Belonging by Springtide Research Initiative

This is a small, but impactful book. It’s really just a research study on young people’s perceptions of where they belong in the world. They answer that “where” question most often with “who” they belong to. The number one factor in reduced loneliness, stress, and anxiety is the number of trusted adults a young person has in their life.

I found the 70 pages to be quite convicting and think this is required reading for all youth ministers, pastors, and parents. Many people will say the reason young people have more loneliness, stress, and anxiety is because of social media. While that’s a factor, I don’t think it’s for the same reasons most people say. It’s because we’re all addicted to social media and our phones. Adults aren’t connecting with others either because life is “just so busy” we need to “get things done on our phone all the time” rather than connecting with those around us – including, and especially, our kids.

When we opt out of being the trusted adult in a young person’s life, we contribute to the problem in our culture. The study doesn’t just showcase the problem; it proposes a solution. Be a trusted adult for a young person by fostering a trusted, belonging relationship. How? Meet these three needs: feeling noticed, feeling named, and feeling known.

As I read through this, I could see myself in the statistics even as an adult. Do I feel like I belong at a place where no one even seems to notice that I’m there? I’m starting at a new parish this month, and my first Sunday at Mass was last weekend. Did anyone say hello to me? No. Did someone make eye contact with me? No. Did anyone know my name? No.

These “relationship rules” aren’t just for young people (ages 13-25 from the study), they’re for people. The issues and concerns are exacerbated with young people right now, but they aren’t unique to them.


Daily Faith: Scripture

daily faith scripture

Later this month I’m going to do a youth ministry night for our teens on Having a Daily Faith. It’s going to be all about the habits we need to create related to our faith life, that holiness doesn’t happen by accident, and we need to be intentional about what we do. So I’m going to blog about some of the daily faith things I do to keep my faith the center of my life, instead of letting it hang out in the fringes of my week.

My intention of sharing is to show you how one person lives out this life and hopefully inspire you. It is not to boast, to say you have to do these things to be a good Catholic, or even to judge you for how you live. I hope you’ll enjoy walking on this journey with me.

For many years I’ve been doing the other things I’ve talked about here and known I should be reading the Scriptures more. So for Lent about 3 or 4 years ago I decided to start on a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan. I read every evening according to this plan from that Meg posted. It took me a little more than a year to complete with travel and forgetting my Bible at home but I did finish before the next year’s Easter. Then I promptly stopped reading the Scriptures. I didn’t even prepare for the upcoming Sunday Mass readings, not that I was doing that before I started the plan.

A few things happened in the past year. A friend told me about a ministry she and a few other youth ministers started called Carpe Verbum that I subscribed to and started reading. Each day there’s a Lectio Divina reflection on the readings of the day. You may have noticed that I write for them too and post it on my blog that same day, just the reflection portion. I have also recently taken on a larger role in the ministry by preparing one of the posts each week. This along with the daily Blessed is She email and reflection have become part of my morning routine. Although I don’t read the readings, I do reflect before I go to Mass and hear them [still not scripture reading, I know].

For Lent I decided my “prayer” thing would be 15 minutes of Scripture reading and silent prayer before bed. This is when I really got started. When I was trying to determine what to read, I pulled out my new Catholic Journaling Bible and just started with the chapter and verse that they have popped out and written very beautifully (like in the image at the header of this post). I would read that, reflect, and have silent time.

I didn’t think this would be a game changer or anything dramatic for my prayer life. It really has though. It’s given me 15 minutes of time to set aside in prayer that’s not scripted or wrote every evening. The words haven’t been formed by someone else (not that those are bad prayers, I do them all of the time!), but it’s just me, the Lord, and His Word. One week I reflected on the same psalm every evening, trying to bring it into the reality of my heart. On Easter I began the Gospel of Luke and then Acts of the Apostles as my reading. After the Ascension I started the book of Ephesians.

