I know that my local friends are DYING to know what happened on my recent trip to Cleveland (very little of which actually took place in Cleveland!), so maybe it's time to finally get started. The photos are (mostly) uploaded on my end, emails have gone back and forth, and I already miss my friends. But life must go on...which is good, otherwise I'd never have time to write about it! And I have to say that if it were not for Fr. V., I would not have been there; he's the one who invited me, connected me with CK (my hostess and now great friend) he's the one who set it all up for all of us. You should all know that he really sacrificed to make this weekend happen and I can speak for ALL of us when I say we are all grateful and appreciate the work he has done in spite of everything else going on in his life. And because of him, I have a whole bunch of new friendships (all of whom I hope to see again, in Minnesota or elsewhere!). So...thanks, Fr. V.! And also special thanks to my other dear friend and hostess, CK!
DISCLAIMER/ PSA: I do NOT advocate flying across the country to meet people you have never met! Although that's what I did, there was email and blog contact with these people before I met them, I know they were who they claimed to be (no doubt at all - verifiable info), and truly, it was more like attending a Catholic conference than some random connection. There was discernment involved in this trip so that when I left, I was not worried about my safety. Other than a potential plane crash. The plane(s) didn't crash. All was well.
BACK TO THE STORY...
I was nervous. I have written that I was a VERY shy child, and somewhere over Michigan's Lower Peninsula, I realized that although I FELT like I knew these people, I'd not met a single one. Although we'd spoken on the phone...they're not real friends until we meet! I realized I am insane (as though THAT were any epiphany), and that I was going, and that the person meeting me at the airport was likely nervous, too. After all...CK was not only meeting me at the airport, she was to be my hostess! What if we didn't get along? (Yes, unimagineable, but still possible!)
I got my baggage and didn't see anyone apparently looking for someone, so I opened one of the pockets of my luggage, beginning to organize a couple things. And that's when it happened...my nail caught...and snapped - right across the center of my right index finger. And it was bleeding. Painfully. Great. It figures. I realized immediately what that meant...I'd be using my hostesse's bandaids. * sigh*
CK (a guest blogger on Adam's Ale) arrived shortly after the traumatic encounter with my luggage pocket and we headed off to the Akron Zoo...um...I mean...St. Sebastian's. Father Schnippel was arriving that afternoon, too, and called me en-route. Being that I wasn't local and wanted to give him some kind of ETA, I looked around for a sign of our location.
"We just passed a sign that says '55 MPH' Does that help?"
It didn't. I confess I was very nervous. Although I've long overcome my shyness, I think there's still a shadow of it that plagues me, and in reality, who WOULDN'T be nervous at meeting a lot of people for the first time in person?
But the good Fathers were gracious and did not make us walk to the entrance to the zoo...uh...I mean, the door to the rectory, but rather, came out to greet us out front before welcoming us in. And then we got the GRANDE TOUR of St. Sebastian's, to include the rectory, church, school, old convent, and grounds. It was BEAUTIFUL, and as CK had told me, "Oooh La LA!" And, to be sure, Father V. looked very proud of his new home and I can tell you already that he's a wonderful pastor to his new flock.
Unfortunately that evening he had duties pertaining to his state, and so Fr. Schnippel, CK, and I headed out to Luigi's for dinner, and then back to the rectory for a screening of "Bella", which, amazingly, did not make me cry. I think my only excuse was that there was so much coming at me this weekend that I maybe wasn't yet "myself." (It was an AWESOME movie, and actually, I got teary-eyed a couple times...ESPECIALLY in the abortion-clinic scene. And I think had I started, I might have kept going...)
A cool thing, though, that I HAVE to mention; before we headed out to dinner, Fr. V., Fr. S., CK, and I prayed evening prayer in the beautiful Church, and it was only the second time I've prayed Liturgy of the Hours with others (the first was with the Sisters last spring).
Well, CK and I drove back to Cleveland area to sleep, with the plans to meet the Fathers and LM at the Lourdes Shrine in Euclid the next day. For those who aren't aware, the shrine is especially dear to LM's heart for she will be joining the Sisters there next May. It was a blessed tour around the shrine, and ended in the chapel where Fr. V., Fr. S., LM, CK and I prayed Daytime prayer and a rosary in the chapel. We sang my favorite hymn (badly... * sigh * ) as we left. I send my apologies to Jesus and St. Thomas Aquinas. (Fathers..I TOLD you I can't sing anymore...good thing I'm not a cantor.)
That evening, we went to LM's house where we met her parents, Fr. Schnippel blessed the beer, as promised, in Latin no less! As we all stood around chatting and joking and drinking blessed beer, Uncle Jim and Aunt Roz arrived from Indiana, and I have to say...I felt like I was at a family reunion! After all we had Father(s), a Sister (to be), an Aunt, and Uncle and other people who FELT like long-lost relatives! We closed the evening with a special screening of "The Princess Bride" which was nearly quoted line-by-line by your favorte nerds: me, LM, Fr. V., and Fr. S. Uncle Jim was grinning ear-to-ear, not at the movie, but at OUR antics! And even though I've seen the movie many times, I'll still never watch it the same way again!
Saturday was another busy day; we met up at the Vatican Splendors exhibit, the main premise for my trip (even though it's coming to St. Paul), where I FINALLY got to meet commenter MJ, her son and his friend, and another commenter, Sylvana, from Fr. V.'s blog. The exhibit was WONDERFUL and there were a few moments where I was stopped in my tracks, the most prominent of which took place at a splendid ciborium and chalice. I stared at them, enclosed in a plexiglass case, realizing what they have contained, and in that moment thought, "Oh, Lord, I BELIEVE!" And there was no doubt in my mind. None.
