The past couple of weeks, I have been struggling quite a bit with what my contribution to this astounding journey could possibly be. I feel indefinitely blessed for the opportunity to be a witness to something so extraordinary, but I can’t rid the notion that being a witness is not enough. Just as I will be receiving such wonderful, long lasting gifts from this experience, so too do I so very much want to have something to give. Needless to say, being in the company of such fervently intelligent and passionate people is a bit intimidating to a curious, but oftentimes unsure and naive senior in college.
I have struggled with this since that fateful and exhilarating morning this summer when I met Abie Ingber for the first time for a tour and meeting over at Hillel and left a few hours later with an invitation to attend a conference at the Vatican. Along with the incredible excitement and disbelief over the magnitude of such an opportunity, I have not, since that morning, stopped thinking, “What have I to give?” As October 20 got closer and closer, I began to pray that God would help my find my place on this journey. I lit a candle in front of the Blessed Virgin statue in Bellarmine and have stopped in most every day since then for a few brief minutes to ask Mother Mary to help me discover what my gift to all of this is meant to be.
This past Tuesday afternoon, I found myself back at Hillel, sitting in the same seat as I was the morning Abie asked if I could perhaps make some room in my schedule for the Pope in October, and I think I began to get an answer to my prayer. I am not often left speechless, but sitting in Abie’s office listening to him share with me the many experiences that have led him to where he is today, I was left without words, yet with more faith…faith that I would in some way find my answer to the prayer I had been praying for weeks, faith that God has for some reason led me to this day, and faith that this journey is not a culmination, but rather a beginning.
Tonight, when I finished my packing efforts (that is, until tomorrow morning!), I sat down to reflect a bit and got out a journal I kept for a service trip I took to New Orleans a few summers ago. The journal was opened to the address of Mr. Johnson, a gentleman in New Orleans whose house we restored while we were down there. Below his address, I wrote something he said to us the afternoon before we left. He said, “I sure do hope God blesses all of you because he sure blessed me sending you all.” This little note jotted down on the page struck me with an irony that makes you grin and say, “There you go again, God.”
The name of the exhibit Abie, Dr. Buchanan, and Dr. Madges now famously designed honoring the contributions of Pope John Paul II to the relationship between the Jewish and Christian faith communities is, of course, called “A Blessing to One Another.” How fitting Mr. Johnson’s words were for our time with him in New Orleans, and how fitting they are tonight for the time that we are about to have in Rome. We certainly are all blessings to one another, and wow, what a blessing that is.