According to my plans, today I was to be sitting down, writing my Catholic Exchange column, and sharing with you the wonderful experience I had at the Eucharistic Congress in Georgia this past weekend. The event had been on my calendar since November 2008. I was to be there to help at the table of Teresa Tomeo, one of the keynote speakers, and author of Newsflash. Teresa is also the co-author of the “All Things Gir l” book series that I’ve had the thrill of publishing over the past year. Teresa’s co-authors, Molly Miller and Monica Cops, were going to meet us in Georgia and the four of us were going to have a grand time! At least that was Plan “A.”
The week leading up to the Eucharistic Congress involved a myriad of different chores to be taken care of: books had to be shipped, paperwork had to be filed with the organizers, outfits had to be purchased and suitcases needed to be packed. Along with the typical demands of such an event, we had all given a day to prayer and fasting so that our time together would best serve God.
By the time Thursday had arrived I could feel the symptoms of the flu — from which I had just suffered a few weeks earlier -– making themselves known. I hadn’t felt very good throughout the day but kept pushing myself to finish packing and print out my ticket etc. –- all the last minute things that tend to make up the 24 hours prior to going out of town. Late in the day, with just about everything complete, the first wave of dizziness and nausea washed over me. Stunned and shaken, I started to panic. I couldn’t imagine getting on the plane but neither could I imagine not getting on the plane!
After an hour, and with the symptoms increasing in strength, I knew that I wouldn’t be flying to Georgia. I called Molly and then Teresa and between sobs shared what was happening. Plan “A” was officially dead.
Plan “B” wasn’t anything like Plan “A.” Plan “B” was simply that the dream trip to Georgia would not take place and Molly and Monica and Teresa would scramble and cover the work that all four of us would have done. Plan “B” also meant that the time we were hoping to experience and cherish together just wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t that Plan “A” had been adjusted but that a whole new plan was underway. God’s plan had taken precedence over mine.
As we had all prayed and fasted I admit feeling a bit let down. It wasn’t as if I had “earned” the trip through those actions but, rather, that I had wanted them so bad I couldn’t fathom them not materializing.
Sometime late Thursday, once all the plans had been cancelled, I realized that all that was left was for me to offer up both the illness and my heartache. I was not strong enough to cope with either and the only option left was to give them over and allow them to be joined with Christ, at the foot of the Cross, for His purpose.
Offering things up is something that is a bit unique to Catholic Christians. In offering up our suffering, in joining it with Christ at the foot of the Cross, we are acknowledging that it — our sadness, our heartache — is both painful and valuable. On its own, the weight of our crosses can become too much to bear; however, joined with Christ’s own suffering, they have the potential to become jubilant, joyful even. We are given a chance to delight in having something that can be used by our Savior, if only we allow it to be so.
Oftentimes, when we are caught up in the reality of the demise of Plan “A,” we forget the value of offering it up. We forget that in our pain we have been given a way to truly unite ourselves — as earthly sojourners — with Christ until we unite with Him in heaven.