Lino, Mountain, Rob, and some weird guy. (Photo credit: M. Grammer)

Lino, Mountain, Rob, and some weird guy. (Photo credit: M. Grammer)

I recently arrived home in Watson, Saskatchewan after having experienced some of the more fun and inspiring 10 days that I’ve had so far as a priest. I was in Italy as chaplain for the latest Catholic Guy pilgrimage with Lino Rulli & Rob Keighron. (Lino broadcasts a wildly entertaining show on SiriusXM’s The Catholic Channel, ch. 129 Monday-Friday from 3-5pm MDT/5-7pm EDT. Head to catholicguy.com for more information & podcasts of parts of the show! I even made a few appearances last week… and managed to talk about Star Trek within about 3 minutes of my introduction. *cue eye roll from my family*)

IMG_1966The pilgrimage was named Everything and the Kitchen Sink, and it certainly lived up to its billing. During the pilgrimage we experienced a whirlwind: many churches in Rome, the Scavi tour to the bones of St. Peter, the Vatican Museum, the Colosseum, the Eucharistic miracle in Orvietto, the many sites of Florence including the Duomo and Michelangelo’s statute of David, a high speed train ride to Turin to see the Shroud of Turin, and winding up the pilgrimage in the city of Milan. After most of our fellow pilgrims left for home, I joined Lino, Rob, The Girlfriend FiancĂ©e (congratulations!!!), and a couple of their friends back in Rome for a day before leaving for home.

 
One word keeps leaping to my mind regarding these past days: gratitude.
 

IMG_1940I am immensely grateful for many things. I’m grateful to have seen so many inspiring churches and other sites during our pilgrimage. I’m grateful for having seen The Shroud of Turin, which revealed to me in an unexpected way the raw humanity of Jesus, and how much he must love you and me that he would be so vulnerable for us. I’m grateful for great food and wine and green sambuca. I’m grateful and truly humbled for having been able to celebrate Masses in so many beautiful places, as Jesus became present sacramentally right in my hands. That’s always more mind-blowing and humbling than I can possibly describe or dare to contemplate.
 

IMG_1847But as I go over these past days, my biggest feeling of gratitude to God is ultimately for the gift of having shared this time with amazing people from all walks of life. It’s incredible to me how Lino can take over three dozen people from across the United States and Canada and that we all meshed together so well. I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. I’m grateful that they laughed at my cheesy anecdotes during the homilies. I’m grateful for being able to share meals, wine, laughs, walks (54+ miles, according to one person’s Fitbit!), prayer, food, sambuca, wine, laughs, awe-inspiring sights, laughs, food, wine, music, Mass, and laughs. And food. And wine.

(I still refuse to buy a selfie stick, however.)

IMG_1839I’m also grateful for Mountain (thecatholictraveler.com) who took his usual great care of the group. This is my second pilgrimage with him and seriously: if you want to travel and have a group you’d like to take with you, get in touch with him! He’s amazing and so very thoughtful.

And I’m so extremely grateful for Lino and Rob for having invited this rather geeky, short, hockey-playing, Rider-fanatic priest from the middle of Saskatchewan to join them on pilgrimage. God has blessed me through you more than you know. Thank you.

shpI’ve been in a reflective mood in the wake of this pilgrimage as I’m preparing to move from the four parishes that I love so dearly into a new parish in Saskatoon. This pilgrimage powerfully reinforced in my heart an important reality: I receive so much more from the people of God than I give back. God has blessed me in immeasurable ways through all of my parishioners during these past five years in the Watson area, and through my being with Lino, Rob, Mountain, and everyone else on this recent trip. My heart is full.

St. Paul summarizes my feelings very well:

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
(Eph. 3.20-21)

Amen.