We were in Rome the night new Pope was announced. March 14, 2013. On a crowded bus, traffic jammed and horns honking, we were told by an excited Italian man that the unidentified Pope was about to appear on the balcony. He and packs of others were rushing to Vatican square in hopes of a glimpse.
You could feel the excitement in the air.
It didn’t matter that it was cold and raining, people crowded into the square to pray and celebrate and listen to the words of the new Pope.
It was a great night to be in Rome.
The city and its enormous religious monuments got me thinking about the many sacred buildings we have seen in various countries over the last four months. We have visited Hindu and Buddhist Temples, Pagodas, Mosques, Synagogues, Churches and Basilicas. We have seen elaborate murals and decorations and also simple carvings and primitive altars.
Seeing the variety of religious buildings in such a close time frame to each other has prompted some quality family discussions. We have discussed the similarities and differences between the buildings and religions.
For example, I’ve noticed five common threads between the organized religions we have encountered.
Friendly disclaimer: These are just observations, not a religious position, nor an agenda. 🙂
The five similarities of followers of organized religions, as I see them:
1. The shared belief that there is something greater than themselves.
The “something greater” has created them, watches over them, helps them in times of need, and/or provides enlightenment and guidance. It is a spirit, a person, a diety, and/or an icon that they strive to be like.
2. The desire to communicate with the “something greater.”
The followers have an innate need and desire to express their love, gratitude, respect and honor to their deity. They provide offerings of all types: prayers, candles, fruit, flowers, time, devotion, service, celebrations, rituals and sacrifice. These offerings are also used to ask for help and protection and guidance.
3. An inclination to build buildings.
Organized religions usually have a common place for their followers to gather. These buildings can be designed for services, individual prayer and reflection, sacrifices, celebrations, and safety. It is also a place for followers to interact and build their community as they support each other in life. They also often house caretakers and/or leaders.
4. A set of guidelines or rules to live by.
All the organized religions we encountered were guided by a specific ideology, set of rules of behavior, history, and values. They are used to govern lifestyle and worship.
5. They use storytelling to pass along their message and values.
Each religion uses some sort of storytelling technique to pass on their beliefs and history to others. They are communicated through things like stone carvings, murals, writings, songs, memorials, and oral teachings.
Rich experiences, all, and each one strengthened us in some way. Here are some of our favorite sacred site photos.