Suores Vitae Part I

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to.

Part 22: Suores Vitae Part I

Originally Published: Saturday December 7th, 2013

It is Wednesday, sitting in my hotel room in Midtown Manhattan and I can finally start detailing my adventure with the Sisters of Life.

It began on the 17th of November. I arrived at on a chilly New York evening, dropped my bags off their Convent on W 51st Street and then headed to meet them at St Patrick’s Cathedral. They were doing Night Fever. It was huge, the doors of St Patrick’s were thrown open, with Eucharistic Adoration going on and confession too. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) were doing music and more CFRs and Sisters of life were inviting people in to pray and light a candle. It was a good way to begin the next 17 days.

I settled into my room at the postulant house in the Bronx. Not the dodgy part of the Bronx… The really nice part!
Saturday it was up early to go out to Villa Maria Guadalupe in Stanford, Conneticut for the Coworker Formation Day. What a full on day! Communication skills, talks by the sisters, food… 60 people from all over the place to help out the sisters.
The talk that had the biggest impact on me was Mother Agnes’ Delighting in Her talk. It essentially boiled down to this…
We can only truly will the good for someone else (i.e. Love them) when we perceive and receive their intrinsic goodness first. Otherwise we are not working for their good, we are working because we are good.
Kinda makes you rethink your whole interpersonal relations ever. I got a lot out of that day. But alas, it was only a day and we made our way back to the Bronx in the evening for dinner and sleep. It was then up for a regular week. Up at 5 am, morning prayer, meditation and mass followed by breakfast in silence (silence till midday usually). It was then off to the days activites.
Tuesdays it was off to the Mother House about 30 minutes upstate for philosophy classes with a brilliant Jesuit and Sr Mary Gabriel. A rousing game of soccer, ultimate frizbee or football in between, this week it was soccer.
Wednesday was apostolic day where the postulants were split up and sent to what ever tasks needed doing. I was sent to the Apostolic Centre in Manhattan to help sort out a huge load of donations that came in. Mostly clothes. Friday was a day of silence and prayer.
I also had a whole library of spiritual reading and at Sr Antoniana’s recommendation, I dived into Fr Timothy Gallagher’s Discernment of Spirits and Ignatian spirituality.
I was busy. Which was a good thing, considering I spent the entire freaking week in the throughs of spiritual desolation. It was not fun. At all. The whole week was numb and blah, going through the motions.
It was not fun. It was frustrating and discouraging. Being caught in a cycle of despondency is really not fun. I have no idea how Mother Teresa lived and was productive for decades in that state. Thank God for Sr Antoniana. Thursday afternoon she says “Kiara, how do you feel about going on the Young Adult Retreat we were talking about? I’ve signed you up!”
So Friday afternoon, Sr Virginia Joy drives me out to Villa Maria again for a retreat with 40 other young people. The retreat began in the evenin with dinner a conference and vocation story from Sr Filumena, the first kiwi Novice. Following that was a Eucharistic Healing service where the monstrance is bought down and you can get close and touch it.
That was my lowest point. I went up and knelt before Jesus and felt nothing, just blah. Confession was going on so I went and the wisdom of the young priest was just what I needed. I was still in desolation, but I came to grips with it and was able to move to a place where I could resist it.
The Saturday was a much better day. It was a silent day so I walked the grounds and read, there were a couple of conferences and spent every opportunity in the Chapel. I was still feeling the desolation but I had better sense of what this was and perhaps why I was suffering it.
Saturday night was party time! We had an All Saints costume party. Complete with Purgatory, the place you go to ‘clothe yourself in sainthood’ if you didn’t bring a costume. I dressed up as GK Chesterton. It was hilarious. No his technically not a saint, but his cause is open for canonisation.
There you have it! We also had Irish dancing going on in the basement and the we make a fire. Unfortunately we only had green wood so Sr May Karen and I split it into matchsticks to make it burn. No, I don’t have a photo of Sr Mary Karen and an axe.
Sunday was the final conferences finishing with Sr Mary Loretta. This little lady from Brooklyn has the most phenomenal charism for evangelism I have ever seen. No matter who you are, she can talk about Jesus to you. I left that retreat with a shot in the arm spiritually but I was not quite out of the woods yet.
Stay tuned for part II in a couple of days!

