On July 4, 1999, I was staying in a campground near Rome. There were a lot of foreigners around, most of them Aussies (Australian) and Kiwis (New Zealanders). I was bummed about spending the American holiday among people who, like the two Canadian women who kept making anti-American jokes, just didn’t appreciate the significance of the day. So, I opted out of going into Vatican City that Sunday morning, instead sleeping in until 1:00 pm in the tiny wooden cabin I was renting for the week.
Later, when some of my fellow campers came back from their excursion, I greatly regretted my decision to stay behind. They had been standing in the courtyard at Saint Peter’s Square, when the Pope had come to his window and given them a blessing. Wow – I had missed out on getting a special blessing from the Pope. I am not Catholic, but I thought it would be amazing to have experienced such a special event.
This morning, February 17, 2013, Pope Benedict gave his first Sunday blessing since announcing his resignation. When I read the story it brought back that old regret of fourteen years ago. Why did I skip that excursion? It’s not like me to turn down a new experience.
I did tour the Vatican the next day. It was beautiful and surreal to be in such an historic place. But, I was bothered by the money changers. Remember Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple? Well, that’s what I thought about when I experienced all the things for sale there at the Vatican.
Today’s news also brought to mind others who practice the blessing ritual – special, influential religious leaders (Benny Hinn comes to mind) whose prayers are coveted. I thought about something that happened with my daughter a year or so ago. She was very sick with the flu and was vomiting repeatedly and refusing liquids. I was worried. Her older brother didn’t get my worry and was being a kid – hyper, etc. I said to him, “Your sister is sick. This is serious.” His demeanor completely changed and he fell to his knees and started praying, begging God to heal his sister.
Now, I don’t know about all the special religious leaders and their lines to God, but personally I’d rather have the prayers of an innocent child! I never prayed aloud growing up. I never heard a woman pray aloud, either. It just wasn’t done and it took me a long time and a lot of training and exposure to others to become comfortable with it. To see my children pray for each other (and their friends, family, bullies at school, etc.) brings tears to my eyes.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.