At 4:30 a.m. in the morning of the tenth of October 2022 I sat alone in the parking lot at the church where the prayer group was departing from for a short trip to the EWTN headquarters in Alabama. We were scheduled to leave at 5:30, but I never expected to be there even before the bus.
The next person to arrive was Karen who was in charge of directing everyone, including the bus, when it came, where to park. Slowly, people arrived and I got on board and claimed seats for Diane and another Karen, as others filtered in. It was actually six am when we got onto the highway. In the e-mails back and forth I noticed that Karen asked if anyone had a wheelchair – but at that time I did not realize it was for my use.
We were barely underway when Cindy announced that Fr. Brown had brought the Holy Eucharist and would be distributing it to us, though there would not be a Mass on the bus. I don’t know why I thought the topography would look different in Alabama, but as the bus rolled along I noticed that it was all the same.
Signs for Bowling Green went by and in Cincinnati we changed drivers and picked up two ladies. The mother, Diane, had been the person giving out the bulletin and song sheet every month as people entered the church. I wondered why I had not seen her for a long time. She moved back to Cincinnati to be closer to her daughters. We arrived at our hotel as darkness set in. Karen mentioned that we gained an hour, which was good so we didn’t miss dinner at the hotel. There was the usual milling around, settling luggage into rooms, and alas, dinner. Karen manned the wheel chair and I gladly rode as she found the right way everywhere. It was good to call it a day and Diane and I fell into our usual routines as we are accustomed to traveling together.
The hotel served breakfast before we climbed back aboard the bus. The first event of the day was a guided tour that took us from the lobby of one building and through an assortment of rooms and ended when we filed into a lecture hall where a Capuchin Monk talked to us about Saint John Paul, II. After his talk he offered a relic of St. Pio for us to form a line to and venerate individually. Karen was on her feet in a heartbeat and we were first in line.
While I had heard of Mother Angelica, around whom EWTN was evolved, I had never watched her, as the program was on cable, which I have never subscribed to. Each spiritual event seemed extra special and really lovely. Perhaps it was the atmosphere. Being anywhere with this group of people is always a treat for me.
We went to a healing service that was like none I’ve been to before, in which each person wishing a healing knelt at the Communion rail and was approached by the priest in the mantel and presenting the monstrance to each person. That is the closest I have ever been to a monstrance and it felt like a direct communication with God.
There was a Mass in Latin, which I have not heard for years, so it was lovely and brought back memories of Masses from my childhood. They even celebrated it the old way, not facing the congregation. Of course there were other Masses, including one in a tiny chapel which was televised. Due to the wheel chair I was in the front seat and the camera did not pan around the chapel, so I was the only one on the televised version and while others were disappointed not to be included, while I thought it was too bad not to have spread the view, since no one in my family or among my friends might likely be watching. As it happened, my cousin, Butch and his wife were on the trip and his sister called him to say she saw the televised Mass and me. So, someone I knew saw it after all.
There were two main buildings where most of the functions took place as well as a grand gift store to browse in between events, so we were pretty busy walking back and forth over the pink stone walk between buildings. For me it was, hang on, here we go as Karen rolled me back and forth over the cobblestone like surface. I was counting my blessings that she did not seem to get tired or winded.
One day the Monks treated us to lunch in the school cafeteria – the main course consisted of some kind of tacos that would have appealed to the kids and we were thankful to have. One time lunch was a chicken salad from Chick a Filet and that was superb.
We were busy from before sunup to sundown and although we eked every ounce of what we came there for, we were ready to climb back onto the bus and head back home when time for goodbyes came with promises for visits and a return trip, we were on the road again.