Sorry to harp on about Rome again as if I was the only one of us to have been there, but - try as I might - I cannot quite digest the sheer scale of the place, let alone put myself in the mental position of getting any sort of a grasp on what it must have been like in its full glory.
It's the micro/macro thing again, but even that is macro compared to the rest of the Roman occupation of Europe. The details interspersed with the grand scale is what makes a shifting image that little bit more solid, and - as always - the details have been rearranged by the Christian Church - the original Christian Church.
St Agnes was a 13 year-old girl who was executed in the stadium where the Piazza Navona now is, for refusing to marry. A whole church devoted to her now stands on the edge of the stadium, and she is the patron saint of young girls.
What makes her a saint? She was stripped naked in front of the crowds as punishment, but miraculously sprouted a thick coating of body hair to cover herself, and for this she paid with her life. But did she start off as a Christian, or was she just hi-jacked by them?
The grand scale is also reflected in the sort of relics that are housed in the Vatican's 'treasury' I put that word in parenthesis because if you seriously believed that this series of little rooms holds all the treasure that is at the disposal of the entire Catholic Church, then you would be more gullible than even they suspect you to be. But what can you believe?
Is that really the finger of Saint Peter in a crystal box, pointing toward heaven in the classic Moslem gesture? Is that really a piece of the True Cross, unlike all the other medieval bits of it - enough wood to build a battleship? Were those two lone thorns really part of Christ's crown on the cross?
It's all to do with the Mystery of Faith, so I am told by the same man who transubstantiates wafers and wine into flesh and blood.
I am not trying to tread on anyone's toes here, as I am just as keen a believer on the power of Faith as the most devout Catholic, but I always think of Tinkerbell's warning about how a fairy dies each time a child expresses their disbelief in the existence of fairies at all.
To visit Rome as a Catholic must be like going back to the place you were brought up, to visit your extended family. It must be very comforting. But what a family. Faith and Forgiveness is what holds all families together, including the black sheep - the black sheep with dog-collars included.
No parents really want to see their children grow up and leave home for fear of loneliness in old age, but most of them put a brave face on it and hope for the best. There are always the grandchildren to look forward to. Then there are the great-grandchildren...
I used to go out with a girl from a very rich but dysfunctional family, and her mother's name was Faith. Faith had a sister who I once met, called Charity.
"There is no Hope in this family", my friend told me at her wedding.
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