See You in Philadephia… Or Not

pope francis in the usI have something to confess; I am sad that I am not getting to attend the World Meeting of Families that begins in Philadelphia tomorrow. I’m not only sad, I’m a little bit mad too. I want so badly to be there- to see our Papa and to be surrounded by people excited and on fire for faith. We had plans to be there and yet here we sit at home. It just seems so unfair.

A very dear Jewish friend of ours told us about the Congress before we had ever heard about it. In February 2013 she asked me if we were considering going. She lives in the Philadelphia area and when I said I wasn’t sure, she insisted that we must be there for it. She opened her home to us (all of us!) and said if we could get there she’d take care of the rest. And so for the two and a half years our family has planned to go to the Congress, the Festival of Families, and the Papal Mass.

But then life happened and our dream of heading out to Philly to see the Pope and hang out with a couple million of our closest Catholic friends seemed to disappear into thin air.

When Hopes Come Crashing Down

It’s hard when something you have hoped and planned for doesn’t come to fruition. When the reasons are ones out of your control, well, it makes it even worse. I’ll be honest and tell you I have been sulking a little bit. My heart yearns to be in Philadelphia; I long to hear our Papa speak to us in our own language, on our own soil. I want to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. But, God has other plans and those plans don’t include us heading to Philadelphia for the world’s largest meeting of Catholic families.

why mePart of my sadness about not going to Philadelphia is rooted in why we can’t go. We’ve had a series of events happen in the last couple of months that brought us (literally!) to our knees. As crisis after crisis overtook our family, we found ourselves fighting to just keep our heads above the rising flood waters. It seemed as if the devil was attacking us from all sides. We felt hopeless and overwhelmed. Suddenly going on a trip was extravagant and impossible. It seemed so unfair that after all we’ve been through we also can’t go on our trip. It was easy to begin to think “why me?”

I’ve tried to reason that I can watch the coverage on television and that I will have a better view of the Mass and the events that are happening. I’ve even reminded myself over and over again that I don’t do well in crowds and this is going to be an insanely large crowd. I’ve thought about the logistics of traveling through the crowd with so many little ones and the fear I would have about possibly getting separated from one another. But in my heart I know that I would much rather be there in person, experiencing the sights, the sounds, and the holiness that will surround the event. There is just something about being a part of this important event that calls out to my soul.

God Reminds Us of His Plans

As I sulked, I began to pray. I asked God to comfort me and to assure me that my not going to Philadelphia was within His plans. As I prayed I was led to a scripture I know very well. In fact, it is a scripture that we often share when we talk about God’s plans for our family…

“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jer 29:11

How appropriate that God would use this verse to remind me that He has a plan! Even when our problems and our worries seem to overwhelm us, God still has a plan! It may not be what I have in mind, but in the end it will always be better than what I could ever imagine myself.

As much as I long to be there and as long as I have planned to go, God has a reason for me not being there. It’s hard to trust in God’s plans when we have our minds and hearts set on something else. It’s hard to let go of a dream that we’ve held for so long. But God calls us to trust Him in everything.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

As the World Meeting of Families begins tomorrow, I pray in thanksgiving for all those who are able to attend. I look forward to reading updates by friends who are blessed to be there. I have made the decision to be joyful instead of sad. I am going to watch the coverage on television and I am going to snuggle with my children on the couch as we share our faith together in the comfort of our home. I will trust that there is a reason God wants me to be here in rural Georgia instead of in Philadelphia with fellow pilgrims.

I can’t wait to see the fruits of this Congress and our Pope’s visit to our country. I pray that his visit will open hearts and minds to Christ’s love and that all those who encounter the Catholic faith through the coverage of the World Families Meeting will also encounter Christ.

Love is the mission this week… I pray we all will become fully alive in Christ’s love no matter where we are in locality or in life.

glory of God


14 Replies to “See You in Philadephia… Or Not”

  1. I needed this today. As I see so many of my friends (and my BOSS) head off to WMOF in a city that is literally 20 minutes away from me…it’s hard. But my family circumstances won’t allow me to be there either. While I watch the wall to wall coverage, I will join you in prayer.

    1. Thank you, Barb, both for your comment and for joining me in prayer! I can’t imagine how hard that is to be so close and yet not be able to attend. My prayers are with you as well <3

  2. Will keep you and your family in my prayers ..I’m from NJ area,now in Wisconsin with plenty of family halfway between NYC and Philly.
    My former beloved parish, Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin NJ is a mere 25 min from Philly. (Drove 90 mins to Mass each way as the pastor there is so holy) So it would seem that I would certainly be there.
    I have been blessed to be with other Catholics for both STJPII in Baltimore and my favorite, Benedict in NYC where he stopped to bless ME…)
    Now, I’m confined to bed…a life threatening illness which has allowed me to understand the beauty of cloistered life…& allowed me to look at this in a very different way…
    First, understand, your vocation as wife and mother (like a religious vocation for sure) won’t allow yo u to be there physically. Imagine you entered a religious order barely before this thing was announced…not only could you not go but the chance you would see it on TV at that point would be slim.
    Second, being there with the children SAFE is the ideal..
    Your sacrifice is what we need more of today …that sacred marriage and being a mother first is what as,Catholic pilgrims on way to our Heavenly journey are called to do. ..
    Trust that as you watch with your family, I am here fulfilling my vocation, offering illness for the success of this journey by the pope and joining you and yours as pilgrims together, we watch together… JM+J

    1. Thank you for your comment and your reminder that my vocation is what is most important. Sacrifice sure can be hard but I know in the end it is always worth it! Prayers for you as you suffer with your illness <3

  3. St. Francis de Sales is one of my favorite saints. I would say a common thread in his writing is striving for what you want and what you discern as God’s will but then resting calmly in what is God’s real will. So easy to read and much harder to practice! I’ll be staying at home too.

    1. It is much more difficult to put into action, isn’t it? Thank you for your comment. I am really striving to make sure I rest calmly in God’s will. Even though I fail at times I know He is understanding!

  4. This is a timely reminder — God’s plans win! Thanks for writing it, and know that I’ll pray for you to enjoy the festivities via media, and join you in gratitude for all the friends and family who are making the trek.

  5. Perfection, Michelle! Thank you for sharing your sorrowful heart and then your blessed assurance!

  6. Sorry that you can not be here with us and I will bring your intentions to adoration here. I am from the suburbs so it is a train ride away for me and I can’t imagine not to be there. Its even sadder that you (and others) wish so much to be at the WMOF when most of the Catholics I know are not taking part not for any reason except lack of interest. Even if the cost was too much, there is still a great need for volunteers with slots empty. Local people could have signed up to be volunteers for no cost except transportation to get to the city. Looking at the program for the Youth Congress, I am so excited with the presenters and programs they have and to be helping the youth. Don’t get me wrong-I know people from my parish that are attending the Congress and/or volunteering. But it is the same 6% that Matthew Kelly talks about. I hope the explosion of joy and prayer that comes from the WMOF will touch all of our city and country.

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