Saturday, October 24, 2015

Seven Most Moving Moments from the World Meeting of Families

I felt God's presence and grace throughout the pilgrimage, but here are what I'd call the seven most moving moments:

1. Did I mention there were more than 130 bishops at the Opening Mass? As the procession went on and on, I kept thinking, "Wow. This is a really big deal!" This was truly a gathering of the faithful from far and wide, all in celebration of the family. It was a beautiful liturgy indeed.

2. Our visit to the grotto of prayers for the Intercession of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, was breathtaking. It was such a beautiful sight.... thousands and thousands of white strips of cloth, each inscribed with a prayer of a pilgrim. We had to work our way through a crowd to pray at the icon and attach our prayers to the grotto. The instructions were to attach our prayers near the icon and take another prayer, read and pray it, and move it to the grotto area. The prayers were beautiful and heartbreaking. I continue to pray for the person whose prayer I read. When Pope Francis rode past the grotto, he stopped and got out of the popemobile and blessed this shrine of prayers. The crowd cheered as we watched on the jumbotron. Pope Francis has promoted devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots and it is beautiful. Whatever things in our life are "in knots" we can offer to the Blessed Mother. She will help us untie them as we work through our problems and challenges.

3. I attended a panel discussion about infertility that included a witness talk by Gianna Emmanuela Molla, the daughter of Saint Gianna Molla. It was an interesting mix of speakers, including the (pro-life gynecologist) brother of a friend of mine, and it was given in a mix of Italian and English. We had small radios and earphones to hear translation of the Italian. This was the most crowded session I attended. I was squished in a corner on the floor. Yet I was so moved by the whole thing.... the beautiful teachings of our church about life, the ache of those unable to conceive, the beautiful story of Saint Gianna giving up her life to birth her daughter. Gianna, daughter of a saint, was so ethereal and saintly herself. She spoke with such spirit and joy! There were couples in the room who obviously were experiencing the anguish of infertility. One couple sitting near me really drew my attention and prayers. They had arms around each other and were in tears for much of the talk. Jon and I know that ache to some degree as we had difficulties conceiving Ray and never were able to have more than two children, but my prayers are really with those not able to conceive at all.

4. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was surprised by how moved I was upon seeing Pope Francis with my own eyes. Until then I had felt annoyed at how people seemed to be acting like paparazzi chasing him and how the media was so hyped and always looking for scandalous angles to report. But when I saw him it was absolutely exhilarating. I felt such love for him as our "Papa" ... our leader here on Earth. I wanted him to know my love and fidelity.
5. During the Festival of Families Matt Maher sang "Lord I Need You." We all stood up and sang along. It was a beautiful, heartfelt prayer of thousands. Love that song.

6. At two different points during the Papal Mass there were calls for sacred silence. Hundreds of thousands of people on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Silence. Spine-tingling silence. I could feel the multitude of prayers being offered and the Holy Spirit covering us all with Love.

7. I will never forget the streams of yellow and white umbrellas working their way through the crowd at Communion time at the Papal Mass. They escorted the priests and deacons who brought the Body of Our Lord to His People. His Body on Earth fed by His Body, the Bread of Life. It doesn't get more moving than that!

I was also moved by the support and interest from family and friends at home. It was fun to share the experience on Facebook throughout the week. I felt that I was able to help people at home connect in some way to the festivities.

These were moving moments for me that I treasure. However, it's in the midst of daily life where we're called to really live our Faith. If all of this doesn't make a difference in life going forward, then it's for nothing. My final post in this series will focus on the "take-aways" from the experience of the World Meeting of Families. I'll try to articulate the "so-whats?" and explain how the experience has changed me and shaped the way I'm living my faith today.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Snippets from World Meeting of Families Conference Speakers

The speakers I was privileged to hear at the World Meeting of Families were excellent. They gave me lots to think and pray about for a long time to come. Here are some of my favorite quotes/insights:

Bishop Robert Barron
"Living as the Image of God: Created for Joy and Love"

“Tell me who (or what) you worship and that will tell me all I need to know about you. Imago Dei goes wrong when we worship something other than God, make up our own rules, and privatize our religion.”

“We need to teach our culture how to worship right! “

“We are not interested in spiritual mediocrity! We want to be saints. Yes, the demand is extravagant, but so is His mercy.”

"If it doesn’t happen in the family, it won’t happen in society."

Cardinal Robert Sarah
“Light of the Family in a Dark World”

“ The most important Good News of Christ is mercy. The joy of the Gospel is the joy of mercy.”

