Friday, October 09, 2015

What We Saw in Philadelphia—the Aftermath

One thing I know about myself is that I can rarely relate the impact of my experiences immediately. I often have to reflect on and mull over them for a period before I can get to the core of my experience. I don't think this is unusual for men, as we tend to put our heads down and drive through experiences, waiting until later to process. As far as evolution goes, that makes perfect sense. At many times in human history and prehistory, that adaptation made the difference between survival and annihilation.

But as a modern man, it's damned inconvenient.

After Mass was finished and the endless EWTN commentary actually ENDED, we removed our vestments and gathered in the main sanctuary for evening prayer. I think now that this one gift the parochial vicar gave us was priceless. It's rare that I get to chant evening prayer with a room full of men, and it's exactly what the Divine Office should be.

After we finished, I grabbed my backpack and suit bag (a short one, which is much easier to manage when traveling), and I started the trek back up to the museum and the shuttle stop. As you can imagine, the place was a mess. Stacks and stacks of water had been supplied for the event (which was a Godsend). However, because it wasn't managed as much on Sunday, people began to take cases and use them for seating. When everything was over, there were half-crushed cases of water all over the place, and loads of trash (as there weren't enough trash receptacles by any stretch). Thank goodness they prepared better for the draining of the port-o'-potties. (No, I'm not obsessed with portable toilets. They're just really an issue when you're dealing with a million people in an enclosed location.)

I stayed off of the walkways when I could, since the (un)grassed* areas were largely clear. I actually made it back to the shuttle pick-up location pretty quickly. Of course, everyone who had taken the shuttles in were now waiting. And they had the same sort of blinkered approach to getting on the shuttles. The goal was "shuttle," and no other group of awaiting passengers were given any noticed. I watched this happen with a couple of buses and decided that I'd go hunt down the elusive after-Mass dinner that the clergy were promised.

I walked toward the museum, and around the south side... and around...



And I saw some fellows in black suits and grey clerical shirts. My brother deacons! And I asked them where the promised meals were (as they were carrying boxes in their hands. and yes, I had to explain that I, too, was a deacon). They directed me back to the place where we met. And so I headed around to the back side...

and around...


You, know, that's one massive campus at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I found the back entrance, and picked up my box, skipping the add on bag that appeared to be overloaded with gummy fish and other odd selections and toiletries, if my eyes did not deceive me. Then I made the long trek back to the shuttle pick-up zone, staying close to the entrance.

I waited for a few shuttles to go just to let the area clean out. I ate the contents of my meal box. If this was the "dinner" that was to be served, its character was overstated a bit. There was a bag of chips, and half sandwich, and one chewy Chips Ahoy cookie. Maybe I should have grabbed the bag of gummy... things.

As I was waiting, a group of deacons  from New Jersey came up. They were mostly newly ordained and had the camaraderie of a class ordained together. We were all standing next to a group of Dominican sisters and seminarians, as well as a group of teens from a local school. We were all sort of lining up where the previous buses lined up to signal to the drivers where they should stop. At a certain point, everyone just let the Dominicans go. They were patiently waiting and watching groups of people step on ahead of them, not complaining a bit. We teased them a bit about it building virtue, but eventually, I think everyone agreed that they should board next. When the next rank of shuttles arrived, everyone anticipated that the drivers would see the groups and stop in front of them. However, they stopped just short of us, and those dastardly school kids tried to jump our line!

We set them straight in short order!

Actually, it was very good natured, and the kids were also very flexible about the whole situation. The deacons from Jersey insisted that I got on next. They intended to travel together and saw no need to send one of theirs first.

So I made the shuttle. The trip back was uneventful. When we returned to the Mann Center, the real test began.

When we got back to Mann Center, I thought it would be a slam dunk. I entered from that side of the check point, so my car must be just over there.

Uh.... no.

The grassy area on the other side of the check point was still fairly full of cars. As I mentioned, there were no distinguishing landmarks, just some flags (all identical) located in a few areas. And no lights. And it was getting darker by the minute. I walked back a few rows and looked around, wandered up and down a few rows. I pulled out the key fob and clicked to see if I'd see some lights. I even hit the panic button. Nothing.

After 20 minutes, I actually called our host and talked to her as I looked. About that time, I noticed that the road next to the grass was just one of several. Apparently there were four roads coming in, and they all converged on the same location. So I started to walk across the roads, clicking the key fob. Finally, I saw the lights flicker on and off.

How the heck do you lose a Denali?

I contacted Gina to see where she was. She and my brother deacons were almost back to the rail station. She'd had nothing to eat since morning. I headed back to St. Cornelius, stopped off at Whole Foods just before I got there, and got a massive wrap and coconut water for her. I sat in the parking lot, checked out the eclipse, and read until the bus returned.

It was a long day, but a blessed day.

The Meeting of Families and Festival of Families are past now, and the Synod on the Family is now playing out. The joy of the last few weeks has given way to a degree to the fear and anxiety in the Catholic blogosphere over the matter of divorced and remarried Catholics. I personally don't harbor any fear, because I believe that Jesus meant what He said in Matthew 16:18: "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it."

I don't put trust in the bishops, even those whom I admire. But I have utter trust in the Holy Spirit and the words of Christ.

*The degrassing of the parkway clearly happened long before the Festival of Families. 
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