And then, we turn the corner, head due north, and the Dome becomes visible for the first time.
When that happens, somewhere in the middle of the bus a few voices begin singing our Alma Mater, "Notre Dame, Our Mother." By the time we pass the Security Check, the entire choir is singing in four-part harmony.
The pilgrimage is over, and it is time to take stock, to look back on memories, to ask the "why" of what we experienced, to hold in prayer the faces of those who fed and housed us along the way.
What shouldn't be discounted here is the vast, vast experience of church witnessed by our choir, experiences we encounter as we travel the hundreds of miles that make up an excursion by this ensemble. We have seen it all – married Catholic priests, fabulously hospitable people, parishes now run entirely by deacons, humbling welcomes, even a few hostile musicians here and there. We have met bishops who were truly in love with the sheep they shepherd. We have traveled through impoverished dioceses, yoked with rules that would daunt a Pharisee. We have seen parishes that have a beautiful balance of social justice, spirituality, music and liturgy. And all the while, as pilgrims, it has been our solemn task to accept what is given us, sing the very best we can, and greet every stranger as if we were seeing the face of the Savior.
Now, as we head back to the Golden Dome, it becomes my task to sort through all these memories.
There are many, many thank you letters to write now that I'm home: this, in and of itself, is an amazing testimony to the wondrous acts of hospitality that we encountered.
When we leave Notre Dame, I always say a silent prayer for safe travel. I pray to the Mother of God and to St. Brendan, Navigator and protector of all who wander in the Name of The Lord. That prayer is a silent, hidden one.
But upon our return the prayer is one of song, full of thanksgiving and gratitude. It is an appropriate song of protection, this Alma Mater of ours, for it celebrates our being under the mantle of a woman who watches over us all:
Notre Dame, our Mother, tender strong and true.
Proudly in the heavens gleams thy gold and blue.
Glory's mantle cloaks thee, golden is thy fame,
And our hearts forever praise thee, Notre Dame.
And our hearts forever love thee, Notre Dame!
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Location:Woodhurst Rd, Granger, United States