Greg and Lisa Popcak
 “See How They Love One Another: The Family and the Faith”

“The family is meant to be an icon of the Trinity. Is your family a spiritual window in to heaven for others? For you?”

“Family, like the Trinity, is meant to be: intimate, a communion of persons, engaged in self-donative love, incarnational.”

“We must be intentional about forming family. We need rituals of connection, regular experiences of working, playing, talking, and praying together. “ At least 10 minutes of each per day and more once a week.

When you are struggling, angry, losing your temper, stop and ask the children to pray for you. Ask them to pray for you to be peaceful and hold it together. This gives them power, unites us, changes us.

 Dr. Daniel Mark
"Home Improvement: Forgiveness and Family Life"

Marriage is a Gospel re-enactment. You get the marriage you want through the cross. We can’t have a healthy and holy family life if everyone is standing on their rights and focusing on justice. It’s about self-surrender.

We must forgive our loved ones whether or not they deserve it.

 Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle 
'"The Family: A Home for the Wounded Heart"

Jesus heals by being wounded. He knows our wounds and transforms them into triumph. It is the wounded one that saves. The wounds do not disappear. Our wounds make us avenues of compassion, solidarity, understanding, and love.

The Church is the home for the wounded heart. We are to proclaim the Reign of God through healing. There is solidarity in our wounds.

We must be capable of self-sacrificing love.

Dr. Kyle Beiter, Cardinal Eijk, Dr. Gianna Emmanuela Molla
“Out of the Depths I Cry to You: Heartbreak of Infertility”

God never stops surprising us.
This talk was given on the 60th Wedding Anniversary  of Saint Gianna and her husband. Her daughter witnessed that the Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary were always an integral part of their lives.

Rick Warren and Cardinal O’Malley
"The Joy of the Gospel Life"

Rick Warren began this talk with a list of ways the family is being threatened today:           
“In today’s society, materialism is idolized, immorality is glamorized, truth is minimized, sin is normalized, divorce is rationalized, and abortion is legalized. In TV and movies, crime is legitimized, drug use is minimized, comedy is vulgarized, and sex is trivialized. In movies, the Bible is fictionalized, churches are satirized, God is marginalized, and Christians are demonized. The elderly are dehumanized, the sick are euthanized, the poor are victimized, the mentally ill are ostracized, immigrants are stigmatized, and children are tranquilized. In families around the world, our manners are uncivilized, speech is vulgarized, faith is secularized, and everything is commercialized."

“Unfortunately, Christians, you and I, are often disorganized and demoralized, our faith is compartmentalized, and our witness is compromised. So what do we need? We need to revitalize our worship, minimize our differences, mobilize our members, and evangelize the lost, and we need to re-energize our families."

 Other quotes from Rick Warren: 

 "We can’t just be opponents of what’s wrong… we need to be proponents of what’s right."

"The Lord takes delight in His people. Do you take delight in your people?"

"Your first job as a parent is to let God love you. Then love him back. Then love your family."

"We are made by God and for God. It’s not about you. You can’t determine your own purpose because you didn’t create yourself."

"God is more interested in your character than your comfort. Jesus was made perfect through suffering. How do you think you’re going to be made perfect?"

"The way God produces fruit in your life is by putting you in exact opposite situation"
(He teaches you joy by giving you the experience of grief.... teaches love by allowing  you to experience hatred.... teaches peace through chaos.... teaches patience by sending us to the DMV!

Insights from Cardinal O'Malley:

"Beauty and joy are the most powerful evangelization tools. We need to make family life attractive."

"In God’s plan the family is the school of love. Marriage is the sanctuary of life and families are communities of love."

Evangelization begins in our families…. How we forgive, share, nurture, pray, worship.

 Lacy Rabideau
"Living Liturgical Year in the Home"

Power of nostalgia. Having traditions goes deep into children’s identity. They won’t be able to “quit being Catholic” if it’s so wrapped in their memories, traditions, and daily life.

What does religion look/feel like to our children? Stuff I have to do or stuff I get to do?

