An incredible week in Philadelphia

I honestly don’t know where to begin when it comes to reflecting on this past week.  So much of it feels like a dream.  But then my feet hurt and I remember that it was all very real.

It’s hard to believe the week is over.  Learning from Cardinals, Church leaders, and other Catholic celebrities and just taking in the joy of thousands of families all week, and then capping it off with the papal visit to Philadelphia … it’s just hard to believe it’s over.

Seeing the Popemobile on American city streets was surreal.

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…And then he stops and kisses your friend’s baby. And the 8 1/2 hours of waiting on the side of the road is all worth it.

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More later, folks. Although that was the high point right there.

Historic Philadelphia

Today I may or may not have had a tour of historic Philadelphia from a guy who once played “young Ben Franklin” in a summer play on the streets of Philly.

Not only did I see where it all went down…

IMG_2823(confession: I wanted to sing songs from 1776 the whole time.)

But I also saw where (most of) our Founding Fathers worshipped:

Christ Church- the Anglican church were many of the Founding Fathers, Betsy Ross, and the Penn family all had pews

And where they worked.  This is right by Ben Franklin’s house (right next to his printery office) and it’s still a working post office!


We also visited Old St. Joseph’s, the first Catholic church in Philadelphia


The beautiful painting on the ceiling was a gift from Francis Drexel’s estate. Yeah, like St. Katherine Drexel’s dad.


Getting ready for the Pope!

And after a full afternoon at World Meeting of Families, we returned where we began the day – in the footsteps of the Founding Fathers – and had a drink at the pub where they hung out.  I’m pretty sure the real work of the Continental Congresses probably happened here.

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I couldn’t help but continue to think… what were these guys thinking? When they were all sitting at their Anglican service, did they have any idea what the heck was happening in this new country?  Did they realize they were making history?  Or were they just doing, in the words of Father Mike Schmitz, “the next thing” ??  I just wonder.

WMOF Day 1

Today was a quiet day before the mayhem begins.  …which basically will now translate into a blog post about food.  Catholic celebrities will come in time. Today you get pictures of food.

I hung around the house in the morning while Megan was at school, catching up on some work, watching Food Network, and having fun creating lunch with leftovers and staples in Megan’s fridge.  Once Megan got home and ate the pasta salad I created, we headed for the convention center downtown so I could pick up my registration.

While we were down there, it finally really sank in what exactly was happening.  We wandered into one of the exhibit halls, and although everyone was still setting up, there were booths as far as the eye could see of Catholic vendors.  EWTN had a huge booth with a sign hanging down from the ceiling.  Every Catholic publishing house you could think of was there.  And this was only one hall.

We started running into people from all over the world.

IMG_2806Name that flag!

This isn’t just some conference, Joannie.  This is going to be huge.

Registration went so smoothly – which was rather shocking after some of the snafus I have heard about in the last few weeks.  I picked up my name tag and all my loot and my train pass and I was good to go in less than ten minutes.


I have to unpack all my loot so my bag is empty and ready to fill with all the chatchka the vendors will be handing out!  In addition to our t-shirt, our backpack had a water bottle, a nice hat, the Gospel of St. Luke, a rain poncho, two pens, a pin, tons of free literature from sponsors, and even a Pope Francis fan.


The exhibitor program alone exhausted me.  Not to mention the program for the whole event. It weighs five pounds.

IMG_2812objects are thicker than they appear

On our way back to the train, we stopped into the Reading Terminal for a snack. I had only seen the Terminal during a flash mob on YouTube, so the foodie side of me was anxious to experience it.  I think I’ll eat lunch there every day this week.


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Megan got coffee, while I opted for Irish Coffee ice cream.

It tasted just like Irish Coffee.  Deelish.

Then it was time to head back out of the city, where we picked up our friend Father Kevin at his parents’ house so we could go get cheesesteaks.  His dad and brother recommended Chubby’s, and even though the girl in me didn’t necessarily want to eat at a place called Chubby’s, I decided to put the “you are what you eat” idea out of my head and just embrace it.


I’m pretty sure I’ll eat a cheesesteak for dinner every night this week.

After we hung out with Father’s family for awhile, it was time to head back home so Megan could get some work done. But we had one last stop before we were finished for the night…


They deliver.  Seriously?  You can tell we’re near a college campus.


Until tomorrow!


Prepping for the Pope

I don’t know why I was surprised to see a “Welcome Pope Francis!” sign in the Philadelphia airport last night.  I mean, this is kind of a big deal.  But it started to sink in then, and continued to sink in as we drove through the city and saw billboard after billboard welcoming the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis.  I mean, even Wawa is welcoming him!


I also realized last week that this will not only be my first time to see a Pope on American soil, it’ll be my first time seeing the Pope anywhere outside of Rome!  I’ve seen John Paul II, Benedict, and Francis, but always in Vatican City or somewhere within the city of Rome.

So it’s happening, folks.  I haven’t blogged about my incredible experience at the Bristol night race (thank you, Dad!!) or the whiskey class I took a few weeks ago, or the incredible food I’ve eaten lately, but I’m back here and ready to blog about Philly.

I’ll be blogging serious thoughts over at – if I find time at the end of the day – but if I want to blog about things like the sandwich I ate from Wawa last night, you’ll find me around here.

