BUONGIORNO! back again…

Well, I know I’ve been back for awhile and haven’t updated here — and I really need to get on it because everyone who tells me to hurry up and write things down and mark the pictures, and transcribe my notes is RIGHT — I’m starting to forget specifics! So here we go…
One of the most special things about being on a Catholic pilgrimage (as opposed to a secular tour) is the Catholic Christian community that forms within the group. You’re touring just like everyone else — but with a Catholic Guide, a Spiritual Director (Fr. Stan Fortuna, C.F.R. of http://www.francescoproductions.com), Liturgy every day in the most beautiful places — its. just. really. different. I think also when looking through the Catholic Christian lens of where you are and who you’re around — God teaches us as much about our life’s journey, our pilgrimage, the way to heaven by using the people around us as instruments. And that was definitely true in multiple ways for me. My life’s vocation was confirmed in many ways big and small throughout the trip by many people — but since I work with young people and families — and because tonight is Prom Night in our town — I’m going to write about how the married couple traveling together on our trip inspired me.
I don’t know if I need to protect their privacy or not — I have permission to share their story — but I guess I will change their names anyway. Maybe they will comment here and you’ll get to meet them for real!
Vinnie and Marie were traveling together with Vinnie’s mother, Leona on our pilgrimage. They are from Long island, NY and have THE BEST ACCENTS EVER!!! Vinnie and Marie were kind enough, on that very first day, (I know…I’m back tracking a little here…this is pre-Papa Francesco…the day of the NAC/North America College and Cupola Tour with mom) to share their 25th Wedding Anniversary with our group at Mass. We were at a parish named for St. Paola of Rome. This is the icon inside the church sanctuary. She’s beautiful!
StPaola
St. Paola lived between 347-404 and was an early Roman saint and an early Desert Mother. Her Feast Day is 26 January. She was widowed at age 32 — and is one of the many patrons of widows. She is perhaps most famous for her support of and service to the man who would become St. Jerome. My maternal grandfather’s name was Jerome — and my nephew is named Jeremy after him — so from a familial perspective this is significant! St. Paola was from a wealthy family and had been well educated — she met Jerome while on pilgrimage!!! She established a monastery for men and a convent for women. And she quietly used her gifts to help Jerome translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. She assisted Jerome in editing his manuscripts and letters, and she and her daughter helped copy all the work for circulation! They of course were not romantic or married — but the story reminds me of the many stories I know of married couples (including my own parents) whose relationships began by the woman helping the man (and NO…in my experience it has never been the other way around…hahahaha…) with schoolwork, writing papers, typing papers, or editing work! I have always loved to be helpful in that way as well!
So back to Mass and Vinnie and Marie…the Collect Prayer for that day called us to live out and “…proclaim the power of the risen Lord, that we, who have received the pledge of his gift, may come to possess all he gives when it is fully revealed.” Each of the pilgrims were given a gift in this pilgrimage – and that is each other. What would continue to amaze me the whole pilgrimage is that beginning today — we were hearing everyday from the Acts of the Apostles — and all of those readings and the gospels of course — as we are in the season of Easter — deal with the earliest Christians and their experience of living out the faith in the immediate light of the Resurrection! And here I am right smack dab in the middle of my Roman Catholic story! MY HISTORY. And the First reading told us that the disciples of Jesus shared everything — and had all things in common. I continued to be overwhelmed by my own experience of Wonder and Awe in God’s Presence.
OK…now really back to Vinnie and Marie…They proclaimed that first reading and psalm, and then they renewed their vows in front of all of us! It was really really special and I felt honored! I think this sharing of their special sacrament on the very first day set the stage for the rest of our time together — we truly would share all things in common — this would prove to be true over and over again…and for me…it was begun by my mother sharing this gift of pilgrimage with me — and then by Vinnie and Marie sharing their sacramental life of marriage with all of us on that first day.