--- I really hope the talks will be published and/or widely available online. I would highly recommend checking them out and I plan to listen to many of the talks I wasn't able to attend. There is much food for thought and prayer here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Seven Surprises During Our World Meeting of Families Pilgrimage

One of the best parts of any adventure is the unplanned surprises found along the way. We had plenty of these happy surprises on our pilgrimage to Philadelphia. Here are the top seven:

1. The cheerfulness, patience, and love among the crowd. The halls and sidewalks were very crowded. There was lots of waiting in line. We were anticipating meltdowns and frustrations, but we were pleasantly surprised. It was genuinely fun to be "smooshed in" with such interesting people. We met people from Zimbabwe, Canada, Nigeria, and Mexico. We met beautiful sisters from many different orders. Sometimes we were waiting in line with bishops and cardinals. I kept thinking, "This is such a cool image of what it means to be Church!" and "Will it like this when we approach the gates of heaven?" Even in the long security lines for the Papal visit, I never heard much complaining or impatience. It was amazing!

2. The stamina and positive attitude of the boys. I still can't get over this. Ray and Adam were "SUPER TROOPERS." And they were SO excited about all we were doing. They really did not complain and we pushed them way beyond what we thought were their limits. I was so impressed with them. I completely enjoyed spending these days together as a family. We were brought closer together by the challenges we faced and experiences we shared. We felt God's presence and grace guiding us throughout the pilgrimage.

3. The high quality of both the children's and  adult programming. Seriously. Out of the park! The speakers and content of their presentations were solid, packed with insight, inspiring, and challenging. In a few days I'll be posting some of my notes from the sessions I attended. I was often amazed by the "superstars" I was able to hear. It was difficult to choose which session to attend. Also, the children's programming was spot on and so well organized.
4. Seeing so many people we knew among a crowd of so many. It seemed like everywhere we went we found friends from home and that was really fun!
5. How safe and welcome we felt. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I was so worried about things like finding bathrooms in the crowded parkway, figuring out transportation, and even the possibility of terrorism. Once we were there, all of those fears were allayed. The planning and provisions were awesome. My worries were unfounded. There were hordes of security personnel everywhere and they made me feel so safe. As we walked out of the center city after the Papal Mass, many of the people in the crowd were thanking and even applauding the security personnel.
6. Generous hospitality from my cousin Emily. This was such an unexpected surprise that became a highlight of the trip. She lives in an adorable little one bedroom apartment in the center of the city. She opened up her home to us so we didn't have to fight the crowds back and forth from New Jersey over the weekend of the Papal visit. She is such a fun person to be with and we enjoyed a yummy dinner together, lots of good conversation, and a trip up the fire escape and onto the roof (which was an awesome adventure for the boys). The boys want to go back to Philadelphia soon just to visit Emily!
7. Pope Francis! Yes, we knew he was coming. I just wasn't prepared for how thrilling it would be to see and hear him in person. There is an authenticity and earnestness about him that thrills me. The media wants to spin who he is and what he says, but he is just a solid pillar of faith, truth, and love. He is so authentically present in the moment. I love that he passed on a fancy State luncheon to eat with the homeless in Washington D.C. I love that he sought to inspire rather than chastise when he spoke to Congress. I am in awe of his stamina and authenticity. And every time he asks us to pray for him I melt.
Fortunately, all of our travel plans went well. But the surprises along the way made the pilgrimage better than we could have imagined!

Philadelphia Pilgrimage Photo Post 2 - World Meeting of Families

Registration for the World Meeting of Families

This is the main hall where the keynotes took place.

The Opening Mass was quite amazing! It was held in the main hall and there were literally hundreds of priests, seminarians, and bishops in the procession. We counted 130 bishops! We enjoyed the awesome choir, especially when they sang, "Sound the Bells of Holy Freedom" (the theme song for the World Meeting). It definitely was an experience of the universal, transcendent nature of the church.

I know the lighting is terrible, but here we are with the our friends, the Ratliffs, before Mass.

These "million dollar bills" were distributed by an missionary group outside the hall.
The exhibit hall was great fun! We met lots of friends!


Jon enjoyed talking with the creator of the "That Man is You" program.

The boys enjoyed attending the kids conference with Jude, one of their friends from home!
Working on the mural
Greg and Lisa Popcak
Cardinal Tagle from the Philippines. Loved him so much!!!!
Gianna Molla, Saint Gianna's daughter
Pastor Rick Warren and Cardinal O'Malley --- This was one of my favorite talks!
Lacy Rabideau from Catholic Icing

 Our Visit to the Cathedral:

 The relics of Saint Gianna (and also her wedding dress), Saint John Paul, and Saints Zelie and Louis Martin.

The Our Lady, Undoer of Knots Grotto
Each of the white strips has a prayer of a pilgrim.

Hanging out and waiting for the Pope at the Festival of Families

The line behind us!

The line to get through security for the Papal Mass