Thursday, October 15, 2015

Final Post from Philly- Stories

This final post is post is just a collection of personal anecdotes from our time in Philly.

Reggie: Walking down the street near Old St. Joseph’s Church, we ran into Reggie, a homeless man looking for a few bucks for dinner. As we began chatting with him and Andy told him his name, he shouted, “You… you Andy Reid! That ain tended to be offensive, he’s a good guy, just made the wrong calls at the wrong time, and you his son- HAHA!” We chatted with Reggie about life on the streets and prayed with him, after which he said, “Boys I’m bout to cry, give me a hug.” As I went into hug him, he held me back, looked intently at me and said, “Who are you? Look at you, them glasses make you look SMART, you… Jimmy Carter!”

Steven: After arriving at the train station late Friday night, prior to catching the bus home, T-fro, Ollie, and I stopped to grab a snack at McDonalds. As we were sitting outside, a young guy walked up to us and asked what the difference was between our church and his church (he was Baptist). I explained to him a few of the differences- exactly zero of them seemed to register as relevant. Instead, we just started talking about life. He told us about his family, which was complicated: Steven lived with his father and stepmother along with a few half-brothers and sisters. However, down the street he has three brothers and sisters from his father and mother who he rarely sees, and five more half brothers and sisters from his mom and her new husband. In the midst of this, he remained grateful. He loved his stepmom, recalling how he had been born to his mother at nearly the exact moment his stepmom had suffered a miscarriage. She tells him an angel sent him to her.
            We asked Steven what he planned to do when he graduated from high school this year; he said he would be heading off to college.
Q: Where would he be going and what would he study?
A: “Anywhere and anything man, all I know is two things man: I want to be happy, and I love money. So what I do needs to make me happy and make me lots of money; opportunities are everywhere, all I know is I’m gonna be makin’ moves.”
            The conversation continued enjoyably for a time, we prayed together and Steven was on his way. This was one of the moving moments of the trip for me for two reasons: What does the Church have to say to the families in Steven’s situation, already so broken and complicated? (I guess in many ways that is the question of the synod) Second- and more provoking for me- what do I say to a kid like Steven when he tells me emphatically that he loves money? I could see this getting him into trouble in the future, but I had nothing to say in the moment.

Door Lady: Mike walked in the door of the hotel where his mom and sister were; the lady at the door greeted him politely,
“Good morning, father.”
Mike responded, “Hello ma’am, you have yourself a good day!”
She responded more warmly than before, “Okay, you too baby!”

Philadelphia Cops:
I wanted to make a comment on the cops in Philly because I loved them.
Steve Dangerfield: perfect cop name- was the father of four and a faithful Baptist. As we were praying with him he got so excited he began strait-up preaching the word, calling down the Holy Spirit in fire and calling us to mission.
Tanya: She was the cop we met immediately after being told the wrath of God was upon us by some eccentric mega-phone “evangelists.” She was joyful and lighthearted and prayed with us for some time- then directed us to the least crowded gate.
            Apart from that, the cops were just plain kind, laid-back, and had great accents.

Matthew: We got off at the 8th street station and shortly thereafter met a substantial homeless population. There we met Matthew who had been on the streets four months after losing his job and eating up his savings. He proceeded to tell us of the repeated rejection he experienced from the churches around town- Catholic and non-Catholic- and even more the rejection of the people of Philly. He calculated on average he made $2 an hour begging on the streets. He claimed to be totally sober and appeared so to me. Yet, in a sad moment, he complained about how much money the disabled and permanently homeless made when begging, saying most of them had chosen their state while he was still fighting against it. This comment, like Steven’s comment about loving money, had a deep impact on me, and I didn’t know what to say.

Those are a few notable encounters from our time in Philadelphia; I don’t have time to put to text the many others. 

Thank you again for all the support- whether it was prayer, financial support, or just reading and sharing our blog. Our Blessed Lord surely has more adventures planned for The Helena Boys!

