My friend Nancy and I aren’t particularly spontaneous, but somehow we often find ourselves on adventures that we never could have imagined —like our pilgrimage to Italy. In the fall of 2015, when Pope Francis visited the United States, we didn’t get the chance to see him. We decided that we would make a point of visiting Italy soon to make up for it. As fate would have it, we heard about a pilgrimage called “Walking with Pope Francis and Saint Francis Today.” It was only a month away, and there had been a last minute cancellation. We jumped on the opportunity.
Most of our fellow pilgrims had been planning for over a year—reading about the places we would visit and the saints who had lived there. Because we were last-minute travelers, we didn’t have time to prepare. We would often climb onto to the bus in the morning with little to no idea of where we were going that day.
The first night of the pilgrimage, our leader asked if we were tourists or pilgrims. We were so excited to be there that we hadn’t even thought about our roles until that moment. Instead of the planning, overthinking and analyzing we might have done if we’d had time, we were able to jump right into the role of pilgrims and go where the Holy Spirit led us.
And the Holy Spirit had plans for us! We arrived in Rome a night early, giving us time to explore on our own. We saw Pope Francis from behind a barricade in St. Peter’s as he walked from a private memorial to a side exit. Our phone recording captures our hushed but excited voices, but the reality behind it was of the two of us with flailing arms, jumping up and down trying to get his attention.
This child-like joy—and trust that our travel details would be taken care of—continued throughout the trip and led us to the heart of what God called us to experience, including an unexpected trip to Paris that helped inspire the first Modern Saint design.
A night in the cathedral
Because our flights were booked separately from the rest of the pilgrims, we were the only two who had connecting flights home through Paris. So we decided to stay a few days. True to our Italian segment, we didn’t do any planning. We made decisions in the moment, such as when we wandered into Notre Dame Cathedral early one evening. As we walked through the massive doors, we heard the opening chords of organ music—the entrance procession of the Mass. The tour crowds had left, and we were part of a small, intimate congregation. As night fell, the doors were closed to the public. We found ourselves in a quiet, almost empty cathedral and experienced the most beautiful Mass, followed by a candle-lit adoration. We couldn’t have planned it any better. It was as if our pilgrimage continued. We arrived at the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal the following day, just as the nuns were beginning the Rosary. This Chapel is where St. Catherine Labouré received her visions of Mary and directions to have the Miraculous Medal made.
We had so many moments throughout our travels that gave us the confidence that God was watching over us and leading us to each experience with a fatherly love. Prior to visiting Paris, I had an admiration for the many beautiful French saints, but it was almost as if God was calling me to get to know them better through this pilgrimage.
What about you?
Have you ever had an idea for something and then found that events kept leading you closer to completing it? I’d already begun to pursue the idea of a Catholic jewelry company before our spontaneous adventure. But much like the pilgrimage, Modern Saint is already much better than anything I first imagined in my small view of what it could be. The pilgrimage to Italy and Paris were part of God’s plan for me to see his abundance and how everything is better when I just surrender to his plan. I am still in the early steps of this Modern Saint pilgrimage, but I’m excited to see where God leads me.
Come, Holy Spirit, be our guide.
Our signature version of the Miraculous Medal that St. Catherine Labouré was called to create is available in 14K rose, white and yellow gold and enamel and is made by hand in Los Angeles.