What a weekend!
I'm finally back from a fantastic weekend. I drove into Peoria on Friday night. Not much happened then, as I was pretty exhausted from two days of road-tripping, so we went to the hotel and crashed pretty early.
Saturday, I went to the Catholic Men of Faith rally in Peoria - which was a gathering of men from throughout the diocese. There were a couple of talks at the gathering point, and then we marched to the Cathedral for Mass with Bishop Jenky. I went alone, but I ran into some friends there, including (for those of you who may know them) Mark Stein, Jeremy Jones, and Father Vince Peters. I gotta say, it wasn't exactly overwhelming to be there, but it was a very good event. There was no deeply moving part, but you just knew that it was right for so many men to be gathered together in the name of Christ.
The bishop was greeting us in the vestibule upon arrival, which I thought was neat. The Cathedral was filled to overflowing, so I was helping some guys set up folding chairs for the overflow. As we were doing this, a guy come up to me and whispers, "I have a picture of you greeting the bishop, [mumble, mumble, mumble]." Well, I didn't really get his point, and he seemed a little strange to me, and what I thought he was trying to say was that he had an image in his mind of me greeting the bishop, and I was kinda freaked out. I guess if I had seen his camera, I would have realized what he was getting at. Plus, whatever he had mumbled, I don't think it had anything to do with what he actually wanted from me. Fortunately, it turns out that all he was saying was that he wanted my name so he could print it if they used the picture. So, if you're in the Peoria area, I'm on the first page of yesterday's local news section, kissing the bishop's ring.
By the way, if any of you wanted to make it, but couldn't, I have some extra St. Joseph's medallions which the bishop blessed and handed out. I must say, they're pretty cool - much better than the standard medals they usually give you to wear around your neck. These are between quarter and half-dollar size and a bit thicker and you can carry it in your pocket. If you'd like one, please email me and I'll hook you up.
The big day of the weekend was Saturday. My youngest sibling-in-law had his First Communion. It was very special for many reasons. First, Max is such a sweet little boy. Anybody who knows can imagine how special a day this was for my family. Second, the Mass was held at St. Peter's, where Jenny and I got married, and it was great to be back there with her almost 8 months pregnant. Third, the parishioners at St. Peter's are amazing. It is an incredibly family-friendly parish. There are many large, joyful families there, and the parish itself is like one big family. I know that phrase is used a lot, but I've never encountered a parish where that was more true than this one. There was a reception afterwards with a full breakfast. Each First Communicant, as well as young people who had just been Confirmed on Thursday, had a a gift from the parish and each child also had a pile of cards and gifts from parishioners. It was so special, and it wasn't just because everybody knows each other. A big part of it is that it seemed like everybody knew how special the Sacrament was. They are a very well catechized parish, and you could sense in the Liturgy and in the celebration afterwards that there was true joy that these little ones had just received Our Lord in the Eucharist for the first time. It was the same feeling I had at the rehearsal dinner we had before our wedding in the same hall thrown by the same people of the parish.
Later in the day, my mom and sister came in from Chicago, and they got to meet J's sister as well. It was a very nice visit, As the day went on, there were more visitors, including the priest who said our wedding and some other family friends.
It was such a great family-filled weekend! So many people are so happy for J and I and there was so much celebration going on: welcoming Sr. Mary Louise home, the Confirmation on Thursday, the first Communion on Sunday. I had the thought so often throughout the weekend that it is so wonderful to be Catholic. There are so many opportunitites for joy that come from the Sacraments and from our vocations. Additionally, meeting Jenny's sister was like meeting another part of Jenny that I hadn't come across yet.
Best quote of the weekend:
"YOU USED YOUR FIRST COMMMUNION MONEY AND BOUGHT A GUN AND SHOT YOUR MOTHER?!"
I'd write more, but I have a softball game in 30 minutes.