Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Petty Pilgrimage

THE YEAR IS 1979.  I'm 5 years old.  I kick a lady in the chin on the National Mall in DC while walking through the sea of people who were there for Pope John Paul II's mass on the mall.  My parents brought the whole family from NY. 

That is my only memory from when my parents took my family to see the Pope in 1979.  I kicked a lady in the chin when I was stepping over her. 

I took Carmen to dance last Tuesday night.  I had some time to think.  Why am I obsessed with Pope Francis' visit to the US? Why have I been in such turmoil about whether or not to take the children? Why am I a Pope nerd? (yes, that is a real term, by the way.  You can look it up.  Never mind, don't look it up.)  Do I want them to grow up and have one memory of seeing the Pope, like I did?  A memory of kicking a lady in the chin?  We can just watch it on TV.  We have been glued to EWTN ever since he arrived in Cuba.  The children have been learning so much just by watching EWTN.  It is so great to be able to watch a TV station with them that is so edifying, informative and full of life!

So just watching it on TV should be fine.  Well, it was still bothering me.  So I thought, hey, maybe you should actually put your phone down, be quiet and just pray about it. 

So I did.

I put my seat back in the parking lot of the dance studio and just looked up at the trees.  I quieted my mind and relaxed.  That's all I needed.  I just needed a few moments to let go and to realize that it all boiled down to one thing....

I miss my parents. 

I let myself have that feeling for a few moments.  It is moments like these in my life that I realize how much I miss them.  After all, anyone who knew my parents knew one thing...they were Catholic.  They loved the Pope!  I will never forget seeing Cardinal Ratzinger walk out on the balcony as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.  My father was still alive but didn't know really what it meant because of his Alzheimer's.  My mother passed away in 1993 so she wasn't alive to see it.  See, my parents LOVED Cardinal Ratzinger. I remember them talking about him back in the 80s.  Wow, to see him become Pope, they would have loved it. 

But, that is one of the many moments I couldn't share with them. 

So as I sat in the van, I was so happy to realize the fact that I actually miss my parents.  It brought relief.  Ok, I thought.  I am completely ok not bringing the children to DC to see Pope Francis.  I know my parents are with me in spirit.  I felt close to them and consoled by them as I looked up at the trees for a few moments.  I felt so much better.  I shed a few tears, sat back up and felt better.  Easy as that. 

I let it go. 

Well, If I didn't believe it before, I do now...  It is that sometimes you just have to get out of the way to let God work.  I spent so much time wondering what I should do and trying to plan that I never really stopped to let God help me out. 

As soon as I let go, I got a message from my old college friend.  We were chatting and she asked me if I wanted tickets to the lawn of the Capitol for Pope Francis' historic address to the joint session of Congress.  Her husband is Tim Huelskamp, the congressman from Kansas and he made available to me 6 tickets.  I could take my children and my nephew!  There are no words to express my gratitude for Tim and Angela making this possible for my family.

It came out of nowhere and it was right after I let everything go.

So arrangements were made in high gear.  My nephew lives up in Northern Virginia so he was able to pick up the tickets and metro cards and we were all set! 

And now, I,  the little 5 year old girl from 1979 who kicked the lady in the chin, can give my children the memory of going to see the Pope, as well.  This is a dream I have had ever since I found out Pope Francis was coming to DC.

When I told the children, they were so excited.  Carmen commented how special it would be because they never got to see a Pope before.  So cute.  Emmett's face said it all.  When he is excited about something, he doesn't show a great deal of emotion on the outside.  His eyes and smile said it all and he took a big breath in as if to take in the joy of the news.  John, well, he's 3.  He just acted like a cat and walked out of the room. 

OK, so what follows is a bit of a picture story of the day....