In Virginia Present-Lee

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to.

Part 17: In Virginia Present-Lee

Originally Published: Friday October 4th, 2013

Right now I am sitting in a hotel after a long day of driving…. This is going to be my last post before engaging in an internet black out until the 14th of October while I’m on retreat. I will be making my way first to Nashville, Tennessee for a weekend Jesus Caritas Retreat with the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia and then make my way up to Michigan and then back home to Philly again. I have a map route here.
I am seriously psyched. I cannot wait! I’m on the way FINAL-LEE! (For the joke, you need to watch 1776: The Musical, you don’t know nothing about American History until you’ve seen it). On the road is awesome too. I have a neat, little compact Dodge (surprisingly fuel efficient) and had a lovely time listing to Irish folk music as I cruised the rolling landscape of Shenandoah Valley. Having fantasies about buying one of the farms I was passing and living the rest of my days there… raising some cows, riding my horse… hiking in the woods. I’ll update the post after the blackout is over to put it in context.
So I leave you all with a request… a very simple one. Pray for me. Storm heaven if you can. Bug my patron saints, any special person you pray to… Please pray for me, I will need every prayer I can get. Prayers for clarity, serenity and courage all I would like is the next little step. Also praying for a giant neon sign to appear and tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no’ too. Not to fussy, either way. Thank you to you all already for your prayers and keep them up!

Padre Pio and Adventureception

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to.

Part 17: Padre Pio and Adventurecption

Originally Published: Thursday September 26th, 2013

It has been a rather pleasant week after coming home from Canada, steady, and routine. However this week it has hit me that this time in two weeks… I’ll be on my way from Nashville, Tennessee to Alma, Michigan between retreats.

I am so beyond ready for these retreats it’s not even funny. Ten months in the making and I’m counting down less than 10 days. I actually cannot wait for the quiet and to be able to briefly immerse myself in the charisms of these communities. It’s the feast of Padre Pio today (or St Pius of Pietrelcina if you want to get all proper!) a bilocating, soul-reading, sometime stigmatic, Capuchin confessor and preacher, famous for pithy sayings such as,

“Pray, hope and don’t worry.”

… and also for admonishing women for wearing pants, but hey, we can’t all be perfect!

It never ceases to amaze me how somehow, things fall into place and today especially getting back in touch with the practical wisdom of this Italian friar speaks to the place I am in. I’m praying and I’m hoping and I am passed worrying, as long as I am praying and hoping.

So Friday, I leave with Ron and Kathy Feher for Kansas and to sit in on a Living in Love weekend couple retreat. Then it’s back to Philly on monday and then Thursday….

… within an adventure! It’s… Adventureception!

Oh Ma Gawd I’m in Bawston!

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to. 

Part 14: Oh Ma Gawd I’m in Bawston!

Originally Published: Wednesday August 14th, 2013

*As a note for the future; I will try and post things week by week now instead of everyday. Much more achievable on my part!

Now I arrive in Boston reasonably refreshed having napped in the Miami airport and my God was I greatful for a Daddy who loves me and was willing to go halvsies on a nice hotel. I had a bed and a working shower and I had to be shocked out of half-arseing Portugese too but it was glorious!

I wake up feeling on top of the world and head out to explore. Boston is just simply beautiful!

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Every little corner hides something beautiful. Its a place that has seen many people and has a real sense of its history and its place in it. And this evening I am introduced to Barbara, the most beautifully hospitable person I have met (barring my Mardi). We had dinner in the North End, which is the home of the Italian migrant community that dates back to the 1850s.

