Monday, March 23, 2015

Pilgrimage, Day 2

Thankfully, my travel companion is quickly exhausted by cooking shows. I think we were both asleep by 9:30. That meant we were up early, grabbed some breakfast and headed out. First stop, Our Lady of Good Counsel.

I have always loved this image of the Blessed Mother. I used it as the Icon for the Catholic Mothers group I started and ran for five years. I am ashamed to say it but I didn't actually know which image this was for quite some time. I do remember hearing it was OLGC and thinking, yes, that sounds exactly right. I'm just now learning more about this the others, some fascinating stories surround.

The specific OLGC parish we visited on Saturday morning also holds some history for me. It was here, a little over ten years ago, that DH and I stood as godparents for my niece. She was the sweetest little curly-haired girl. I made sure #3 and I stopped by the baptismal font so he could see where she was graced by her very first Sacrament.
We went into church which had just finished Mass (I know. We should have but I was worn out from driving and we would be going to Mass in a few hours) and he sat down to pray the rosary with the group while I stood in line for confession.

I will say, since my beloved Fr. Al, spiritual director/confessor/priest who married us, this was the first deep and meaningful confession I have had. He died in 2004. That's a long time ;0). I don't mean to make light of my other confessors. This was just so easy and conversational...he listened, asked important questions, challenged me on weaknesses and applauded my efforts. When I talked about #1 being open about her vocation so early he didn't seem shocked or troubled...he asked about her and gave me ideas of orders she should explore. It was an amazing experience. After about 20 minutes he said, "well, you should go, I'm sure there are people waiting." Oops. Sorry everyone.

Father, when we were talking about raising children and family-of-origin, said something so profound to me. He said, "We were the children of poor Irish immigrants who became successful and that was our undoing." It sounds like he's saying no one should be rich but that wasn't it at all. He was saying that some of his siblings, after finding financial success, became very confused, values-wise. It was so helpful to me to talk to this man who has his own personal and family struggles. It was such a gift to sit down with him on a random Saturday (ahem) and receive, not only absolution, but recommendation and insight.

With a clean soul (and son who was thrilled that I didn't run off and leave him at church) we headed over to my brother's house. We spent a few nice hours talking, catching up, doing what families do. My other brother arrived and we headed out to church. My niece, who was baptized so many years ago, was being Confirmed...and I was the sponsor.

What a blessing and honor it is to walk with her. How nice it was to physically place my hand on her shoulder as I've been praying from afar all these years. The bishop had some excellent words about living as a Catholic in society (how it's very, very difficult but so important) and about penance and finding your vocation. I think he spent a full ten minutes asking the young men and women to stay open to the possibility of a religious vocation (Yay!). Really, a nice day.

Disclaimer...OK, you know me. I usually don't make it a whole day after confession before something crops up that I am too weak to overlook. The sponsor group this time around was a giant pool of near occasions of sin (DH has his stories from 2 years ago). Specifically was the young lady (in her 20s) seated next to me. She had her phone out almost continually during the 30 minutes before the Mass was to begin. When she wasn't checking her Instagram account for the most recent update, I could see her hand actually twitching before she reached to check again. I let it go but, when it was clear she wasn't going to change her behavior over the next 60+ minutes, I leaned over and said, "please put it away". She was agitated but thankfully she popped an IceBreaker into her mouth and all was well (no, I didn't say anything...see? I can withhold comment sometimes.)

The two older ladies behind me, also sponsors, were also a trial. They didn't participate in any of the responses, etc. during the first 15 minutes and then, I heard one say to the other, "watch can always tell the ones who go to church every week." Did I mention they were sponsors? No, I didn't say anything and when Satan jumped on my shoulder and said "Now's your chance to flush them out...stand up when you shouldn't, start clapping, jump on one foot, whatever you want...they will follow you!" I merely suggested he return to Hell and stop bugging me. See? Good. ;0)

As always, it was good to watch and participate in a Sacrament. For all of our flaws, the Catholic church is an amazing institution to behold. Watching the bishop anoint my niece with Chrism (mmmm...smells amazing) and seal her with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit was truly a grace-filled moment. I will continue to pray that these gifts will serve her well in life as she makes her way along the path of this world, heading toward the next.

Congratulations, Faith Catherine. May God bless you now and always. 

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