Actually, as I write this, it is evening here in Rome, but time has been a funny barrier for us pilgrims today, so I will stick with Minnesota time.
My name is Sara Kohl, and my home parish is Divine Mercy in Faribault. However, I currently live in St. Paul and attend various churches there until I can stay put in one place, a common experience for young adults.
It has been such a joyous few days for me, making it hard to believe we have officially reached the downward slope of our 10-day pilgrimage. Day six, however, was met with an uphill battle from the earliest hour, which for most of us was before 6 a.m. Surprisingly, it has not just been papal blessings and endless gelato.
Due to various events, 27 pilgrims arrived in five different groups to St. John Lateran for an ad limina Mass with the bishops of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. I arrived in the last group in part because of a previous public transport experience and a tendency toward “pack mentality.”
Our delay did not hinder the beauty of St. John Lateran, which is lined with 10-foot Boromini statues of the apostles and boasts a tremendous amount of marble. However, what really caught my attention was the a cappella singing and reverence from the group, even though most of us were still disheveled when we walked through the Cathedral doors.
The trials of the morning blended seamlessly into the joy this pilgrimage is bringing each of us. However, anyone who has traveled in a large group knows there is a moment when nothing goes right and chaos lurks around the corner, causing a heightened awareness of how human each of us are.
We had reached this moment. We went to Mass. Then, we missed our train.
While this could have been a cause of major frustration after our early hour in rising and disjointed arrival to the Mass, the group’s disposition was hopeful and trusting, which was not surprising to me simply because of the character each member had already displayed throughout our time in Rome.
Our group is made up of individuals with humble confidence, that is, those who know who they are and who God is and thus give themselves in charity; people who are fully alive. We laugh together, mix into different groups without a second thought, and choose to spend much of our free time together. We are not a summer-camp-cabin of best friends, but I know that I continuously enjoy every persons’ company because of the authenticity in which they live out their own identity and uniqueness.
These encounters encourage me to return home to our archdiocese because they are reminding me what it means to be a part of the universal Church: not to blend and conform to one another, but rather to boldly be who we are created to be while encouraging others to do the same.
Our joy continued as we spent the afternoon in Castel Gondolfo, a breathtaking town that is home to the pope’s summer palace, the papal gardens, and one of two Vatican observatories. The group was in awe of the sights and knowledge that our tour leader Father David Brown extended to us, especially seeing the telescopes and walking around the outside walls of the gardens. Father Brown himself was an example of what it means to truly live out the call to fullness and holiness in every aspect of our lives, bringing even more meaning to the day for me as it connected my experience with the other pilgrims.
Please continue to pray for us! Also know that we are so encouraged and grateful to be abounding in the grace that we will need to bring this experience into our own parishes and dioceses.
Divine Mercy, Faribault
(Editor’s note: Sara is among young adults blogging their experiences for The Catholic Spirit while in Rome. Find additional posts and stories in our Ad Limina Blog special section.)