Betty Duffy

Friday, October 29, 2010

New York, Part II

Arriving in New York at Mt Kisco Retreat center, I encountered fifty high school girls—young, nubile bodies, slenderness. It was widely assumed that I was Kate’s mother, the buzz kill, matronly one, having gained twenty pounds this year, already showing at six weeks pregnant—and maybe that’s not actually “showing.” I still don’t know why I came.

The retreat center, Mt Kisco, is like a crazy haunted house, full of dark hallways, mysterious doorways, attics, and a Great Gatsby-like main house.

On Friday, we stayed in the house, had a couple talks to get the girls excited and in the right spiritual frame of mind. No one called on me for experience. No one wanted their pictures taken with me. No one wanted to talk. That night, the Consecrated took a bunch of the girls downtown to serenade the Holy Father at his hotel. I was asked to stay home. Someone in the house was sick, apparently, and couldn’t be left alone, but I never saw her that night—just her closed door. I went to Borders and bought two books, spent the night reading in bed, not needed.

The next day, I was asked to coordinate getting the girls into the city for the Youth Rally. Seven cars drove to Yonkers, each driver responsible for the girls in their cars. Six Mexican girls jumped into my van and spoke Spanish for the duration while I drove along, an old overweight chauffer.

Fortunately, at the Youth Rally, I found friends in some of the other chaperones, Trish and Ally. Trish was formerly Consecrated back when I was in R.I in my twenties, and Ally intended to enter a Carmelite Cloister. We stayed up in the food area most of the day, where there was shade, and a chapel, and priests hearing Confession.

We took pictures of all the Religious, enjoyed the colorfulness of the Church, spoke to strangers, enjoyed the fact that the Church is alive and well, prayed, and went to Confession. Trish went first, and came back raving about what a Holy priest she’d had, her best Confession ever.

I had been a week ago, so didn’t think I needed to again, but Ally made such a good point—that Confession helps us to see holiness more clearly, to have the closest possible relationship with Christ. Since our Pope, the Vicar of Christ on Earth was going to be here, maybe going to Confession would help us to see him more clearly.

So I went, and my sins became apparent to me: my vanity, my mourning over my lost-youth, my poor-me-ism, my self-love, even while I was trying to serve God.

The priest said that our God is an incarnate one, one who took on humanity so that he could meet us, exactly where we are. He wants me to be the best me I can be, with whatever I have right now, even if that is apparently less than what it used to be or what others have. When we are doing whatever we can to cooperate with Christ, there is no comparison to be made. With God there is no generation gap.

At two o’clock, the entire Dunwoody Seminary had a lockdown. Helicopters began to circle overhead. I tried to get close to the pylons, though my friends had stayed up near the food and chapel to pray and eat. We didn’t know there would be no movement between the two areas—the food court, and the lawn where Pope Benedict would be. My friends were locked out, as were about 5000 other people.

I was one of the lucky ones who stood in sweltering heat at the pylons for two hours trying to secure my spot. I accidentally bumped into an elderly nun, and she gave me a sharp, swift elbow in the back. A group of women had made a pile of their belongings in front of the pylon to hold their place. I suggested they might want to move it, so that it wouldn’t get trampled when the Holy Father came. “Not yet. It’s only three o’clock” they said, not ready for the crowd to make its inevitable encroachment. Things were getting ugly.

We’d been there since 7 a.m. We were tired and hot. Lines were long in the food court and now it was closed. We were hungry. We were thirsty. We wanted to see the Pope and touch him.

A young couple was taking advantage of the closeness and anonymity of the crowd to grope one another and stick their tongues in each other’s ears. There were nuns standing around them and I got angry because, couldn’t they see? I tapped the boy on the shoulder and told him to knock it off. Keep it G rated for the women who have taken a vow of chastity. He loosened his hold on the girl, and avoided eye contact with me for the rest of the day. I felt sorry I had not been gentler.

A security guard then came by and told us that the Pope would not be coming into the crowd, so we could relax. Our standing and ribbing had been for naught and a palpable disappointment and shame rippled through the crowd. Poor, miserable people. So hungry for Christ, so clueless about how to find him.

A quiet young voice began to sing, “Jesus, I adore you…” People looked around. Was it one of the nuns? A child? Who was it? A few other voices sang too, “And I lay my life before you.” Others joined in, and it was a round, “How I love you.” Within seconds, our shame and loss had become a song of adoration.

Talked to Mom this morning. She said, “I’ve listened to the Holy Father’s talks and it’s been wonderful—sounds like you’re having an amazing experience. Maybe you can give a talk to our Regnum Christi team about your experience when you come home.” And I thought, how unlikely that would be because I hadn’t heard a word of it.

During the Holy Father’s homily, I’d nearly passed out. I had to sit down in the crowd of standers. It was 5:30 p.m. I’m pregnant, and hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink since 5:30 that morning. I don’t remember anything he said. Towards the end of it, water bottles started to appear, but there were not enough. I had tried all day to get a good view of the Holy Father, and he had been a little white speck to me.

Shuffling out, exhausted, I finally saw my cousin, who had been among those locked out. As expected, we had a brief, inadequate visit, and then I rounded up my girls, drove back to retreat center and slept the sleep of the dead.


1 comment:

Carla said...

Can't wait for Part 3!