I had spent plenty of that week exploring the north end on foot. There was an Italian feast on at the same time and it was awesome. Barbra and I went in one afternoon after a pedicab tour of the South End given by her hilarious son Christian. Barbara also introduced me to baseball and the Red Sox. She managed to get us last minute tickets in seriously awesome seats. We were so close we could practically spit on the players!

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Barbara and I had some lovely adventures and talks. We also went to the beautiful coast on Maine with her 20 year old granddaughter Amanda. It was fantastic day with lobster (very reasonably priced lobster) sorbet and candy!

The coastal walk that we did in Ogunquit (yes that is it’s name) was lined with primroses just growing wild. The scent was just heady, with the salt and this sweet and slightly musky perfume from these happily blooming roses!
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So In summary, my week in Boston. It was a wonderful time of rest and recuperation from the hecticness of WYD. But the best thing about it was Barbara. She showed me such hospitality and looked after me as well as if I was family. I know Americans are hospitable, but she blew me away! To give you some context, Barbara’s husband of fifty years passed away three months ago and in the midst of her having to deal with the grief she just gave with such generosity! I want to be like her when I grow up!

I had many little adventures which are too numerous to catalogue here, but the overwhelming sense of my time in Boston has been one of profound gratitude. Just when I thought God was done with the surprises, I am surprised yet again! Surprised by the generosity of complete strangers and the beauty of everything around me. This ‘little’ church became my friend in Boston.

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St Leonard’s was the first Catholic Church in New England built by the Italian migrant community in 1873. It is was a great quite place just off the main road in the North End. I spent quite a bit of time there and it was a really good time for me to reflect on what had been happening over the last three weeks, to be thankful and to gather the memories.

But finally of all an apology! Now that I am finally on my way to being settled, I will get much more regular with these blog posts.

I finish with a massive Thank you to Barbara for her hospitality and generosity! (She is also going to hate me if she sees this photo… Well I promise I will replace it as soon as I am able to get a better photo! (If it helps, I’m not looking all that crash hot either)). I am definitely returning to Boston as soon as I am able. Thank you Barbara for making my experience of this beautiful city so unique and joyful! Love ya lots!

bostonbabaraandme

Christo Redemptor and the Last Day

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to. 

Part 13: Christo Redemptor & the Last Day

Originally Published: Tuesday August 6th, 2013

So after solid 11 hours of sleep, I woke up fresh as a daisy to a half-empty warehouse section and a little sign.
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It has electric blue blending to a steel grey on the inside of its wings which were too brief for me to capture. I sat and enjoyed the sun on Peir Maua and listened to Mumford and Sons as people began to trickle out and pack to leave.

We had a big day today with our booking to go up to Corvado to see Christo! I was really looking forward to that and we all piled onto a bus to take us to the train to get up there. It was a pretty steep ride up and the isles were so narrow between the seats that my hips were too wide and I had to turn sideways!
All I can say about this time up there is wow!
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After looking to him from a distance for so long, I got to see him up close.

He was amazing! The largest Art Deco sculpture in the world. He’s a handsome looking Jesus and from up close looking up a him the way you’re supposed to, his face is no where near as harsh or severe looking as you would expect. He is magnificent! Made from concrete and mosaiced soapstone. I loved every second of being up there! The spectacular view was a bonus.
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We were so blessed! Just as we had to leave, a cloud rolled in and obscured everything! The timing couldn’t have been more perfect and I have an awesome visor of the swirling cloud.

Fr Peter beat us all down to the train stop and we saw a troop of capuchin monkeys running through the trees giving  him the perfect opportunity to make some joke about my relatives.
We then took about an hour to find the bloody bus after we got back to ground level and then heade downtown to the metropolitan cathedral which is a spectacular looking building like something out of a sci-fi movie.
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The whole catherdal is made up to two layers of overlapping concrete tiles that leave an opening right up to the top. It keeps water out and let’s the building ventilate extremely effectively keep it at a relatively steady temperature even when it is packed with 25 000 people.

