We returned from Wisconsin just over two hours ago.
It was a very pleasant trip - the weather most cooperative, no traffic detours, and no worries about stopping every twenty minutes or so (those who know my wife and I well understand why this is).
We took a very light breakfast with us, which we ate at a state park along the way. With about fifteen miles to go, we hit the last outpost of civilization - a McDonald's - where we bought coffees and nursed them for the remainder of the trip.
On arrival in the general area, my wife made the observation that there was much in the way of perceivable signs of life; something she had not quite expected.
The church itself is huge; one can see it for miles around on a clear day. We made our way inside and went to the chapel to make our prayer and offering. After about ten minutes, my wife set outside to stroll the grounds; she had wanted a few minutes to herself, so son and I remained in the chapel and I began to say the Rosary, a Catholic devotional prayer. (One good thing about Catholic forms of prayer - they're great when you are at a loss for words.) While I was doing this, I felt assured that our purposes in making the 225-mile round trip were not in vain. There is still something very energetic about the place, and with nature beginning to burst forth in the splendor of spring, it is adding to the immense feeling of serenity I drew. I am ready to move on.
I intend to make two posts on Good Friday. One is about the day itself. I cannot in all righteousness let this day pass and write only about myself. While it is important that I finish telling my story, and while I can draw similarities, they pale in comparison to the fullness of that day.
Okay - before we get to the Main Events, I have just the slightest of rants. I realize I'm most likely the only one of about twenty people who see the pitfall, and I don't know how to manage it other than to chalk it up to the company I am among at the time.
Like Ash Wednesday nearly fifty days ago, Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics between ages 14 and 60. The guidelines suggest "one full meatless meal and two light meatless meals." Remember at the beginning of this series when I asked if a Snickers bar and a Red Bull constituted a light meatless meal? In this crowd that question becomes a bit more real.
On Good Friday, the Catholic choir I'm in gives a performance of Theodor DuBois' The Seven Last Words of Christ at mid-afternoon. Later in the evening is the liturgical observance of Christ's passion and death, at which we also sing. There's roughly a 2-1/2 hour layover between the concert and the service; time to kill as it's impractical to drive home and back. So most of us go out and have a social dinner.
I am not against the idea of the social gathering. It's actually better at this time than a Christmas party on a separate date. However, this tends to throw the spirit of the day out the window with the holy water. Dinner is far from austere. The non-meat choices are extremely limited; the portion sizes are large enough that just looking at them has me gaining a couple of pounds; and the alcohol tends to flow freely. Madame Director is Catholic enough to know that something about all this doesn't quite meet muster, but it happens anyway. How close to a near occasion of sin does one need to reach?
None of that sets well with me. Adding watching my diet to the list makes it worse. I don't want to appear antisocial; alternative meal choices are virtually nonexistent; and what else would I do for 2-1/2 hours waiting? What would you do? What would Jesus do??
I'll say this much and leave it alone - it won't be anywhere near the same wonderful feeling I had as I left the Hill today. It will help me get through that very awkward time.