Peace in Christ,

Monday, October 5, 2015

Final Reflection: Oliver

Hey Everyone,

Here are the final reflection of Oliver Santin:

A lot has happened these past few days and it will take a while to process it all; I would like, however, to share a few simple reflections. 

As we prepared to embark on this epic expedition I found myself most excited about the idea of sharing this experience with my good friends, my brother seminarians; affectionately known as, “The Helena Boys”.  As we walk together on this journey toward the priesthood I find myself more and more grateful for these men who strive to give their lives completely in love to Love.  As we undergo this endeavor I see more clearly the importance of this gift of brotherly love, which the Lord has blessed us with.  What an incredible opportunity these last few days have been for us to grow closer to each other and, through each other, to the Lord. 

So in one word I would say I am grateful.  I am grateful to my Helena Boys for their love and for their example of striving for holiness.  I am grateful for all of you, our supporters, for all your prayers and all the ways you have and continue to support us in our desire to serve the Lord whole-heartedly.  Lastly and most especially, I am grateful to the Lord, to Him who is Love and Goodness; and who has given and daily gives us all.   

Know of our prayers for you all and please continue to pray for us; beg the Lord to make us His holy priests.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Witnesses of Hope

Back at Mount Angel Seminary, reflecting on our pilgrimage as Helena Boys, I am struck by one thing predominantly -- and that is, what a powerful message of hope and joy in Christ and the priesthood the Helena Boys were able to give the people of God. (Just check out the pictures on the blog ... everyone's smiling!) Wearing our clericals, the guys throwing the football around, exuding energy and spirit ... people responded to that. We had parents come up with their children and thank us for inspiring their sons. Others thanked us for providing such a positive image of the priesthood. Some people took pictures of us. Others yelled out, "Thank you for your 'yes'!" A bus full of university students on pilgrimage cheered when we got on. This wasn't all about us ... it was about HOPE for the Church, and showing the positive face of the priesthood and a life given in service of Christ and His people.

And I must say that the response we got from the people of God in turn helped boost my vocation. I am also grateful for the opportunity this pilgrimage provided for me to get to know my brothers from St. John's seminary. I am privileged to be a part of this diocese, and especially to be considered one of The Helena Boys, who are a fine group of good, faith-filled men with a deep love for Christ and His Church.

Thank you to the diocese of Helena and all our benefactors for making this pilgrimage possible.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Pilgrimage of Hope

Here it is, the after math of our 3,600 mile, 10 state, 7 day pilgrimage.  So much to try to sum up.  The one word that comes to mind is that of hope.  This has been a pilgrimage of hope.  This journey didn’t just start last Tuesday when the Mount Angel boys flew into Denver.  No, it started last spring with the desire to pilgrimage to see Pope Francis and partake in the World Meeting of Families as a brotherhood.  Like any good pilgrimage, this one was not without its obstacles.  We had potential buses come and go, no place to stay, and our itinerary in Philly was far from being fixed.  But we pushed on, for two main reasons I think: because of the deep desire in our hearts and the encouragement of others.  These two elements gave us hope that this was indeed the Lord’s will and He would provide what was lacking.

Our desire was the Lord’s way of asking us to drive on.  Any authentic desire from God is never in vain.  These desires need to be purified and well discerned, but if they are truly from God, He will not leave them unfulfilled.  Such was the case for us.  God our Father fulfilled our desires for this trip beyond any of our expectations.  In a sense, these desires were just His way of expanding our hearts to receive His great gifts.

If it were up to me, I would have bagged this idea a long time ago because of the complications that came with it.  However, the encouragement of the brothers kept me driving on.  Pretty quickly this pilgrimage became larger than ourselves.  The entire family of God in different parts of the country got behind us.  You encouraged us with your prayers, recommendations, and financial support.  In the end, the entire cost of our trip was paid for by your generous contributions.