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The stained glass windows are amazing jewel bright, but almost all of the concrete is unfinished. So it feels a bit ick. None the less it was pretty cool.
We then caught up with the padres, Nathan, Doug, Sarah and Natty for a late lunch. That was also the source of the second ordering boo boo of the trip. Doug though he was getting linguini pasta and instead ended up with Lingue, cow tongue!
I tried a bit with my chicken risotto and it was delicious, melt in your mouth tender (No pun intended). That is until you psyched yourself out. Which I didn’t do thankfully. We then had to race back to Pier Maua for our debriefing and dinner at  Hotel Sao Francisco.
We were celebrating because Carlos Proposed to Sharnee at the top of Corcovado!
Much to our annoyance, Harvest moved us out of the warehouse we were in and tossed us in on at the other end. However, we made mattress forts and generally ran around with a million mattresses like children. Awesome videos ensued.
Tuesday was a free day to do any last minute shopping and sight seeing. I went and walked the way to Copacabana, yes again! This time I followed the coastline and was treated to secluded beaches and magnificent view of planes coming jnto land infront of Sugarloaf mountain.
It was then back to Aussie central for the bus ride to the airport. I was a bit sad. I got separated from everyone at check in and didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to say goodbye. I am terrible at goodbyes. Horrible at them.
It was time to say goodbye and say hello for the really scary part.

The Epic Trek to the End

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to. 

Part 12: The Epic Trek to the End

Originally Published: Tuesday August 6th, 2013

We arose Saturday morning and headed out. We had a few incidents of Sarah loosing (and then finding thankfully) her money belt and then poor Sharnee losing her camera. We had a 9 km walk ahead of us and then finding a spot on the beach.

So we set out. The way was specially blocked off to allow the millions that were pilgrimaging to Copacabana beach. The original site was apparently under a foot of mud and wasn’t ready yet so it was changed at the last minute to the beach. So off we go!

We walk about 2 km and we arrive to the place where we are supposed to pick up our meal pack for the vigil. Well, an hour and a half later of going nowhere in the queue thanks to Kathryn and Sarah, we decide to stuff it and go on. The priests ended up splitting up from us and we continued. We had a makeshift flag tied to Natty’s umbrella.
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As a result, we were extremely popular! Even the coppers demanded a photo! And you don’t say now to two blokes in fatigues packing two pretty solid hand guns.

It was pretty warm and walking that slowly with about a million people was more tiring than the pace yesterday! But thank goodness we were going that slowly, because this made me smile.

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This is what I love about Rio de Janeiro. You might be in the midst of all these tall buildings and then you round a corner at just the right angle and you look up and there is Jesus. He stands ever watchful and he was watching the pilgrims pouring out in their millions to Mass.
So Then we got to Botafogo. Then we stopped because we needed  a bathroom break. Well that took about 2 hours because of the lines. My goodness! Women take bloody forever in bathrooms! I also got churros from a street vendor and they were excellent! We then pushed on and finally arrived at Copa at around 6:30 in the evening. It was packed! Poor Sharnee lost her phone in the crush and I mean it was very serious crush. People had an annoying and dead dangerous habit of forming chains with their group which cause all sorts of issues when you have 3 or 4 of them with about a hundred people in each pushing their way through a crowd! We walked a way down the beach and staked out our little patch and it was wonderful! Look how happy we were!
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Then, I kid you not 5 minutes later about 1000 military police surge out down to the water in a line to hold back about 300 anti-government protestors right behind us! Most of them were fine, dancing around and chanting slogans and waving placards which was fine, but there were two or three guys with bandanas covering their faces and were looking to pick a fight. We stayed for about 10 minutes before it started to get a bit hairy and we moved. We ended up on the main road for about an hour being unable to go south because the military police had blocked off a route for the protest. We also got separated with Sarah Natty, Jamie, Ron and Stephie managing to get over to the other side of the protest buffer zone. So we just sat and waited. We had Jazz from Paramatta with us and she was really anxious to get to her group, so Kathryn, Mel and Nathan tracked them down and took her back.