I find that one chapter, or one book, is better for me though. So I reflect and pray, rather than read it like a novel or a book. Reading 5 chapters of the Gospel isn’t really what I’m looking to do each evening. More like reading a passage, reflecting on it, and praying through it to apply it to my daily life. It’s not easy to do – and even a few months in I have to confess I set a timer. Otherwise I’d pray for like 4 minutes and call it done but I want to be committed to more time.

Last Week’s Daily Faith Topic: Spiritual Reading

Daily Faith: Spiritual Reading

daily faith spiritual reading

Later this month I’m going to do a youth ministry night for our teens on Having a Daily Faith. It’s going to be all about the habits we need to create related to our faith life, that holiness doesn’t happen by accident, and we need to be intentional about what we do. So I’m going to blog about some of the daily faith things I do to keep my faith the center of my life, instead of letting it hang out in the fringes of my week.

My intention of sharing is to show you how one person lives out this life and hopefully inspire you. It is not to boast, to say you have to do these things to be a good Catholic, or even to judge you for how you live. I hope you’ll enjoy walking on this journey with me.

After many years of doing just those basics: Mass, Morning & Evening Prayer Time, and the Rosary – I decided I needed something more. Okay, that’s not exactly true. A priest I went to for Confession decided I needed something more. He told me I needed 15 minutes of extra prayer time each day, something I could do by going to Mass early. He probably intended that to be silent prayer – but that’s not really how I interpreted it and made it part of my life.

I decided to do some spiritual reading, and in the 15 minutes before daily Mass. I’d leave my house at about 5 to 12 instead of 12:10 so I’d have time. I started with The Noon-Day Devil, a book I’d purchased about 5 minutes after leaving that confession experience when he told me I should try to battle the bad habit of acedia. What is acedia, you ask? Well, it’s commonly known now as sloth, but really a terrible vice where we allow the devil to let us think we’re doing enough, we aren’t ever going to be enough, and that God isn’t enough for us. Sounds like the little issue I have with the word enough already.

Basically sitting in complacency and even worse, not desiring good and holy things any longer. It’s one of the reasons I started this whole year and quest to become perfectly myself. Setting myself on track with good, holy habits rather than mind-sucking terrible habits (ie: laziness and binge watching tv). So spiritual reading it was. Filling my mind with good and holy things. After that book I read Little Sins Mean a LotJesus: The Story You Thought You KnewThe Extraordinary Parents of St. ThereseHow God Hauled Me Kicking and Screaming into the Catholic ChurchYou Can Share the FaithAll the Pope’s SaintsTuned InStrange GodsGod ListensA Second Look, and The Miracle and the Message. These all have super long subtitles, FYI when you look them up to read. Also most of them are published by my employer. I get them all in the mail for free every month! Right now I’m reading Stunned by Scripture.

For these books I keep them in my purse and always take my purse into Mass with me. This way if I have time to read, great – if not, no big deal. I then always have a book with me to read and never say “man, I forgot it.” I also do not read these via Kindle or some other app. Reading or praying (even spiritual things) on my phone is not healthy for me at Mass. I get easily distracted. I just turn my phone on Do Not Disturb or silent during Mass and leave it in my bag. [I’d leave it in the car, but here in the south your car is more of a sauna than safe place for keeping electronics for more months than it isn’t.]

Keeping the stories of the saints, wisdom from holy people, and just great spiritual things in my mind each day has really helped me stay closer to the Lord. We all need spiritual reading of some sort because we need great holy wisdom in our lives. The stories of someone who’s lived through it and is here to tell the story. It helps when we can learn from other people, take those things that worked for them, and apply it to our lives. We cannot live the life of a Christian alone, we were never meant to do so. We were meant to go out together, learn from one another, and lean upon one another.

A few weeks ago a few friends and I went to hear Jennifer Fulwiler speak when she was in Charlotte. She was talking about what we need to pursue our dreams, and one of those things was a “village.” We were not designed to be alone in this world, and we need to build out our villages. One of the ways I do this is through spiritual reading. My “village” is made up of these spiritual powerhouses who keep me grounded, inspired, and on the right path.

