Thursday, May 05, 2011

From home to Rome and back again

Many of you are already aware of Starling's surprise trip to Rome to attend the Vatican's first meeting for Catholic bloggers. She was one of 150 bloggers attending from around the world, and one of just about 13-14 Americans.

If you're not familiar with this story, you can read all about it at her blog, The Ironic Catholic. (Of which one of the meeting organizers said, "That blog made me laugh out loud!" And an Italian cardinal attending the meeting pointed and laughed every time he saw Starling, chuckling, "Ironic Catholic! Heh, heh, heh!" -- in an Italian accent, of course.) The basics are this: About a month ago, Starling found out that the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communication was going to sponsor a meeting of bloggers around the time of the beatification of John Paul II, and was accepting applications. On a lark, and at my encouragement, she applied -- never imagining it would actually come together. But then, there she was -- number 141 on a list that included such heavyweights as Catholic News Service, First Things, etc. After she finished screaming, she realized that there was no way she could go -- flights cost well over $1,200, rooms were scarcer than hen's teeth, and the thing was right smack dab in the middle of the end of the semester craziness (review days, events, finals, etc.). So she e-mailed them to say she couldn't go.

Well, ha ha on her, 'cause I said a few prayers, and apparently God had other plans. Either that or a lot of things just happened to fall into place very nicely. Her department head and the president of the school went to bat for her, offering to cover the cost of the trip. Her readers raised more than $400 in less than four hours.  People from her department offered to cover classes for her. She'd lost her passport ten years ago, but was able to get one expedited in time for the trip. Every objection she had evaporated.

And that's how she went to Rome last weekend for the beatification of John Paul II and the blogger meeting. I will let her describe the details of the trip -- probably after she is done with classes and grades. I will just say that I was extremely heartened to hear that the issue of anti-evangelization was addressed -- that's my term of art for Catholic bloggers who use sarcasm, meanness, and hateful remarks to attack other Catholics who they view as not being sufficiently orthodox (or, in some cases, not sufficiently liturgically correct according to their own personal tastes). It's sad, because they're trying to advance their opinion in a way that shows they've completely missed the most important moral doctrine of Christianity -- that whole love your neighbor/enemy thing.

Anyway, here are a few tantalizing pictures.

These huge cubes were everywhere, displaying pictures from
John Paul II's papacy.

The crowd in Saint Peter's Square.

The room where the bloggers' meeting was held.

Starling with some famous blogger who I don't know.

Part of the crowd during the beatification.

More of the beatification crowd.

Starling offering proof of her real presence in Rome.
Back at the ranch, the kids and I stayed with my mom, and spent
an afternoon at the science museum with my brother and his daughter,
pictured here with Jaybird in the tugboat overlooking the Mississippi River

The youngest kids really missed Mom! They got to see her
again for the first time the morning after she returned home.

Another happy reunion picture.
And finally, this brief video snippet gives the smallest hint of how it felt to be in the crowd of more than one million people during the beatification: