Crew: Neil and Carolyn, Gayle, and Ave
- 0700 Breakfast
- 0800 Assemble and “Roll Out” for
- 0930 Papal mass at the underground Basilica
- 1200 Lunch
- 1315 Stations of the Cross
- 1900 Dinner
Hat tip to “Awakenings” the movie
What? Holy cow today is barely anything on the schedule! Well, there are “Tri-association” meetings and international meetings and confessions available, but this is the schedule. On paper, that is. Heh.
Today was sunny, and warm, and I think the realization of where I was. To start with, we were again with Carolyn and Neil (of the cutting in line at the bus fame) and I will say they have a way of putting one at ease. I connected with Neil on the need for morning coffee!
A lot of the mornings I’m very slow on this pilgrimage, and Melanie was my rescuer every time – waking me up, getting my food and coffee at breakfast, running upstairs to grab things for me, getting my pills… She is AMAZING. I don’t give her enough credit!
We were off to mass at the underground basilica, with 20-25,000 people in the church. Yes, 20-25,000! The basilica feels like an Ark, it’s very cool. And the mass, with probably 200 priests and 20 Bishops, from all over the world, was intense. I’m going to just put in some pictures, because they say more.
While it’s “modern” in its interpretation, I’d like to call attention to the crucifix to the left. This ties in to today, I promise, and it’s an aside I think needs to be on this post. At the beginning of this blog, I talked about the Carthusians and Silence. Here, represented in brilliant shining… chrome? aluminum? not sure… represented is the Crucifixion, with Mary standing at the foot of the cross, and by her was the apostle whom Jesus loved. This representation of the crucifixion was brilliantly explained by the CSYSK guys in Our Lady of Sorrows, finding that while “The Cross stands, while the world turns”, we can’t hold on and keep ourselves steady. The world is spinning out of control, and we can’t grasp the infinite of the cross. Enter Mary, our Mother, standing by the foot of the cross. If we stay close to her, she’ll help us stay close to the cross. We are John, in this picture, not standing there ourselves, but standing there by His and our Mother. She, by sharing in the Passion, enables us to also share in the passion, and to be able to embrace the cross while the world spins out of control. The Carthusians also have a devotion to Our Lady. It all ties in, and how fitting that there at Lourdes the gospel message holds true.
Back to the day. The mass was a papal mass, a papal envoy sent for the mass and also the brand new Grand Master of the Order of Malta led the daily prayer of the order. That’s pretty cool right there. Then, the fun began – Neil is a master of seeing an opening and taking it. I’m convinced he’s a racing driver (I found out later in the day that like me, he’s a Formula 1 fan). We were able to leave the basilica out the side door and be back at the hotel faster than almost everyone else, a true testament to his gap-finding abilities when we are dodging 25,000 people!
At lunch, we discussed what we were going to be doing – there were two options for the stations, up the hill or on the plains. At this point of the week, I’m learning that I can’t walk as well as before. I’m learning that it’s ok to be pulled around in the voiture, that the knights and dames that are here truly want to serve the sick and the poor, and do so with such humility and love. I had the option to skip the stations, to spend alone time, maybe get down to the adoration chapel or the grotto, or go shopping. I decided I needed to do the stations, but recognized that I needed to do the plains.
Here’s where it gets good, for me anyway. On the very sunny and beautiful day, we gather in our blue carts to do the stations on the plain.
We used the book, “Everyone’s Way of the Cross“. In a younger time, I remember my first encounter with these particular stations. I didn’t care one way or another at the time but I remember family not liking the “other self” references that Jesus makes. Well, I now 100% disagree with anyone who doesn’t like these stations.
Let me quote some for you. “These fourteen steps that you are about to walk you do not take alone. I walk with you. … And therefore, my way of the cross two thousand years ago and your “way” now are also one.” That’s from the introduction.
From the 11th station, Jesus is crucified: “My God, I look at you and think, ‘Is my soul worth this much?’ What can I give you in return? I here and now accept for all my life whatever sickness, torment, agony may come. To every cross I touch my lips. O blessed cross that lets me be -with you- a co-redeemer of humanity”.
From the 12th station, Jesus dies: “…accepting now the time and kind of death in store for me. Not by a single instant would I lengthen my life’s span.”
At each of these stations and more, I, super manly Joe, was crying again. But this time, it wasn’t a crying of “why?” It was a crying of “oh!”
At last on these stations, perhaps my question was answered. Perhaps, I don’t know for certain but maybe, God is calling me not to be healed at Lourdes from ALS. Perhaps I’m to continue my drug trial at UMass, with the risks and rewards and however long it may help me. Perhaps I’m to continue on, serving some purpose of the Lord’s, whatever it may be. Perhaps even soon to die. But in every case, to embrace the cross given to me with enthusiasm not reluctance, and with knowledge that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose” – (Rom 8:28). I thought I was ok with dying, but I was able to see what it truly is vs the idea that I had and it was clarifying, liberating, and refreshing. And there, at Lourdes, where Mary appeared physically to St. Bernadette, she was calling me close to her so she can help me embrace the cross, which “…stands, while the world turns.”
The healing at Lourdes had partially begun. Yeah, not cured from Lou Gehrig’s, but a beginning of the healing of my mind to understand what state I am in life. This disease isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing. It’s not something to be pushed away but to be embraced. It opens doors for conversations, for friendships, for humility, for love. I know that it already opened up conversations for me and Mel to really discuss how we feel. It opens up the whole “live like you were dying” thing by realizing that the way to truly do that is to love God and focus on the really important things. It’s why this blog got a lot more religious and less frivolous. It’s also very easy to say these things, but I also have to do them. Again, in these stations, getting back up after we fall, physically and spiritually, brings us closer to God.
I left these stations tearful and thankful. I told everyone, “I needed to go to these.”