As promised, here are the photographs from the World Meeting of Families Festival and Parade (Saturday 9/26) and the Papal Mass (Sunday 9/27).
Saturday, September 26
We began the day with mass at St. John the Evangelist Church with not only the members of our pilgrimage, but we were joined with a few students from Cathedral High School, a congregation of nuns, and other Catholics. It was a beautiful mass with a powerful message in Fr. Eric Augustine’s homily. His homily reminded us that the Pope is not the main reason why were here. He is a man, just like us, who points us and guides us closer to Christ. We are here for the Eucharist.
Following mass, we set off to the north side of the “secure” zone on a two mile trek. We made it through the security tent and staked our claim along the parade route on the Ben Franklin Parkway to attend the Festival of Families. We sat, chatted, and ate with our new friends from the Archdioceses, but also met other friends from across the globe.
As the day progressed into evening, there were numerous entertainment performances including: The Fray, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Aretha Franklin, Jackie Evanko, and Jim Gaffigan . The festival also included the highly anticipated Papal Parade. We spotted Pope Francis from a distance initially could not believe what we were witnessing. There he was!!! Our Pope Francis!!!! With much anticipation and excitement, we spotted the Pope Mobile!!! The motorcade processed through the streets and ended up driving right in front of us about 15 feet away. What a dream come true!!! Such a happy, peaceful and joyful leader of our church. By this time in the night it was completely dark, so he and his pope mobile shined even brighter!!!!! Although he was traveling quite rapidly (35-40 mph), we were able to snap a few good pictures and catch him on video. Never thought we would ever see the pope and there he was, waving and greeting us all. Needless to say everyone walked away with a smile on their face.
After Pope Francis had gone by and the Papal Parade had ended, he ended up on the main stage. We decided to move into the center section to get a better view of the stage. From our new vantage point we could see Pope Francis but he was 2 or 3 football fields away. BUT we could still see him. We called the girls to give them an update and really just to be able to say they heard the pope speak. Pope Francis then delivered a dynamic speech focused on the struggles and successes of the human family. He admitted that supporting a strong family definitely comes with challenges and struggles (he even mentioned the struggles with mother-in-laws), but those enemies can be combated with love and compassion. He encourage us all to start with peace, love and tenderness within our own homes and allow Christ and His messages of peace and comfort guide our actions as parents and spiritual leaders in our homes and parishes.
Andrea Bochelli then sang the ‘Our Father’. Not a dry eye on the Parkway.
Pope Francis then ended the Festival of Families by leading everyone in a Hail Mary. Never in our life did we ever think that we would ever pray a Hail Mary with a pope. But they we were, praying with Pope Francis. Dream come true! What an inspiration he is!!
Sunday , September 27
Up and at ‘em… we were down in the hotel lobby at 5am. The small traveling group (8 of us dubbed the Breakfast Club) that wanted a close spot, started walking to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. After a quick stop at the local WAWA for coffee, we walked approximately two miles to reach our entry checkpoint for Mass. With the influx of people in the city, the Mayor decided to close down all¬ the streets . It was a quiet walk, passing many from the National Guard, Philly police, Border Patrol, Homeland Security, ATF, Secret Service and the Pennsylvania State Police. We reached the checkpoint closest to the stage right at 6 am, the time that the gates were opened. We passed through a relatively short security line, exchanging with the friendly folks at the TSA. We made a B-line for the front of the very first coral, knowing that that was our best chance to get a spot with a clear view of the altar, Papal chair and ambo. We found a spot in the front of the first coral that suited us quite well…it was along Pope Francis’ parade route, we could see the altar, his chair and the ambo. And an unknown bonus that came into play later in the day….it also happened to be the drop off point for all of the media folks. We enjoyed our coffee, convinced a secret service agent to let us move a picnic table from the local park over to our spot, then 30 minutes later that agent’s supervisor shot down the idea. So long to the picnic table…hello camping chairs from Gander Mtn. And there we sat and visited for a few hours with our new friends in the breakfast club and our new mass friends that gathered behind us as the minutes and hours ticked by.