Last Week’s Daily Faith Topic: Rosary

Next Week’s Daily Faith Topic: Scripture

Daily Faith: Rosary

daily faith rosary

Later this month I’m going to do a youth ministry night for our teens on Having a Daily Faith. It’s going to be all about the habits we need to create related to our faith life, that holiness doesn’t happen by accident, and we need to be intentional about what we do. So I’m going to blog about some of the daily faith things I do to keep my faith the center of my life, instead of letting it hang out in the fringes of my week.

My intention of sharing is to show you how one person lives out this life and hopefully inspire you. It is not to boast, to say you have to do these things to be a good Catholic, or even to judge you for how you live. I hope you’ll enjoy walking on this journey with me.

When I first moved to the Charlotte area, one of the Friday evening speakers at the Eucharistic Congress was Immaculée Ilibagiza. The short take on her story is that she was hidden in a bathroom 3×4 feet with 7 or 9 other woman during the war in Rwanda. The got through it by praying the Rosary every day (17 times in fact) and teaching herself English by reading an English Bible. Of course there was much more to it, but hopefully that’s enough to go learn more about her story in her book Left to Tell.

After that I was inspired to pray the Rosary more. I started with just a decade a day. This was about the same time I made the commitment to pray at my bedside each morning and evening. Then a woman asked me if I wanted to get married and what I was doing about it. She told me I had the pray the Rosary every single day, the whole thing, if I wanted to get married. I think she thought it was a special formula … it’s not, well, it wasn’t for me anyway – 10 years later, still praying the Rosary and still single.

The point wasn’t that it was a magic formula, but that I was entrusting my future to the Blessed Mother and her Son. To change my plan, my heart, my desire into their desire for me. So the Rosary has been off and on (more on than off) part of my daily faith journey. These days though I more often than not pray the Rosary with a handy little app. I listen to it each morning on my phone after my morning prayer before my morning walk … well, during the time it takes me to get ready for that.

I like this version because it’s simple, easy to follow along with, and doesn’t require data or wi-fi (I don’t think). It makes this daily habit easier. It also means I don’t get distracted thinking about something else. The voices bring me back each and every time. I don’t think it’s cheating or wrong to have technology help us in this way. I think that’s why the Lord gives us all of these things.

So why should we pray the Rosary every day? Well, Our Lady of Fatima asked us to, that’s the first reason. Second, we reflect on the mysteries of salvation when we do, following along the ways of the Lord from his Annunciation to His ministry and the Proclamation of the Gospel to His Death and Resurrection to His Glorious Ascension! We walk with Mary, the human being closest to Him through all of this. She continuously brings us back to her Son to glorify Him.

Sometimes I forget why I’m doing it, but I always remember once I start again – I’m doing this to break out of my world and get a small glimpse into His world again. It takes me back to when He was on this earth walking, talking, and being like us in all ways except Sin. My daily Rosary reminds me that Jesus was a human being with a human mother who loves me so much He died on the cross to save me.

Last Week’s Daily Faith Topic: Morning Prayer

Next Week’s Daily Faith Topic: Spiritual Reading

Daily Faith: Morning Prayer

daily faith morning

Later this month I’m going to do a youth ministry night for our teens on Having a Daily Faith. It’s going to be all about the habits we need to create related to our faith life, that holiness doesn’t happen by accident, and we need to be intentional about what we do. So I’m going to blog about some of the daily faith things I do to keep my faith the center of my life, instead of letting it hang out in the fringes of my week.

My intention of sharing is to show you how one person lives out this life and hopefully inspire you. It is not to boast, to say you have to do these things to be a good Catholic, or even to judge you for how you live. I hope you’ll enjoy walking on this journey with me.

I’d like to begin this week by saying that I’m not writing these to say “if you aren’t doing these things you aren’t a good Catholic” or “look at me at all the things I’m doing to pray.” The purpose is to reflect a little on the ‘why’s’ behind what I’m doing for myself and to share what a daily faith life can look like. So many times people don’t even know where to begin. Although I started with Daily Mass, I think that Evening & Morning Prayer time is actually a better place to begin for those of us who want to dive a little deeper.

