Travel Portrait #36
The Pilgrimage: Resuscitation
Monday, January 28, 2013
"Hey, how's she doing? Is she alright?"
"Wha, wha--what do you want, mom," he huffed,
disapproving of her line of greeting.
"She did it," she exclaimed!
"She did what, mom?!"
"Katherine Drexel is going to be canonized a
saint!" His mother sounded as if she was a game
show contestant who won big money with a last second
correct answer guess.
"Wow," he signed.
His mother had been in the doldrums ever since her
husband (his father) passed away due to dementia complications.
Not only did his father's intellect wither, so did
his body emaciate. His teeth had rotted and were extracted.
He, paranoid that he might have to assume spousal
responsibility and take on his mother's wrath, declined
to go to the hospice during the final days, not wanting
to mar the impression he had of his father before
the downturn; however, his mother called and provided
an update weekly after visiting her beloved on Sundays.
"I'm going to Rome for the canonization, which
will be in the fall. I want the two of you to come
along. I told your sisters, too, and the girls (his
nieces). I will pay for all of you to accompany me.
I'm using my extra money that I set aside for retirement
because I know your budget is a bit tight right now--for
all of you. How is she?"
His mother was a board member of the social committee
to help coordinate local events leading up to Katherine
Drexel's beatification, and then, onward. She served
as one of the hosts at events held at the convent
(St. Elizabeth's) as well as entertain guests in her
home when asked by one of the nun coordinators from
the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS). Her potato
salad and cakes were quite the favorite, which she
happily prepared over the years, regardless of an
His mother was very attached to the convent and the
Sisters, ever since her parents passed away. She was
taken to the nunnery by her grandparents who worked
there as well as raised their children there. Her
grandfather was a driver for Katherine Drexel; her
grandmother worked as a laundry steamstress.
Her grandmother maintained a cordial relationship
with Drexel during her four decades of employment,
a religious formality that continued into their later
years. His mother attended grade/high school at Holy
Providence, which were on the grounds. Then left as
a scholarship student to attend Mount St. George college,
only to return home to continue her education, and
stay close to the nuns, though never prepped to become
a nun. When the convent's charter was reevaluated,
some of her school instructors remained. Those who
remained assisted community parishes. His mother visited
her nuns as if they were neighbors, and served
honor guard in the crypt--Drexel's shrine. His mother
had seen the tradition throughout the years, and was
ecstatic that she was going to Rome and celebrate
the day of St. Katherine.
He, on the other hand, did not have the same enthusiasm.
He was glad that his mother had fought her depression
with the assistance from the nuns' prayers and encouragement
to participate in their daily lives at the convent,
and now to bear witness of their answered prayers,
but he had plans already to chair a workshop in Norway.
His vacation time was limited as he noted to himself
while his mother outlined the proposed itinerary and
package deal specialized for the SBS Group. His wife
said she was fine with him going to the conference,
but she was going to take her mother-in-law's offer
to Rome for the canonization, looking at him disapprovingly.
"Mom, I have to go."
"Where are you going? How is she doing?"
"Fine. I'll let you know."
"You'll let me know what?"
"About the canonization!"
"Oh, well, I'm going. The rest of the family--and
your wife is going, not to mention.... So you
can go about your business!"
"I'll talk to you later, mom."
"Not too much later. The travel answer
[agent] needs a final count!"
Such went the conversation for the next nine days
whenever his mother spoke with him when he was at
home and at the office.
Having grown up in a integrated neighborhood in every
aspect, his public schooling, all the way up to the
ninth grade, had been nondenominational. He received
his First Holy Communion and was Confirmed at the
proper ages, learning about his religion on Sundays
before Mass. Yet, he never had any pressures to practice
the Faith by his modern-day parents. The only times
the family went to church together were on rites of
passage, holidays, and funerals. Also, on the rare
occasion, they attended mass together when everyone
was running late and had to catch the last service
As a child, he frequently went to the convent with
his mother and hung out with the nuns who enjoyed
'raising kids', while his mother met with a stricter
set from whom he hid. Two nuns (twins) took particular
interest in watching over him. They became a part
of the family, and visited the house during the summer.
Once he was in ninth grade, he finished at a Catholic
Preparatory School and did not visit the nuns very
often. Not long after, they were transferred to Arizona
(by no certain consequence). If the twins were in
town for the summer, they would pay a visit, else
they would call now and then when the opportunity
presented itself. "A fine young man," he
was reminded of being whenever they reminisced, wondering
if he could remember his childhood at the convent.
They spoke of their immaterial love, and encouraged
him to be grateful for Mother Katherine's blessed
He expected a phone call from the twin nuns, beseeching
him to travel to Rome, if only to take care of his
mother. When they did phone, they interjected that
they would be unable to attend and asked him if he
would be so kind to share his experience at St. Peter's
Square with them. They gave him a type of phenomenological
lecture about free will and God's Will, and how extraordinary
events, such as the canonization, have the ability
to make factual and mystical history--an experience
worth having. The nuns encouraged him to acknowledge
the role Katherine Drexel played in his family's life.
"Despite your beliefs," they entreated,
"all you have to do is show up--and if you want,
pay a little homage, for us." They said a prayer,
then let him be.
He tapped his fingers on the table, thinking back
to a high school ethics class discussing whether or
not conscientious objection was a sin, or merely a
provocation. If after the conference his work was
not an immediate success, there would be no manner
to which he could justify his absence from the canonization:
for a project he was working on for over ten years--get
out! The haranguing would never cease beyond his
grave. He considered his options. Believing his essays
were relevant in the present and would be, by fate,
in the future, he decided to challenge his faith--that
his literary works would pass the test of time and
find an audience. With such humble hubris, he sent
an email to the conference organizer and the professors
who had sent him an abstract, informing them that
he had to withdraw due to an important family matter.
He found solace in the situation; finally he could
use divine intervention as an excuse for slacking
off on his perceived scholarly endeavors.
On the televised news, there were reports from papal
watchers who claimed that John Paul was expediting
several canonizations in the hopes of resuscitating