If you gaze up at the sky today and see someone floating in the clouds, that would be me. I just got back from an unbelievable three-day trip to Chicago and I’m still hovering three miles above Cloud Nine.
It all started when I was invited to address the priests of Chicago for their annual Presbyteral Day. They asked me to speak on new media and the New Evangelization, two of my favorite topics, so I of course said “yes.”
But then I discovered that that same weekend in Peoria, IL, hundreds of people were gathering for a special Mass of Thanksgiving celebrating the recent Venerability of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. I had heard about the special Mass before and yearned to attend. After all, Sheen’s a great hero of mine. But I figured it was too pricey and too complicated and it probably wouldn’t happen.
However I learned Peoria was just three hours from Chicago. And that the Mass was the same weekend as my talk. The gears began turning. I planned, I schemed, I tweaked my flights, and the details eventually fell into place.
Those two events alone would have made for an incredible trip. But then I then got an email from my friends at Word on Fire. They heard I’d be in Chicago and wondered if I could visit Mundelein Seminary to participate in a new film series they’re working on. Even more, Fr. Robert Barron, the new Rector at Mundelein, invited me to stay at the seminary as his personal guest. I don’t think I breathed before uttering “yes.”
So on Saturday night (9/8) I took off for Chicago. The whole trip was a blur. All I remember is it was full of joy, laughs, great conversations, and even better people. Here were some of the big highlights I captured:
Staying at the seminary was a treat. The beautiful greens, lush forests, and old stone buildings make you feel like you’re stepping right into Rivendell. Cardinal Mundelein certainly knew what he was doing when he designed this oasis, far away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Just walking the grounds puts your soul at rest.
Mass of Thanksgiving for Venerable Fulton Sheen
The next morning, bright and early at 5:15am, I headed out to Peoria with my good friends Rozann Carter and Sean Lee from Word on Fire. The Mass was beautiful, and full of all the bells and smells you’d expect from such a reverent event. Rozann recounted the Mass at the Word on Fire blog and online-friend Nancy Piccione shared her thoughts over at Reading Catholic. After the Mass, we got to check out the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Museum a block away.
‘New Media, New Evangelization’ for Chicago Priests
The next morning Fr. Barron and I drove to Niles, IL for the Chicago Presbyteral Day. More than 400 priests showed up, most of them there to hear Cardinal Francis George. The meeting would be the first time Cardinal George addressed all of his priests since his recent cancer diagnosis. In the message, he didn’t dwell too much on his sickness. He was upbeat and optimistic, and that attitude seemed to reinvigorate his priests.
Dinner with Heroes
As Providence would have it, Mark Shea was staying at Marytown during my visit, which is right around the corner from Mundelein. So that night Fr. Barron, Fr. Steve Grunow, and I joined Mark for dinner and had an absolute blast (Mark wrote about it here.)
So in case you couldn’t tell by the pictures, the whole trip was spectacular. It was filled with so many pinch-my-cheek moments that it will take several months to finally sink back to earth.