Two summers ago, while visiting Monaco, we entered the simple yet stunning Catholic church where Princess Grace was buried.
Upon entering, a nun approached us asking for a donation. She had the purest heart and when Tony handed her a small donation my heart ached in the kind of way that sends a message to the brain to start the tears.
As I walked at the edge of the church, I had a prayer in my heart and I asked, "God, are you here?" Again my heart clenched, my body filled with warmth and the tears flowed. It was a direct answer to my prayer. Yes, God was here.
I was excited to visit the Sistine chapel. The last restoration had revitalized the colors to their original brilliance. Before entering, we were told silence was required. I looked forward to those silent, designated-too-few-minutes we were allowed. An estimated 28,000 people a day walk through the Sistine.
How I wanted to lay on the floor and gaze as long as I wanted; this was impossible and instead we were ushered through by what I perceived as cranky Italian guards. I was saddened too when so many people were not silent. Around the chapel were ledges for people to sit, but these were occupied. I wondered if it was okay to sit on a step well out of the way of moving traffic. I cautiously, slowly, sat.
"Stand!" one of the guards barked.
Before we entered the Vatican museum and Sistine chapel, our guide gave us a short tutorial. Pope Julius, to whom she referred to as a bad pope, had commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling. Michelangelo was against painting the ceiling because he was a sculptor. Considerable pressure comes when the pope asks--Michelangelo begrudgingly consented. Against his wishes, he spent four miserable years painting the ceiling.
I remembered the reverent atmosphere of Princess Grace's chapel and the question I asked. I once again asked, "God, are you here?"
This time the answer was as sure as it was in Monaco, yet this time the answer was, God is in one's heart.
How true I would understand the answer to be. I took the answer to mean that God was not in the Sistine chapel. But for some he was.
Later, students shared their sacred experiences of being in the Sistine. I had missed out. I hadn't allowed God to be in that chapel because I had focused on the crowd, the non-compliance to silence, the militant guards who needed to keep order.
What we allow to be in our heart, becomes that which surrounds us.