Fast forward to last Tuesday.  All was in place and we hit the road.  The Lord was true to his word.  If anything, all obstacles subsided and all that was left was the hope of a fruitful trip.  Joy filled the bus and our spirits high.  Every stop we made, people were not only excited about our journey, but above all, about the Pope Francis’ visit to the USA.  It’s no secret that there has been much tension and division in this country surrounding marriage and the family.  The timing of this World Meeting of the Families in Philadelphia was perfect.  Our Holy Father’s expectant visit to the US was bringing much needed hope to American’s hearts.

This was much more evident when we landed in the City of Brotherly Love.  I’ve always said that when you see a city through the eyes of the Church you are able to perceive its beauty.  Such was the case of our experience in Philadelphia.  All the stories the boys have been telling perfectly describe the goodness of the American people.  The arrival of Pope Francis confirmed this genuineness of people’s hearts.  Divisions ceased and hearts were filled with hope.  It didn’t matter where we were or who we met, generally everyone greeted us with open arms.  Francis is truly the people’s pope no matter what creed or religion they profess.  

I think it’s safe to say that it’s not Pope Francis that people are truly searching for; our deep desire is for Jesus Christ Himself whose vicar Francis is.  Jesus is the only man who can bring true unity; He is the only man who can bring true hope.  This is Who was presented in Philadelphia this weekend, the living Body of Christ, His Church, represented by Pope Francis the head and the People of God the members.  And where Jesus Christ is present there is hope.

This unity and hope was confirmed for me during the Papal Mass on Sunday.  Although we didn’t get to view the Mass in person, we did get to participate intimately in our distribution of Holy Communion.  Jesus asked Peter to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15-17), but he also asks us.  What a humbling responsibility to be charged with the duty to feed the People of God with the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This was indeed the highlight of this pilgrimage for me.  Never have I experienced the Universal Church in such a large degree.  Never have I experienced the people’s desire for communion with God as in this Papal Mass.

This opportunity was well worth the 80 hours of bus travel it took to experience it.  In fact, the bus ride is what paved the way.  Our desire for communion isn’t just with God, but also with each other.  The Helena Boys’ desire for this communion was fulfilled.  We met God in the good people of Philadelphia.  We met Him amongst each other.  And we also met Him in the viewers of this blog.  What a joy it has been to share our experience with you.  This pilgrimage was not our own.  We represented all those we know and love with whom we took to Philly in our prayers.  It is now our hope, as we return to our normal routine in the seminary, that the graces we received in Philadelphia will bear fruit in the lives of all of you and in the lives of all we will encounter for years to come.  Thanks for making this such an exceptional journey.  Peace, db

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

Every Sunday at Mass we pray these words of the Creed. These days in Philly were an opportunity not only to say them, but to see them! Although each of these four marks of the Church were easy to see in the events of the World Meeting of Families, the one that stood out most was the second.

The Church is Holy.   The Church is Holy because she, the Bride of Christ, has been redeemed and washed of every stain of sin through His own blood. Holiness is a magnet. What drew millions of people to Philadelphia and caused the entire city to shut down was the arrival not of the President of the United States, nor of a famous actor or musician. It was not the presence of Aretha Franklin or Mark Wahlberg. What drew millions to Philadelphia was the arrival of the Holy Father, who is called holy not because of his own goodness, but because of the holiness of the office he has received. But in Pope Francis, like his recent predecessors,  we see the beautiful witness of holiness of office combined with holiness of life, and the force is almost irresistible. With tangible humility he relentlessly redirects the attention of the whole world to God who is Love. This is our mission, too! “Be holy, as your Father in Heaven is Holy,”Jesus said to us, and  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your god works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.”

