September 29, 2015 // Local

Trials and surprises: a local pilgrim viewpoint

By Rebecca Fitzmaurice

We began the “papal weekend” by using our special train tickets to get into the papal zone for Mass celebrated by Bishop (Kevin C.) Rhoades at St. John the Evangelist Church. As it was the feast day of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Bishop Rhoades mentioned the trials of saints and martyrs and the trials of people who live in the Middle East today (whom we should pray for). He said, “The martyrs knew by faith that death would not be their end, but the gateway to life.” He said, we need to trust in God’s loving providence and acknowledge our faith to others.

He also said that trials shouldn’t surprise us.

This was prophetically appropriate for us because the day was quite challenging. After Mass, we drove two hours away to pick up our older son John Paul from school so he could attend the weekend events with us. Getting out of the papal zone while everyone was coming in, and coming back into the zone later when the crowds were heading out was difficult — but we found out how to do it (logistical trial) and then we made it work (on-the-ground trial).

The next day, Sunday, also had its temporal trials. Gregory and I went into the “red zone” to get a spot for the Mass. This was the area with security checks and the area closest to the altar and all down the center of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Mike and John Paul went to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and they were planning to meet us at our spot for Mass. But that plan didn’t work because by the time they tried to enter the red zone there were too many people and not enough time to get in. Thus, they watched the Mass on a jumbotron near City Hall, while Gregory and I were snuggled secure within the red zone. It is ironic that at the World Meeting of Families we didn’t attend Mass as a family. But we all met new friends and shared fellowship in those separate places where God put us for that little piece of blessed time.

This trip has been a pilgrimage for us, and we have learned more deeply that, like all of life, pilgrimages are full of trials. We’ve learned that when we expect and accept trials and think of them as surprises from God — then everything goes much more smoothly. When plans change, we can know in faith that God has changed them for the better!

Young and Vibrant

Mike and I were happy to see so many young and vibrant Catholics at the World Meeting and at the papal events. Everywhere we went there were young people of all callings — sisters, seminarians, priests and laity. This is encouraging and hopeful for the future of humanity because Catholicism has many answers that can help people move from misery to joy. We definitely need more zealous people to help share the Good News.

“Go out and spread the Good News”

How has our family benefited from this pilgrimage? What do we bring home with us from this week in Philadelphia?
Not for lack of trying, the boys will not be bringing home the papal zuchetto as they hoped. But they made new friends and great memories, and they got to experience the worldwide Church in a whole new way.

Mike and I have also gained all of those things, plus new ways to fulfill a mission we haven’t been fully aware of: our mission as a family — the mission of every family — is to evangelize, to be prophets by spreading the Good News. Now that our boys are teenagers, we want to focus more on teaching them this mission to evangelize and on finding ways to serve the poor together.
 Our mission as parents is to help our boys discover their talents, how to use those talents for God, and to discover their own individual vocation. All this while we continue to form them in the faith, through witness and discussion, and put them with others who help with that formation.

We will continue with the sacraments, with certain customs and traditions, and we will begin a few new things that we’ve been inspired to do … while we continue to learn how to parent teenage boys, to grow as spouses, and to grow as children of God.

Family life is a tall order! Parenthood is not for the faint of heart — but it is a path to holiness if we seek to do the Lord’s will, open to the graces of matrimony, and trust in God’s loving care.
 I love that the first reading of Sunday’s papal Mass for the World Meeting of Families speaks of the mission of the family. How awesome to hear Moses proclaiming so long ago God’s plan for families: “Would that all the people of God were prophets!”
 Back to the “trenches” where the real work is done: to work for the Lord in whatever ways He calls, sharing Christ, spreading the Gospel, and serving others in our new mission territory, where … it’s good to be home.

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