So here it is, 2:30 am Thursday morning.  I set my alarm for 1:30, got up, and started getting the kids up and in the car.  They slept in their clothes and were ready to go.  John was so cute the night before.  He just kept asking, "Mommy, can I sleep in the car?" over and over again.  He heard us talking about how I was going to wake them up in the middle of the night and they would sleep in the car THEN.  However, a 3 year old's brain obviously doesn't compute that!  He thought he was just going to sleep in the car all night.  By the way, that is my 16 year old in the front seat.  I had to crop her face out to prevent embarrassment on her part.  It is absolutely the best sleeping picture I have EVER seen!  It's a classic. 

We arrived at my nephew, Robby's apartment at 4:15 am.  We got to the Vienna metro exactly on time and we took off at 4:55am.  The kids were so excited to be on the metro for the first time!  Well, Emmett wasn't at first because he couldn't sit next to Robby, but then I told him he could sit next to him on the return trip and it turned out fine.

Here they are on the escalator.  Excited to get off and get to our spot on the Capitol lawn. 
I can't believe it was still dark when we arrived at the lawn!  The security guards took my two Contigo water bottles and only left me one small Dasani water bottle.  We were on this lawn from 5:45am until around 1:00pm with only my homemade pumpkin muffins and that one small bottle of water.  We rationed sips of water and we never want to see pumpkin muffins again!  Also, John was so sick!  The poor guy had a stuffy nose that kept getting worse throughout the day.  He was a trooper. Thankful for those muffins, though.  He just held onto his muffin like it was a security blanket.  He didn't let go of that muffin, even when he fell asleep.
I like these pictures of the Capitol as the sun was coming up.  We were up pretty close in the crowd having gotten there so early, but the kids had a hard time seeing the jumbotron screens.  I was very sore the next day from picking them up so often to see!  I couldn't deny them seeing after we had come so far.  They were just drowned in the crowd.  They did so great.  I could tell how happy they were to be there.  I explained so much to them about what was happening.  They learned so much about government, what happens at the Capitol, the historic fact that a Pope has never addressed a joint session of congress. 
I'm so glad we brought the blankets.  As much as a pain as it was to carry them, the kids were able to spread out and sleep some when we got there.  HOWEVER, it was crazy!  As the time drew closer to when the Pope was going to head from the Vatican Embassy over to the Capitol, the crowd surged forward twice!  The first time, I was hopping with my surgical boot half on and half off because it happened so fast (wearing the boot because I am still recovering from foot surgery).  Then it happened again and we just stayed standing for the rest of the time. 
Oh my, my foot was not happy.  I couldn't feel from my knees down.  But it was worth it.  At one point during the speech, I jumped up and down and I landed on a little lady who was sitting down right behind me.  I was bound to have some kind of incident like the one I had in 1979!  

Above are a few pictures of the waiting time. The kids made friends with the girls playing cards next to us and they joined in on some card games.  John had fun coloring. We met a nice lady next to us who had come all the way from Texas!  The poor lady was stuck sitting down and we helped get her up to her feet when the crowd surged forward. 
Throughout the day, the mood and feel of being there was amazing.  Everyone was so happy and polite and nice for the most part.  When John was crying on our way out because we were basically in a bottleneck of people to get out through a small opening, a lady handed me a little bottle of water for him.  We were all able to stay together and make it out in one piece!  We even saw the presidential candidate, Ben Carson, on the way out.  That was fun.  I also saw my friend, Mary Kay!  That was one of the best moments of the day...walking up to her and screaming!  It is weird how fun it is to see people you know in a random crowd of complete strangers.

I loved taking pictures of the Capitol.  I know it would be so much easier to see it on television, but as Emmett said, "Being there in person will have a completely different feeling."  He was right!
There was a man next to me who asked me, "Would you be here if it was to see the Pope before this one?"  I said, "Yes, of course.  I like to try to see the BIG picture.  Especially the last 3 Popes together."  He was in complete disagreement.  He conveyed that this Pope has a different message and he likes this Pope.  Take over 2000 years of the history of papacy and like only THIS pope because he has a different message.  Yes, he does.  BUT, we would do well to remember that the pope is the Vicar of Christ.  He takes the place of Christ for us on earth so he can lead his flock.  Also, a lot of people don't realize that Pope Benedict XVI appointed the majority of cardinals into the college of cardinals that voted in the conclave to elect Pope Francis in the first place.
Anywho...Sometimes, I don't know if I am more fascinated with the papacy because of how much I love history or because of my deep love for Catholicism and the Church. Either way, to experience an historic event like this with my family was an extraordinary privilege.  


