When I returned home from Philadelphia on Sunday night, I felt like I had just completed a spiritual retreat. The weekend was full of premiere opportunities and unique graces...some of which I shall speak about here, and others of which I shall save for my next blog. :-)
I met up with Melanie, Father Kevin, Marc, Bob, Rebecca, and Rose at a cozy authentic Italian restaurant called Fellini's in my favorite Pennsylvania suburb, Ardmore. The restaurant was placed on an adorable little strip of street, and it happened to be right next to Brownie's, a place that holds a fun night of memories for me from back in 2006.
Our dinnertime conversation was enjoyable, as Father Kevin shared the story of St. Philomenia and Bob introduced us to the Venerable Mary Agreda, who wrote The Mystical City of God, a book different from the one that shares the same title by St. Augustine.
From there, we all went to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, a campus filled with gorgeous architecture, incredible artwork, and expansive grass fields. We saw the seminarians perform the hilarious comedy of Twelve Angry Men, and--during the intermission--we ran into our friends Brian, Ben, and Dave.
When the performance concluded around 10 PM, we probably should have exited the building like the rest of the public. But a long, dark hallway filled with massive paintings was beckoning me...and so down it I crept, with Marc following, keeping a safe lookout for anyone behind us.
It was so dark in that hallway that I could not see the paintings unless I first snapped a picture of one and then viewed it on my digital camera's screen. After journeying through yet another long hallway of floor-to-ceiling paintings, we conveniently ran into Brian, who led us further into the labyrinth, taking us down into the basement to show us the longest corridor I have ever seen in my whole life! The hallway was so long that we could not see the end of it. Even the maximum zoom on my camera only revealed to us that the farthest visible part of the corridor began to curve slightly to the left.
The others of our group were long since gone by this point, except for Melanie, who finally located us, thanks to the exchange of text messages we shared on our cell phones. As Brian wondered off alone, promising us that he could adequately find his way back to the St. Francis dormitory wing in which he was staying, Melanie, Marc, and I set the St. Martin Chapel as our next destination.
The building had an eerie silence to it, and frequent glances out the window into the courtyard down below helped us to navigate correctly to the chapel. When we entered a hallway with signs that strictly commanded to "Observe Silence," we knew we were getting close to Jesus!
After passing a large beautiful statuary, we rounded the corner and entered the huge chapel, where I had read that the late Pope John Paul II once celebrated Mass with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in attendance.
Everything was pitch black except for the red candle that always burns beside the Tabernacle and the few glowing lights that came from behind the altar. The three of us knelt on the stone floor for a while, just thankful to be in His presence.
It must have been around midnight or so when we figured we ought to go home, so we left the chapel. But the trouble was that we couldn't find an unlocked door to let us out!
Just then, we noticed an older priest walking down the long hallway toward us. Our first instinct was to hide! So we ducked into a dark corner, partially hidden behind a large statue of the Pieta. But, realizing that he'd soon find us anyhow, Melanie suggested that we make ourselves visible and claim to be lost. Without thinking, I pushed Marc out into the view of the old priest, and she and I timidly followed suit. What on earth were we going to say to him?!
But fortunately, we were in the hallway with the "Observe Silence" signs. And so, as we passed by the old priest with our heads hung and our eyes fixed upon the marble floor, his confused expression could utter no question. We kept walking in our direction, and he did the same in his -- perhaps all of us thinking that, once we reached opposite ends of the hallway, we could finally yell across at each other.
We quickened our walking pace to an almost-sprint, and--several silent prayers later--we had finally found ourselves a suitable exit! We blurted out relieved laugher when we tumbled out onto the lawn, with Melanie slipping and sliding almost to the ground with giggles.
We walked to our cars with the normalcy of a morning stroll and waved good-bye to the night guardsman in the parking lot as if it were the afternoon. :-) Whew!
But, as if this nighttime adventure hadn't been exciting enough, we did much the same thing about an hour later. At about 2 AM, while wearing comfy pajamas, we found ourselves gingerly tip-toeing into yet another beautiful church where we kept Jesus company in the darkness until 4 AM! :-)