Once the sun came up and the crowds started to pick up a bit, we decided to bust out our homemade pope mitres that we had made in the hotel room a few days ago out of poster board and duct tape (a whopping $1.39 at Wal-Mart). Who knew that those 2 pieces of poster board and white duct tape could start a buzz amongst the crowd. Little by little others gathered started to request pictures of our hats. And before we knew it, local news stations were unboarding their media buses and approaching us for an interview and pictures. Then the next wave of media buses pulled up and the national news started approaching us wanting interviews and pictures. That wave was followed by the international media folks also wanting to chat with us. It was insane!!! No joke, I bet we had our picture taken over 100 times and between the 2 of us and our new pilgrim friends Annie and Alex (that’s right BIG shout out!!) I bet we were interviewed 30 times (some of them live – talk about pressure!!). Julie missed one live interview with FOX News and upon her return was not too thrilled that Doug had mentioned live on national news that she was missing the interview because she was in the bathroom. The guy asked, and Doug couldn’t tell a lie on the day he was having mass with the pope!!! Some of the included local Philly stations, MSNBC, CBS News, FOX News to Catholic TV, Associated Press, Reuters, 2 different stations from France (that was pretty comical!) to one station from Rome and our very own WTHR 13. We tried our best to mention our amazing Archdiocese of Indianapolis, talk up the messages of the World Meeting of Families and our focus on the love and mercy offered to us through the Eucharist. And yes, they of course asked why we made the hats – our response…we are both teachers and we wanted to make something to welcome Pope Francis that was fun, creative and within the budget constraints of 2 Catholic school teachers! All of the media hoopla really made the time pass quite quickly, spotting some familiar faces: Bishop Barren (new appointed auxiliary bishop of LA), Anderson Cooper and Lester Holt.
But the REAL excitement came around 3 pm. We had not really looked behind us much during the day and by 3 we quickly realized that there were a TON of people on the Ben Franklin Pkwy. The excitement really started to build as we began hearing and seeing helicopters fly over, realizing that it was Pope Francis above us. By 4 he was ready to begin his parade lap. It took him by the Basilica Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul (where he had celebrated mass yesterday morning) to bless all of the intentions tied up at the Shrine of Our Lady Undoer of Knots. Included in those thousands and thousands of intentions blessed by the pope today were intentions that many of you had sent to us. Know that they were blessed by the pope today!
As he made his way back onto the Parkway, he of course had to stop and kiss some babies (adorable!!). He rounded the final corner of the Parkway where we got a GREAT look at our Pope Francis. His motorcade was driving much slower today than yesterday, he looked right at our group and waved. We got some great pictures and video. What an amazing moment!!! It all felt to unreal, like we were having this incredibly unbelievable dream. It was a humbling experience and an unbelievable honor to have seen him. He emits such a loving presence and kind spirit. Seeing him in person was simply unbelievable.
But the best was yet to come. We were now ready to celebrate mass with Pope Francis!!!!!!!!!!
10 hours of waiting….well make that 38 years of waiting…..OVER!!!!!!
From our vantage point we were able to follow all of the action up on stage. From the opening song, to the opening prayer, to the 1st reading, to the Gospel , everyone was just in awe of being in the presence of the Holy Father. Pope Francis’ homily was outstanding !!!!! The homily made it quite clear that strong, faithful families are essential to our society. He understands that we all have struggles, we all have wounds, we all have hurts. But through tenderness, compassion and love shown to our children and grandparents AND an openness to the mercy, love and peace offered to us by Jesus, the healing process can begin. Through the intercession of the Holy Family and the grace offered to us through the Holy Spirit, wounds can be healed and the love of a family can become more fully alive!! What an amazing message he delivered in his homily today!
Being at the front of the corral, once mass started, we never really looked around to see just how many people there were now behind us. When it came time for the Our Father, the entire audience spoke in unison. Hearing and saying the Our Father with over 800,000 people was a very emotional experience. Hearing those thousands of voices from behind us helped solidify the fact that we are a Universal Church.
