I was telling someone this old tale yesterday, and he encouraged me to blog it as an example of being embedded in a Catholic imagination.
One of the grand adventures of my young life was the first half of 1993 when I lived in Galway and was supposed to be attending the university there. Around the middle of it all, I and this other kid Travis took a month to travel on the continent. We had no itinerary or plan. Nor did I keep any record of where we went. But the fun thing is that I can reconstruct the trip by liturgical time. I was in my first year as a Catholic then, and wanted to be very devout.
I know that we were in Paris for the Mass of the fifth Sunday of Lent. We actually had a hard time getting to Mass because we hadn't realized that the clocks had been set forward. A friendly American with whom we were playing hacky sack outside Les Invalides set us straight. I don't remember if the Mass we finally got to was on Sunday itself or was a vigil, so I can only conclude that we left Galway on either Friday or Saturday of the fifth week of Lent.
By Passion Sunday we were in Prague, having been through Bruges, Amsterdam, and Munich on the way. How could I forget the one priest reading the whole of the Passion himself in a language that was totally unknown to me? During the Prague spell we had added to our party this girl named Christine whom we had met in Germany. I remember that she and I got along very well and that she was fond of strawberry milk.
When the Triduum rolled around, I remember that we were in Verona, having stayed almost a week in Prague (it was very fun) and a night and a day in Vienna on the way. I remember going to the Easter Vigil in some little church and sharing my St. Joseph Sunday Missal with an American girl I met there. I think we went out for a paschal drink after Mass.
By the second Sunday of Easter I was in Assisi by myself. After a day there my traveling companion and I had decided to split up. I wanted to stay in Assisi for something like retreat time, and he wanted to go to Switzerland to try to go skiing. I think it was his birthday so we went and ate pizzas and drank a bunch of wine and the next morning he got on the train and I was alone. It was a wonderful week or so I spent in Assisi by myself, visiting the churches, walking the paths in the hills, and praying.
I know I left Assisi on a Friday, which had to be the Friday of of the second week of Easter, traveling straight back to Galway via Florence, Milan, Paris, Cherbourg, and Rosslare. I remember getting off the bus by Eyre Square in Galway on Sunday night at about nine o'clock, without having been to Mass. I knew that I could still make it to the ten p.m. Mass at the university, but not having had any food in a couple of days (I had run out of money) I went to the ATM instead and went for something to eat.
So it was surely Monday of the third week of Easter when I went to Galway Cathedral to go to confession, since I hadn't been in a month and I had missed Mass the Sunday before. When the priest asked me why I had missed Mass, I told him the whole yarn about how I had counted my money wrongly and had to travel straight from Assisi to Galway over two days and two nights with nothing to eat, how I had to search my backpack for French change to get from one station to another on the Paris Métro, and of various other misadventures. Of course the priest enjoyed all of this immensely. The Irish love stories.