This past week, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee played host to the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors (NCDVD). It was a great honor to have the opportunity to spend several hours volunteering at this event, working at the registration table. Did I say "working"? That can't be the right word, for truly, I can't remember ever having so much fun at a volunteer effort!
Every single priest who came to the desk to register had a beautiful smile and a few friendly words to offer, even the priest whose luggage was lost by the airline. It was clear to me that these Vocation Directors enjoyed their priesthood immensely and I imagine with pleasant dispositions like the ones I noticed, the priest shortage won't last much longer! Who wouldn't be drawn to the priesthood after meeting with a kind and friendly Vocation Director!
Whenever my family and I go on vacation, and people ask us where we are from, we are greeted with an uncomfortable silence when we tell them the name of our suburb. My son, Joe, calls our hometown a conversation killer. On Saturday, I was honored to meet a lovely woman who was helping to host the Conference. When I asked her where she was from and she answered "Indiana," I immediately thought of Joe's clever remark as I struggled to think of a way to carry the conversation beyond her home state. Gratefully, I remembered that one of my very favorite bloggers is a brilliant writer from Indiana, and grasping at what I thought was a straw, I mentioned her name. Well, wouldn't you know it, but my new acquaintance happened to be a personal friend of the blogger I mentioned, and she immediately called Betty Duffy on her cell phone. I had a bit of celebrity fever as I heard Betty on the other line mentioning that she had heard of my humble blog! What a small world it really is!
When I returned to the conference for a few more hours on Wednesday, I was in good company with my dear friend Anne (yep-two Anne's working side by side-how confusing is that?) and Susi, my sweet friend from the Vocations Office at our local Seminary. It was a joyful morning and the work was light, so Anne and I were able to venture among the various tables set up for display where I was surprised to find one of my all-time favorite priests and fellow blogger, Fr. Jim Kubicki manning the Apostleship of Prayer table! We even had time to sit in on a session about how to talk to parents whose children are considering the priesthood. As both Anne and I have sons who are discerning, this was a topic of great interest to us!
But perhaps best of all, we ended our day at Mass, one of the most beautiful and meaningful Masses that I have ever participated in! Truly it brought to mind Scott Hahn's "The Lamb's Supper" that clearly portrays the Mass as a reflection of heaven. I had never felt so close to heaven as I did at that Mass. As the room full of approximately 200 priests were finishing praying the rosary before Mass, they all stood and chanted "Regina Coeli". I have goosebumps just remembering the sight of so many men in white vestments looking like angels and the sound of their deep voices chanting this ageless prayer to our Beautiful Mother on the Occasion of "Our Lady of Sorrows." I pray that Mary's spirits were lifted up at this glorious sight and her sorrow was replaced with joy.
The homilist was Bishop Robert Morneau the auxiliary Bishop from Green Bay. His beautiful homily on the Angelus was peppered with poetry, in fact, at moments I wondered whether I at Mass or a poetry reading! One of the beautiful poems he recited was the Sancta Maria by Edgar Allen Poe. I was surprised to learn that the great E.A. Poe wrote such beautiful words; I had thought that he only specialized in the macabre.
Sancta Maria by Edgar Allen Poe
Sancta Maria! turn thine eyes -
Upon the sinner's sacrifice,
Of fervent prayer and humble love,
From thy holy throne above.
At morn - at noon - at twilight dim -
Maria! thou hast heard my hymn!
In joy and woe - in good and ill -
Mother of God, be with me still!
When the Hours flew brightly by,
And not a cloud obscured the sky,
My soul, lest it should truant be,
Thy grace did guide to thine and thee;
Now, when storms of Fate o'ercast
Darkly my Present and my Past,
Let my Future radiant shine
With sweet hopes of thee and thine!
The wonderful day was complete with a Thai luncheon with the girls (Susi and Anne) and long conversation, which left me racing to get to school in time to pick up the kids. Before my husband had left for work that morning, he offered to pick up our children from school for me (Wednesday is usually my turn because I am off of work on that day.) He said, "I will be happy to do it for you so that you don't have to hurry back, just in case you are enjoying yourself so much that you just can't break away." I felt that his offer was one of the most romantic things he had ever said to me. He truly understands my deep love for the Church and everything related to it and knew before I even left the house that I would have a wonderful day at the Conference.
But, I declined his offer, as I enjoy greeting my children at the end of the day and miss being able to do that on a regular basis because I work late. And I admit that even though the day at the Vocation Conference was great, there is nothing in the world like the feeling of seeing those sweet smiling faces of my two youngest children as they walk out of the school building and into my arms at the end of the day.