Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Long Journey Home - Part One

All the six friends compared notes afterwards and quarrelled; but they all agreed that in some unaccountable way the place reminded them of their boyhood.
G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

This past weekend, I traveled with two friends to St. Paul, Minnesota, on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, where the American Chesterton Society's annual conference was being held. I wrote about my anticipation of this trip earlier, but admittedly I had no idea what to expect and was a little apprehensive about whether I would fit in or what sort of people I would meet. Only after the conference was held did I find this post by a regular attendee noting the "minority of whackos who show up" to the event each year, but I thought it reasonable to expect as much. I was not worried about these sorts, though, who can be expected at nearly every conference (although some organizations pride themselves on having such folks in the majority instead). Rather, I was concerned about whether the majority of the people in attendance would be too far out of my league in their knowledge and understanding of Chesterton; that I would be found unqualified, without any proper credentials to rub elbows with such an intelligent crowd of devotees, and left somewhat awkwardly on the periphery. I entered the terminal Thursday morning walking on a cloud of euphoric excitement and anxiety. My anxiety soon gave way to genuine worry, however.

My flight was cancelled. I stared for a moment in disbelief at the screen as it flashed the prohibiting red letters. I walked slowly back to the cafe where I'd been sitting with my friend and said matter-of-factly, "They just cancelled our flight." (I felt sure that "they" were to blame; I could not say merely, "our flight's been cancelled" and leave any doubt about whether there must be some villian behind such misfortune.) Steven's characteristic response was to shrug solemnly and furrow his brow perplexed. He rose in silence and we walked dazed toward the gate whence our journey had been set to begin. Amidst the chaotic negotiations and confusions which followed, Chesterton's words consoled me and bid me be patient: "An inconvenience is merely an adventure wrongly considered." Before the afternoon was over, I was having a very worthy adventure indeed: a mischievous airline sprite had scheduled us on a flight which had no seats; a usurping plane had then muscled into our arrival gate at Chicago and ours was left forlornly to search for other harbor; and, when finally we had arrived in Minneapolis, I learned the savage wights of the Philadelphia baggage underworld had hidden my suitcase away in some dungeon, in the untold darkness of which no barcode could be read, thus dooming to eternal anonymity its voiceless nylon victims.

Steven, Mike, and I finally arrived at Saint Paul's Seminary exhausted and worn out from waiting in lines and politely arguing with service representatives all day. Our schedule had been altered significantly and the afternoon was much more hectic than we had planned. But things began to look brighter. Our host, Monsignor Callighan, greeted us most graciously and said he would celebrate a private Mass with us in the small dormitory chapel. While we waited for the appointed time, we rushed over to the hall in which the Conference was being held in order to register and collect our meal tickets. Upon entering the building, the butterflies flew immediately back into my stomach. I first saw the many tables filled with books and wondered how I would hold myself from financial ruin. I was sure that I would have to own every printed page in the room before the weekend was through. This anxiety was overpowered, though, as I looked around the room and remembered earlier fears. The noise in the place was deafening as everyone buzzed with excited and boisterous conversation. The Chestertonians there all seemed to be old friends and from the loudness of their laughter they seemed already well caught up with one another after many months or years apart. I again wondered whether we would find our place amongst them and whether we would be able to make such friends ourselves.

We rushed back to the dormitories and attended Mass, which Monsignor offered for us and for our families. The excitement of the day finally drifted away and I found myself breathing with a calm peace as I prayed. My worries and frustrations seemed miles away, and I felt a sudden keen awareness of what a comfort it is to be a member of the Body of Christ. I knew that no matter what strange place I might find myself in, I was always close to family through the wonder of the Church. I was greatly consoled as I prayed along with Monsignor for blessings upon my family and friends, and I asked God that He use the weekend to draw us into an ever greater unity.

After Mass, we prayed Vespers, picked up our meal tickets and walked over towards the Conference center for dinner, where our adventures would begin in earnest. Little did I realize how God was already working on an answer to my prayers, and how He planned to teach me that, through Christ, family and friends are always close at hand...

(Continued in Part Two...)

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Blogger Tim said...

Can't wait to here the rest of the story, chap!

6/18/07, 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Steven said...

Hearing you talk about the perils of our journey, including the savage wights of the Philadelphia baggage underworld, makes it sound almost more exciting than it was. I look forward with hopeful anticipation to the conclusion of this tale.

6/18/07, 10:42 PM  
Blogger Er said...

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Or any website where I can access and read, guiding me step by step on how to do that? please have a look at my blog at

thanks and God bless brother. I hope you persevere in your chosen vocation. God bless.

7/11/07, 10:10 AM  

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