Thursday, March 1, 2007

A letter to the Vatican Museums:

Dearest Vatican Museums:

When Pat and I turned the corner from Bernini's amazing Piazza San Pietro, the line started forming. An hour later, we finally made it to your door, a unassuming/disappointing entrance tucked into a wall so thick that not even a million Capital One marauders could crack it to check what's in your wallet. We were funnelled, searched, 13 Euros plucked out of each pair of hands, pushed, prodded, jostled as we and thousands (millions?) of others hoofed it to the Sistine Chapel as if our salvation depended on it.

Who knows? It may have/had/does/did.

When we finally made it through the door as big as a bathroom door, I was in awe. Really. You hear about how masterful Michelangelo was, how stirring his work is. Amazing. But that word is overused. Ever the cynic, I didn't believe it. Public Enemy may not be the Holy Sacrament or anything, but there's some life lessons there I listened to. It didn't hurt that Chuck D is really cute.

So you may not believe me when I say I could have spent hours sitting on that creaking wooden bench at the chapel, my neck tilted back like I was catching raindrops from the sky. Hours could have turned into days that would turn into a neck brace and self-induced whiplash. I loved the Italian guards shushing everyone, forcefully telling picture takers to not shoot their measly flashes at the chapel's walls and ceiling. People, this is where the Pope is chosen, for God's sake. No pictures for your silly slide shows.

But the ceiling! God stretching, stretching his forefinger to touch Adam who looks like a lazy frat boy, his finger just listing upward to touch God's fingertip. Genius. It says so much, doesn't it, about this world we have? What we are offered, yet are too blind/lazy/sad/distracted to take? It filled me with great sadness in a way, the urgency not met. I wanted my finger to grow like Pinocchio's nose, grow to the ceiling, grasp God's hand where we could skip away together. I wouldn't eat the forbidden fruit, I vowed.

So it is with great love/sincerity/respect I ask you one question: Does anyone ever dust that place?

When we left, we walked through anticlimactic hallways filled with wooden cases stuffed with vases and urns. And not to be snide or disrespectful, but, really, you house one of the most famous artworks of the world's entire civilization, so I was a bit shocked to see more than one case with mile-high layers of dirt. And I know U.S. dioceses aren't pumping all their cash to you anymore with all the child abuse scandals and bankruptcies. But, really? Can't you spring for a Merry Maid? Even if human cloning becomes successful and makes Vatican dust the prime DNA mining spot, this? You deserve so much more!

I would be more than happy to help out. I can dust and clean with the best of them. I'm a little fanatical about it.

I'm sure that God doesn't care (or does he?). But I couldn't help but think -- as we turned, turned, turned down the floors and floors and floors of spiraling stairs to walk outside into the gray early afternoon to search for pizza, the most pedestrian of items but what else would seem right? -- that maybe stripping away the grimy reminder that the world is, well, grimy, from at least this one place would make it seem possible, at least, that that outstretched hand could touch us for real.

With love,



Frances said...

wow. wow. wow. holy crap. this is my most favorite thing ever ever ever by angie newsome i've ever read. that part about adam as the lazy frat boy, just whatevering his finger to God, that gives me shivers. i'm all wow, is all. xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

What Sacrilege!
How dare you disrespect dust in such a way! Dust, it is my life. It coats everthing I touch. Have you never heard, from dust you come and dust you shall return?
We won't hold it against you. You are not Catholic, after all. But we Catholics accept you, welcome you into our most holy house, as one of our own.