I have been to St. Louis, Missouri/Belleville, Illinois. I saw East St. Louis (urban blight on its way up, felt right at home), The Hill (linguine with white clam and shrimp sauce), and the green patinaed, copper-sheathed spires of many churches I wished I could stay longer and visit.
I at last saw the St. Louis Arch, which is apparently some kind of national landmark (perhaps especially known to sports fans?), and over which my little brother Joe came very close several years ago to disowning me when I confessed that I had never heard of it.
I sampled a local delicacy known as Gooey Butter Cake. Jim Cavataio, husband of event/retreat organizer Rosalee, very kindly went to some special bakery and bought me a whole cake, which I shared with the receptionist at my hotel and who is now my friend for life.
I was hosted by a Catholic order called the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. O.M.I. priests live and work among the poor in 71 countries, including Sri Lanka, Zambia, the Philippines, Haiti, India and Brazil.
I was thrilled to learn from presenter Fr. John Madigan that founder St. Eugene De Mazenod, came from a “dysfunctional” family and felt guilty his whole life for not having been good, kind, and effective enough to prevent his parents from divorcing.
I was called upon to talk a lot–that’s why I was there–and I was humbled, honored and grateful and I am also drained. I am an extreme introvert, which doesn’t mean I don’t love being around people–nor, surprisingly, that I apparently can’t give a halfway decent talk–does mean I am somewhat drained, not energized (at least superficially), by the experience.
I would ALWAYS “rather” be in solitude and not just because I, too, am the type who worries even now that I couldn’t have made my parents happier. Solitude is where I feel “most myself” and every chance I could I took off and walked the lovely grounds of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, marveling at the wild grapes, crabapples, chokecherries (?), and goldenrod; praying that I would say something that at least one of the wonderful women who turned out at the retreat could relate to or be comforted by or use.