Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Yeah, But Was It a Real Pilgrimage?

I should face it: we'll never be able to afford a real pilgrimage. That's okay. I make a short pilgrimage every morning to the coffee pot, and there I am fueled for the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of my day.

But Rome? The Holy Land? Probably won't happen until vans never break down, appliances last forever, a mortgage is paid off ... and by then Atticus and I will be decrepit.

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

It is a charter bus, and Mr. Henkel is the sun.

Our liturgy director is opportunity in motion. He is all about offering the people of our parish opportunities they may not otherwise have, or may not take advantage of, or even think of unless he charters a bus and hands them a permission slip. A recent one was this: he arranged for our youth choir (and any interested adults) to sing at a Mass at St. Cecilia's Cathedral. He called it a pilgrimage.

Anne-with-an-e and Betsy have been to our cathedral before. And of course, Atticus and I have been there. (We were there for the Rite of Election the years we came into the Church -- fifteen years ago for Atticus, twenty years for me, and I was there for numerous other Rites of Election.) But Ramona had never seen it.

Photo thanks to St. Cecilia Cathedral 

Mr. Henkel loves to arrange trips. For kids, for adults, for anyone who's up for a trek: a journey to an historic church they've never seen, a chance to hear a choir they've never heard, a moment to whisper supplications in a place they've never prayed, the chance to spend a day they've never had. He wants to share beauty.

Ramona wanted to see the beauty. She wanted the bus trip, the day with friends, the singing, the spectacular pipe organ (she didn't know she wanted that -- until she saw it, toured it, got to actually go inside the organ -- but she did). She wanted the Chinese food on the way home. And I wanted her to see St. Cecilia's, because somehow, inexplicably, I've never shown it to her before. I wanted to share beauty.

That's one amazing organ. And I don't even like organ music. Unless I'm in St. Cecilia's. 

So we signed up.

I can't say that bus trips are something I look forward to. I developed an aversion to mammoth forms of transportation after spending 36 hours on a Greyhound from Omaha to Daytona Beach, Florida with Jack when I was twenty years old ("Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping. "I'm empty and aching and I don't know why.") But this little field trip was only two hours, with my favorite Ramona and my favorite Betsy (acting as a choir chaperone), and friends, too. Leaving the driving to someone else sounded lovely, actually, on a crisp, cold, sunny first day of March.

Ramona's view from the choir loft, after practice. 

During Mass, the choir sang "Steal Away."

Steal away, 
steal away, 
steal away to Jesus. 

Next week is the anniversary of my baptism. Next month is the anniversary of my reception (five years after my baptism) into the Catholic Church. Next month is an anniversary for Atticus, too, who came into the Catholic Church five years after I did. Has it really been that long since our conversions?

My Lord, He calls me, He calls me by the thunder. 

Conversion is a funny word. It connotes weights, calculations, measurable results.

"Transfiguration," as Fr. Robert Barron explains, feels more accurate, more illuminating than the word "conversion." More tremble-inducing.

The trumpet sounds within my soul.

The clear, sweet voices (steal away, steal away) that floated ethereally from the cathedral's choir loft during Mass on Sunday night transported me to a time before a Transfiguration, before I knew who the Man on the cross was, before I could or did or wanted to love Him.


It was a fearful, wonderful journey I took, this search for Jesus. For such a long time, I was a spiritual asthmatic, gasping, waiting, looking for a cure. My newfound faith was clean, sweet oxygen.

This cathedral was one of the stops on that trek.

Yes, I took a real pilgrimage last weekend.

Steal away, steal away home.

I was home, I am home, I will be home, and I am on a constant trudge to get home.

I ain't got long to stay here.

Tomorrow morning, I'll stumble to the coffee pot, pour another cup of coffee, offer up another day, and the pilgrimage will continue.


Faith said...

Ah Karen! You write so beautifully. Thank you for sharing this.

tanita✿davis said...

Beautiful - and what a cathedral! It was a sure-enough pilgrimage; there's nothing cut-rate about the purpose of the journey, right? Even if this was the two-hour variety of pilgrimage.

Danae said...

What a beautiful written testament to the trip and, most of all, to your conversion!

Danae said...

I meant "beautifully" written. Praise God you are the writer, and not me!

Karen Edmisten said...

Faith, Tanita, and Danae -- thank you!

Tamara said...

This was beautiful!

Sheryl Cahoy said...

Karen, I love your post about not only the pilgrimage to St. Cecelia's, but also your own. Thank you and bless you for sharing it so "beautifully"! Wish I could have shared it with you. I made my first visit to this Cathedral this past fall (and I have been baptized since birth and even in this Archdiocese!) It was an overwhelmingly soul full-filling moment as I walked into the Nave and saw the great Sanctuary and altar. I immediately felt at "home".

Thank you Karl Henkel for dreaming big things for our parish!

Karen Edmisten said...

Thank you, Tamara and Sheryl!

Sheryl, yes, there were several on our trip who had never seen the Cathedral even though they've lived around here a long time. It was an added joy to see their awe over its beauty and majesty.

Karen Edmisten said...

P.S. I second the thank you to Karl Henkel for dreaming big things for our parish!

Beth Klug said...

Beautifully written! Thank you for writing about your "pilgrimage" to Saint Cecilia Cathedral. I work here on the Cathedral campus, and I am always amazed that, when the time arises, or the need arises, I can just go next door into the Cathedral and visit Jesus (although, yes, I know He is everywhere, even in my office). Still, I am awe-struck each time I walk into that building. It has a beautiful majesty to it.
The Cathedral belongs to everyone. I hope you can venture this way again-- it is another home and the doors are open every day.

Karen Edmisten said...

Beth, thanks for stopping by to comment, and what a blessing to work on the Cathedral campus!