Thanks to your prayers and support and encouragement, I just spent 6 weeks in Europe! If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know all about this. But I thought you might like me to fill in some details so you can see some of the marvelous things God’s been doing in my life.
I flew into Turkey (which was rather more dramatic than I was expecting), where I ate baklava and Turkish delight and went to Mass in Turkish. The extent of my sightseeing was out the bus window, but I made my flight the next morning without any unnecessary drama, so I’ll call it a win.
My first real stop in Europe was Huddersfield, England. I was met at the Manchester airport by a godly priest whose insights over the next few days were very challenging and encouraging. I spent my visit speaking in schools and a church and got a crash course in the difficulties of the English Church, where they seem to be struggling between relativism from without and apathy from within. There are almost no laypeople working for the Church, where weekly giving in the wealthiest parish in the diocese averages less than $2 per person. This obviously puts a lot of pressure on a dwindling number of priests and results in aging congregations when there’s no youth program. But I met a solid group of young adults who have great hope for the Catholic Church in the UK and further experiences in England bore out that opinion. God is working, my friends, and while I get the feeling that the Church in the States is a few decades ahead of the English Church in terms of renewal and passion and orthodoxy, God willing they’re headed the right direction.
After a visit to York to see St. Margaret Clitherow‘s hand, I was off to Oxford for a rough afternoon. I spent the evening with a group of Oxford students, talking about life and prayer and discernment and my new favorite book I haven’t read. The next day, Brother Oliver, OP, gave me a “short” three-hour tour of campus, where I made a pilgrimage to the holy sites of St. Edmund Campion, Bl. John Henry Newman, Tolkien, and Lewis. I’m pretty sure I kept shrieking over the excitement of hanging out where all my favorite people hung out. Br. Oliver was very patient. There followed afternoon tea with a group of young ladies and a bus to Paddington Station, where I kept my eyes peeled for a bear from Darkest Peru.
While in London, I was speaking at a school in Ilford, East London, working with a young woman who has such a heart for Jesus and such zeal for souls. The British school system is structured in such a way that Catholic schools often have a high percentage of Muslim students. On my second day in the school, I found myself speaking to the sixth form, the oldest students in secondary school who have been liberated from their uniforms. I ended up preaching the Gospel to a group that was 1/3 hijabis. What a grace, to stand before women who’ve been told that God does not and cannot love them and to tell them,1 “You are loved beyond imagining by a God who died to know you!” Some of them looked angry, but many more had tears in their eyes. Pray for them, that they would come to know the love of Christ and have the courage to follow him.
I had one day of sightseeing in London, after a lovely evening with a dear friend from college. I saw all of London in a rushed few hours so that I could spend two hours at Tyburn. Tyburn was where many of the English martyrs were killed during the Reformation, hanged, drawn, and quartered–including Edmund Campion, one of my dearest friends. I was blessed to be given a private tour of the relics from a story-telling Aussie nun, a real once-in-a-lifetime experience for someone who loves the English martyrs as I do. Then Mass at Westminster Cathedral to top off a lovely day.
After London, I was off to the south of England, to Southampton and Portsmouth where I spoke in 2 parishes and one school. I met a 12-year-old boy who was moved to tears when telling me the story of St. Tarcisius and a new bishop who spent half an hour talking eagerly with me about evangelization. I gave a talk before adoration and Father had to stay an extra 45 minutes to finish hearing confessions. See what I mean about hope?
Then an early morning cab to the airport, a short flight to Brussels, and a train to Mons, and there I was in Belgium! I had plenty of bread, chocolate, waffles, and beer, and the opportunity to minister to people from 8 or 10 different countries at NATO headquarters. We talked about prayer and evangelization and Mary and the Eucharist and the Resurrection and I was so encouraged to see how well the people in this community love Christ. On my day off, we went to Ghent to see the famous much-stolen altarpiece, go to Mass in Dutch, and enjoy the marvelous architecture along the river. The next day, I searched in vain for a Mass (hard to come by in Belgium, where the churches are open but empty all day long), explored a few marvelous churches in Mons, and then caught three trains and a bus to get to Germany. Up next: Germany, France, Austria, and Italy. Get excited!
- This is no attack on Islam–just an explanation that “God is love” is a uniquely Christian concept and that most Muslims would be outraged by the claim that God loves them. Allah tolerates you, perhaps even approves of you, but to claim that he loves you is a denigration of his dignity. [↩]