Today I have a few hours in which to pack, post a few more pictures, and get ready for the March (which begins early this afternoon). I decided I'd share some of my experiences so far with anyone reading my blog (which may only include my Mom, but that's okay with me!).
This year, the Seminarians and I rode on our own chartered bus straight to D.C., with only three short stops. This allowed us to not only arrive in Washington about four hours earlier than expected, but also to get to bed earlier than one or two in the morning (if at all) because of the quiet atmosphere during the night. Those who were praying for a safe journey to D.C. may rest assured knowing those prayers were answered; we encountered little more than a slight fog on the way here (unlike last year's large snowstorm!).
Arrival in D.C.
We arrived, as I earlier stated, about four hours early, so we had time to explore D.C. in the morning, starting around seven A.M. on Sunday. The Seminarians and I split up into smaller groups and did different activities. My group ate breakfast at McDonald's, then went up and down the National Mall on an abbreviated sightseeing tour. For the first time since its construction, I viewed the new World War II memorial on the end of the reflecting pool, and, I must admit, it turned out much better than I originally expected—it fits right into the surrounding buildings and monuments, and is a moving display honoring our WWII veterans.
Vigil Mass and Visit to T.C.
After sightseeing, we checked into the hotel, took naps (and showers!), then went to eat dinner with two of our St. Louis seminarians studying at the Theological College here in Washington, D.C. After a quick dinner, we took the Metro down to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is one of the most beautiful churches in our country (IMHO).
The experience at that Mass was unforgettable. I have been to the Vigil Mass twice before, as part of the congregation, and I remembered how packed it was... but processing in as a Seminarian was such a different experience! Not only were there 20 minutes worth of Seminarians, Priests and Bishops processing in, there were also so many people (especially youth) in every 'nook and cranny' (as Archbishop Burke put it) that you could not see the floor of the Shrine anywhere (besides around the altar). There were so many Seminarians that many of us sat down behind the high altar on some steps (see the picture below).
After the Mass, we visited the Theological College with many other seminarians who were staying there, talked to our brother St. Louis seminarians, prayed Night Prayer, than took the Metro back to our hotel for a short night's sleep.