Pope Francis in Ireland

Pope Francis has been in Dublin, Ireland this past weekend for the World Meeting of Families, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I was blessed with the opportunity to see him!

I am studying abroad in Dublin this semester with Champlain College.  That in and of itself is incredible, and I am so excited!  I’ve had the dates of my travel for several months now, along with our orientation schedule.  So when I heard that Pope Francis was going to be in my new home city shortly after I arrived, I scrambled to check the dates.  Lo and behold, the free weekend I had available right after orientation was the exact weekend he would be visiting.

On Saturday, several of my fellow students and I took to the streets.  Pope Francis was driving through the city in his Popemobile, and we were ready with cameras.  The had barricades lining the streets where he would be, and my friends and I were able to get right up to the barricades themselves.  One friend in particular and I who share a love of photography and, incidentally, the exact same camera body, set up a competition.  When I arrived, he looked at me and said “All right, whoever gets the best picture of the Pope has to buy the other a pint—of water, because I know you don’t drink.”  I laughed and offered to up the ante by upgrading to the soft drink of his choice if he won.  Then we set up our shots and waited.

Almost an hour passed before the cars that preceded Pope Francis, and he whisked by in about a minute.  I snapped away furiously, and I was able to get some pretty good shots!  I love how he gently smiles and looks so friendly.


On Sunday, I bundled myself up against the wind and the rain to head to Pheonix Park for Mass.  Every street I walked along was closed to car traffic, and pilgrims were migrating to the park.  The further I walked, the more and more people joined the crowd.  We streamed along the red, green, and navy routes toward the heart of the park.  After a little bit of confusion, I was able to to find my section, and I settled in amongst all the people.

I was honestly surprised to find how empty my section was.  I expected, with sold out tickets, for every area to be packed, but there was really only a handful of people in my section.  The sections near me were similar situations.  I was a little bit taken aback, but I laid down my rain jacket on the ground and sat down anyway.  As it happened, the section that I was in had its view of the altar and stage completely obscured by a massive screen, but I was okay with that.  We were so far away, we wouldn’t have been able to see much anyway.


A half hour before Mass began, Pope Francis rode in the Popemobile again to greet everyone throughout the crowd.  As he drove through the channels, people in the crowd ran to his side just to get close to him.  The joy on people’s faces brought me to tears.

I am painfully aware of the abuse that has wreaked havoc on our church recently.  Between the McCarrick situation and the Pennsylvania grand jury report, it feels like the Church is falling apart around our ears.  Because of my travels, I have been largely alone in my faith as I’ve been learning about all of this.  I have not been able to connect with my faith family in the aftermath of this news, and it’s felt very isolating.  I have mourned in silence, and I have felt very alone.  But here, in this field teeming with Catholics, raucously sharing in their faith and eagerly braving distance and adverse conditions to come together and celebrate Jesus in the open air…  My heart became full.  I no longer felt as alone.  The only thing that kept repeating in my head was the phrase, “Our Church may be hurting, but our Church is here.”

I am not at all trying to erase the sadness and shame associated with this abuse coming to light.  But I believe that community breeds love and healing, and being around so many Catholics who were on fire in their faith despite the atrocities that have been rampant brought me hope.  It brought meaning to the messages of strength and encouragement that I have seen on social media recently as we all reel and recover from the headlines.

At the start of Mass, Pope Francis addressed the abuse scandals and asked for forgiveness on behalf of those who committed the actions, and on behalf of those who turned a blind eye to the actions.  He also prayed that this season of shame extend itself, and I thought that was really poignant.  We need to dwell in this shame for a time.  We cannot just sweep these difficult feelings under the rug and pretend they never happened.  We need to feel our shame, really feel it, so that we never allow it to happen again.  Catholics are no strangers to suffering, and we know that suffering brings salvation.  We cannot run from discomfort just because it is uncomfortable.  We run to the Truth, even when it hurts, and we pray that God bestows the necessary graces upon us.

Since the Mass ended, I have learned more disturbing news.  Pope Francis has been accused of covering up for McCarrick.  This claim has been disputed, but the truth is yet unclear.  And perhaps most concerning of all, when Pope Francis was asked about the account after the closing Mass, he refused to talk about it and told us to use our best judgement.  I am uncertain as to why he chose this response, but I am frightened for what will come next for our Church.  Even so, I have faith that our Church will survive, and I am grateful to have seen Her in stride this past weekend.

Mass Journaling

It was a weekday in late August.  I was already back at school, completing some training before classes started.  We were in training sessions from 8 AM to 8 PM for two weeks, and it was pretty draining, but we were pushing through.

I was at breakfast one morning, scrolling through Instagram.  We weren’t allowed to have our phones out during training sessions, so mealtimes began with conversation but quickly lulled into everyone staring at their screens for what limited time we could.

A sponsored post popped up in my feed.  Usually, I completely ignore those kinds of ads, but this one caught my eye.  It was a Kickstarter campaign for a Mass journal entitled Every Sacred Sunday.  As someone who has been journaling since before she could write, and has continued to do so since then, a Mass journal seemed right up my alley.  It was something I had been seeking for a while, actually, but didn’t know exactly what I needed until it crossed my path.  A friend of mine who had been struggling in her faith had spent some time visiting other churches in our area, and described that at one Protestant church she visited, everyone took notes during the sermon, and the teens compared and discussed their notes in their youth group meetings after the service.  I had been very drawn to that idea, but I didn’t feel right about bring a notebook to Mass and taking notes.  I feared being perceived as disrespectful.

Every Sacred Sunday felt like it was giving me permission to take notes in Mass.  Moreover, it was encouraging me to do so!  I read through their plan for the project and instantly fell in love.  I pulled out my credit card right then and there in the cafeteria and pledged for their Kickstarter on my phone.

I followed their journey through production, getting early glimpses of art prints to be included and receiving status updates throughout the process.  The journal finally arrived just in time for Advent and the new liturgical year.  Its design is utterly gorgeous; it’s just my style and I couldn’t have designed it any more perfectly.  Just look at it!




The gold foil on the front is so majestic and beautiful.  The watercolor art for each season is so pretty (I photographed Lent as it is our current season).  Even down to the type face, the clean lines, and wide open spaces, this whole journal has a seamlessly executed aesthetic.  I’m always eager to open up my Mass journal and engage with this beautiful book.

For each week, the readings are written out.  Then, there’s a work page broken into segments.  I try to get to Mass a few minutes early so I can fill out the pages before Mass begins, but if not, I take time after Mass to complete it.  There’s a “Scripture speaks” section where I copy down a verse that really spoke to me from the reading.  There’s a “weekly intentions” section which is subdivided into a gratitude and supplication column, which I love.  I especially love that the thanksgiving comes before the requests, because it’s so easy to forget to be grateful, but it’s absolutely essential to give thanks.  Then there’s a “notes” section, which is probably my favorite section.  I love to be organized, and I’m very academically inclined.  I’m also a visual learner, so taking notes on the homily (and only during the homily) is one of the best ways for me to pay attention to the information that I’m hearing.  Finally, there’s a “go forth” section, which is a space to set an intention for the rest of the week.  Personally, I struggle a bit with that section.  I’m not very good at remembering my intention once I leave Mass, and when I open my journal the following week, I always smack my forehead when I realize I forgot it again.  I’m still looking for a better way to apply the intentions I set at Mass to the rest of my week.

I love my Every Sacred Sunday journal.  It’s a great way for me to engage more deeply with the Word of God presented to us each week.  I was never one for missals, but this is a dynamic way to dive deeper into the Mass, and I am so grateful that I found it when I did.