When thinking about where to find beautiful art, my thoughts often turn to to the eternal city of Rome, Italy.
Next to Rome’s City Government offices located at the address of #17 Via Venti Settembre is the church of Santa Maria Della Vittoria.
This unassuming and very plain looking church is filled with glorious works of art that include statues by the artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It was these same statures that came to my attention when I read Dan Brown’s book ANGELS AND DEMONS back in 2008. For those of you who saw the movie starring Tom Hanks, you may remember this church as it was featured in a fiery murder scene.
Dan Brown wrote at length about one particular statue called The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. It depicts an angel holding a large arrow pointing towards the collapsed Saint.
My first two visits to the steps of this church failed to grant me inside access because of the rather staggered visiting hours.
Finally, at long last came the day when we were able to enter the church and I was very excited that I was about to come face to face with one of Bernini’s masterpieces.
Once inside the church I began to approached The Ecstasy Of Saint Teresa. When I was directly in front of the statue I noticed something was wrong with my surroundings. Both me and the statue were in darkness. This was very unlike the pictures I had seen where everything gleamed with white and gold. I quickly realized that the statue was unfortunately unlit.
Looking around I noticed there were a few other people in my area, none of which were my family. There was no clergy or anyone else to voice my concern over the lack of light.
Had someone forgotten to turn them on?
Was the church trying to save money?
There was little I could do, so I decided I would accept the lowlight conditions for what they were and I would not allow it to diminish the joy of finally being able to admire this work of art.
Standing quietly I began to take in the details of what sculpted marble and gold I could see.
It was then that I noticed a very soft golden glow beginning to emanate out of nowhere from somewhere inside the statue. Right in front of my eyes the glow became even brighter as it began to light up the face of Saint Teresa. The angel’s arrow began beaming radiant shards.
I looked left and right to see if anyone else was noticing this phenomena. Instead, I found myself totally alone. The rest of my family was some distance away near the front of the church.
Turning my attention back to the statue I saw that it was glowing brighter still.
How could this be happening?
Was I witnessing some sort of miracle?
Again, I turned my thoughts back to the present, and resolved that I must take advantage of whatever this was, and be grateful for the mysterious light. I knew that I would never forget the beauty of these moments when I was able to observe The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in full glory and bright brilliance.
After spending a few minutes in silent wonder, I noticed that the lights around the statue were slowly dimming.
Shortly after that me and the Bernini statue had fallen into darkness once again.
Taking that as my cue to leave, I turned around to find my daughter Jennifer standing behind me.
“Did you see that?” I asked her. “Did you see how the statue began to glow out of nowhere right in front of my eyes?”
She nodded yes with a smile…
“Yeah, there was an offering box on a table next to the door,”
I wondered how an offering box next to the door had any relevance to my miracle.
It was then that she went on to explain…
“I decided to donate a few coins, and as I dropped them in I saw the statue lights beginning to come up.”
“The more money I put in the offering box, the brighter the lights, so I used up all my change to give you lots of light.
At this point my daughter and I had walked to the front of the church and sure enough, sitting on a table was an plain wooden offering box just as Jennifer had described it.
As we left the church, I noticed a sense of happiness about myself. It was the same sense of giddiness that I felt when I found myself in the presence of that strange and mysterious light.
This sense of joy has never left me and I carry it with me still.
I learned that one really must recognize and appreciate any and all miracles…
…whether they emanate from from otherworldly source…
…or just a plain old church offering box.