The Holy Church has never stopped raising up for us examples of holiness, to inspire us and to guide us. When asked how she felt that she was often referred to as a living Saint, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta replied, “Holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is the simple duty of you and me.” None of us is excused from the duty of becoming a great Saint: of drawing so near to God in our daily lives that every person we come in contact with can feel His presence in our souls. Through Jesus Christ, by means of the ministry of the Holy Church, especially in the Sacraments, the Father is working in our lives to make us great Saints, and through us to draw all people to Himself.

Dcn. Andy Morrow

First Things First

This weekend millions of people traveled from across the world to see one man in the city of brotherly love. The once cobbled streets of Philadelphia revealed the bottom of the American melting pot as languages and flags congealed around street side barricades hoping to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis as he passed from one event to another at the World Meeting of Families. Anybody who was downtown could feel from the joy and anticipation of the crowds that something stronger than pork and sweet pepper sandwiches was brewing in the streets that weekend that could rouse even the stomachs of our forefathers.
            Pope Francis offered Americans the freedom of faith. Faith, a relationship between God and man, sets a person free because it gives him power over suffering. The founding fathers sought such freedom centuries ago by founding a republic that would uphold laws to defend their people from any sort of political, economic, or religious oppression. Whether or not the American republic has done justice to its fathers’ intentions, Pope Francis revealed to the American people that a greater freedom exists than that which our republic can promise us. The Christian faith does not abolish suffering as a law would slavery, but it destroys the power suffering can have over a person because it asserts that an unconditionally loving God has created and calls that person to eternal life in love with Him. When a person pledges allegiance to this faith, that faith in turn protects him because no suffering regardless of its magnitude can destroy the love of man for God and more importantly God’s love for man.
            The World Meeting of Families could not have come at a more providential time for Americans. Political tensions run high as candidates prepare for upcoming elections and discuss the future of America. Pope Francis’s presence did not serve to answer the numerous questions of political responsibility in this country, but the Vicar of Christ who represents a 2,000 year old tradition of faith and who offered the sacrifice of the Mass in the city of Philadelphia where the nation’s Declaration of Independence was signed juxtaposed the heavenly and worldly kingdoms clearly and definitively. And such a juxtaposition demands a choice, but not that a person accept one kingdom and reject the other. Rather, it insists that he give to each what each is due. Freedom and dignity will always be given to people by God alone through the relationship of faith, and to demand such a gift from government is nothing short of idolatry that bears with it its own consequences. Last Sunday, as Americans gathered around the heavenly table of Thanksgiving and professed one faith, the American soul received much grace. The Pope has since parted for Rome and Washington has reclaimed the media’s attention but the choice of faith remains for all Americans and with it the promise of freedom. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Home at Last

Well, back safe and sound.   Especially sound as we took a victory lap around the seminary while laying on the air horn to make sure everyone knew we where back.  Safe as well.  No one lost any limbs.  There was a small bloody nose incident but nothing major.  It's like my dad always says "alls well that ends well."  Sure there where bumps in the road along the way, but we're all still friends.  In fact, our brotherhood is stronger now than it was before.  How great it was to spend time with the men from other seminaries who we see very intermittently.

The trip today was quick.  We weren't sure how long it was going to take us to get the boys to the airport in time so we didn't mess around.  We arrived back at the seminary about 7:30 or so.  Just in enough time to get our marching orders for tomorrow.  Back to the grind.  Praise God.  We hope over the next couple of days to give you some reflections on each of our experiences from the past week.  We'll see how that goes, then decide what to do with the blog.  May all of you be richly blessed for the varied ways you helped support our mission.  Peace.

