I had been looking forward to Jill’s visit to Nashville for a long time — before we were even sure it was happening. As she mentions on her blog, she and John Paul came to town to meet Christopher da Vinck. Chris is the author of The Power of the Powerless, a moving testimony to the difference the weakest among us can make in this world. (You should read the book. You should also read the article that started it all – here. He read it during his talk, and it was awesome to hear him read it out loud.) As soon as I heard he was coming to speak at Aquinas, I knew Jill needed to come and meet him. It’s a miracle that it all worked out, and I truly saw her visit as a gift from God.
As I drove to the airport to pick her up, my heart was so full. I don’t know how else to describe it — I thought my heart was going to burst with love and excitement. Her visit was going to be short, but I was going to have her (and John Paul) all to myself. I was going to have the chance to show her my life. And I was very, very happy. And grateful.
We went straight to Jack’s to get BBQ for lunch, then it was back to my condo to just sit back and relax (for the first and last time). She had never seen my condo, so even something as simple as that gave me great joy.
That night was the lecture, and beforehand we were able to go to a reception for Dr. da Vinck so that Jill would have a chance to meet him and talk to him. As she mentioned on her blog, John Paul might have gotten more attention than Dr. da Vinck… but I don’t think he minded. : )
Everyone was so excited to meet Jill and John Paul – it was quite humbling. All my friends and coworkers had been praying for them for the last year, and they all commented that they felt like they already knew Jill. And John Paul was a rock star– the whole trip he took it all in stride, always smiling, always flirting. He let people hold him, he showed off his cracker-eating skills, and he just generally charmed everyone he met.
We had to take a lobby selfie. I have a big mirror that greets me as I wait for the elevator every morning, and it’s occasionally too tempting to take a selfie of my outfit for the day. I try not to do it very often (because no one really cares what I’m wearing), but my Instagram followers suggested hashtags like #lobbyselfie and #waitingfortheelevator, so now it’s kind of a thing.
Wednesday was spent having fun — an exhausting and fun mix of seeing Nashville and taking John Paul to meet his fans. Jill commented at one point that she felt like they were on a book tour. It’s an adequate description — they were two celebrities who were in Nashville for a short time, so they needed to see the sights and meet their fans.
It was a beautiful day, so we set out for downtown to eat a big southern breakfast at The Southern, then headed to the Johnny Cash Museum gift shop. Then we made a loop down Broadway and over to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, playing tourist.
Our first engagement of the day was my friend Cathy’s classroom at St. Ann School, where her fourth graders were anxiously waiting to meet the little boy they had been praying for. Then it was over to Aquinas for Mass and Bible study, then off to a late lunch at Bobbie’s Dairy Dip.
The day was only half over! I thought they deserved a relaxing afternoon, so we went over to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens to enjoy the dogwoods and tulips in their peak. The bizarre cold snap the night before had hurt some of the flowers, but there were still plenty to enjoy. Some of the parts of the gardens and the mansion were less than stroller-friendly, but we still managed to see a lot and delight in the beautiful day.
Our next stop was the Cathedral, where the Chrism Mass was going to be starting in about an hour. You might remember that I had the joy of teaching the men in formation for the permanent diaconate during the fall of 2012. Since we had found out about John Paul during that time, I had asked the men and their wives for their prayers. One of them in particular, my good friend Rafael, has been a prayer warrior for John Paul and Patrick and Jill ever since. The deacon-candidates still pray for John Paul at every class, and I was continually humbled by their love for someone they had never met.
Rafael was waiting for us outside the Cathedral, and it was like he and John Paul were old friends. John Paul let him take him into his arms, and Rafael proceeded to take John Paul right into the Cathedral to meet all his deacon-candidate fans. We made a bit of a spectacle in the middle aisle of the full church, but it was such a beautiful moment.
Over and over again during this trip, it became clear that John Paul has touched many, many lives…. just by being John Paul. The heroism of ordinary life, the power of prayer, the witness of the weakest … these lessons have ceased being theological postulates or groundless maxims and have become quite real and evident.
The last stop was, quite fittingly, our sister’s home, the Dominican Motherhouse, where we enjoyed a visit with three of Sisters who have been like family over the past 15 years. Then it was home for dinner and a lovely visit with my cousin and his wife!
I hope I didn’t wear Jill and John Paul out, but it was such a rare gift to have them here and I wanted to squeeze out every joy! I think one of the best compliments Jill could have given the visit was when she said she felt like she was living in my blog. I think that’s a good thing. : ) (It was right after seeing Vince Gill eating dinner and a woman horribly mispronouncing my name. Welcome to my life!)
Next time the whole family is coming! (right, Jill?) And not during Lent. There are too many ice cream places to hit up…