Communion is when Doug was thumped on top of the head by the Holy Spirit. So there were somewhere between 200 and 300 Eucharistic Ministers (all priests and deacons). They filed into the masses of people walking past us one at a time, escorted by an individual (member of the Knights of Columbus, nuns, etc) who was carrying a Papal umbrella (used to designate where the communion ministers were located in the crowd). As a constant stream of priests past us by we figured that we would, in all likelihood, not get a chance to consume the Blessed Sacrament. Well, the Holy Spirit thought differently. All of the sudden a priest from Arizona (who by his accent was probably originally from Africa) walked straight towards us at the barricade…needless to say the tears started to flow. Doug received the Body of Christ then Julie received. Instinctively, we both squatted/knelt down in the dirt (in the very tight space that we had next to the metal barricade. Well the priest decided to stay right in front of us for the next 10 minutes, distributing the Body of Christ to the hundreds of people standing behind. With our heads bowed down, staring into the dirt, we began to feel hands touching our backs. Some hands were big, some hands were small. There was no Communion “line”. It was just a mass of people trying desperately to find the priest. Since we were knelt down in front of the priest with no where to go, the hundreds behind us were using our backs and shoulders to lean on as they jockeyed for position to find the priest. Then we began to hear voices, “Father! Father! ” they shouted. Some were adults’ voices, some were kids’ voices. Some spoke English, some did not. Some were very calm, some were very eager. Then one at a time, we heard the priest respond, “The Body of Christ. The Body of Christ. The Body of Christ.” This exchange lasted at least 10 minutes. “Father! Father! Over here!” they called. “The Body of Christ”, he responded. As I stared into the dirt weeping with joy and completely overcome with emotions, the Holy Spirit moved me in a way I have never been moved before. I, for the first time, was experiencing what life was like 2,000 years ago. The followers of Jesus would travel for miles in the dirt to seek Him out. Certainly they would have called out for Him, “Father! Father!”. Some would weep, some would cry out for joy. Some were young, some were older. Some spoke His language, some did not. Some would have to lean on others in order to find Jesus. Sometimes those being leaned on upon were unaware of who was leaning on them, but they knew that they were being helpful.
Ultimately He called us all to His message of peace, unity and salvation when He gave of Himself on the cross – the ultimate form of sacrificial love – offering us the Body of Christ. At that moment I felt that tremendous sacrificial love and mercy offered to us by Christ. There are many times in life when we feel like we’ve been knocked to the floor and dirt kicked in our face. Those are the times when our struggles and wounds can be mended and healed by the Body of Christ, if we just call out to Him….Father! Father!
As Pope Francis gave his final blessings on us and the 2 backpacks full of religious items that we had carried along, we took one last look at the hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the Ben Franklin Pkwy we realized that we truly ALL are the Body of Christ…young or old, calm or excited, English speaker or Non-English speaker. No matter what corner of the world you are from we are all gathered together as a Universal Church. Sometimes we need to be that person that someone else needs to lean on. Sometimes you may need to lean on someone else. That is what we have to do for each other, lean on each other, support one another (no matter your race, language, ethnicity) in order to lead each other to the Body of Christ. We are ALL the Body of Christ.
As we were packing up our things and ready to head out we spotted Dr. Gianna Emanuel Molla (daughter of St. Gianna Molla) leaving the altar section. Some from our Breakfast Club group had not met her this week so we crossed paths with her one last time, exchanged hugs and blessings and of course got a picture. What a very special, sweet and inspirational woman she is !!!!!! And her “saint mom”, oh boy, we could go on and on about her…..what an amazing story of love and selflessness. What an honor to be in her daughter’s presence.
We hiked the 2 miles back to the hotel. Dropped our bags and decided that we needed to eat something other than smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the bottom of a backpack. We ended up in Chinatown for some much needed plated food. What wonderful fellowship we had at dinner sharing our stories, experiences and perspectives from the day.
One last stop for Gelato and the day came to an end. And the streets of Philly are slowly starting to open up again.
What an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we were able to experience today!!! It is so comforting to have such a loving and supportive faith system to lean upon. We truly are a Universal Church, a Universal Family. What an honor and privilege to celebrate our Family with Pope Francis today. Celebrating the Eucharist is what we are all about and sharing that with Pope Francis was simply amazing!!
Sorry for lack of pictures in this post- once they get uploaded, they'll be added.
We just got back to the hotel, and have a very early morning tomorrow. With that being said, this will be very brief. We promise to update this entry and have a new one tomorrow afternoon after the Papal Mass.
Today was a day full of anticipation and excitement! We can't wait to tell you all about it!
Headed to the convention center Friday morning for the final day of the World Meeting of Families donning our St. Barnabas Walk-a-thon shirts. Friday was walk-a-thon at St. Barnabas and wanted walk with our students even if we are 650 miles away! We encountered some very cute “Pope Puppies “on our route to the convention center. We chatted a bit with their owners who commented on how nice all the visitors to the city were. How can you not be nice to others when there are dogs dressed like the pope?!
As this was our final day at the conference, we wanted to get to all there was to do at the convention center. The Museum of the Bible had a special exhibit open to convention goers. In it there were artifacts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, one of the Gutenberg Bibles, a replica of the Rosetta Stone and numerous historical prayer books and bibles.
