I’ve been wanting to write for a long time. I’ve had a journal for as long as I can remember. My mom still has my notebooks and journals from high school in a cardboard box in her house. It’s the only way I’ve ever been able to fully articulate everything that’s occurring upstairs, aka my brain. After writing I feel clear, grounded, and ready to move forward and take action. I took a lot of time off from writing, like 17 years’ time off to be exact. Coincidentally the last 17 years have been the years of going to college, building my career, getting married, having a family, buying a house, and so on and so forth. In these past 17 years I’ve written a ton- in my work notebooks. I’ve written down goals, initiatives, feedback I’ve been given, feedback I need to give, to-do lists, and so on and so on. In the past two months I’ve rediscovered my love of writing and journaling and I can say that it’s changed how I am showing up for my friends, my family, and my team at work. I’m getting it out. My thought process is no longer constipated, for lack of better words.
I’ve felt touched, moved, and inspired at many moments in my life: the day my grandfather was inducted into the Roman Catholic High school Hall of Fame, the day my Dad slid into first base at my high school softball practice, the day my nephew graduated high school and headed across the country to attend college in California, the day that Anna Wintour and Calvin Klein spoke at my college graduation, the days directly following 911living in New York City, the day my oldest daughter got on her first bus to Kindergarten, the list goes on.
Today was a big one for me. I saw the Pope, in person, in the city I grew up with and love. Note I said the city I grew up with, I grew up 15 miles north of Philadelphia. I don’t claim to be from Philly but it is where I get my grit, my passion, my love for the Phils, and my weakness for soft pretzels. While I didn’t grow up in the city it still feels like home. And today I experienced it in a way that I never have before.
I was raised Catholic. I come from a Catholic conservative family, for the most part. I went to Catholic school 1st grade through Senior year of high school, I went to church every Sunday- 10:30 mass was my family’s jam. It was tradition, it was community, and it was my foundation. It wasn’t until today that it all made sense to me why my parents insisted we go to church together as a family every week. My parents made the decision to raise me as a Catholic; I had no choice in the matter. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I assumed my freedom to choose. I rebelled and stopped going to church every Sunday. I didn’t have a good reason why- I simply just didn’t make the effort.
Slowly but surely since getting married, having a family of my own, and finding a consistent yoga and meditation practice, I’ve started to get curious about my faith- past and present. In the past three years I’ve attended numerous educational trainings centered around forgiveness, of myself and others. I’ve adopted a lifestyle of self-love and not feeling guilty about it, knowing that when I take good care of myself, physically and mentally, I am able to take good care of those around me. I’ve also noticed a refreshing message from the homilies that I was hearing at church. It was a message of inclusivity and non-judgment. This message may have always been there but I didn’t hear it like I’m hearing it now. I used to judge others, because I judged myself. I’m still working on me, and will be for the rest of my time on this earth.
We’ve known that the Pope was coming to Philly for a long time. Admittedly, my husband and I got caught up in the mass hysteria around “popageddan” and thought about leaving town for the weekend to escape the crowds and jammed traffic, even out in the burbs where we live. It was mid week last week when my husband said to me, “how do we not go see the Pope in our hometown?” I needed to hear this. Immediately I replied, “yes, let’s do it. How do we get tickets?” to which he replied, “uh, Jill, there aren’t any.” I said, “WHAT? No way, the news keeps talking about how everyone got scared away, there’s hundreds of thousands of tickets left.” “Nope,” was all he replied. Ok great, well that solves that- we can’t go. Problem solved. Catholic guilt washed away by unchangeable circumstances.
We spent all day Saturday doing things around the house that we’ve been wanting to do for so long, and the Pope coverage was on in the living room the entire day. We both found ourselves stopping every so often to watch what was happening in our city, the throngs of people gathered together, and this Pope that couldn’t stop captivating crowds, and kissing babies;). We put the girls to bed, snuggled up with a bottle of wine, and watched the entire evening of Pope coverage, hosted nonetheless by one of many celebrity crushes: Mark Wahlberg. We decided we should try to go down there the next day. We didn’t need tickets but we needed to be a part of the magic that was happening 15miles away from us.
This morning we got up, went downstairs with the girls to have breakfast and Eddie says to me, “we gotta make a decision, now. It’s gonna be a pain in the ass, we have to drive, there might not be anywhere close to park, and we will have two kids with us.” My eyes lit up, ”sounds like an adventure,’ I said. And that was that. Two hours to do all the Sunday stuff, departure was 11am. Eddie ran out to the grocery store while I worked quickly to do Sunday chores and get little girls bathed and dressed. An hour later he came home, with 2 papal mass tickets in tow. #youtheman
We made it down there, easily, and parked 1 mile away from the Parkway. We got a great spot, laid out our blanket and met up with cousins. We saw the Pope from 20 feet away and my 6 year will never forget it. We attended mass with 999,999 members of our Community. It was incredible. The Pope’s message is centered around love, family, acceptance, and happiness. Regardless of what religion or denomination one connects themselves to, these 4 values cannot be devalued. What the Pope spoke to this weekend was what I’ve been exposed to all along, it’s always been my personal faith, and it just took me 35 years and a day with my family on the Parkway to connect some serious dots.
Love. Family. Acceptance. Happiness. Touched, moved, inspired.
Thank you, Pope Francis, for blessing this country and my hometown with your lightness, authenticity, wit, and love. Thank you for inspiring me to share myself with others through my writing and to put myself out there. This is one day that I will never forget.