Our Lady

We have owed so many graces to the intercession of our Blessed Mother.  Here we are standing outside the grotto of Notre Dame (Our Lady).  Its a dark picture, but the radiance of the our Mother's love for her sons is quite evident.  It was a blessed tour around the iconic Catholic University where we met one of Mike's friends Christina.  We then drove through the night and are now in Omaha Nebraska.  We're on schedule, but I'm sure we'll cut it close getting the boys to the airport on time.  Stay tuned for more reflections. Peace

Monday, September 28, 2015

It was fun while it lasted

When you've got a bus full of 20 somethings you've got to give them run to room.  Basketball, with some modified rules, has been the game of choice.  That is until this afternoon when a wild shot went out the open window and landed somewhere on I-80

Back on the Bus

Here we are, a third of the way back on our return trip home.  All is going well.  We departed at 5am, stopped for coffee and fuel then hit the open road.  Our first major stop was Pittsburg where we went to noon Mass at Duquesne University.  Afterwards, Joe met up with an old buddy of his and we restocked on food for the alight journey that lies ahead of us.  Right now we in Wood County Ohio, near Toledo.  The plan, roll through to South Bend, Indiana, offer up a few Hail Mary's at the grotto of Notre Dame then continue trucking.  We need to be back at the Denver Airport by 7pm Tuesday night when the Mount Angel boys fly back.  Our brother Adain had planned all along to fly back from Philly so he stayed behind. This pic is of the remaining Helena Boys: Kirby driving; Joe and Tyler playing Cribbage; Andy, Cody, Mike, and Ollie playing Rummy; Me, just hanging out. Peace

Pilgrimage to the Relics

All of our gang together

As Joe and I were rendezvousing after the conferences we met up with this neat couple from Kansas and a religious sister from France. Although she is from France, she is actually a US native who is now with the Jerusalem sisters who are in France. Since Joe and I were hungry, and so were the others, we joined forces and all went out to eat. They took the helm and led us to the craziest market-eating place I had ever seen. Shop after shop lined the inside of this place and people swarmed from place to place. As we wandered through the sea of people the thought came to me, if I get separated from these people, I will never find them again. And, if I get lost, I might not find my way back out. Nevertheless we found “the spot”, which, to me, looked like every other restaurant, and ordered our sandwiches. Although Philly is known for its Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, the Philadelphians come for a different kind of sandwich. This restaurant is known for its roast beef sandwiches with sharp white cheddar cheese on which they add either sautéed onions or a broccoli sauce. Hungrily awaiting our Philadelphian treat, we left the restaurant zoo and headed for a place to sit and eat.

Eventually we settled on a slight ledge on the side of a closed street. The five of us sat and devoured our sandwiches as onlookers took pictures of the strange sight. Frankly, I don’t blame them; we seemed like something that would begin a bad joke. A sister, a couple, a seminarian, and a deacon were eating by the road . . .  or a sister, two people, and two seminarians . . . You can pick your joke. We chatted for a while about the conferences and were having a lot of fun. This couple was amazing! They really cared about family issues and desired to start programs to assist married couples. They mentioned that in their diocese they are implementing a new program, which has been received well, focused on preparing couples for marriage and providing good principles to begin a strong marriage. They said that many non=Catholics have attended these programs including atheists and other Christians. The program is called Living in Love.

Sadly this wonderful couple had to depart, but this didn’t end our adventure. Instead Sr. Susannah was planning on going to the sights that we were planning and hoping to visit. So she became our new tour guide. We headed down the street a few blocks to the viewing of the body of St. Maria Goretti. Yes, her body. Much to my disappointment the caretakers of her body (relics) had covered her bones with clothes and her face with a mask so that she looks like she is incorrupt – that her body has not suffered the effects of decay. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this great saint. Maria Goretti was born in 1890 in Ancona, Italy. When she was 12, Alexander Serenelli, a man who helped at her parent’s house, attempted to rape her. She said to her rapist that she would rather die than be raped. At which point he began to stab her. A neighbor grabbed her body off the front steps of her parent’s house and took her to the hospital. While in the hospital she forgave her rapist just before she died. Alexander was later caught and sentenced to 30 years in prison. While in prison, Maria Goretti appeared to him in a dream and began to hand him roses symbolizing her forgiveness to him. Maria handed him 12 roses, one for each of the stab wounds he inflicted upon her. Alexander later repented and became a Capuchin friar and dedicated his life to prayer. Some people have opened his cause for canonization. Maria Goretti is the youngest canonized saint.

