February 5, 2016

Reflection / Elizabeth Heile

Pilgrimage, unexpected delay offer lessons in patience, trust and sacrifice

Elizabeth HeileOne of the most memorable stories I will ever have is our recent March for Life trip. It is a story I will be able to tell for years to come. On this trip, there were some unexpected events, but they helped my faith in God grow by teaching me patience and trust.

Arriving at the Basilica of The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington is an experience that will last a lifetime. Although I had visited the basilica twice before, the memory in no way compares to the event of being there for the opening Mass on Jan. 21 of the National Prayer Vigil for Life.

Standing outside, even from far away, my gaze is always drawn to the beautiful architecture of the church. Once, I heard that traditional churches were designed to make you look up. The extravagant mosaics and paintings that enveloped the ceilings drew my eyes upward, and made me feel as if heaven was right up there on the walls.

The Mass was stunning. It was moving to see so many people in one area all supporting the same cause. The masses of people were so great that there was no more room to sit! Little chapels on the sides of the basilica were full, and many took seats in the crypt to watch the liturgy on TV.

I had a great view. Since there were no seats, my group sat on the sides of one of the aisles. I could see everything, from the Missionaries of Charity sitting in the front row to the procession of priests that lasted several minutes.

The next day, our group attended the national March for Life. I was amazed. Contrary to what many news reports say, thousands of people showed up. Even with a blizzard warning, people risked not staying in the safety of their homes and warm beds to stand up for all of the unborn children.

As we joined the march, we were engulfed by the crowd. We walked for what seemed like a few miles, and began up a hill where I could see the Capitol building in the distance.

At that moment, I turned around. As far as my eyes could see through the falling snow, I could see people. They were all marching for the same cause, for the same reason: to end abortion, trying to give every child a chance to live and love.

On the way home, something unexpected happened. A few hours into our drive back, the bus came to a stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. At first, we thought it would only be a few hours. Those few hours turned to eight hours, then to 10, and the time we sat going nowhere kept increasing.

To pass the time, a few of us went outside. It was the first time I had a snowball fight in the middle of an interstate. A few miles ahead, some young people built an altar out of snow so a priest could celebrate Mass for them.

We were at a standstill for hours, until a few men on our other bus decided to dig us out of the snow with cardboard boxes. The whole bus cheered as we pulled out and went on our way home.

There were many things I learned about myself and others on this trip. I was able to get to know my friends a little better and meet new people. I learned that I can’t be on a bus for more than 22 hours at a time without nearly going crazy, and that one of the best meals anyone could have after that fiasco is a cheeseburger and burnt French fries.

The most important thing was the lesson learned. A pilgrimage is full of sacrifice. It requires patience, trust and the willingness to give.

(Elizabeth Heile is a sophomore at the Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception in Oldenburg, and a member of St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County.)

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