After I solidified my evening prayer habit over the course of about 5 months, I decided to take on Morning Prayer as my Liturgical New Year’s Resolution for Advent that year. [Yes, I’m a dork and make a Liturgical New Year’s Resolution ever year!] I would get on my knees before anything else each morning to offer my day to the Lord. I started with a simple Morning Offering. The same one we prayed as a school when I went to Catholic Elementary School back in the day. This is the version I pray (and thanks to Catholic All Year for this great graphic):


This was a great starting point for me that has since grown. I’m also part of a Facebook prayer group (even though I quit FB) where we pray 3 Hail Mary’s each day for the intentions of those in the group. So I added those 3 Hail Mary’s. Then over time many other things have become part of these few minutes: the long form of a Marian Consecration renewal, a perpetual Novena to St. Joseph for my future husband, my friend’s spouses, and my godsons, the priests of my life by name (an ever-growing list), a quite daily offering, and a prayer for the men & women I’ve encountered who are homeless.

Why start my day with prayer? Well, I once saw this:


Now that’s not the only reason – but I don’t want the devil to think he’s got the upper hand on me, ever. I want to “punch him in the face and send him back where he belongs, right down to hell.” Beginning my day by offering myself to the Lord, framing my day with Him at the front, and thinking about Jesus before anything else gives me the frame of reference I’m looking for. Beginning with Him, Ending with Him – both intentionally makes me much more likely to keep Him in the middle of my day too.


Last Week’s Daily Faith Topic: Evening Prayer

Next Week’s Daily Faith Topic: Rosary

Daily Faith: Mass

daily faith mass.png

Later this month I’m going to do a youth ministry night for our teens on Having a Daily Faith. It’s going to be all about the habits we need to create related to our faith life, that holiness doesn’t happen by accident, and we need to be intentional about what we do. So I’m going to blog about some of the daily faith things I do to keep my faith the center of my life, instead of letting it hang out in the fringes of my week.

My junior year of high school (just a few years ago, so many I cannot remember), my friends and I decided we would go to morning Mass before School. The options in our home town for daily Mass are pretty varied if you don’t need to get on the bus at 7:15am for your read job – school. So the only option was 6:15am Mass at my parish (there are 3 in town).

So we got up super early and went to Mass before school, trading off driving since none of us had our own cars, and it was sometimes before the sun came up! I’m a morning person once I’m out of bed, but how I got up at 5am every day to go to Mass as a high school student, I’ll never know.

This is when the habit began for me though, when I was 16; half of my life ago, actually.

When I was in college it got a little easier. There was a noon Mass and an evening Mass, if I remember correctly, in our student chapel. There was also the option of attending with the monks early in the morning. At that time in my life, the habit was regular weekday Mass, at least a few times during the week. I didn’t make it every day, but really wanted to, just didn’t rearrange my schedule well enough to make that happen.

One year I became the Monday, Wednesday, Friday daily noon Mass sacristan, so that helped a lot. I also spent many an evening at Vespers with the monks. A friend and I would meet each day, go down for prayer, and then head to dinner. It was quite a lovely time, to be honest. Might be the reason why we’re still friends today actually – and why he’s now a monk.

After college it got harder. I moved home, got a job at the county jail (a story for another day), and was only able to go a few days a week when I was volunteering for our youth ministry program. The time were a little better for me though since I didn’t have to be at school quite so early, and I had my own car!

About a year later, I attended the Life Teen Youth Ministry Conference out in Arizona. The job I got in North Carolina wanted me to go as a part of the training process, and so I flew out for the week with my new boss. I remember distinctly something that Mark Hart said about daily Mass, ministry life, and us. He told us that we can’t give what we don’t have, and also to not walk past the chapel every day at work without going in. I made a commitment that day to attend daily Mass as often as possible while I was doing ministry.

The parish I worked at had Mass at 9am every day, the perfect time before work. It became my habit – Mass then work each morning. I lived really close to the parish so I could even go on my day off. When I got a job at a parish across town, I kept up the habit and even had a noon Mass I could attend instead. Youth Ministers love noon Masses, more time for sleeping!