The shrine they had set-up for the viewing of the body of Maria Goretti was in the basement chapel of a local church. The line to get to view the relics stretched a quarter of a block. The inside of the crypt chapel was lined with posters explaining her life and booths to purchase souvenirs. Once we got up to the glass casket that holds her body, we were allowed to spend 15 seconds with the body and couldn’t take pictures.

Our next stop after seeing Maria Goretti was to walk across town to view the body of St. John Newman, the first canonized saint from the United States. In order to get to this church we needed to walk around 2-3 miles to the parish. The streets were rather barren. We saw a handful of people and most of them were army reserve agents who were keeping the area safe. Sr. Susannah was happy to have companions especially since some of these streets could be rather dangerous. As we walked we would greet people, we prayed the Rosary, and chatted.

The church was beautiful. Unfortunately they were celebrating Mass in both the upper and lower chapels. So we prayed a little bit. Outside the lower chapel was a foyer with a water fountain and a few benches. As I sat praying, Joe came over and saw behind me a small reliquary with a relic of St. John Newman. As Mass continued, Joe was downstairs during the Consecration. He noticed as the host was held up for the elevation that the body of John Newman was underneath the altar in a glass case. While they finished celebrating Mass, we went upstairs and viewed the upper church. It was beautiful! Deep maroon and gold colors lined the walls and give it a royal color. The great pillars and columns gave it a grand and expansive feeling. The décor reminded me of a king’s courtroom. Below this chapel was the body of John Newman. As we came downstairs to venerate his body, a Redemptorist priest, the order that staffs this church, was telling stories about the saint.  We missed the majority of the stories, but we were able to see the body. The body looked so life like that we thought it might be incorrupt. After asking one of the priests he told us that this was not the case. We stayed and prayed a little, then left the chapel.

St. John Newman was born in Bohemia in 1811. Since his bishop had too many priests, Newman looked for another place to be accepted and ordained a priest. Thus he came to America. Desiring community life he joined the Redemptorist priest. He was appointed the bishop of Philadelphia and began to organize Catholic education. He is the founder of Catholic education in the United States.  

After walking all day and the excitement of everything, we were rather exhausted. Therefore we decided to take a cab back to the train station. As we were trying to figure out how to call a cab or which bus lines would take us where we needed to go, a taxi cab pulled up and agreed to take us. Upon leaving the taxi, we parted ways with Sr. Susannah and departed for the train station.

Joe and I both remarked that, in this one day, we started at the convention on the family where they encouraged us to stand as strong witnesses to the joy and beauty of family life. Then we journeyed to visit two saints who stand as strong witness who stood strong and defended truth and justice. We went from being empowered to seeing those who were empowered. It was truly an incredible day!

The Papal Mass

Thus an amazing opportunity begun with a test of faith. Already out of the monastery we were staying by 9, we headed down the road. Several weeks prior Joe had mentioned to us about the open invitation to all clergy to be ministers of communion at the Papal Mass on Sunday. Of course we jumped on this opportunity and got all the permissions and paper work we needed. Confounding our very exciting opportunity we didn’t realize that we needed to register, again, and get tickets for the Mass. Fortunately Fr. Mike, our extremely helpful host, told us that the first to register get to sit up near the altar, instead of in the Cathedral. Of course we wanted this so some of us tried to register early. Unfortunately this was not the case; only priests could receive that special privilege.  Nevertheless we got our tickets.

Rolling out at 9 in the morning, we had two-and=a-half hours before our required check-in time of 11:30. Our goal was to take a bus down to the train and then the train into Philadelphia. As we approached the bus station, the bus we needed had just pulled out. A little disappointed we went to a diner about two blocks away for some food. The diner, described in greater depth in Dcn. Andy’s blog post, was filled with super friendly and amazing staff who gave us a wonderful breakfast. Then we headed back to the bus station.

