When God took us to Chicago.

Greetings and blessed New Year from my tropical Christmas break location in Oswego, Illinois where it reached 50 degrees today! 

This summer, I was a missionary for the Totus Tuus program here in the Diocese of Joliet and yesterday I was lucky enough to spend the day in the beautiful City of Chicago with my wonderful teammates, Nicole and Stephanie who had the burden of dealing with me for two whole months on the road. Our other teammate, Luke, (who, by the way, is the man) is studying in Rome and couldn’t come. But it was still such an awesome day that I wanted to share it with you…via pictures! 

Ok….so my 2007 Hyundai Sonata’s name is Patsy, and she’s great. She was our team car this summer and so of course we were all running to her so we could get to the train station and into the city! 

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The adventures in Patsy were always something worth remembering, and it was nice that nothing had changed. 

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Nicole had “been on trains lots of times” because she had just “traveled around Austria” but there’s nothing like a train ride with the Ryguy. 

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It was fun to be with Nicole in Chicago since she lives in Michigan and doesn’t get down here much . 

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Of course, Chicago is much more fun when you’re fly like me. I’ll be one of those movie star priests! 

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The first real act of the day was to visit one of my favorite churches, St. Peter’s In the Loop at Madison and Clark (kind of) near Union Station. To my surprise, they were having adoration so we decided to start our trip with a couple of minutes with the Lord. The girls were off checking out the relics of St. Francis (they’re Francis Freaks! In a totally cool way, though) and I noticed this guy lurking around the confessionals. He wasn’t homeless by any means, unless homeless people are shopping at Hollister these days, but totally looked lost inside of a Catholic Church. He looked like he was either admiring the architecture of the confessional door or he wanted some absolution but had no idea what to do; first he tried to open the priest’s door….locked. Then he tried to turn the doorknob on the penitent’s door….those don’t turn so he thought it was locked and walked away kind of glum. So I went up to him and asked if wanted to go to confession and he said “uh..yes…” and so I explained what to do and why the knobs don’t turn, etc and he thanked me and went in there. So the Lord brought us to adore him in the Blessed Sacrament and to help that guy go to confession. Awesome. 

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There are no pictures, but the girls made 5 PB&J sandwiches to give out to hungry people we met along the way. The Gospel yesterday was the 5 loaves and 2 fish so that was kind of providential too, I suppose. 

After the church, we went to see the bean because Nicole had never seen and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the bean? We finally got an all team picture! Hello, Luke! 

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We continued being obnoxious. 

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Then, when I was done being fly, we decided it would be fun to walk to the Buckingham Fountain. “Well, this is dumb” said I, “the fountain will be off!” So, with haste, we went back toward the bean and on to our next destination: Holy Name Cathedral. Of course, Nicole and I had to stop and pretend to be skyscrapers for a sec. 

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We were walking North on Michigan Avenue when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the Pauline Books and Media store! Sr. Helena Burns is so COOL and we go back and forth in the Twitterverse all the time so I thought it would be fun to take a quick pic and tweet at her that we were in the neighborhood. I had no idea that the sisters’ convent was in the same building. But Nicole and Stephanie wanted to go in and look around, so in we went.

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We were shopping for probably close to a half hour when, out of nowhere, appears none other than Sr. Helena Burns who had not seen my tweet but was simply being a rock star and doing what she does. 

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We get to talking, and she offers us a tour of the place which we graciously accept and, much to our surprise, makes the following statement: “I can take you on the roof if you’d like.” 

YOU CAN TAKE US ON THE ROOF OF YOUR CONVENT IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO!? 

“Yeah, you can even see The Bean.” 

WELL………..YEAH! 

So, up we went. It was so stinkin’ cool. 

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Since that little adventure took up some time, we decided to just see the outside of the cathedral and head to the greatest of destinations: Chilis.

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My oasis in the desert of life. LOVE that place. From my Facebook page:

 When the server at Chili’s discovered my deep love for the place, she asked if I were ever to have bad service, would I come back. And, in my Ryan-ness, informed her I was a seminarian and studying to priest and the proceeded to explain how just as the Church is often brought down by the people left to run Her but the Church herself does not change or falter, so it is with Chili’s. One bad server or bad experience does make all Chili’s restaurants bad and so I will always give them a 2nd, 3rd, and 50th chance. Please pray for me because I’m nuts. (Half off the bill, though!) 

Half off the bill! Love it, love it, love it.

But, seriously, God is so good…almost too good sometimes. And I needed yesterday to remind me of that. As I go through winter break and speak and parishes and high schools and visit old friends I’m sometimes tempted to think that it’s all about me, you know? To think, as I totally used to, that my life is MY life and no one elses, that I am meant to serve myself and my own ends. If I am going to be a priest as I believe I will be (although, really, pray for me) my life is no where close to being my own; it must belong to the world, it must belong to God who is the giver of life. When we give our lives totally to God and do not save one ounce of them for ourselves, man the joy that comes with that is so overwhelming. And, at the end of the day, aren’t we all seeking joy? Well then, start living a life of J.O.Y.: Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last. 

Thanks for a great day, God. Here’s to many more. 

RA