When I transitioned to being the office manager, I made it part of my day. How could I go to the Church every day for work and not go to Mass? Some people in my office would say “I’ve got too much to do.” I’d reply and say that’s probably why you should be at Mass.

Once I left parish work, I let the busyness of my day take over and missed weekday Mass a lot. I was working from home, setting my own schedule, and still couldn’t take the hour to leave for noon Mass, even when the church was just 6 minutes away. The first Lent I worked at my current company, I decided to attend daily Mass, use these 6 weeks to re-form the habit I desperately needed in my life once again. It worked. I blocked out the hour from noon to 1 on my calendar with a recurring meeting. Nothing could get scheduled there if something was already scheduled!

I’ve been doing that for two years now – blocking out my calendar, making it a priority. Assuring myself that the busier I am, the more I need to attend Mass. It’s known now that I’m not available during the lunch hour because I attend Mass. Known to not schedule time with me then – not that I’m so holy I attend Mass every day. But I still go back to what Mark Hart said almost ten years ago to me (well, to the whole room): “you can’t give what you don’t have.”

I’ve heard that St. Francis de Sales said “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer every day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.” Although he didn’t actually say that, I think the idea still applies. A woman I worked with at a parish also had a quote up that said, “Don’t get so busy doing the Lord’s work, you forget about the Lord.”

Daily Mass is the best daily faith habit I’ve ever taken on as mine own. It’s a moment of peace in a busy day, a moment of Jesus in the midst of a broken culture, and a required break from my tendency to become a workaholic. We’re all ‘busy’ … and when we embrace that as the ultimate virtue we miss the mark. We were not created in order to ‘be busy’ but instead to “to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.” (Baltimore Catechism, Part 1, Q6)

The saints tell us that this is a sure-fire way to holiness, I want to be holy, so I’m making it a habit to do. Even in the midst of being busy at work, traveling a lot, and having a hundred other things that I could be doing. They can all wait.

Next Week’s Daily Faith Topic: Evening Prayer

My New Favorite Podcast


It’s Jesuitical from American Media. I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago and have listened to most of their back episodes, which definitely means that I’m liking it (also I’m a podcast junkie). Ashley, Zac, and Olga are in their late twenties and are often saying things I’m thinking about the Catholic world. They start each episode with the Signs of the Times where they look at Catholic News from the week, followed by an interview with a great Catholic or other cool human being, and concluding with their consolations and desolations, sharing where they found God this week and where it was harder to find God that week.

I like them because they are relate-able, young, and Catholic saying the things we’re all thinking and get better and better after each episode. I think it’s nice to have a young voice sticking up for the Church and talking about issues in a better light for the Church.

Some of my favorite episodes so far are the interviews with Lino Rulli, Molly Burhans, Claire Swinarski (her episode was how I was introduced), and Michael O’Loughlin … just a couple to get you stared!

Confirmation Preparation

I have a confession to make: When I first started as the Middle School Youth Minister at St. Mark, I didn’t know what the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit were or how many fruits there were … and I was the Confirmation Coordinator. I didn’t learn those things until about 30 minutes before my first Confirmation Parent/Candidate Sessions a year and half into the job either. And I did not actually learn all twelve fruits until about 3 years ago.

These are just two of the things I make my students memorize and learn now. Yesterday, my 8th class of Confirmation Candidates were just confirmed. My team has changed. My level of responsibility has changed. My parish has changed. My job has changed. And my understanding of the Sacrament of Confirmation has changed.

This year’s group was prepared by some adults, some teens, a nun, and me. Quite the group!

