Betty Duffy

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Pope Benedict in New York (part III)

In 2008, I drove to New York to see Pope Benedict. This post is the third part in my account of that trip.

Part I

Part II


When a young woman has a religious vocation, her eyes take on an otherworldly optimism. Her skin appears translucent. She smiles inwardly because she is in love, and she can have every confidence that her spouse-to-be will never let her down. I never had this look in my eye, which is probably why my spiritual director didn’t blink when I told her I was going home to get married.

But several of the girls on this trip have the look: A young woman who attended the RC pre-candidacy last year, but whose father asked her to come home when her mother died; also, Ally, the other chaperone. This trip, coming to see the Holy Father, is her last hurrah before she begins her new life as a Carmelite.

On our train down to the city, I sat with Ally and Trish, collecting their impressions of the Youth Rally yesterday. Ally had said very little all morning, but those optimistic eyes betrayed the loss of a few tears since I’d seen her the night before at bedtime. Ally had been among those locked out.

“I wasn’t going to talk about this because I didn’t want to complain,” she said. “All I wanted to do before I left home was see the Holy Father. I knew it would be my last chance. And I drove all the way here only to be locked out, while everyone else was in there, enjoying being close to him. I cried in my room all night. But I realized that I don’t ever want to feel this way again. This must be what Purgatory feels like. Everyone else is with God, enjoying his presence, while I sit on the other side, watching, wishing, waiting. I do not want to spend one second of Eternity in Purgatory.”

“I wonder why this trip feels so much more difficult than things like this used to feel,” I said.

“We’re givers now,” said Trish. “Everything used to be set up to coddle us in our faith. Now we’re the ones doing the coddling. We were really lucky to have had that time though when we were younger. Most people don’t get it.”

…Which of course had never occurred to me. In my mind, I had “worked for” the church. I had “given a year.” But how many people have a full year of their lives exclusively dedicated to growing in their faith? This is one of the many reasons why, in spite of our founder’s scandalous behavior, I will always feel grateful to Regnum Christi.

We took the girls into the city to play “Scavangelizer.” They had to start conversations with people and ask them questions like, “Are you Catholic, and when was the last time you went to Confession?” You would think New Yorkers would be reluctant to discuss their faith with strangers. The city is crawling with lapsed Catholics. Of course, when a group of pretty young girls, oblivious to adult concerns, approach people with their big smiles and ask them if they were aware the Pope is in New York this weekend, they are rarely turned away.

An airline pilot agreed to go to Mass for the first time in years; A musician, to Confession. An Italian shop-boy smoked a cigarette on the sidewalk and when the girls asked if he was Catholic, he loosened his tie and pulled a brown scapular out from under his pinstripe suit. A man in a wheelchair gave the girls his prayer intentions. A group of girls passing out papers each took a Holy Card.

You never know what these little interactions mean to someone, if they’ll follow through, or if they were just game for a serendipitous conversation that day. But the girls felt hopeful that special Graces were available to the city of New York because of their special visitor.

I didn’t get to touch the Holy Father, or see him well, or even hear him. Still, I’m just as hopeful as the girls that special Graces have occurred. Vocations found people. The girl with the nun-look who had to return from the pre-candidacy when her mother died, found that a nun at the youth rally had slipped a contact card into her bag for the Missionaries of Charity. She thinks it might be a sign. Ally’s realization that she wants to aim for an eternity in Heaven, rather than Purgatory may help to sustain her zeal for a cloistered life. I have reaffirmed my vocation to marriage, feeling ok for the moment with the idea that I’m a “giver” now. This trip was about vocation: encouraging, accepting, and affirming vocation.

Praying the Rosary before bed, that familiar voice in my head that I like to believe is the voice of God said, “You will be my scribe. Maybe not a famous one, or even a published one, but mine.” Pope Benedict didn’t go out in the street, kissing babies and greeting people like JPII did. But I almost feel more affection for him because of that. He attracts people with his authenticity. And of course, he is another scribe for Christ.

If I didn’t have an experience of the Pope this weekend, I did have a deeper experience of the Church and even more so, of Christ. I think Pope Benedict would be pleased to know that.

4 comments:

Natale 2 Down said...

Remember that "look" in the movie about Mother Theresa when the young nuns with her were interviewed.

Amber said...

Hello Betty Duffy x

I am a mother of 5 also, all under 13 except I am on the other side of the ocean the one where Pope Benedict came before. I am 40 and also one of Gods scribes, a poetic one. My web site is www.ambergiles.com. Loving your blog a new discovery x Mags

mrsdarwin said...

This trip was about vocation: encouraging, accepting, and affirming vocation.

I've come recently to the realization that life itself is all about vocation. The raising of children, especially, is one long saga of either fostering vocation in them, or accepting vocation in oneself.

BettyDuffy said...

Amber, I'm reading your poems. I love getting to know other scribes.

Mrs D, I sort of remember what it was like not to know my vocation--and what a challenging limbo that was. We've had it easy, come to think of it. Having kids diminishes most of the doubts about what we're supposed to be doing.