Monday, October 26, 2009

Pilgrimage to the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Every once in a while, I’m pleasantly reminded that 30 isn’t so old after all.

This weekend I enthusiastically pulled an all-nighter, which then continued into the next day, pausing only for a 20-minute nap in the afternoon, and finally leading me to my bed after 44 hours of being awake! Oh, what fun it was!

It is rare for me now that a weekend should come upon me that is particularly action-packed. But this past one was one of those weekends. Perhaps it makes up for the several I have had lately where I seem to be alone except for the pine cones, acorns, and leaves that dominate me with their presence when I do yard work.

I had gone to bed late on Friday night after Theology on Tap, then rose at 4 AM on Saturday morning to pack and prepare for a pilgrimage to the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. This wonderful place is like a Catholic amusement park and is quite literally one of my favorite stomping grounds. I've always wanted to spend an entire day there, and this was my chance! I loved every second of it.

I merely had to walk across the street at 6 AM to catch the bus in the church parking lot. My friend Andy and I had agreed to be chaperons, but there turned out to be an abundance of volunteer parents, and so he and I got the whole day to do as we pleased!

Over 5,000 Catholics from our diocese gathered at the basilica that day as a pilgrimage to Our Lady to kick off what has been declared as our diocesan Marian Year. I think it's lovely that our bishop chose this particular devotion for the year, and I'm excited that my Marian Promise will reach its finale in the middle of it!

Once there, we met up with our dear friend Shawn who had come on another bus, and my good friend Carlos (who lives there in DC) came to meet up with us also.

Mass was incredible. The joyful trumpets, triumphant chorus, and the huge quantity of people made me again realize that I was participating in something so much bigger than myself. All of Heaven participates joyfully in all Masses here on Earth. The angels and saints love to be fully present wherever God is worshiped!

There was plenty of time that day for prayer, reflection, and theological discussions with my friends. And that's just what we did! Even though this was my 4th time at the basilica (with all visits happening this year), I noticed beautiful things that I hadn’t noticed before, making every experience there like a brand new one. ☺

I bought scapulars for my friends Michael and Anne, got them blessed by the bishop, and witnessed a beautiful crowning ceremony for a new statue of Our Lady. One of my favorite moments in the day was when the Rosary was recited in various places throughout the basilica in different languages, including sign language. Because of my love for Our Lady of Medjugorje, I went to join others in praying the Rosary in Croatian. It sounded so beautiful!

When I got home at 8:30 that night, I thought that my day would be over and my head would be hitting the pillow soon. But, instead, Part II of my weekend was only beginning…