Vinnie and Marie later shared their story and journey with me — how they were married young, and how Vinnie knew right away that he would someday marry Marie. It was super fun to hear about how Marie’s family guarded her innocence — they were only allowed to spend time together with other family members present…since Vinnie was a few years older…I LOVE THAT! And how they were inspired (and just plain TOLD) by both sides of their Puerto Rican families to be honorable and chaste in their relationship. It was very touching to me to hear them both share their hearts and experiences! What a blessing to my life as a blessed single! I am always amused by the fact that God sends such wonderful married couples into my life — and also that I might never be married because I have so many good examples and such a high bar! I must really need them! Because through all of my sacramentally married friends and families — God shows me what Matrimony is REALLY supposed to look like! And Catholic Marriage doesn’t look like any other Love Story ANYWHERE — because it is always rooted in Jesus’ Love Story with US. Individually AND communally!!! And I am so grateful for that! Vinnie and Marie shared that since Vinnie was in the Navy — he would drive hours and hours to see Marie (always supervised…but he was patient…and so was she…even when it was difficult) when he was on leave — and then turn right back around to get back to work! They finally married civilly — but — and this is SO GREAT — decided NOT to live together or participate as husband and wife until after they were married in the Catholic Church a few months later! And they both talked about how much they believed that was the best and right thing to do — even though I cannot imagine how difficult that had to have been for these 2 crazy-in-love peeps!!! They have 3 children — who i won’t name here — but trust me — they have THE BEST SAINT NAMES!!! And Vinnie and Marie have experienced many hardships — but particularly one that resulted in the miraculous healing of one of their children during his infancy. And they so willingly give of themselves and their story to others! I wish everyone could hear their story! I wish everyone could see how they laugh and joke and look at each other with such love as they tell that story! I want every young person to see in this married couple what they yearn for themselves in holy relationships. I want every married couple who wonders what the big deal is about being married in the Catholic Church to see through Vinnie and Marie what the REAL difference is and what they are truly capable of inside their call to the vocation of marriage! I want every married couple who wonders whether it was worth it – or who wonders if their children dating is worth the fight and argument about purity. IT IS!!! Purity until marriage or other vocation is worth it! Chastity inside marriage is worth it! Forming ourselves in John paul II’s Theology of the Body is WORTH IT!!! At any age. Any time. It’s never too early and never too late!
I watched Vinnie and Marie very carefully over our pilgrimage — it was fun to catch them checking on each other, checking on Vinnie’s mom, Leona, touch each other, holding hands when they thought no one was looking…joking around with the other pilgrims. Vinnie snoring in the back of the bus (yes, Vinnie, we have video proof!). Marie spending time talking and listening and caring for her mother-in-law. Leona clearly so proud of her son and daughter-in-law. They became everyone’s favorite married couple! They became everyone’s mom, dad, sister, brother, friend — Leona became everyone’s mom! And this continued to happen with and to everyone there! This is community. This is family. These are 2 people who clearly place God first above everything — and when 2 people do that on behalf of such great love for the other — their love cannot help but move both of them closer to God and to each other — like the triangle I attempt to teach our students. If God is the top of the triangle and the 2 people are the 2 base points…and they are constantly moving closer to God — moving up those lines of the triangle towards the top where God is — they cannot help but become closer to each other — the closer they become to God. This is why Matrimony and the family is like the Trinity! That great Love only creates more Love — in the form of children — among other things. Children inside of Matrimony is how God makes us most like Him — we get to participate in His creative process because of our great love! The triangle applies to every relationship we are called to be inside — friendship, relationship, work, home, family, whatever! WHO wouldn’t WANT to be CATHOLIC?!!! Seriously!!! So thanks — Vinnie and Marie and Leona — for being a sign and symbol of what God calls each of us to — to share what we have and to lay down our life for others — and to be that passionate fire that enkindles our faith! I will be praying with these things in mind tonight as our young people are practicing to “Protect ALL the Dignities” tonight at Prom!
allthethings

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