I drove through 13 states for 3,400 miles which totaled 5 days on the road to see Pope Francis. I missed most of the speeches because I was on the road and I saw him for the whole 60 seconds that he passed by me. I didn’t even mention the 20 miles that we walked or the hours of standing on our feet or the fact that the last hotel charged my card twice and sucked out all the last of our gas money. I rolled up into my driveway sore, tired and with feet full of blisters. I may or may not be a bit insane too since I have found that I now rock back and forth involuntarily when I’m sitting. It may seem like I’m complaining, but I am not. All of that made it so clear to me what this life is: a pilgrimage. It is a journey to God. Before last Thursday, I had no idea what that meant in a practical way, but I sure as shit do now.
Pope Francis is not God, but he is the Vicar of Christ and that means something to me, if it didn’t, I wouldn’t be Catholic. In a lot of ways Protestants love Jesus a lot better than Catholic in my humble opinion, but they lack a few things: the Sacraments and the Seat of Peter, both of those were instituted by Christ and to love Jesus is to accept them as gifts He left us for this journey through life to Heaven. I’m not insulting anyone or trying to “prove” the case of Catholicism, I’m just saying that these things became so very clear to me during this trip.
I found out that I have high anxiety while driving on highways into unknown places. In fact, I had a few panic attacks as 18 wheelers flew past me. I could imagine crashing and seeing my kids injured all because some truck driver decided that wherever he had to go was more important that the four lives in my rental car. And I panicked. (PS shining your brights on someone so they will speed up usually makes them panic more and slow down, just a friendly PSA.) I have never had a panic attack and it was really scary having my first one on a busy highway in Nashville as people honked and sped past me. The only thing that got me through it was listening to Jason Aldean music and saying Hail Marys. I wasn’t the same after that and when we got past it and back on a dark twisting highway I let God know just how scared I was driving so far from home for something so crazy. I mean, I could sit at home and watch it all on TV while praying in Adoration and going to Mass. I know that God would have blessed that just as much as me driving to see Papa. In our conversation God really explained to me that fear has no place in the life of a Christian. What exactly was I afraid of? “Well, of seeing my kids mangled in a car and knowing that it was my choice that put them here”, was the honest answer. God’s reply was that it wasn’t my choice that had us on this highway, but His Will for our lives; therefore we would be safe no matter what happened, even if the worst did happen, He would take care of us and He always will. Do I believe that? The truthful answer is no, no I don’t . Not even now, not even after everything that I mentioned happened and we are fine, don’t I believe it. I KNOW it, but I don’t really believe it. I still think that somehow the worst is going to happen and God is going to abandon me. Or that He won’t be real. It is a deep rooted fear of abandonment that plagues my soul. It is why I cuss, it is why I’m rude to people, it is why I feel rejected anytime someone tells me how they can only read me if I don’t cuss or don’t talk about how gay people feel rejected by Catholics or whatever else they wish that I would change about myself to be acceptable to them, it is why I cry when people are nice to me, it is why I can’t believe that strangers would ever donate money for me to go on a pilgrimage to see my Pope. Pretty much, it’s why I do anything. My fear of being abandoned is the wound in my soul that keeps me from truly loving a God that loves me so completely and why I fear the road ahead of me in this life. God knows this about me, He has always known it and that is why He doesn’t tell me the big plan, He only lets me see what is right ahead of me, just like on a dark curvy road in West Virginia. Even though I am scared shitless, all I have to do is follow the road right ahead of me and keeping moving forward. One mile at a time, even if I’m going slow and even if everyone else on the road is flying past me. What they do isn’t my problem and if I just stay in my lane, everything will be ok and at the end of this journey I will get to my destination safe and sound and maybe a little insane.
I got my miracle. As Pope Francis passed by me I prayed for his shadow to be the way that God heal me from the hate that I feel towards 4 people in my life. It really has blocked God’s grace in my life to hate them. And I read in the Bible that people would travel from far away to have the shadow of Peter pass by them for healing so I figured maybe that would happen for me, because I have tried everything else: novenas, prayers, confession and begging God to rip it out of my life. It has gotten better, but really it is still always lingering. I don’t know if I got my miracle the way that I wanted to get it, but I do know that I am a changed person. Not because Pope Francis is awesome, which he is, but because God is awesome and the entire way was Him revealing Himself to me and my children. I didn’t witness my kids mangled in a car, but I did witness them see the hand of God in our life and that has changed everything for me. The four people who have hurt me deeply are now just fellow pilgrims on a journey that is scary and difficult, instead of enemies that I need to take out for my own safety.
I am 3,400 miles closer to God. I am 13 states closer to being healed.