Reflections from the road: Feet for Francis Day 4

As hard as it is to cull his canon, my favorite Willie Nelson song is “Still Is Still Moving To Me,” an ode to the curious mind that never stops. It describes the pilgrimage’s first two nights, as I did not get a wink of sleep in Parkville or Bel Air. Fatigued, wrung out and after losing my composure or having to walk back some inane pronouncement, I would find Father Jack Lombardi and stand next to him. Often, I would ask him to pray for me. Other times, he would sense my anxiety and contrition, and recite, slowly and in a voice just above a whisper, the following:
“Calm the mind. Breathe in the Divine.”
That intercession, a new air mattress delivered by my wife, Mary, to John Carroll Sept. 21 and private quarters in a small storage room at St. Agnes in Rising Sun, courtesy of Tony Antenucci, allowed me to awake refreshed the morning of Sept. 23. It was literally no walk at all to Mass on the Feast of Padre Pio. Father Jack was barefoot, as was most of his congregation. He spoke of removing all the stuff and junk we accumulate, and simplifying our lives.
“We’re in a bubble for a week,” Father Jack said. “You have a choice, to live a life of simplicity.”

The breakfast crew at St. Agnes in Rising Sun included Jack Scarbath, second from left, a University of Maryland football great in the early 1950s. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

After breakfast, he piled into a van and drove back to Conowingo Dam, leading roughly a third of the pilgrims on a seven-mile morning stretch that brought them right back to St. Agnes. I visited with Karen Fiallos and Liliana Abril, who represented Sacred Heart Glyndon and archdiocesan Hispanic Ministry well.
Liliana was among the weary getting first aid from Deacon Luke Yackley, who worked for the VA for 31-plus years. An Illinois native, he was a seminarian in Baltimore when his discernment turned him in another direction. Attending a show at the old Club Venus in February 1973, he met a young woman named Terri. Two months later, they were married. They are the parents of four and the grandparents of 12. The man who married them, Vinnie Quayle, followed a similar path, leaving the priesthood, founding the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, marrying and raising a family in Northeast Baltimore. He and I were fellow parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi in Mayfield. His son, Paul, went to its parish school with my daughter, Kate. One of the guys serving us breakfast, Jack Scarbath, grew up in that parish. Again, you can’t make this stuff up.

Megan Kinsella Quaranta (kneeling, left) was among the support van drivers who shepherded pilgrims over the Mason-Dixon Line. The youth minister at St. Mark Fallston is pregnant, in her second trimester. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

While Father Jack was busy walking, I schemed the afternoon route, which did not work. Yes, it took us to a great photo op at the Mason-Dixon Line, but on the other side, Pennsylvania doesn’t allow motorists on the divided highway that is Route 1. For several hours, we walked illegally, under a brilliant, cloudless sky, but to the constant hum of 60 MPH traffic. My bad.

Pilgrims heard plenty of drivers honking their horns in support, but didn’t get many chances to distribute prayer cards along Route 1 in Pennsylvania. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)  

The morning was not a total loss, however, as Father Jack had borrowed a papal flag from St. Agnes. For the rest of the pilgrimage, it waved alongside the American flag brought by Mary Bergin, one that has its own story. Before she joined Father Jack’s inaugural Fortnight for Freedom walk from Hancock to Baltimore in 2012, Mary’s father bought her a flowing, in her words, “American Flag scarf at Gettysburg to wear around my neck. On the walk the boys used it as a cape, saying they were Captain America. The boys found a piece of bamboo and turned it into a flag. They then took turns holding it.” Mary’s father died earlier this year, but a piece of him was with her every step of the way. In the following video, Joe Landry is carrying the papal flag, James Tiller the American flag.
Reaching the Pennsylvania town of Oxford, Pa., we hopped in support vans for a 25-mile drive to our night’s lodging, at St. Cornelius in Chadds Ford. When we arrived, it was in the process of moving hundreds of pilgrims from the Diocese of Boise into guest homes. Monsignor Greg Parlante found quarters in the rectory for Father Jack, and allowed me to turn the pastor’s meeting office into the Catholic Review MoJo (mobile journalist) suite for the night.
I wrote until midnight, but was soon fast asleep, to the following: 
“Calm the mind. Breathe in the Divine.”

Monsignor Greg Parlante offered the pastor’s meeting space, which was turned into a mobile office and sleeping space. (CR Staff/Paul McMullen)

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