We attended the general session which included talks from Pastor Rick Warren, author of the book “A Purpose Driven Life”, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley from Boston presented a talk on the Joy of the Gospel of Life. There were several strong points to remember, joy filled families are based on love of God, are built on purpose, serve others, and fulfill their mission to love. It’s important to see the world through God’s eyes, and faith helps us do just that.
Our breakout sessions included talks about advice from Pope Francis on how to love presented by a panel of individuals who know Pope Francis personally. In the Pope Francis talk, we were reminded that the perfect family does NOT exist, so striving for “perfect” will only add dysfunction. We can always better our family, but “perfect” isn’t the ultimate goal. The other session was about ways to incorporate and emphasize Catholic traditions in your home, especially for families with elementary school age children. Simply going to weekly Mass doesn’t necessarily make you a strong Catholic family. If Mass is the only connection to our faith you’re providing children, it will be easier for them to stray further down the road. As parents, we need to incorporate Catholic traditions in a fun and interactive way. Great resources were provided that we’ll be sure to share with you in the coming weeks.
We attended Mass this afternoon at St. John the Evangelist Church with Archbishop Tobin as the presider. The church was packed, there were lots of people in attendance, not just the 50 from our group. Having Mass together as a group helped reaffirm that we are all here for the same purpose - to love and honor God. Even with a packed church, the entire service only lasted 30 minutes. Not only is this the same church that is hosting St. Maria Goretti’s remains, but also St. John Neuman (father of U.S. Catholic schools) was installed as a bishop at this church and St. Katharine Drexel was confirmed and received first Holy Communion at this, her parish church.
After Mass, all mass attendees were asked to leave the church for a private event with St. Gianna Molla’s daughter. We exited the church but asked the woman at the door if there would be room for us if we waited. She asked that we “stay close”, as there were only a couple of hundred expected, and then the rest of the church would be open to sit and listen. We did just that! After the “ticketed” guests were in their seats, we made our way to the other side. Gianna Emanuela Molla gave a beautiful talk about her parents’ love for each other and about her “Saint Mom’s” dedication to her children. Thank God for St. Gianna Molla – patron saint of mothers, physicians and everyday living.
Later in the evening we were scheduled to have dinner, as a group, with the Archbishop. We left the hotel in a smaller group of 6 or 8 people. We had directions to our restaurant which was on the same square as City Hall- a secure area patrolled by Philly police, Secret Service, TSA, the Border Patrol and the National Guard. We got a bit turned around with the multiple street closings in preparation for the Papal Visit, but we were finally able to make our way to the area were supposed to be in- we even saw the marquee for the restaurant. The police officers in the area told us to go to another street to walk around the block. Being able to see where we needed to go, we told the group of officers that we just needed to go 50 more feet and we’d be at the front door of the restaurant. One of the gentleman said he’d show us an easy way to get to where we needed to go, so we followed him. We followed him through an alley, through an ornate iron gate where we needed to be buzzed in, and finally through the kitchen of our restaurant. As he was opening the kitchen door for us, I noticed the badge that was hanging around his neck. We were being escorted through the kitchen by none other than the US Secret Service! Dinner was delicious, and our host- Archbishop Tobin, couldn’t have been more gracious.
So we started the day celebrating a beautiful mass with 10,000 other pilgrims from around the world – lead by a bishop from Vietnam and noticing groups near us from Nicaragua, Africa and the Philippines.
After mass we decided to jump at the opportunity to help break a World Record. Here at the conference, they are trying to break the world record for the most number of people contributing to a paint by number mural. The record is 2,262 painters. When we checked in to paint this morning we painters #2,054 and #2,055. We painted for a few minutes and then passed the brush onto the next eager painter. It is going to be an amazing mural of Pope Francis with a group of kids and it will be displayed on the side of one of the inner-city Catholic schools here in Philly. Pretty cool…
We decided to head back to the exhibit hall to check out the booths and their giveaways (and yes we ended up with a excessively high number of pens and keychains!) We spoke with some amazing religious and clergy from all different types of orders and congregations. But the definite highlight of the exhibit hall had to have been when we spotted and met Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla. Are you ready for a little history lesson? Remember, we’re both teachers- so here’s your lesson for the day: She is the daughter of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla. St. Gianna Beretta Molla lived from 1922-1962. She was a doctor and she and her husband were the parents of 4 children. When St. Gianna was pregnant with their 4th child (Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla), they discovered that she had a uterine tumor. She insisted that her baby be saved, even if it meant compromising her own health. Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla was born on April 21, 1962 and her mother (St. Gianna Beretta Molla) passed away a week later. She is the patron saint of mothers and physicians and pre-born children. We met Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla and she was the sweetest, most sincere, most soft-spoken person that we have ever met. She extended a special blessing to our girls (via the video camera in my hand) and was appreciative of all parents for the love and support that they give to their kids. What an amazing encounter! She definitely had a special presence about her.