The Protest then moved off the beach and marched down around the corner peacefully. Nobody got violent, because quite frankly, I was worried about the coppers getting over zealous. We then finally got to the others who staked out a little patch of sand between some Nicaraguans and Brazilians. Oh joy of joys! That was amazing! Doug, Sarah and I then settled down in one of the little bars on the beach side for some dinner and a beer. Or three. We were about a km away from the last screen so we didn’t see much, it was just awesome to be there and even more awesome after a cold beer and some food.

Carlos and Gabs joined us later with pisco and pepsi. Pisco is the equivalent of battery acid. It is gross. We were also treated to an amazing low, golden harvest moon and an awesome navy ship sitting about 800 m off shore.

I didn’t get to sleep until very, very late, after throwing up from what turned out to be low electrolyte levels.

I woke up to this awesome site.

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It was then time to pack up and we moved forward towards the closest screen and ended up between some Brazillians and a Polish group and a good view of the screen. Then it was radio’s out and listening in. It was a good mass, a good mix of more modern stuff and the traditional stuff.
The Pope gave an awesome homily on going against the tide and rebelling against the world.
Right at the consecration, I felt sick again. I didn’t throw up, which was good and then I got some electrolytes finally and felt much better.
It was then all over. Most of us were pretty stuffed and didn’t fancy braving the surge, so most of us hung out on the beach and napped for a bit. Then we slowly made our way home.
I was supposed to track down the Baileys and go to dinner with everyone at the hotel. But I ended up passing out on my bed after deciding to lie down for five minutes whilst the shower queue died down. I slept for twelve hours. That is it. WYD is all over. Finished… It was a bit sad but I was too tired to care.

Via Crucis

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to. 

Part 10 : Via Crucis

Originally Published: Monday 5th August, 2013

Today’s agenda is Catechesis at Samba City and then Stations of the Cross on where else but Copacabana beach!

It was a beautiful day and not too hot or too cold.
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So today’s theme was Mission and we had Bish Mark Coleridge. He was pretty good. Napier was still my favourite. So then we got lunch there and made an attack plan of gettin to Copa without being squished. Doug had to go back to Aussie Central to grab something so I kept him company. Everyone was going to try and get the metro which neither of us fancied so we decided to check out the 9 km walk and were treated to this!
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We also discovered a McCafe and discovered that the Brazillian idea of a cappuccino is a giant mocha.
We got there about half an hour before Pope Francis was due to arrive and they had completely blocked off the crossing to the beach. So we walked an extra 1 and a half km down the main drag, found a Benedictine in a tree and caught a glimpse of Pope Francis through the crowd and then got across to the sand.
The group had secured the same spot we had on Tuesday so we found our way there and waited for everything to begin.
The stations were quite interesting modern mixture of live reenactment, posing and freeze framing and sets and statues. Not sure it worked but it was a bit more exciting than Madrid’s which was a bunch of statues. Afterwards, Matt Maher was playing so a bunch of us headed into the mosh. Doug and I got uncomfortable so we went back to join Natty Sarah and the Prasard and Josh’s dance party at the back.
The stage however, looked really cool and the set up was really pro.
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The concert however, was cut short but anti-government protestors again. Theses dudes were more troublesome and were all masked in Guy Fawkes masks.

So we went to dinner and headed home to get ready for the big walk tomorrow and the overnight vigil.

Viva il Papa

Part 9: Viva il Papa!

So it was Catechesis again in the morning and we all headed out to pick up breakfast which wasn’t a bad breakfast.
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Albeit, the processed cheese and toast was starting to get to me. We had Cardinal Dolan from New York today speaking on the theme of Discipleship. He was good, kept us awake and moving on a cold paved ground. He had 7 steps to discipleship which were good to hear once again. The rain was finally clearing and today the Pope was arriving on Copacabana. However there were a few transportation issues getting there so, the padres decided to brave the crowds and most of the rest of us decided to go and visit this apparently spectacular Benedictine Monastery down the road from us. Well we weren’t disappointed! In the middle of the bustling CBD was this magnificent oasis.

