When my family visits other parishes during our travels, we’re touched and uplifted spiritually. If I copied Geoffrey Chaucer and his tales of Canterbury, I could call them Biever Tales. But then people would think of something else, and my purpose would be lost.
In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, many pilgrims share stories on their journey. In their stories – some funny, some profound, each as unique as those on the journey, I see Jesus – a Jesus who came to save an imperfect world and loves us, flaws and all.
When our family travels, I research Mass Times  to find parishes where we can worship. Then I find a Mass time that meets our schedule and map our way to the parish. Sometimes, our schedule is tight.
- This summer, we went to Mass at Holy Rosary in Indianpolis just two hours before my daughter went to Washington, D.C., for a week of workshops.
- Last month, when my son returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., we raced to St. Monica parish in Indianapolis, running a few minutes late. In that case, I had my Mass times folder, complete with times and maps to 4 different parishes, depending on what time his bus got back.
- Our travels have taken us in recent years to St. Anthony in Indianapolis, Our Lady of the Springs in French Lick, and St. Thomas Moore in Mooresville.
Each time we follow those maps to visit a parish, sight unseen, I pray we won’t get lost and something remarkable will happen. It does. When we’re out of our comfort zone in a new parish and city, we still enjoy universal Mass responses. Being out of our comfort zone jars us from complacency and helps me discover Jesus in unexpected ways.
- Worshiping in the tiny parish where the young child who’s just learned to talk says “Amen.” At least 20 times in a row.
- Listening to a youth praise band full of young people playing with all their hearts and souls.
- Hearing church bells in a parish that feels like it was lifted from the hills of Italy and brought to the Midwest.
- Meeting priests who recognize us as guests and make a special point to make us feel welcome, thanking us for visiting them.
- Visiting a parish where we’re in the racial minority and everyone there makes an extra effort to welcome us.
- Being invited for coffee and donuts after Mass in new places.
Yesterday, as we visited a tiny parish on a hillside in French Lick, Indiana, during the readings, I grabbed my husband Richard’s hand. The priest had just shared a profound insight about God’s love and wedding feasts. We both saw Jesus again in that moment.
Just as in Chaucer’s time with a band of diverse pilgrims, no two parishes are the same. Nevertheless, they are united in the Eucharist. Each, in its own way, teaches us a new facet of God’s love and introduces us to Jesus all over again.
So each week, wherever I am, I can stop the bustle of my schedule, meet Jesus for a very important occasion, and remember how much He loves me and all of us.