My Trip to Alabama came about not so much as planned as requested. WQPH panned a pilgrimage to Mother Angelica’s grave to commemorate the nativity of the blessed mother.
With money tight my plans were to give it a miss but Mary Ann Harold of WQPH needed someone to shoot audio and interviews and if you know MaryAnn you will know it’s impossible to say no to her when he is trying to win souls for the Lord. So through a combination of permission to get a week off from work a ride from my brother and an increase in credit card debt not normally encouraged in conservatives I found myself at Logan Airport at 2:45 AM on Monday morning.
Our group of 30 boarded our flight with Southwest on time (for the first time ever I was in the “A” group so I planted myself at the back of the plane meaning to get 45 minutes of sleep on the flight to Baltimore when the pilot announced that the plane had a fuel leak and we would be delayed as it was repaired and the required paperwork filled out. While this offered excellent opportunities for sleep it meant we might not make our connecting flight in Baltimore to Birmingham which would disrupt our entire schedule. This type of thing seems to happen a lot on our pilgrimages almost as if something objected to it.
Eventually while I slept the plane was repaired and all the paperwork filled out and when I woke up we were in the air preparing to land in Baltimore. We were very behind and I saw a lot of trouble getting our people and luggage to the next plane but Southwest gave us a hand, deciding to use our current plane for the flight to Birmingham which quite erased the time we lost for the repairs.
After a short wait we were greeted by the large bus to for the 28 of us toward our destinations. We were in two groups. One opted to get more private accommodations at guest houses rentable near Mother Angelica’s monistary where over the course of the year pilgrims who want a bit more privacy but quick access to the shrine stay. We also dropped off a pair of priests at a special retreat center for priests at the shrine. Clergy are allowed to stay there free of charge on retreat to help them recharge for their 24/7 vocation.
The rest of us continued to Cullman Alabama to St. Bernard Monastery and school were we had accommodates for three of the four nights of our stay. We were lucky to get that time as a group of deacons were coming to the St. Bernards for retreat that week but there were willing to shoehorn us in to help us out. Yet another of the little things that went right when things seemed ready to go wrong.. The plan was for mass at the Monastery followed by dinner but even with the nap on the plane I needed to get a little shut eye but by the time I woke up mass was long over and I just made dinner at the cafeteria where the resident students (who had not arrived yet as it was labor day) normally eat
After dinner we all prepared to crash. In the retreat building there was plenty of religious art and old books. I found a 115 year old volume of Catholic classics and read some Aquinas as I went to bed. It was going to be a very full next couple of days.
The next morning I walked to the Abbey church figuring to catch morning mass, but it turned out the monks had their mass at 5 PM so instead I prayed my morning prayers before the blessed sacrament. Many of the monks were on retreat but I was able to get an interview with Fr Kevin McGrath who had been at the Abbey for almost my entire life and later with our bus driver who owned the company
Little did we know that the curves on the road would not be the only ones facing us and him.
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