In Rome, the streets bustle with activity as people go about their day. As I approached the Vatican, the sense of that activity changed. Instead of people walking in many directions at once, they began to funnel towards the long avenue that lead to the Vatican. Crossing the border was trivial. The waist high fence has openings and crosswalks to make crossing the border street a little easier. I still had to dodge the traffic, but after a quick sprint, I was in the smallest country in the world.
Walking the wide sidewalks towards the center of Catholicism, I started to pass beggars lying on the sidewalk. Instead of approaching strangers as they did in Rome, they supplicated themselves to the people walking by. I followed the crowd past the first one, but found that I just couldn’t pass the second, or the third. In Rome, I watched two beggars argue over a subway entrance. Here, they seemed removed from those trivial considerations, even oblivious to the passers by. They were ignored by nearly everyone… the people passing them on the sidewalk, the bishops and cardinals rushing about their business, and perhaps the 75,000 people who gather there on Sundays to hear mass from the Pope.
The oppulance of St. Peter’s Basilica seemed from another world. I saw the very bottom, and the very pinnacle, of human society within a half hour. It was the difference between those two extremes that has stayed with me.