I’ve got to be honest here. A lot of times when I plan to go on trips with the youth group, I’m really planning them for my own selfish reasons. I think you know what I mean…
Sleeping on a charter bus with 50 other people for 2 out of 4 nights; essentially living on a bus for 28 hours; having an endless supply of Pop Tarts and granola bars at my disposal; spending 20+ hours in and out of the freezing cold to see presidents‘ houses, monuments, museums, shrines, etc.; being away from my 13 month old and my husband for 4 days… Yup, this trip is for ME!
“Rebecca, am I sensing a bit of sarcasm in your tone here?”
Now, now, don’t confuse a little ironic humor with sarcasm! All those above things are real circumstances of our trip and, no they aren’t actually the easiest thing for a 32 year old to enjoy. But, I am speaking in truth when I say I sometimes have selfish ulterior motives when I plan youth group trips like the one last weekend to the March for Life in Washington DC.
I look forward to events such as this because I went to a Catholic university, I work for a the Catholic Church, and I participate in a Catholic youth movement. And, what does “catholic” mean? Universal. So, who shows up for an event such as the March? The UNIVERSAL (okay, at least, American) Catholic Church.
“That’s great, Rebecca. But, what’s in it for you?”
Here’s a little story from the trip. There I am, wandering around the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday while the teens are off discovering treasures of the Church by themselves (yes! a few minutes of peace and quiet without constant questions or problem-solving responsibilities!). As I was snapping some pictures, saying hello to Jesus, and thinking about the beauty surrounding me, I was tapped on the shoulder. I turned around to see a grinning nun who threw her arms around me and gave me the biggest hug. It took me a minute to realize who it was – Sr. Virginia Joy of the Sisters of Life.
What’s so great about this? Well, Sr. Virginia was one of my closest friends in college. The last time I saw her was about 6 years ago at a friend’s wedding, BEFORE she decided to become a nun. I’ve been supporting her order since she’s joined and I get updates throughout the year, but haven’t had the blessing of seeing her in person. The amount of joy that surged through my body as we embraced and laughed and cried together is bringing me back to tears as I write. As Sr. Virginia said, “This is a true gift!”
And, I can’t even begin to express how true that is. God aligned so many things so that she and I would cross paths in that moment. It was truly by God’s hand – me coming from Alabama with my diocese and a group of teens; she coming from New York and being assigned to be with the novices over in the cathedral that afternoon. This was no coincidence. This was Divine Intervention.
That was only the start of seeing my Catholic brothers and sisters who live across the country. I ran into Joe, another one of our bloggers, in the Natural History Museum and got to enjoy 20 minutes of catching up on life. I high-fived another Joe I know on the steps of some building, as we paused with our group to watch the crowds go by. I got texts and tweets from former teens from the youth group, college friends, brother-in-laws, the list goes on. What makes my trip planning selfish? I get to see some of my most beloved family and friends and it makes me deeply happy.
It was impossible to see everyone I knew who were also in DC. But, knowing we were all in the same city, united for a purpose, and participating together in an important mission of the Church made me realize that, though we’re separated by miles, when we’re united in Christ, we’re never really too far apart. It’s just one of the many things that makes being part of a universal Church so wonderful.
So, give me one shower in 3 days, aching feet, and complaining teens. Bring on the snow in Arlington, the rain on the steps of the Capitol building, and the exhaustion of an awful night of trying to sleep on a bus. I’ll take it all and more for the selfish purpose of experiencing a taste of heaven on earth in the joy of being with true friends in Christ.