Karen Stein of Cazenovia, New York, a member of Regnum Christi since 1991, was invited to Rome in December of 2012 to attend the International Congress on Ecclesia in America. She was deeply affected by the prayerful experience, including the Liturgy of the Hours Morning Prayer, a mass at St. Peter’s, a personal meeting with the Pope Benedict XVI, and saying the Rosary in the Vatican Gardens. “After the Rosary, we were free to explore the Gardens on our own,” she said. “Imagine!” In November, 2013, she had the opportunity to attend the follow-up pilgrimage and meeting, “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization on the American Continent,” in Mexico City at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica. Seeing people from all the countries in America “praying in their individual languages the Rosary while walking up the hill at Tepeyac, participating in Eucharistic Adoration and in the beautiful liturgies at the foot of Our Lady” and a personal teleconference with Pope Francis left a lasting impression on her. Following is the first of a series on her impressions these experiences:
I believe that Christ is waiting for each one of us to find the path that leads us to Him.
Looking back, it is apparent there were incidents in my life that directed me one way versus another, some with Providence, and some without. It happens to all of us. (Most saints would confirm that they were not born that way rather they walked in our shoes and had their own stories of personal conversion before attaining heaven.)
I had no preconceived ideas or desires about attending the event in Rome. For me it was more like I was being sent out. It was a mysterious “Come and see” opportunity to deepen my understanding of how the Church works and to get to know the person of Christ more. I did have a curiosity of how to collaborate with the Church so that whatever I was called to do, it would be in sync with the mission of Evangelization. That is, it would complement her mission allowing the New Evangelization to happen faster and change our culture in these desperate times. Somehow God put me on this path, and my only hope was that He would tenderly make it clear to me the why, what, when and how.
I knew that those 4 days were not just for me, but rather everything that was given to me was to be shared so that others can come to a deeper understanding of the New Evangelization and develop a profound appreciation of where the heart of the Church is in light of this mission.
A month prior to the Conference on the New Evangelization, I was in Rome for a different meeting having been invited by my dear friend, Ashley. Up to the last week I was on the fence as to whether I was really meant to attend this meeting which was a very small group seminar on the laity’s role in the new springtime ushered in by Vatican II and organized by a group of which I was unfamiliar.
While discerning whether I should take my friend up on her invitation to this “Springtime of Faith” meeting, I clearly heard – “If you receive an invitation you should go.” Simple, but unexpected, it had to be one of those Holy Spirit moments. I booked my flight.
The first day I met a woman, Diana, also from New York, and discovered we both had been invited by Ashley who unfortunately was not able to attend. I can remember the entirety of our first conversation which revolved around our individual apostolates for women and Diana saying – almost blurting out – that she felt God had something exciting in store for our friendship. (Before leaving the Eternal City, she was proven right!)
Since fewer than 40 people were at this springtime meeting, we had the opportunity to get to know all of the participants. One man was keenly interested in our similar but different apostolates for women. He mentioned an upcoming conference on the document, Ecclesia in America and thought it important for women to be there. He forwarded our names to the Secretary for the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and they extended an invitation to both of us!
This International Congress on Ecclesia in America (to be held at the Vatican!) was sponsored by the Pontifical Commission and the Knights of Columbus and held over the Triduum of the feasts of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was less than a month away, and I had just returned from Rome and family was coming for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Needless to say, it was hard to imagine traveling for another week on such short notice. But Diana sent me an email trying to convince me to register, saying that her mother always said “if you receive an invitation, you should go.” (There was that Holy Spirit again!) Slowly, it began to sink in. But the idea remained incredible, a sentiment that has not subsided. How could I decline?
One week later we were at the Spanish steps with Pope Benedict XVI celebrating the Feast of the Immaculate Conception! This was not the first time I had seen Benedict up close. Each time it is an overwhelming and humbling experience. The next 4 days would be no different…
(more to come…)