It is a Baroque/Rococo Church that would rival anything in Europe tucked in the middle of skyscrapers. I spent a good 20 minutes in there just sitting. Everything is carved wood to incredible skill  and covered in gold leaf.

Sarah, Natty, Doug, Kathryn and I then went for a wander to track down food. It was a little trickier because it was a public holiday. I ended up ticking off one thing on my list which was to eat Churrasco! It was good.

We then decided to tick of another thing which was try a bus ride down to Copacabana and see if anything was still going on. So it was about 10 minutes of craziness before we hit dead traffic. They closed the main drag to Copacabana and so we eventually jumped off and walked down and straight into an antigovernment rally. We got out pretty quickly and ended up on the beach to the last of the pilgrims trickling out. So we grabbed a beer and headed home in cabs.
It was then bed time and Kathryn and Mel showed us this brochure they picked up from some nuns at the Vocations Centre which was the most hilarious translation I had ever heard. I will have to get it off them to get some quotes.
Friday was a big day coming, Stations of the Cross with the Pope!

God in the Dodgy Pier

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to. 

Part 8: God in the Dodgy Pier

Originally Published: Monday 5th August, 2013

It’s Wednesday and the first day of our Catechesis with an unknown Bishop/Cardinal. We had learned from the efforts of Doug, Sarah and Natalie that our Catechesis site was not in the ritziest part of Rio de Janeiro.

So we ventured out, it took us half an hour and Natty getting a little disoriented before arriving at Samba City. Did I mention it had been raining? Yes, raining non-stop since tuesday and the streets which are half construction site and half moldering port and partially underwater.

We arrived at Samba City to a deserted carnival-like atmosphere. Turns out this is where the store, build and rehearse all the carnival floats.

Our mystery speaker turned out to be Cardinal Napier from South Africa. He was a Francisican and just beautiful! The theme was hope and he spoke really well to it. He cracked a few jokes about a Jesuit pope out Franciscan-ing the Franciscans. He spoke about how critical hope is to us as human beings but also to being people of faith and discipleship.
It was then Aussie Gathering time and I had to race over to Vivo Rio with Jake Ryan (our Musician) because I had a reading part. It wasn’t too bad. Just a bit of a rally with a prayer service. I apparently read very well. I also ran into a bunch of the Liverpool guys.
A bunch of people were heading out to the Vocations centre and then find a place to go dancing. I decided to head back home because the week was catching up with me. I ended up heading to the hotel to do some internet stuff and had a sandwich there. It was then bedtime and the Pope was being welcomed tomorrow!
Link

A Living Paradox

This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to. 

While I was away, I was contacted by a friend of mine looking for a pilgrim’s perspective on my experience of WYD for ABC’s Religion and Ethics portal. Here is my humble contribution…

Living Paradox: A Pilgrim’s Reflections on WYD 2013

Attending the opening Mass of WYD 2013 on Copacabana Beach, I was blown away by the vibrancy, the joy and the sheer mass of humanity. Never will you see so many different national flags in one place – though, paradoxically, in that same place, an event takes place that renders nationality irrelevant.
Here, people from all races and nations gather to pray and have Mass. Holy Communion has never been more literal or tangible to me than when I am standing among hundreds of people from twelve different countries lining up to receive the Eucharist. Everything in Rio is in Portuguese, so suffice to say it is a struggle to understand anything that is going on. However, we come to Mass and suddenly everything makes sense again. I know which prayers are being said, I know when to stand, to sit and to kneel as if I was at my regular parish Mass. The power of seeing thousands of flags fall still as everyone kneels at the consecration renders all our differences irrelevant. Here we are, kneeling before the sacrifice of a Jewish carpenter and we are one. We are one body, one Church, one people.
Catholicism is paradoxical.

When one grasps this, both World Youth Day and the Catholic Church begin to make much more sense. The fact of the matter is the Catholic Church is not dying. I challenge anyone who announces the death of Catholicism (and religious belief in general) to come and see a World Youth Day.