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Vatican Splendors Exhibition

I forget what I was taught. I only remember what I have learnt.  ~Patrick White

Since it’s the New Year and generally speaking, this is a time of reflectance on the past and planning for the future. Looking back on the years it’s amazing what I’ve learned, either through formal education or just plain trial and error. Both are equally important and effective methods of acquiring information, at least for me. I know there are 3 basic styles of learning: auditory (learning by hearing), visual (learning by seeing) and kinesthetic (learning by doing). I’ve always been a mix of visual and kinesthetic, leaning more toward the ladder. As my mom would say, I never learned my lesson, that is until after I’ve done something I wasn’t suppose to do. But what’s fascinating to me are the little things we pick up on the way, that become part of our daily life, for one reason or another this information resonates in our minds.

Kyle Piper at the Vatican Splendors
Kyle Piper at the Vatican Splendors exhibit. Of course he found a place to play.

So that leads me to my next thought, why do we remember some information verses other? I don’t have a degree in childhood education, or teaching, so maybe the answer is pure and simple, but I’m guessing it’s as complicated as the power of our brains. So why is some information retained and the rest omitted from our memory? Is it because as humans our brains can only retain 10% of what we’re taught? Maybe it’s because we’re just plain lazy or we don’t pay attention. Or are we overwhelmed with too much, on a daily bases that we can’t compute the information and commit it to memory? Whatever the reason, it’s still truly a wonder to watch a child learn. Especially when they surprise you by what they heard and remembered. I guess what impresses me more is how they apply the knowledge and what they get from it. I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to see this type of thinking and learning first hand. Kyle has always impressed me and surprised me with the “stuff” he picks up on, especially the details he sees.

Today, I took Kyle and my mom to the Vatican Splendors Exhibit in the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. Being an art lover and Catholic it seemed like a perfect day for me. I wanted Kyle to come along. Even though I know he wouldn’t quite understand all the art pieces, I believed there is always some information that will leak in his mind and stay with him. No matter how small the information is, it’s still learning and gaining cultural experience. As we went through the exhibit, I was read to him about the artwork, adding my limited knowledge on some of the pieces. He was interested at first but as the time went on, the excitement soon wore off. We not only saw paintings and frescos, but we saw relics from saints and garments wore by a variety of popes and cardinals. For me seeing the pieta by Michelangelo Buonarroti took my breath away. I tried to show him that this piece started out as a large rock and was sculpted into a very emotionally powerful piece with flowing soft lines. Throughout the exhibit I pointed out the basics and educate him on art as well as our Catholic faith. I pointed out the 4 evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and how they are sometimes portrayed as symbols. (Matthew –Human/Angel, Mark –Winged Lion, Luke –Winged Ox, John –Eagle). I talked about St. Peter and St. Paul and how keys and a sword represent them, respectively. We saw an oil painting on St. Sebastian, who was pierced by arrows, adding a bit on St. Bartholomew who was skinned alive. Then we came to a relief on the martyrdom of St. Paul. On the left, it showed St. Paul being taken by the Romans, then at the center of the piece it showed St. Paul kneeing with a Roman solder holding a sword above his read ready to decapitate him, and on the right of the relief sat Nero. We continued through the exhibit and spent little time in the section on the popes, only because Kyle was getting tired and hungry. He loved the gift shop, as he usually does. Mom got him a Bibleopoly board game and he picked out a small gift for his CCD teacher.

After finishing the exhibit, eating and touring the rest of the history center, we went to mass at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. This is a beautiful church with stained glass windows lining the left and right walls, and a collage of frescos covering the ceiling. Some scenes were easy to understand, except for the scene directly above our heads. It looked like a battle scene. Kyle said to me, “Aunt Heather, look the decapitation of St. Paul.” Wow, I was impressed! First that he remembered the story, and second that he remembered what decapitation was. I must say, sitting there in such a blessed place just brought chills to me and really touched my heart. He picked something up at the exhibit! Some piece of knowledge on art and Catholicism at one time! Then to really make me more proud of him, he took the $5 my dad gave him and put it in the offering plate. That’s my thoughtful, smart and loving Kyle. Not only are we blessed to have him but so is the world.

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