Friday, April 25, 2014

Touchdown in Amsterdam

"Alleluia! Alleluia!
Hearts and voices heav’nward raise:
Sing to God a hymn of gladness,
Sing to God a hymn of praise.
He who on the cross a victim,
For the world’s salvation bled,
Jesus Christ, the King of glory,
Now is risen from the dead."
- Hymn for Office of Readings for the Friday in the Octave of Easter

This first leg of this pilgrimage is itself a foray into the secular, the worldly but at times divine. It was society in microcosm stuck on a pressurized, mile-high tin can in the sky. It being my first intercontential flight, thankfully the service and passengers were amicable, even friendly given one does the first move. I suppose it could be called a respectful European aloofness.

Given the mixed crowd, some of us with our bright yellow lanyards, others on return home, and still others returning to set things before a move to the States, I found much to pray for. So many states, so many varied backgrounds, and ultimately so many stories. Next to me for the duration of the flight sat a Muslim couple in the thrall of love, the two inseparable, almost uncomfortable my particular sensibilities. Then there were two Dutch traveling companions. One was younger, Lukas; the other an older, more distinguished gentleman, Cornelius, with a unique accent of northern Holland. Both were aboard for different reasons. The younger is, of all things, a dance instructor. The older is an international arbiter. Both were friendly and accommodating; both were seasoned travelers.

What struck me the most in the flight, one in which I could not sleep but a few winks, was the sheer ordinariness of it: ordinary in the destination and the passengers. I felt wrapped as though in a cocoon above the ocean, quickly hurdling to our Dutch—and then Roman—destination.

There were moments of reflection, laughter, and humor in the inane or little human foibles not spared or able be stripped from the ordinary, even the ordinary of an intercontinental flight. I took some time to read anew the opening of John Paul II's "Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way" and read the Office of Readings for the new day. It was for me an opening for the intercessory prayer and the intent of the trip—confidence in the providence of God.

This is why I was struck with one particular introductory conversation with Cornelius. It was an earnest interest for both, but the graciousness was one that had me at ease.

We exchanged pleasantries and introductions, and no sooner than mentioning final destinations and our travel plans, the conversation was struck with the "Francis" bug. It was delightful. Here was a Dutch Reformed Protestant speaking to me in the emergency exit space to a KLM flight somewhere over Montreal on the humility of Pope Francis. He spoke of a set of Belgian pilgrims who were received by Pope Francis, and Francis' response to them by asking earnest questions and, here, Cornelius did the same for me. He asked if I was planning to be a priest. I answered that it wasn't the direction I'm seeing Him call me, but also that He calls each of us to holiness. Not only did I have a chance to witness to the Universal Call to Holiness but to also to witness another do the same. We went on, but the heart of the conversation was just that.

That right there made the conversation and the flight. It was a universal connection, a sharing of the human condition... It was a teaching moment and a growing moment. We may all see things a little different, but there it is... The growth of the person towards the Truth.

He gave me a Dutch prayer which I can't remember, but the loose translation is: "Wherever you may be taken, may God be with you."

So it is, the beginning of my European travels... "May God be with you."

Deo gratias.

"He made the sea; it belongs to him, the dry land, too, for it was formed by his hands." - Psalm 95

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