Friday, September 25, 2015

Football in the Streets of Philly

What a day, the Holy Spirit is at work in Philly. It is midnight here on the east coast and I am exhausted, having in a single day prayed over more folks and taken more photos with strangers than I ever have before. I will try and give a quick recap of The Helena Boys 1st day in Philly.

A few of the boys woke up at some absurd hour and went into town early for the festivities; they have their own story to tell. For the rest of us, the day began with Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish-our generous host- at 8:30am. Here we encountered the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist, who brought a group out from Marin Catholic in Cali. They jumped on the bus and we went out for coffee together. We gave 'em the hard sell on MT so who knows, we might have a group of these sisters in our diocese someday; keep this in your prayers!

Next, we loaded the train into town where we met Linda, a mom dragging her four kids into the festivities- this lady was stoked for her faith, and also stoked about us having dinner that night at the Pub of Penn Valley (more on this later).
We finally made it to downtown Philly- currently under the peaceful rule of martial law. It turns our this is by far the largest Secret Service operation in history, all of downtown Philly is on lockdown. This makes for empty streets and a great place to throw the football around. And as it turns out, playing catch in the streets of downtown Philadelphia is a great tool for evangelization. It's wild how many people were fascinated and excited about a group of young dudes in collars running around having fun. It showed me first the love people have for the priesthood and their deep desire for priests to be happy. It also revealed to me how people imagine priests: a bit of stodgy, cold, distant and usually incapable of any normal human activity or interaction. I have rarely had that experience with priests in my own life, but the stereotype does exist and Pope Francis rails on this often in his homilies.

Shortly after this pic, this kid fired a cannon at my face, almost took my head off; just managed to get my hands on it in time.

T-Fro and Ollie loving the Dinic's sandwiches.
Aside: we were hungry and walked up to a local Philly Cop who initially shrugged us off and gave absolute garbage advice. As we were walking away, he called us back in his great east-coast accent, "Alright boys, le me give ya 'da scoop, go down to the courthouse and cut right into this real skinny street, no one walks there, no one'l be dare, you'll pop on at the Reading Terminal Market. Everything you'll need right there, I guarantee it." We proceeded on this route thinking we have the insider info, turns out Reading is the most popular place in Philly- we still loved it though.

We went out after lunch to see the sites, only to find the Liberty Bell and Maria Goretti relic lines were too long. We heard about Old St. Joseph's Parish, the 1st Catholic Church in Philly, c. 1734. We figured we might actually be able to pray there so we headed that way.

Old St. Joseph's was beautiful, full of rich history, and relatively empty, however the organist playing upstairs didn't quite have his repertoire aced and the archivist greeting visitors at the door was rather excitable; this didn't quite make for an atmosphere of prayer. Further complicating things, they were shutting the doors in 20 minutes. Thankfully, Our Lord provided for his sons again; the good Jesuit Father who was telling us to leave saw the exhaustion on our faces and invited us to do our holy hour in their private rectory chapel upstairs, what a gift!
       Quick fact: Old St. Joe's was the first public celebration of the Mass in the English Empire since the time of Elizabeth, thanks to the protection of William Penn and the Quakers who told the English to shove it, providing safe haven for the Catholic population in Philapelphia.

In our final approach, the Bismarck men joined us for a bite at the aggressively recommended Penn Valley Pub where we found out Linda had already made reservations for us- though we had not told her we would be going that night. Patrick our waiter comped us our first round of drinks and hooked us up with a free cab ride home, saving us an hour long walk.

If I were to try and spell out the many ways Jesus worked today, this blog post would be too long- it already is- and I wouldn't get any sleep. All I can conclude is: If this is a taste of the priesthood, my introvert-self is going to be exhausted all-day-'er-day, but I can imagine no greater joy in this world than to exhaust myself for Christ and his Church in hope of bringing souls to heaven.

In Christ,


  1. In all seriousness, us SY guys are having such a good time walking over to the library and reading your blog! Thank you all for being such great brothers leading us here at SJV. Know you are all in our prayers constantly, and we wish so much we could be with you in Philly! We cannot wait to hear what else this pilgrimage has in store you all. However, please come back soon! Mass was odd the last few days not seeing your faces. Also, if you get a chance maybe go run where Rocky ran up the steps at the courthouse!
    -Helena SY Guys

  2. Wow, what adventure you all are on! Keep the updates coming, I will repost them on FB so more of us at Carroll and even beyond can know and read about this pilgrimage. God bless.

  3. Great story. Keep up with the good work!