This afternoon Beth and I had a date. I know. It was exciting for us, too. A good friend whom we've met through church watched the boys for us. Through a radio station (KTIS) I obtained free tickets for Vatican Splendors exhibit at the Minnesota History Center (which would have been a $40 cost otherwise). The parking lot was unattended, so we didn't even have to pay there! Which is also exciting for us, right now.
It was a fascinating exhibit. It started with ancient art works, depicting the gospel story and Christian history. We even saw a reliquary which supposedly holds a bone fragment from Saint Peter. It went on into art and architecture from Saint Peter's Basilica (the first cathedral as well as the current one). There was a display of the uniforms, weaponry and history of the Swiss Guard (which, if you get a chance to see their outfits, you'll understand why Switzerland doesn't fight in any wars).
It then moved into some of the papal history and items from several of the Popes including many from Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It helped gain a deeper appreciation for the history of many rituals and the meanings behind them (which I think are often forgotten).
It was fun to see works by Giotto and Michelangelo among others. I enjoy seeing how scenes from Jesus' life are depicted differently--how many artists place those events in their own time period and settings or the little details they add to a scene. It was neat to see items that haven't been displayed to the public before.
The Vatican itself isn't a huge draw for us, but we appreciate the history of the church and the meaning behind the traditions and rituals. We enjoyed learning more of the faith many of the church leaders exhibited (one of the Pope's sold the papal crown in order to give the money to the poor). It was just cool to be connected to so much Christian history (especially if that really was St. Peter's bone!). The church's history (by which I mean the Body of Christ universal throughout time) hasn't been perfect--just as none of us are perfect. But God has used it despite that. Just as He uses us to bring about His will in this world. Just as He used a stinky barn in little Bethlehem to give the world the greatest gift it has ever known. That is where the Splendor of God starts. In humble beginnings.