So we left the convention center to drop off bags of acquired goods that all of the nuns handed us when they found out that we were teachers (coloring books, rosaries, books, etc… still don’t know how we are going to fit it all on the bus on Monday). As we were heading back to the hotel we got turned around in the incredibly narrow streets of Philly, took a wrong turn and ended up on the same street as St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. Earlier in the day the remains of Saint Maria Goretti (which are normally on display in Italy) had arrived in Philly. We decided to head in to check things our and they were allowing people to come and venerate her remains. She was only 11 years old at the time of her death in 1902, but is remembered for having forgiven her killer prior to her death. She was in a glass casket and we were invited to touch the casket, hold pictures and prayer cards up to it, and pray for her healing intercession. She is the patron saint of forgiveness, purity and back pain. Needless to say, as parents of young girls and a sufferer of back pain, we definitely had a special connection with St. Maria Goretti. What an incredibly powerful and moving experience! Going to hold onto those third class relics for a long time as well.
As we sat and ate our 3rd Philly Cheesesteak of our visit for lunch (along with a cannoli and black &white cookie), we realized that within an hour , we had had very personal and holy encounters with 2 modern day saints. Wow, the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways!!! I guess getting lost in a new city sometimes pays off.
We returned to the convention center to listen to Cardinal Luis Tagle who is from the Philippines. He was a dynamic speaker who spoke about the family serving as the home for a wounded heart. He highlighted that we are all wounded in some way (physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, financially), but the home (not a house) is a place to heal and comfort wounds. He stressed that a home is not measured by square footage or acres of land, but rather home is a gift of a loving presence. He then went on to discuss Jesus as the ultimate healer of wounded hearts. Not only is He the healer, but Jesus Himself was wounded (branded as crazy, ridiculed, betrayed, humiliated, etc.). Cardinal Tagle stated that Jesus heals by being wounded Himself (he knows our wounds). Our Church (The Body of Christ) is the home for a wounded heart. He finished by stating that the Church of wounded members , though the Jesus’ healing, becomes a Church of solidarity and compassion. What a great and inspirational speaker!!!!
We completed our day at the convention center with listening to talks entitled “Sacred Balancing Act: Busy Lives and Family Spiritually” and “Navigating the Net: The Benefits and Obstacles of Being an Online Family”. Both sessions offered great advice on how to add to the spirituality in our lives and being a proactive parent when it comes to online activity.
Some key points: Even if we’re extremely busy with activities and responsibilities, weaving faith into daily activities- like praying together as a family- normalizing faith will help everything fall into the correct place. Regarding online activity; help our kids make informed, moral decisions when using technology. Parents need to have regular and intentional conversations with their kids regarding screen usage.
After the events at the convention center, we headed to the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul where we delivered more intentions from friends and family to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. Pope Francis will be saying Mass on Saturday at this Cathedral- if you’ll be watching Pope coverage on T.V., look for white ribbons in a grotto/shrine outside the church. Thank you to all who sent an intention, we are truly humbled to be trusted to deliver your prayers.
We finished our full day with dinner outside with friends from the Archdiocese and a delicious gelato dessert.
Today's sessions were very informative. We listened to Cardinal Robert Sarah speak about how Christ is the light in our dark world. Darkness came in the book of Genesis through the fall of man, but baptism and the Gospels' pull us out of the darkness. God chose and created families as a place where faith is transmitted and grown. "The world needs heroic families to defend the family, open to God's grace and allow goodness to enter the world."
Dr. John Grabowski spoke on the topic of "The Other Side of Mt. Sinai: Growing in Virtue". His discussion focused on our present day encounters with God and our call to holiness. He highlighted that Jesus is our Mt. Sinai, and that the Eucharist is its "source and summit". Eucharist is the center of family life... everything comes from the Eucharist and everything leads back to the Eucharist. He emphasized a few areas that can lead to holiness and virtuous lives including, witness, service, friendship community, and the resistance of our consumerist culture.
Dr. Gregory and Mrs. Lisa Popcak provided very practical advice in their talk titled "See How They Love One Another: The Family and the Faith". A few of the pieces of advice that really resonated were: be deliberate with your time together as a family- actually schedule out time to work together, talk together, pray together and play together. Be sure to ask your family how you can make their life more pleasant each day. Be affectionate in the family, how you show affection will carry over in children’s relationship to God and others in their adult life. Pray together- not just at meals and bed times, but ask family to pray for each other. It’s important to set priorities in your relationships- Faith comes first, then family and finally extracurricular. If this isn’t the priority, then the family won’t be either.
