This was by far the loudest group ever. I had a blast with everyone. Here’s my top 10 as I reflect from the plane…
1. Camping out for the beatification, it was insane, but a great bonding experience. The singing Vatican girl and levitating through the masses stand out as two highlights within the highlight. (side note: levitating was not a highlight as it happened!)
2. Rome during the beatification. It was so awesome to be in Rome surrounded by virtual friends. I didn’t see them all, but just communicating and knowing they were nearby was great! Rocco Palmo, Lisa Hendey, Thomas Peters, Fr. Roderick and Steve Nelson from SQPN and of course my Maximus co-workers Lisa Wheeler and Alexis Walkenstein.
3. The actual beatification. When they dropped the veil from the tapestry of JP II and brought out the relic, I cried.
4. Ephesus. Turkey is exotic. And visiting Mary’s House and Ancient Ephesus is such a great experience. I’ve never felt more at peace than when we were driving to the top of the mountain where Mary and John lived.
5. The disco. They sometimes played the same song three times in one night, the DJ has never heard of beat matching or a crossfader, but we all had a great time ‘Haddawaying’ it up!
6. Getting Osama! The timing was not ideal given that it was announced shortly before we arrived in Turkey. But it was great knowing that we got him. I had already given in to the fact that he probably died naturally years ago and we’d never find him. And just reading the details of the operation… Jack Bauer would be impressed!
7. Watching the sunset in Santorini. I missed my bride and was completely alone. But it’s still such an amazing sight. A great time to reflect.
8. Finding a random guy with a Hawkeyes flag in Patmos. No connection to me, but I love to see how small our world is. The fact that I was with a few people from Iowa and thinking of a couple more who could not join us made it even better.
9. The Catholic Guy Show Crew. This is our second trip together. They could use anyone, and they picked me. Twice! Ryan is such a nice guy. Maureen is so liberal that you have to love her. Fr. Rob would make a great priest if only he were ordained. And Lino can easily offend an entire country during a 15 minute bus ride. Can’t wait for Italy in October!
10. The people. I made some great friends on the trip. And though we are spread across the country, I think we’ll meet again. The pre-trip Facebook group was such a great way to bond, we arrived in Europe full of nicknames and inside jokes. It was like we were already best friends by the time we met in person.
Here are my daily travelogues from the trip:
Recon – Getting ready for the group
Day one – Rome in a day
Day two – Beatification
Day three – Mykonos
Day four – Ephesus and Patmos
Day five – Rhodes
Day six – Crete and Santorini
Day seven – Ancient Corinth
Day eight – Parthenon