We started the festivities of the week by going to a Padre Pio festival today, complete with people whose names are Antoinetta Biancorosso and Italian men who talked with their hands and plenty of people who were willing to jab you in the back if you weren’t standing close enough in the line for sausage and peppers. Good memories of Rome and hopefully good practice for what lies ahead next weekend.


Okay, Philly.  Here’s your chance to shine. I’m still sad Francis didn’t come to Nashville, but it’s time to show him what your city is all about.  Okay, maybe not.  Please try to make Americans look good.


Not coincidence, but grace

This blog post from Bishop-Elect Barron is excellent (shocking, I know), and got me thinking about all the threads in our lives that are woven together in ways we can’t see. Our decisions can affect people generations later.  Events in our lives can put us in the path of others or connect us to other people or events later.  What some people would call coincidence, we would call God’s Providence.

Even with things on a less dramatic level as Father Barron’s connect-the-dots, I like to think of the quirky connections in our lives that just show God’s sense of humor.  Like when I’m walking through Target and think of being in that same Target over 15 years ago with my sister (pre-convent), never dreaming that some day I would live in this city and shop at that Target.  But God knew.  And I like to think of Him laughing to Himself, thinking, “If she only knew…”

On one level, thinking about these things should give us confidence and peace of mind, knowing that He sees the end of it all.  Even though we can’t see the picture on the tapestry that all these crazy strings and knots are making, He can.  And as out of control as it all seems sometimes, He’s always in control.

On the other level, it can just make us smile and laugh.  For example…

Today is my friend’s due date.  (It’s not likely the day her baby is actually going to be born, seeing that she’s at work and feeling great.  But still, it’s her due date.)  Many years ago, when I was visiting Rome for John Paul II’s feast day, I prayed in the Church of Sant’Agostino for this friend.  You see, there’s a famous statue in the church, Madonna del Parto, where Roman women go to pray for pregnancies.  When their prayers are answered, they put pink and blue ribbons near the statue (or pillows or baby booties or pictures…) to thank Our Lady for her intercession.  (You can see a picture of it in this post.)

Well, my friend and her husband announced several months later that they were expecting!  She ended up giving birth to a wonderful little boy on the feast of John Henry Newman, which also happened to be their year anniversary of coming into full communion with the Church.

Last December found me back in Rome, and I was armed with several intentions for Madonna del Parto, both intercession and thanksgiving.  Just like 2011, I prayed for Liza and Paul.

Did I mention that Liza took the name Augustine when she came into the Church?  And did I mention that she had recently also been praying to Augustine’s mom, St. Monica?  And did I mention that Monica just happens to be buried in the same church where the Madonna del Parto can be found?

….And did I mention that today… her DUE DATE… is the feast of St. Monica?

And up in heaven, God laughed.  He’s got this.

St. Monica, pray for us!
Madonna del Parto, pray for us!

The real reason for Martha’s sorrow

For some reason, a little snippet from the daily reflection in the Magnificat really struck a chord with me this morning.  It’s the feast of St. Martha, who like St. Thomas, always seems to get a bad rap even know we know that we’d all do the exact same thing in that position.

St. Teresa of Avila has this gem as she writes her thoughts to Our Lord:

“I sometimes remember the complaint of that holy woman, Martha.  She did not complain only about her sister, rather, I hold it is certain that her greatest sorrow was the thought that you, Lord, did not feel sad about the trial she was undergoing and didn’t have as much love for her as for her sister.”

Such an honest, open confession to our Lord.  To be so real with Him and tell Him something that we know in our minds can’t be true- but to be real with Him about what’s in our heart. It leaves me kind of speechless with that feeling of recognition/sorrow/relief that hits you right in the stomach. The fear that the Lord doesn’t love us as much as our neighbor… So real, so human. He shows us He loves us everyday, but we are so weak and so in need of His mercy.  We need Him to show His love again and again.  Lord, help my unbelief.  Give me some little consolation of Your love.

Wanted: Help decorating my office (or at least your ideas)

My new office has LARGE wall space that is just crying out for something on the bigger side.  I have a Fra Angelico print and two photographs (Rome and Assisi) from my old offices, but they kind of disappear on these walls.  While I might be able to group them on one of the walls, at least one of the two walls needs a larger piece.

So, faithful friends, I’m looking for ideas.  I think the most economical plan would be to purchase a poster of a piece of fine art that I could get framed relatively cheaply with just a poster frame from Michael’s.  So what piece of fine art should I choose?  The sky’s the limit- I’m looking for your ideas.  Well, I prefer something religious. But I’m really looking for your thoughts – don’t let the following stop you from suggesting something else.

Rembrandt’s Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee might be a front runner right now, mostly because I need to remember Christ is always in the ship, even if it seems He’s asleep.  (and, let’s face it, partly because I like the guy throwing up over the side.)


But I don’t want to rush into anything, and there are so many great possibilities.  I also have a print of our Cathedral by a local artist, so another possibility is getting that framed alongside a print (by the same artist) of my parish, St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows (which I would have to acquire, but I think the pastor could help me out with that!)

by Phil Ponder

by Phil Ponder

Oh, and my dad has this jewel back home — if I stole it from him over the weekend, it’s most apt given our current climate.  But the Bishop might prefer something more refined and less cheeky.


So, friends, what do you think?  Do I need a picture of the Blessed Mother instead?  Or something that more directly relates to adult faith formation? And does anyone have an idea other than a place like allposters or Amazon?

Sound off in the comments!