Over the course of the week, I met many wonderful people, both members of the Order and other malades and their companions. As everyone does, each had a unique story of how they came to be a part of the trip and what hopes they harbored for traveling all that way. I met a 4-year-old (who just stole the show) whose family brought him to pray that his tumor never comes back. I met two sweet students studying in Florence who were a refreshing dose of youth and perspective. I met a priest who agreed with me that the Church should be much more open to gays. I met a bishop who worries a great deal about his retirement and likes single malt scotch. I met a man whose mother received water from Lourdes and lived 13 more years after leukemia (back when leukemia was like a death sentence). I met a woman whose every breath is now dedicated to her wheelchair-bound husband who had a stroke two years ago. And on and on and on...
What I actually did there was attend many masses (one with 30,000 people!) and other special services. My feet were actually washed and kissed by priests and I was dunked in frigid holy water by burly Italian women who made me kiss a lipsticked-headed mary statuette-- the bathes were NOT the most spiritual experience. In traveling from the hotel to each of these activities, I was pulled and pushed in a blue cart, along with all of the other malades. This allows the sick person to fully experience the domain and allows the Order to fulfill their duty to serve the sick. At first I thought I'd prefer to walk, but then I got used to the whole service bit and wouldn't mind a permanent cart and puller here in Boston, if anyone is interested. When I move next week, I'll only be one mile from school. tempted, aren't you?
Although I'm not sure that Mary and I got to commune as much as the pilgrimage intends, my bio mama and I spent a precious week together. It's sort of amazing how my family, on my Mom's side, have been Catholic for generations. Apparently my Mom's grandmother was already a Catholic; I'm pretty sure that the missionaries jumped straight off the boats in China and hit my family first. Anyway, my Mom was was super patient and cool about all my questions and commentary on the trip, while still being the steadfast believer and devoted Catholic she always is.
If Mary is to be found in each of our mothers, then I did get to take a holy journey.