Although there was an audio tour, for the most part I turned it off in favor of listening to Fr. S. as he provided many details about the various items in the exhibit. So, for those of you here in the Twin Cities...when it comes to St. Paul....GO! Who knows? I may go again! (Fr. V., Fr. S., LM, CK, MJ, Uncle Jim, Aunt Roz....wanna come to MN?)
After the museum, we headed to Little Italy for lunch, and then down to St. Sebastian's for Mass with Fr. V. CK and I stopped at her house quickly to grab a salad she'd made for that evening's dinner at the rectory, and then drove the 45 minutes to Akron, where we arrived just in time for Mass! And it was beautiful, and it was amazing to be present there at St. Sebastian's with the famous Fr. V. presiding.
For those of you who haven't seen the church...the photos can't do it justice. Fr. V. is an artist and so has an amazing eye for beautiful images, but there is no technology on earth that can truly engage in participation with divine designs created by human hands. The mosaic in the front is enormous..you can't IMAGINE the scale and truly, I couldn't keep my eyes off of it! I was constantly seeing something new! Same for the stained glass windows and the various things, such as the altars and statues in the church. I truly wish I could have spent an hour by myself alone in the church, just wandering around, praying, and soaking in the beauty.
And holiness...I need a HUGE dose of holiness....
Oh, sorry, did I get off track?
After Mass, CK, LM, LM's parents, Uncle Jim, Aunt Roz, MJ and I went with the Fathers to the rectory to socialize and have dinner. And a special treat; Fr. V's sister Mikki (who is just a DOLL) and a friend of his and her family joined us. It was yet another evening of much laughter, good food, good wine, and amazing friendship. Maybe I can't speak for everyone, but it was as if we'd all been good friends for YEARS! And again, it felt more like family. (Or maybe I just need to attend one of my own family reunions for once? Hmmmmm....)
Sunday most of us traipsed down to Akron again for Mass with Father Schnippel, which, again, was just incredible, and left a certain hilarity. Father, always the Vocations Director, worked to recruit the altar servers. One of them gave the ENTIRE CHURCH the "deer-in-the-headlights" look and sat perfectly straight, apparently convinced that Father was going to immediately drag him off to the seminary to the great amusement of us all. (Seriously...poor kid! But his expression was CLASSIC!)
Fr. S., LM, Uncle Jim, Aunt Roz, CK and I all went out to eat after Mass, and then saw our dear Aunt and Uncle off as they headed back to Indiana. The rest of us returned to Akron and St. Sebastian's. Fr. V. was not available that day, so we headed to an art show, where we worked up such a thirst in the summer afternoon sun that it was necessary to hydrate at Beer O'Clock! (That wasn't the place..it was the time...)
We returned to the Akron Zoo...um...rectory and went downstairs to hang out in the cool undergroundness that is specific to finished basements especially those with furniture ripe to make a FORTUNE on Ebay. Fr. V. returned from his life, as exhausted as the rest of us (and probably even more so). We weren't ready for dinner, all of us agreed "hanging out" was just fine, so after some languid afternoon conversation, we headed up to play a game of Bocci (what is that in Slavic?) behind the church.
Father Schnippel...did you and I win? I think we scored the winning points with our joint effort didn't we?
Then Fr. V. got the bright idea that we should explore St Sebastian's bell tower which, we were to learn, meant we had to pass through a hobbit door and then climb 6 rusty ladders from hell bolted to the walls. And don't even TALK to me about the spiders I KNOW were there! As Fr. V. noted, it took me awhile to battle my own stupid anxiety before I finally just DECIDED to climb. One thing Fr. V. didn't know, though...one of the reasons coming back down is so hard is, well, climbing down is always the most difficult, but I once fell through a hole just like those that were in the tower. It was NOT a pleasant experience. I gotta say, though, had I not climbed the tower to join the good Fathers at the top, I would have regretted it. And the view WAS as beautiful as Fr. V. says it is!
After the tour of the bell tower, after which we STILL forgot to ask to see Fr. V's supremely cool chalice, we returned to the basement for a lively game of trivia, thanks to my gracious hostess, CK. (What was the actual name of that game?) It was electronic and we played by a couple different rules. I'm ashamed to say that a couple times I got carried away and helped the other team (how embarassing!) and once realized the obvious answer when the time was done, and a couple times had "blonde" moments...but so did EVERYONE ELSE!
I'm going to spare everyone the embarassment of their own moments, especially considering that those of us who were there are the only ones who will think it funny.
Although, I have to say this: while I waited at the gate in Cleveland yesterday afternoon, on the loudspeaker they paged some guy named "Jeremiah". And in my head began the tune, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog..." yet my ADD brain substituted simultaneously, "PROPHET!"
And I'm STILL trying to find the similarities between Cashmere and Leather.
And for the life of me, I can't figure out how someone has never heard of "Fraggle Rock". Or the "No Spin Zone".
All in all, it was an incredible weekend with incredible friends, ones I hope to see again, and I'm still concocting plans to get back to Ohio...and Indiana. And come to think of it, I have a cousin in Lexington...maybe I can get there by way of Cincinnati....
Personally, I'm only disappointed in one thing. I figured, flying into Cleveland, that I'd be met at the gate by Drew Carey and his tribe, handed a couple of microbrews, and heckled all the way to the baggage claim.
But, that failure of Ohio etiquette notwithstanding, Cleveland DOES rock!
What do you think...will Ohio have me back?