Thursday, June 7, 2007

June 6 - Traveling Home

It's best to pack the night before leaving somewhere. I've learned this by experience - at least, by my experience. It also makes for a more restful sleep the night before a journey.

I was well and truly packed, except for the things I'd wear and take along on the place, by around midnight and had a good rest. In the morning, being awakened by the morning sun and the view of the Main Chapel put me in the right disposition for the day. Before Mass at 7 AM, I took my bags downstairs to the basment so that they could be loaded right onto the van going to the airport. One of the bags weighed at least 70 lbs. and I hoped that it wouldn't cause problems at check-in. But since I'd emptied out my mileage account to get upgraded to Business, it shouldn't be a problem.

Right after Mass there was just time for a quick breakfast before taking off. I said my goodbyes to the Brothers in the dining room and we packed up the van. One of the Brothers at the Motherhouse, Br. Steven Touhy, had volunteered to drive us. The group consisted of myself and Paul Wolfing, traveling together on the same plane, Roch (going to London for a week with the Brothers there), and Br. Tim Coldwell, who was just appointed as the Visitor of the New Orleans - Santa Fe District and would therefore have to end his job at the Motherhouse as Secretary for Formation, having only spent some 10 months at it. A number of Brothers were there to see us off, including Lorenzo, which was a nice thing for them to do. I'm sure that they see folks coming and going all of the time. Perhaps that's why they know that a gesture like that gives an appreciative ending to an experience like this.

We left the house around 8:15 AM and I arrived at the house in Sacramento at 10 PM. Given the time difference, that makes for about 23 hours of traveling time all-told. The experience airport at Fiumucino was an appropriate end to my Italian journey, since it was as chaotic as some of the traffic patterns in Rome. Once you got inside, you had to figure out which line to get into. "Oh, it's that long, 100-yard line, five people wide, moving slowly through two lanes where airport personnel are checking passports and tickets prior to letting you through to the lines for the counters. Thirty minutes later, now we stand in line for the United counter server and checking our bags. Twenty minutes later, now we stand in line for having our carry-on bags checked through the radar. Twenty minutes later, my Ovieto wine bottle was confiscated and disposed of. And then there's the line for passport control out of the country. Finally, finally you're in the shopping area prior to standing in line for the tram to the terminal where the planes are. And then there's the line to get onto the plane itself.

The plane ride was long and tiring. It's sort of exciting to get onto the plane to begin with, but that soon wears thin and by the end of the 9 hours you can't wait to get off. In Washington, since we were transferring, we had to walk at least 200 yards down this tiny corridar skirting the departure areas, separated from those in the boarding areas by a wall of windows (I felt like an ant in one ofthose ant farms where the ants scurry down long plastic tubes) and then to a very small passport control area. More lines. First a long line for US citizens to have their passport stamped. Then out to a baggage area crammed with people, baggage taken off the carousels to make room for more bags strewn around the floor - one with a puddle of wine around it where a bottle inside had obviously broke. Another line to turn in your US Customs card after you've picked up your bags. Another line to drop off your bags to be re-checked in for your domestic destination. And a final line just to make sure that you did the the first lines correctly. From there it was into the terminal for the wait for the Sacramento plane, with the appropriate lines of course. Travel is no longer fun.

In Sacramento, Paul's girlfriend, sister, and CB friend Will were there to welcome him, and Br. Donald was there to pick me up. We had to wait a while for the luggage, but thankfully everything arrived without obvious problems. Then it was a short ride back to the house, where I spent a little time filling Donald in on some of the Chapter's highlights before gratefully turning in on a familiar bed in a familiar room (that will change soon).

So that's the final final end to this particular journey. I must say that it's been one of the more significant experiences in my life as a Brother. The privilege of meeting the Brothers attending the General Chapter, of interacting with them, of helping them celebrate the liturgies, of being part of conversations regarding the significant aspects of our life as Brothers - even with all of the time and the work and the worry - made it very much worthwhile. It gave me new appreciation for our vocation and for our significant impact, albeit it largely unrecognized and unadorned, in the educational apostolate of the Church. There are some great things happening out there in the Lasallian world, and there are some great people involved in it. I guess that I knew that already, but it's nice to have it confirmed by way of an experience such as this. It makes me proud to be a Brother and grateful for my vocation with the Brothers.

For those who have followed this blog, thanks for your comments and encouragements. I would likely have dropped it at some point over the last six weeks, simply through the need for sleep, if I hadn't received the positive feedback and emails. For now, I'm going to stop doing this everyday thing, but I will likely do a weekly post if you care to check in.

But first I have to unpack my bags. Why am I coming back with more stuff than when I left? Well, the "good stuff" that I came back with isn't in the bags and will remain with me much longer than anything else that I might have brought. And that's a good thing.
More pictures from today at