Before, in-between and after the speakers today, we were able to see some more of the sites of Philadelphia. We briefly saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Spending so much time in such a historic city is pretty amazing. Knowing that our country’s founding fathers walked the same streets we walked on is absolutely incredible. We saw the Museum of Art- yes we climbed the same steps Rocky did, took pictures by the Rocky and Love statues, and we got an up close view of the stage where Pope Francis will say Mass on Sunday. We ended the evening having dinner with a former student of ours (Julie 4th grade, Doug 7th grade) who attends college in Philadelphia.
We looked at our pedometers at the end of the day... 20,000 steps!
With the spotty internet connection we seem to keep getting, the pictures aren't uploading. We'll keep trying to add today.
The World Meeting of Families (WMOF) has officially begun! The congress was opened with a beautiful ceremony presented by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with local school children having a large part in the ceremony. Philadelphia is know as the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection. This was quite apparent when the Mayor presented Pope Francis' representative with a custom bicycle!
The keynote speaker was Bishop Robert Barron from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He gave a very effective speech that empowered families to praise and worship the right in our world. Bishop Barron stressed the point that when the family breaks down, so does society. In order to have a strong society, we need strong families.
An incredibly moving mass followed Bishop Barron's talk. The memorable mass was con-celebrated by nearly 400 priests, and close to 150 bishops and cardinals. The processional alone was 25 minutes long, lead by the Knights of Columbus in their full regalia.
All of the opening festivities were on the heals of very our own morning private tour of Philadelphia led by Fr. Eric Augustine who went to La Salle University in Philadelphia. We saw many local sites including Rittenhouse Square, City Hall, Logan Circle, the incredibly beautiful Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul where we tied intentions at the Our Lady Undoer of Knots shrine and also visited relics of Saints Gianna Beretta Molla, Saint John Paul II, and Saint Therese of Lisieux.
We were able to enjoy the local flavor by having a Philly Cheesesteak for lunch and had dinner at the oldest establishment in Philadelphia- McGillin's since 1860, who has been serving their customers since Pope Pius IX!
This entry has been 16 hours in the making. As we loaded our van at 6am this morning, we couldn't help but notice the cloudless, star-speckled sky. Gazing at the early morning stillness, it was clear that we're all part of something much bigger than ourselves.
Pulling into the parking lot of the Catholic Center to load the bus, we saw a news crew was taping a segment about our group and our upcoming journey. The excitement for the day and the upcoming week in Philadelphia was quite apparent. Before boarding the bus, we started off with a prayer and blessing. Again, part of something bigger than ourselves. Fr. Eric Augustine, our pilgrimage priest, lead us in a beautiful morning prayer.
We traveled through Ohio- stopping for lunch, West Virginia, and finally into Pennsylvania. Beautiful country-side - flat corn fields, rolling hills, and quilted fields of various shades of green. Fifteen hours in a bus can be tiring, but we brought things to keep us occupied- papers to grade, magazines to read, Facebook to update, emails to check. We did watch a few movies too- Muppets Take Manhattan (thinking instantly of my Kindergarten kiddos when I saw Kermit, Fozzy, Animal and Sam Eagle!) and Despicable Me. We prayed a beautiful Rosary and had Evening Prayers.
Being part of something bigger than ourselves is humbling. As we pulled into Philadelphia, the location where our Nation was founded, we were reminded of not only how fortunate we are to enjoy our freedoms, but of the rich and diverse backgrounds that make up our Universal Catholic Church. We are on a pilgrimage with an amazing cross section of Catholics. We are going to be joined this week with hundreds of thousands (some are predicting millions) of other Catholics from around the world, all with their own unique stories, backgrounds and experiences. How fitting it is that the pope chose to celebrate mass in the city were our founding fathers established a nation built upon big dreams - something bigger than themselves.
Anticipation is building. Suitcases are getting packed. We've gotten ready for many trips before, but there's something special about packing suitcases for a pilgrimage! We have no idea what we're in store for when we get to Philadelphia tomorrow evening, but we're ready for an adventure! It's been said before, but a pilgrimage isn't a vacation- it's a spiritual journey... a journey that we're ready for! We hope to learn, experience and share much throughout the week. Pray for us, as we'll be praying for you!