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  • Writer's pictureMonica Walton

Unpacking My Suitcase & My Travels

When I travel, I always want to experience as much of the local culture as I can possibly squeeze into the time I have there. It's a lot of fun and my adrenaline runs high, but I'm always worn out by the end of the trip. Returning home means a lot of work is waiting -- unpacking, laundry, grocery shopping -- It is all very exhausting, and leaves me feeling like I need a vacation to recover from my vacation!!

That was never more true than my recent pilgrimage to Italy !!

I am so blessed to have made this trip with some family to the ancient cities of Florence, Livorno, Lucca, and Sieci. The highlight and purpose was to witness my son's consecration as a Clerical Oblate with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

What is an Oblate, you ask? Watch this short video for an explanation: Guardians of the Priesthood


Nighttime view of Florence, Italy, taken from the piazza on one of our walks.

We walked miles through the cities each day. We ate delicious local foods. We met people from all over the world sharing our love of the Lord with each other and with strangers on the street. The whole experience was exhilarating! On the day we made our return trip to the U.S. we had been up 24 hours straight by the time we made it home. I had that tired, jet-lag, brain-fog, but all I wanted to do was sit and relive every moment by looking at the 700+ photos we took. However, I know myself, and if I don't completely unpack all my bags and begin laundry immediately, my suitcase will stay shoved in the corner for days.

(Here are a few more photos to share.)

Unpacking my suitcase after a trip is so much easier than packing it to leave.

Unpacking my experiences after a trip is so much more difficult than living them in the moment.

It may take the rest of my life to uncover all that I saw and felt in Italy.

We viewed and touched stone laid in the 2nd Century. We worshipped in some extraordinarily ornate and beautiful churches. The people who built those magnificent churches spent their entire lives on the project, yet did not live to see it completed. They did their very best to create exquisite, grand places of worship to honor and venerate the most important person in their lives, our loving and merciful creator, Almighty God. They adorned every surface from top to bottom, inside and out, with beautiful masterpieces of art, precious stones, gold, silver, crystal, lush fabrics, and intricate carvings - the very best for the King of Kings! It all tells the story of the Lord, and those churches are still standing in great form and continue to welcome more faithful pilgrims and disciples. Some moments were almost too much for this Louisiana girl to absorb, and my gift of tears showed in several places.

I was in a constant state of awe and wonder, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I was kneeling and praying on the other side of the world, in the same space where the faithful knelt and prayed so, so long ago !!!

We were immersed in the Traditional Liturgy of the Latin Mass, The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. This is a fairly new experience for me. I've participated in Latin Mass about a dozen times over the past few years. I'm learning that the difference goes much deeper than the obvious language, posture, gestures, and vestments. What I have noticed when attending the Latin Mass (in Italy and in the U.S.) is that families gather at the church early to pray the Rosary and spend time in silence. And, when mass is concluded and the recessional hymn is finished, they kneel again to offer prayers of thanksgiving for Jesus and the Mass. For me, this time slows my heart rate, calms my body, pulls my mind away from all the stuff happening outside, and draws me to focus on the crucifix. I remind myself that I'm here because the Lord wants me with Him. It's really nice to take the extra time. Isn't Mass the most important thing we do? Isn't the Eucharist the source and summit of our lives, when we connect with the Divine? (Read more CCC 1324)

Returning to my home parish, a contemporary style church and the Novus Ordo Missae, the new order of the Mass, has been challenging. The walls and ceilings aren't covered with paintings of the Holy Family to remind me of the story of Jesus Christ. It's a beautiful place of worship filled with beautiful people who are gathered to worship. What I noticed is that few people arrive early to transition and prepare their hearts, bodies, and minds. Many arrive just minutes before Mass begins, or after it has begun -- myself included on many occasions. Then, it seems the majority are in a hurry to leave and move on to the next thing on their list. The altar is quickly cleared and the majority of the pews have emptied before the first verse of the closing hymn is completed. No judgment! As I said, I've done the same more often than not! Life is busy! I get it!

I feel as though I'm standing between two realms

-- there and here -- then and now --

I'm not saying one is right, and the other wrong.

I see beauty and meaning in both forms of the Mass and in the various styles of architecture.

Unpacking my Suitcase of Faith is not like unpacking my travel suitcase -- grabbing items and putting them where they belong. My Suitcase of Faith is heavy and stuffed with much goodness -- I don't even know where all the pieces belong. I've sought wise counsel, heard many opinions, and discovered various schools of thought. For some, it's a part of the past. For others, it's meant to be everlasting. I'd love to hear your thoughts, too!

I've tried to view this in light of the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:18-23). Some church communities are planted on rocky ground. They begin with great joy and fervor, but the faithful don't take root and remain. Others are planted on thorny ground and the distractions of the world get tangled in and the good can't grow. Most of the churches I've attended during my lifetime seem to be planted in rich soil. Their roots run deep, and the faithful are bearing fruit.

Will I ever unpack all the symbols, traditions, history, inspirations, blessings, teachings, and all the pieces? How do I unpack the mysteries of the Faith and the experiences of this trip of a lifetime? What gives my relationship with Christ meaning? Where is the treasure? Where is the pearl of great price? (MT 13:44-52)

I've written pages and pages since I returned from Italy. I feel like I could write a book on all that I'm unpacking. For now, I'll close this post with the last paragraph of the Gospel from this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time liturgy today, and the questions that have surfaced in my prayer and meditation.

Jesus asked His Disciples:

"Do you understand all these things?" They answered, "Yes." And He replied, "Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old." Matthew 13:51-52

How do I honor and venerate the most important person in my life, my loving and merciful creator, Almighty God?

Do I give my very best and help create a beautiful, grand space of worship?

Lord, bless us and show us the way!

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Aug 10, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Very nice reflection …… much to unpack indeed ……. It is so easy to get stuck in the…….. Which is Which ……. Which is Right which is Wrong is just such an obsession ……… a major issue …… a problem …… does one have to be right and the other be wrong ………… in order for me to be satisfied ? A head of a household who brings forth from his storeroom both the new and the old !!!! Something to reflect on rather than dismiss !


Aug 01, 2023

Unlike you I don’t unpack my suitcase of faith. I try to add something to it everyday day and carry it with me wherever I go. its always with me and the more I add the lighter it gets and easier to carry. Faith makes life easier and it’s with me always.

Monica Walton
Monica Walton
Aug 05, 2023
Replying to

Beautiful perspective!!!

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