19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
19th Sunday In Ordinary Time
By the time you read this, I will have left for Europe. We have a group of our Saint Mary’s Actively Religious Teens (S.M.A.R.T.), parents and chaperones, going there to celebrate World Youth Day with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. This is my fifth World Youth Day. I cannot even say what I expect. Each of them has been different. Each of them brought about beautiful effects into the lives of its participants. Once again, I am leaving with very little planning on my part. It is like being blindfolded. I am grateful to Donna Potere, our Youth Minister for the time and effort she put into planning this as she has done in the past.
We are to spend our first few days in France; first in Paris, then to visit the town, home and location of the Carmelite Monastery of Saint Therese of Lisieux, about two hours west of Paris. From there we will be traveling to Neustadt, Germany, a little village about 45 minutes southeast of Frankfurt. I have friends there, the Religious Sisters of Mercy, yes, it’s the same order as Mother Mary Quentin and Mother Mary, who have given us the Women’s Retreat Weekends. Although their residence, a former dukedom having 52 rooms, will be filled with other Religious Sisters, the Pastor of the town has welcomed us to be part of what is being called “Hospitality in the Dioceses.” They will host us, and we will be their guests for the better part of a week. Then we will travel with them to Cologne, Germany for the World Youth Day activities.
With a group of almost 20, you have to consider what it takes to organize’ this trip. I highlight organize because it really emphasizes the coordination of everything needed for the trip, and I cannot take any credit. It all goes to Donna! There were numbers of phone calls, emails, Fax’s, forms, amount of information communicated, people involved, and just simply the shear amount of correspondence has been absolutely mind-boggling and close to non-stop. There have been times, dates, travelers, passports, permissions, agencies, names, reservations, buses, hotels, rooms, German & French organizations, Euros, wiring of funds, itineraries, tours, fees, European geography and many other lists that have demanded her attention. In the process, I felt like she literally had to become an international travel advisor. In addition, she cannot join us on the trip because of other commitments. She knows, as I do, that the long-lasting effect on the group is enough to know that the work was all worthwhile! The group and I thank her unselfishness in making this possible for us.
Most of all, we are embarking on a pilgrimage. It is not just a trip to Europe. Besides Lisieux, we will visit the Basilica of Notre Dame in Paris. Our teens will see the third Saint from the left of the front facade, standing without a head, or rather with his head in his hands, and they will encounter Saint Denis, Bishop and Martyr. It always reminds me of my mother saying to me when I was little and in trouble, “you’re going to get your head handed to you.” We will travel down to Rue de Bac and see the body of Saint Catherine Laboure who, as a twenty-four year old novice sister, was privileged to see Mary several times in the year 1830. One apparition represented Mary with her arms outstretched, inside an oval frame with golden lettering: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” An interior voice spoke, telling her to have a medal struck on this model. It would be a source of great graces and should be worn around the neck. It rapidly earned the title of the “Miraculous” Medal, yes the one whose novena we pray in our Churches each Monday. We will also visit Sacre Coeur, the famous church constructed to honor the Sacred Heart and the devotion which came down to us via Saint Margaret Mary. This will all lead up to meeting with millions of young people in Cologne.
Think about the simple exchange that took place between Jesus and Saint Peter in the Gospel today. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you….” Jesus responded very simply, “Come!” His call is always simple enough for all to understand. This is the same invitation he gave to so many teens. We have a group that responded. Pilgrimages test and challenge us, especially in the area of our faith. We might become frightened, away from home, in foreign surroundings; but, like Saint Peter, we can also cry out, “Lord. Save me!” After which, Jesus will stretch out his hand to us. Hopefully, the pilgrimage to World Youth Day will prepare our teens, and adult advisors alike, to take on the pilgrimage we have to make throughout our lives as disciples of Jesus, on the waters of the Spiritual Life. In this, we will always be faced with many great challenges, fears, uncertainties, trials, temptations, abandonments, betrayals, etc. There will be times when we need to blindly follow the call, “Come!,” because we know who is calling. We also must learn to cry out in faith, because with our strength gone and our confidence disappearing, Jesus will have put us in many circumstances where all we can do is call out, “Lord, save me,” or “Lord, help me.” Saint Peter grew by these experiences with Jesus, so must we. Saint John of the Cross describes the spiritual distress through which we all must eventually pass, and he explains why:
Due to the apprehension and feeling of man’s miseries, he suspects that he is lost and that his blessings are gone forever. The sorrow and moaning of his spirit is so deep that it turns into vehement spiritual roars and clamoring, and sometimes he pronounces them vocally and dissolves in tears (if he has the strength and power to do so); although such relief is less frequent!…
This roaring embodies great suffering. Sometimes due to the sudden and piercing remembrance of his wretchedness, a man’s roaring becomes so loud and his affections so surrounded by suffering and pain that I know not how to describe it save by the simile holy Job used while undergoing this very trial: as “the overflowing waters so is my roaring” (Jb 3: 24). As the waters sometimes overflow in such a way that they inundate everything, this roaring and feeling so increases that in seeping through and flooding every-thing, it fills all one’s deep affections and energies with indescribable spiritual anguish and suffering…
These doubts and fears that penetrate the soul are never at rest. This war or combat is profound because the peace awaiting the soul must be exceedingly profound; and the spiritual suffering is intimate and penetrating because the love to be possessed by the soul will also be intimate and refined…
Because in the state of perfection toward which it journeys by means of this purgative night, the soul must reach the possession and enjoyment of innumerable blessings of gifts and virtues in both its sub-stance and its faculties, it must first in a general way feel a withdrawal, deprivation, emptiness, and poverty regarding these blessings.
Please pray that we have a safe journey and we each return with innumerable blessings to share with our families, friends, parish, community, and yes, even our enemies.
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