When I look back at this picture, I am in awe because there was something inside that was driving me. Literally pushing me with every step. We hadn’t even taken our first step on the walk and my brain was screaming at me that I was crazy and there is no reason to do this but my soul LONGED for it. Oh how I needed the reparation and mortification.
It was freezing that morning. I didn’t sleep well at all for several reasons. There was a child who whined most of the night and a man heavily snoring next to us. I was certain to offer all this up for my past sins but it was still very hard to manage.
I had heard a rumor that Father Nolan would wake all of us up with his bag pipes but instead, the chanting of the monks was blaring. I will never forget the chant!! The lights were then started and we hurried out of the tent to get everything packed. We didn’t have much time.
The chilly Oklahoma air revealed my breath so I knew it was very cold and I was ever so grateful we packed a tent heater. When I am cold, I really struggle so this was hard for me and I needed to warm my body through movement. We made coffee at our tent but as I walked to the port-o-potties, there was an area that had coffee, tea, and small breakfast bars. I brought back the coffee for my husband and I as we sat down and made a breakfast MRE. It was sort of fun.
I began shaking uncontrollably and realized it was not just because it was cold. We didn’t have much time and our tent needed to be packed. Plus we had to find the staging area. I was nervous. I had little confidence and with so many people around, we couldn’t find anyone from our parish group. We stayed together looking up and down the lines of people but it was dark and no one looked familiar. As soon as we recognized one person, we quickly lost sight of them. No one was telling us where to go to find our group and the sun was quickly coming up which meant the walk was going to start.
We finally were told our group was in a certain area so we stood there but didn’t recognize anyone. It took what seemed like forever for more people to be recognizable and then we weren’t even in the right area. This was very frustrating but we tried to make the best of it. As soon as we felt comfortable, I decided to try to make a last minute run to the port-o-potty. Oops! They were already being pulled by a truck so they were no longer an option. I thought I would be fine and my trip was merely a formality. I would soon be proven wrong.
The walk began as soon as there was enough daylight. As soon as we stepped onto the asphalt from the camp site, I felt the walking pace was too fast. We were going uphill so I figured it would slow down as soon as we were back on flat ground but it never slowed. I wasn’t out of breath since we came from high altitude but I felt like there was no way I could keep up with the pace. It was just so fast.
We didn’t do much talking at all. We looked down at the ground as we took each step and then it was time to pray. Rosaries out, the prayers began. While helpful, it was also hard with how fast we were moving. About an hour into the walk, we could see people falling out of line. I remember looking off into the woods seeing a guy standing in the open doing his “business.” I looked right at my husband and said, “don’t be that guy.” I had no idea what I was asking of him.
By the time an hour and a half passed, we both had to “do our business” but the pace was so fast, if we stopped to find a spot, we would lose our chapter. We had no idea when there would be a break and if there would be a place to go we tried to push the nature call out of our minds. It became consuming. There were many times we weren’t sure we would make it to the rest stop. One time, we decided we were going to step out and then the scenery changed and we were near homes instead of woods.
I honestly thought my bladder was going to explode. My prayers turned from reparations for my past sins to “help me get to the rest stop without soiling myself.” Kids were dropping their drawers on the side of the road. People who had stepped out from groups in front of us were running past us to catch back up to their group. In fact, it didn’t take us long to figure out why people were running towards the front of the groups. This didn’t help our situation at all.
By the time we made it to the first stop, we had less than 5 minutes before they were stepping off again. We were already behind! I stood in the line to use the potty, was able to get in and out and then we had to run to catch up to our group! I was unprepared for the pace of this walk. It was a bit defeating but I continued.
Despite the discomfort of the first leg of the trip, there was so much joy. We quickly learned that the rosary comes out after every break. Not only do we pray the rosary, we listen to sermons. Now that our bladders were empty and intact, we were able to have a snack and enjoy the next leg. It was just as fast.
We knew Mass was coming at lunch time so the roadside confessions began. I was prepared and wanted to confess but I had never done a face-to-face confession with our TLM priests. When it was my turn, I walked up to father and waited.
An awkward moment…was I supposed to speak first? Normally when I enter the confessional the priest is already praying and then pauses so I can start. This time, we just kind of stared at each other. “Father?” I asked. “OH,” he replied. And then the confession began. It was very quick for me. Others would confess for 30 minutes or so. It truly was beautiful making space for those to bear their sins. We were the protectors behind the priest ensuring that people wouldn’t run up or enter the “confessional” on accident.
We finally made it to Mass. I can’t believe I didn’t get a single picture of what it looked like but it was a huge field with makeshift seats (concrete blocks with slats of wood). I was hot and tired at this point. Can’t you tell?
After Mass and lunch (which it was Friday so we had peanut butter and jelly), I felt much better. It was a very nice break but our bodies were beginning to really hurt at this point.
We had finally become familiar with our group and where we were in the line-up so we found our spot and lined up for the next 12 miles. More rosaries and sermons along the way and again, my husband and I were pretty quiet. Merely focusing on keeping the pace and trying not to think about how bad we hurt.
It was definitely more hot in the afternoon but still relatively mild for Oklahoma. The humidity was certainly nice. You can see my red face in the picture above. This was a break after hiking up rocky hills. Those hills were the hardest of the entire trip.
I could feel every tiny rock through the soles of my shoes! I looked at the red dirt and imagined how Christ must have felt as he walked to Calvary carrying the cross. I meditated quite a bit on that mystery as we walked up these steep hills. I almost wanted to cry but I kept asking the Holy Spirit to carry me. Obviously, He was because there was no way I was doing this. Every muscle hurt. Every step was like daggers into my feet.
More and more people were dropping out along the walk. After the final “break,” and I say that lightly because there isn’t much resting, we were in the push to make it to the campground. Every turn I thought we were there but we weren’t. It was depressing. My hopes would be high as we made another turn, only to be crushed that we had more to go.
Everyone started saying, “We’re almost there, just another mile,” but they were always wrong. I heard “just another mile” so many times! I finally said to Jason, “I don’t think I can go much longer, if this next turn isn’t the campground, I need to be picked up.”
Just as I gave in, I heard our group say it’s time to run. Run?! What? Why??
We made it to the campground!
We ran through the cattle gates. I don’t know how we did it but there ARE pictures…somewhere. LOL
We still had so much walking to do once we got there. We needed to stake out a place for the tent (since we had no idea where the chapter was camping for the night). We ended up with Most Precious Blood of Tulsa, OK. Which was perfect since I go there when we are in town.
We then had to walk back to the staging area, collect all our supplies, carry them back to the spot we found, and put up our tent. What struck me was we were so exhausted but there were people that came out from everywhere to help us put up our tent. How were they so joyful?
We were in so much pain and just wanted to crash but I forced Jason to eat. We needed the energy. There was another talk that night with Eucharistic Adoration (Which I heard was beautiful and saw pictures) but there was no energy left in us. In fact, Jason was in so much pain from chaffing, we did not think we would make it. We asked one of the chapter members what we do in the morning if we can’t walk and went back to our tent to pray for a miracle.