Due to the papal event there was no way to gain access to bus schedules or find out which busses are running. Fortunately we knew from the night before that this bus takes us to the train and is running. As we were waiting, a Franciscan sister approached us. In her train was a Hispanic family. After a short conversation we figured out that the family was from Georgia and were trying to get to the Mass. We tried to explain to them how to get the Mass and back home, and allowed them to follow us along the way. After waiting over half-an-hour for the bus to arrive, we were getting rather anxious. Bryce decided to pray a Memorare to implore the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Half way through the prayer the bus arrived and we all headed to the train.

The trip on the bus and the train were simple, they both led to basically the same place. As we followed the instructions of the volunteers and officers we made our way down the  busy streets along with the huge crowd of people. We arrived at the security check-point at 10:40, and soon discovered that the line into the Mass areas was a 2-hour wait, which meant that we would not make it by the expected check=in time. We were bummed. After talking with several volunteers and trying to think of other options, we sadly joined the herd. Now, ten minutes later, the line had increased by a half hour. Dcn. Bryce decided to go search out other option and see if any other lines were shorter. Shortly after he left, the crowd head a second line had opened for security check. Summoned by Dcn. Bryce we headed over to the other line, but so did everyone else. The line continued to grow. Again, saddened by our defeat, we went and asked an officer who standing by the fence. We explained our situation and he said he would go see what he could. After he left Dcn. Bryce led us in prayer the Memorare. Three prayers later the officer returned and ushered us through the gate and through security. We were finally in the restricted area. Now we need to make it to the Art Museum by 11:30.

The Art Museum was about a twenty minute walk from the security check-point, but, as it turns out, we really didn’t need to be there on time. Entering through the back of the Museum, we were escorted to a special room for deacons. Then we were given the freedom to tour the Museum. Basically we got a free pass to the Philadelphia Art Museum. On the first and second floors they had set up tables full of very nice food. Walking amongst the tables were many cardinals. archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons. As we walked through the exhibits, a cardinal would walk by in his red regalia or a bishop is his magenta. It was an amazing moment and such a surprise to see so many of the leaders of the Church walking around, eating, chatting, viewing the exhibits, relaxing. One of the exhibits we were able to see was a painting of St. Francis of Assisi, the prized exhibit of the Museum. The detail of this painting was so tiny that the painter used the under hairs of a mouse to paint that fine. The painting itself was about 8 inches by 6. Yet we needed the magnification of an iPad so that we could see such fine details such as h lines of dirt in his feet and the people in the boat on the lake in the background. The painting is called St. Francis by Emter. We toured a few exhibits but then had to return for instructions.

Let the chaos begin. The next few hours seemed disorganized and chaotic. At  one point we were supposed to meet in the assigned rooms. Then a staff told us to go to another room. Then we were told that only some of us. Then we were told all of us. Then we were told to vest. One instruction followed by many clarifications over and over again for nearly half-an-hour. Then we all laded the busses and drove through the parade route to the Cathedral. This part was rather comical. As we drove through the streets, the people waved and cheered almost like we are celebrities. One we stopped and got off, our tour of fame continued. People in the crowds gave us high fives and shook our hands. Then we were ushered into the Cathedral and given further instructions.

Most of us were hoping to be able to have a close view of the Mass, but this was not the case. Instead, we were to watch the Mass from close circuit TVs set-up in the Cathedral. We deacons prayed a little together, we could watch the broadcast or tour the Cathedral. Then one of the volunteers told us that the Pope might pass by the front of the Cathedral, so we all left and stood out front. All of the sudden we heard sirens and the security vehicles began to move. Sure enough here came the Pope right along the street in front of the Cathedral. I was about 10 feet away.  As he passed where I was standing, the car suddenly stopped. Pope Francis got out of the vehicle and came over to the “shrine” of our Lady Undoer of Knots, which was a series of knotted cords made by the Cathedral. He prayed for a few minutes as the crowd rushed to see him. Many people had their camera in the air and were shouting Papa, Papa. But the secret service would not let anyone approach. I stood amidst the swarm of people blocked by the ten feet of bodies that stood between me and the Pope. Then he got back in the car and continued down the route.

