Exploring the ancient mysteries of Pompei

Aboard a gondola for a canal-eye view of Venezia

El Museo del Merletto (The Burano Lace School & Museum)

Stadtpark Vienna City Park

Beautiful Budapest

As a grand finale, we took a train to Lviv, Ukraine and then drove to Lanchyn where I was able to once again see my dad’s village, walk the roads that he walked, sit for dinner with his family.



What an adventure! I am so grateful to have had this chance to see all I did. Kudos to Sara who planned all this in spite of writing exams and doing those things required to complete her MD. Challenge should have been her middle name because she most certainly meets the challenge. However her middle name is even better: Hope. Without the Hope, we don’t have energy for future plans. And so I say “Thanks for the memories.” It was an awesome experience of a lifetime!

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Modern Mennonite Visits Vatican

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Being somewhere foreign often makes you reflect on where you come from yourself.

I come from the twentieth century, where Church and State are oil and water, and faith is a deeply individual and personal issue.

I come from North America, where churches are functional to the point of shunning anything too aesthetically pleasing. (How often is the phrase ‘church basement’ used to imply unappealing interior decor?)

I come from the Anabaptist tradition, which is opposed to anything connected to war, empire, and nationalism.

As such, stepping into the Vatican felt like stepping into the belly of the beast. My head was a swirl of amazement, skepticism, evaluation, and re-evaluation. So without further ado, let’s start with the tragic and work our way to the beautiful.

I don’t know if there is a treasure trove on Earth as full and rich as the Vatican museum. Artifacts from around the world, from 2500 years of history, are displayed in every nook and cranny. For many centuries, new buildings were commissioned every few decades to house the newly accrued treasures (and we thought Canada’s spending scandals were bad! At least our senators aren’t claiming any divine appointment!).
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I know that frustration against this hypocrisy is easy to find, so I won’t beat a dead horse, but what truly broke my heart was this:
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The power of the cross destroying the riches of the Earth. Yet those riches are still on display here, in what much of the world perceives to be God’s capital city. This gap in thinking is by no means restricted to the Papacy, and is something that anyone claiming any form of spirituality must be keenly aware of!

It’s also worth noting how the museum completely omits any of the darker points of the Church’s history. How much respect could the Church (or anyone, for that matter!) gain simply by taking responsibility for past actions. This is something we are starting to grasp as Canada deals with its colonial history, and hopefully this movement will only continue to grow.

On a less critical note, I found my reaction to the paintings change as we moved through the museum. At first even the pictures of the Nativity seemed foreign, as if I had no personal connection with them. As they go on, however, a familiar story starts to emerge. While many of the paintings are heavily influenced by history, politics, and superstitions, Christ’s love for humanity is never doubted. Misunderstood, yes. Ignored, yes. But whenever He reappears in the story, it is with compassion for people living in a broken world.

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Finally, regardless of a twisted history of corruption and biased interpretation, individual conviction is still expressed. The wall of the Sistine Chapel exemplifies this best. The man holding a suit of lifeless skin is St. Bartholomew, the martyr believed to have been flogged beyond recognition. Obviously he has shed his old, demolished skin in a dramatic display of new life, but the dead face was painted by Michelangelo as his own self-portrait. The honesty of this man, to portray himself in such a gruesome way, was to me the most powerful display of individual conviction amidst centuries of institutionalized corruption.

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We also had the opportunity to be part of the 60,000+ spectators that listened to Pope Francis’ blessing. He has certainly proven to be, like Michelangelo, an individual who is sincere in his own personal faith, and my prayer is that he would continue to influence other individuals to do the same.

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Being in the Vatican may have been the most out-of-place I’ve ever felt (and this is coming from someone who walked into a Messianic Jewish commune in the middle of a minha without realizing it was Yom Kippur!), but the pitfalls of the Catholic Church are no different than the pitfalls of which we all must be conscious. And the convictions, when everything political is stripped away, are the same as well.

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