Not to brag, but I consider traveling one of my talents. Scouting the best airfare, shopping for accessories, choosing planes, trains or ferries — I love every step. I was especially excited to plan the first trip my husband Jim and I would take together. The school in Belize, where I was a volunteer teacher, is celebrating their 25th anniversary and I was so excited to introduce him to the country that was my home for two years.
Tickets purchased and reservations made, I knew I had thought of everything — even the nuances of local transportation that a typical tourist might not be prepared for. I was ready to show off Belize, and my travel skills, to Jim.
Then, a friend casually asked me if it had been hard to change my name on my passport, and I choked on my latte.
I had trudged through lines at the Social Security Office, DMV and even Winn Dixie customer service in order to change my name from Griswold to Blanchet on all my important documents (and if you don’t think my Winn Dixie card is an important document, I have two words for you: fuel perks). Yet it had never occurred to me that perhaps THE most important document to change, especially for a travel lover like myself, would be my passport.
Googling “expedited passport” informed me that I could hope to receive my new passport in 2-3 weeks if I was sure to dot every “i” and cross every “t” in my application. Exactly one month to the day before we were supposed to leave I mailed it, said a prayer, and hoped for the best.
The celebratory dance I performed when my new passport arrived a mere 10 days later may have left the neighbors concerned, but I didn’t care. Our trip wouldn’t be canceled because of my poor planning.
I found it ironic that in the midst of all this, the director of religious education at our parish decided to use passports as a symbol to teach our first Communion class about the importance of the sacraments. In our journey to heaven, she explained, the Eucharist and reconciliation help us to understand both who we are and where we hope to be. While I sat biting my nails hoping the U.S. government wouldn’t fail me, I thought of how true this was. Without my passport I was at a loss, I couldn’t prove who I was or where I was going.
I had neglected a basic step in planning our trip, and was now at risk of losing my chance to travel at all. In the same way, we can be tempted to place the sacraments at the bottom of the “to-do” list, vowing to attend Mass and go to confession when our team isn’t playing or Belk isn’t having a great sale. However, we are all on a journey called life, a journey with a very certain final destination. In the sacraments there is an abundance of grace for this journey, grace that helps us to know both who we are and whose we are.
St. Therese of Lisieux reminds us that “the world’s thy ship and not thy home”. On this journey, the most important arrangements we make is preparation for heaven. We never know when we’ll arrive, don’t wait to prepare!