As the Mass begun, the MC of the deacons decided to give his instructions, which prevented us from participating in the Mass. By the Gloria he was through with his instructions. After the Sanctus (aka the Holy Holy), we all went up to the altar in the Cathedral where each deacon was handed a ciborium (a vessel that is used for storing or transporting the Blessed Sacrament) full of pre-consecrated hosts. Then we all left the Cathedral and joined with an escort who walked with each deacon down the road to a spot for distributing communion. Each escort was holding a gold and white umbrella, which looked like a parade of gold and white flowing down the street. Once we were given the okay, we approached the fence and gave communion to whomever came forward. Rather quickly the people formed two lines and distribution went rather smoothly. Much to my surprise most of us had remaining hosts in our ciboria. Then we all went back to the Cathedral, gave our ciboria back to the MC, purified the ciboria, and watched the end of the Mass. Although we couldn’t see the altar and the Mass as we would normally in a Cathedral, I still felt rather present and connected with the Pope during this Mass.

The Mass concluded, we went to join the others and head back. I am glad I was given this opportunity. It was an amazing way to be of service at such an extraordinary event.

The Final Countdown!

Praised be Jesus Christ! We are on our way back to Denver after the great Philadelphian triduum. Kirby and I will do our best to fill you in on yesterdays closing events.

We were finally able to sleep in yesterday as the papal mass wasn’t until 4 pm. However, our three holy deacons had to hit the road early to register as Eucharistic Ministers after hearing security would be horrendous. We hit Molly Malloy’s in the Reading Terminal for breakfast (if you ever go to Philly, go here. One of the best places in the city). Joe Paddock had to go on a journey for his coveted cheese steak sandwich, earning him the nickname “Cheesesteak” from our waitress, Claire, a true Philadelphian. A very generous couple covered our meal, one of God’s many blessings on this trip. I haven’t experienced such incredible generosity in a single place in my life.

 We met Mike downtown selling peaches out of a trench coat. He suspiciously told us he was taking his mother and sister to the train station, but who knows what he was up to.  Further on we were met with resistance from some folks with different views. Ollie was told that, “the wrath of God” was upon him. However, the Lord sent us a wonderful woman named Tanya, a police officer working the event. She asked to take a photo with us and then we were able to pray over her and with her. What a wonderful joy it is to be with our Christian brothers and sisters.

2 Million estimated by Dcn. Andy Marrow
We finally made it through security and into the mass ground. God was providing, as many people spent hours in the security line for the mass while we spent 5 minutes getting through. We posted up in front of a big screen and waited for mass to start. While doing this, we met Theresa, a volunteer for the event, who next week will be visiting Whitefish! We chatted for awhile and then prayed daytime prayer with her.

The mass began, it was a beautiful witness to the power of Christ. In our area alone, there were an estimated 20, 000 people. Most powerful was kneeling before the consecration with millions of others. At that moment- Dignum et justum est- Christ was the center of the world.

The Pub of Penn Valley. Boom.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to receive communion due to the crowds, however spiritual communion bears fruit in these circumstances. After this, we all headed down to the Penn Valley Pub for one last hurrah. Patrick served us again as we relaxed and praised God for the graces of our trip. After that we headed back to the monastery and packed up. We got a few hours of shuteye and here we are! There will be a few more posts coming today after digesting some of the graces we received these past days so keep your eyes peeled. Thank you for your continued intercession and please keep up the prayers as we head back to share our grace with you all!