I cannot believe that I’ve seen almost 600 students confirmed. Through it all each class has gotten better and better. They know more and more coming into 9th grade. This year’s group had a great understanding of the basics of the faith when they entered class with us at the end of August. So we were able to have more fun with them as the weeks went along.
Did we make an impact on them? I don’t know yet. Only time will tell if they see this as a foundation on their faith life. I do firmly believe that as teachers of the sacraments, we are only planting seeds. We only plant the seeds and water them, to hopefully see them grow and flourish over the course of decades. 
I remember my own Confirmation. I was a junior in high school and can remember it distinctly. I chose a sponsor was good friends with my grandmother, who’s name I chose. That man has since passed away, probably doing more for me and my faith than he was capable of while here on earth. Daily I remember him at Mass along with my grandparents, asking them to cheer me on my faith. To continue to water the seeds of faith that were planted so long ago and are hopefully now trees producing beautiful fruit. 
p.s. And now I know the gifts and the fruits and the difference. There are some songs (or here) that make this memorization a little easier. 

just need to add in Chasity, Modesty, and Generosity to the end to learn them all … and that’s not as easy as you think!

7 Quick Takes Friday, September 27th

For More Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

1. Well, I downloaded the new iOS 7 onto my iPhone 4S – and I’m so glad I did!  I really like the new features especially in the camera and the notification center (both the top one and the bottom one).  I like it most especially because I feel like I got a brand new phone without paying anything – except the 4 hours it took me to update last Wednesday!  The price I paid to have it on the day it came out!

2. Roommate and I have participated in two book clubs in the last two weeks and I’m not sure what I think.  I’ve been trying since I met MG to start a book club, but I can’t get anyone who’s willing to read the same kinds of books I want to read and have the same regularity of meetings I want.  I’ve tried restructuring my wants – and I’m still coming up empty handed.  Anyone participate in one or begin one who’s willing to offer some advice or encouragement? 

3. Roommate and I have also been watching Downton Abbey, which I realize we are about 3 years behind – but we are on episode 6 of Season 3.  I won’t reveal anything, but seriously, y’all have probably already watched it and there would be no spoilers.  But the last episode we watched was very sad – and I’m eager to see how the writers help them deal with the doctor’s decisions.  How does one make the best decision for themselves in the case of childbirth?  What’s best when and where should you give birth?  All questions women have completely different answers to – I have my own answers, even though I don’t have a husband, engagement  boyfriend, or even a date.

4. Jackie Francois Angel is coming to Huntersville this weekend and I’m very excited to hear her speak on Sunday evening!  Almost got to go to dinner, but flights, schedules, and paths are not crossing, unfortunately!

5. Roommate went to New York City with me last weekend and drove the long way home with me on Sunday!  So grateful for a great trip and an excellent car ride companion!  She’s a natural born DJ!

6. Lino’s book Saint is cracking me up.  I’m only 4 chapters in, but am trying to read slowly to savor the moments.  I was listening to his interview on the Busted Halo Show this afternoon (a rare listen for me) and he was discussing the first chapter.  This one claims that he desires to be the Patron Saint of Kissing when he’s canonized.  Well, Lino – this girl needs some convincing … when you coming to Charlotte?

7. Weekend plans to see baby beek!  I’m so psyched!  Little Silas is almost 2 months old and I can’t wait to hold the precious child!  And additionally to see Emma, Thaddeus, Xavier, and Lucy will be such a treat this weekend!  YEAH for friends with kids who like to cuddle with me (the kids not the friends)!

For more quick takes (these were super quick today) go see Jen and the Gang!

Closing Reflection from World Youth Day

I’m showered, my bags are unpacked, and all of my dirty clothes are in the laundry.  The pilgrimage is over, but the mission has just begun.

The Holy Father’s final words on Sunday were: 1) Go, 2) Do Not Be Afraid, and 3) Serve.  This is the mission from the theme to the entire week, “Go and Make Disciples of All Nations.”  I feel more prepared to do this than any other time in my life.  I also feel more compelled.  There were a few things that happened this week that opened my eyes to the other side, if you will.  On Saturday after we got to the secure line of armed guards at the end of the beach, we saw about 7 to 10 people who were protesting the Church, Brazil, and the Pope.  They are upset about women priests, the perspective on gay marriage, and other things.  What baffles my mind is that they aren’t Catholic, and don’t want to be – so why the protest?  But anyway – it brought to mind the fact that so many people truly have no idea why the Church teaches the things they do.  One of the reasons I think that this is has to do with the lack of information and knowledge that Catholics have about the Church.  Also a lack of desire to share their faith with others.  On Saturday at the bus station, one of our group members was standing talking to some Jehovah’s Witnesses before we got onto our bus.  Why were they there?  What purpose do they believe they have to make a stance at a Catholic event (now to be far the bus stations weren’t an actual event – but the majority of the people coming through were attending World Youth Day.