Emmett loved using his cousin, Robby's, camera.  He must have taken a million pictures.  Most of them, I'm sure have been deleted, though!  The kids loved that their cousin, Robby, came with us.  Robby was so nice to trust Emmett with his camera!

Emmett had a great experience that day.  He really listened to the Pope's address, too.  He picked up on things he was saying and he made comments.  Someone handed back a little American flag and a little Papal flag to the kids.  It was so neat.  That type of hands on experience never would happen at home.  The sights and sounds of the day were so neat and really made an impression on the kids. 

The jumbo screen sound feed and video came on when John Boehner was waiting for the pope to arrive.  We saw Pope Francis' motorcade going by on the street and everyone screamed and clapped.  When the sound feed came on, you could have heard a pin drop in the crowd, it was so quiet.  John fell sound asleep and we made a barricade around him with our bodies so he wouldn't get stepped on!  At one point, I heard the woman behind us scold another woman for trying to get up closer and push past us.  She said, "you are stepping on a child." She was even protective of John.  I'm so glad he was with us because there was something about having all the kids there that made it so special.  I really missed not bringing our other teenager, who is in college now and living in Charlottesville.  And, of course, I missed George not being able to go.  He was so supportive from afar.  I could tell he knew how much it meant to us. 
Pope Francis talked about family and working hard to provide.  He talked about not being able to hide his concern for the family and how it is under attack in today's world.  He talked about important children are and how important life is at every stage of development. 
To be there at the Capitol and hear such a loving, positive message come from THAT building was just so encouraging and uplifting.  I felt as if my batteries were recharged.  I felt blessed in that sea of people.  I felt like he was talking to me.  And isn't that was Jesus does?  He talks to each one of us.  He is so personal and He has such a personal love for each and every one of us.  That is why being in a sea of people didn't matter. 
When Pope Francis talked, it was as if my family was the only family on that lawn.  When he walked out onto that balcony, the thrill of it was so special.  After his talk, we waited and waited and didn't know what door he would come out of.  We heard the crowd start clapping and yelling things like, "Viva, la Papa!"  Long live the pope. 
Also, when Pope Francis was talking from the balcony to the crowd, one of the first things he said was that the most important people here are the children and he blessed them.  I was holding Carmen up at the time and she kissed me and I kissed her and I said, "Did you hear that? He is talking about you."  Then she said to me, "Mommy, when I grow up and have children of my own someday, I am going to tell them that you brought me to see the pope." 
Here is John holding onto his muffin.  He slept for the whole speech.  I was so glad he wasn't crying for that part!  He only cried on the way out of the bottle neck of trying to get off the lawn and out of the security perimeter.  Poor guy.  He was such a good boy.

My view looking behind me.



My teenager was so nice to help me hold John a few times.  

And here we are in Staunton at the horse stables at 6pm that night for my teenager's equine therapy horseback riding lesson.  I can't believe we made it on time!  My teenager is not Catholic and she was a very good sport that day.  I definitely wanted to get back for her lesson.  She loves riding the horses.



 And here is the end of a wonderful and blessed day.  On our way home...

This is a picture from NBC news website.  I made a black X on the picture that shows about where we were standing. 
So there you have it.  Our "Petty" Pilgrimage to Washington DC.  When we were home that night watching the replay on EWTN, Emmett said, "I can't believe we saw the Pope."
I gave them their memory just like I had when I was 5 years old.  And I am fairly confident they will took away more special memories than I did of kicking a random lady in the chin! 
We will be watching the Synod on the Family very closely this week.  I am so happy to have a family that is so cared for and cherished by the Church.  It is a road map that I gladly use to navigate through life.
Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

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