The Pilgrimage
1. The Conference Bubble
2. Resuscitation
3. Barter
4. Capacity

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?"

"Fine, mom."

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 event's location.

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 at noon.

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 spirit.

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 the Church.

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