Anyway – back to sharing about my experience.  I think the last thing I wrote about was Thursday seeing Pope Francis, which was amazing!

On Friday, we had catechesis again in the morning, then we ate lunch at McDonald’s (they took our meal card and had some great 2×1 specials!) before heading down to the beach for the Stations of the Cross.  We were kind of far back, but we could see one of the jumbo screens and along with my super handy radio I was able to participate the entire time.

seriously the three most valuable items I packed:
Radio, iPhone Charger, & Headphones

We got back from the beach much quicker than on Tuesday evening with our special angels – our host family’s daughter and three of her friends who all spoke English were with us.  They were better able to find the buses we wanted and navigate through the city since they know it.  Lorena’s dad lives about 2 blocks from the beach so she’s very familiar.

We went to our host family’s house for pizza that night afterward and had a blast!

Saturday morning we ventured to our Catechesis site once more for a morning Mass before heading to Rio Centro to begin the 9km Pilgrimage to Copacabana.  It wasn’t actually that far, but with backpacks, 1.5 million of our closest friends, and 35 minute bathroom and food gathering breaks, it took us until dark to get to the beach.

As we walked we prayed and sang offerings for the many intentions we had for the journey.  All in all it was a beautiful journey.

Then we had to find a spot to set up camp.  We walked onto the beach about 1km from the stage and then walked at least 1.5 or 2km along the water until we found a spot – literally at the very end right next to the wall of armed Brazilian military police.  They made us go to the other side of the line where there was more room and we were able to be closer to the road (instead of the water) and we set up camp.

We are literally at the end of this big group of people!  The tent at the bottom left hand side is about 500 yards from the stage.  And the building at the very back where it juts out into the sea is the end of the beach – 4km in length.

I was able to sleep a little after I had one final bathroom run – I learned that porta potties and 3 million people aren’t the most pleasant situation – and using my handy emergency foil blanket to keep warm.  I was out until the sun came up.  I’ve never slept on the beach before and it was an interesting experience – you’d think sand would be pretty comfortable, but it was really just an opportunity to offer up some prayers for the poor soul’s in purgatory.  I’d do it all over again, though!

Our view during Mass on Sunday

Sunday morning was the Mass with the Holy Father, which was beautiful.  Although we were only able to listen as we were too far back to see one of the jumbo screens.  A few of us were stuck on the other side of the street when we went to go to the restroom so we got to see him roll on by again.  After Mass we hung out on the beach for a little while to let the crowds settle before jumping on a bus about 2 or 3 km down the way.  Then the trek to get our stuff began and 4.5 hours later we were finally situated in the hotel.

For dinner, Giuliana, her mom, and three friends brought us pizza (delicious) for dinner and we all hung out one last time in the lobby before heading off to bed.  It was so nice to have an actual mattress one night!  Although we were extremely blessed with a host family (the girls) for the week –  meaning we got a hot shower every day, extra food every night and morning, and a special tour guide – we were still on the floor, okay, but not a bed.  I enjoyed every moment of sleep on Sunday night.

Monday morning was laid back – we had a chance to eat at an actual Brazilian restaurant and shop at Barra Shopping, which was across the street from our hotel.  I found a super cute skirt and some earrings to remember the trip by.  Then we headed to the airport at 3 for our flights and made it just in time for the first flight to leave.

Now all are safe and sound in North Carolina – most of them home with their families by now, I’m sure relaxing.  We had a family who came and met us all at the airport this morning – I had an especially great time with this little girl – she wanted to come home with me and leave her mom for a few days!

A few other random thoughts coming at you later this week on Friday with Quick Takes.  For now, off to rest a little bit so I’m ready for work tomorrow!