The biggest influence on my faith and prayer life has been a special priest I have known for almost 22 years. In these years of friendship, homilies and spiritual direction, I've picked up a pretty prominent theme from his teaching and from his example.

I believe Fr Roger...that we can each have a personal relationship with Jesus.

We can encounter Him, speak and listen to Him and experience His infinite, compassionate and unconditional Love for each one of us.

To that end....I have tucked in my desire, my plea to know Jesus, feel His Presence and know His Love....pretty much every time I pray from the heart. That's a lot of requests over 20+ years!

processing Rome

When I was in Rome, I was blown away by the beautiful Churches, the sacred sites and the witness of the Saints at their tombs and relics.

Each day, I marvelled at this extraordinary opportunity I had been given.

I knew that without the generosity of Mike and Sue....and the hard work of my husband Bill and my Mom, this trip would absolutely not have been possible.

It was a complete gift....and other than blogging about strings attached!

In contrast to my regular life.... I had no responsibilities other than to walk around Rome, try to follow the group, try not to get pick pocketed, take pictures, bask in the Italian sun...and enjoy.

I my brain...that Jesus loves me. I've reflected on the blessings I have received and in my gratitude....concluded that Jesus has blessed me in many ways and provided me with a special vocation of marriage and motherhood...with some creative projects presenting our awesome Catholic Faith, on the side!

My job is just to remember to rely on His strength, not just get frustrated with my weakness....loving my husband and working with him to form our kids in the Faith and try to get us all (and our loved ones) to Heaven.

Rome sky

I have had moments when I recognized Jesus' Love for me. I have had many other moments where I plodded along trying to earn His unconditional Love even though I was told I already had It.

This trip to Rome was however a spectacular....dare I say, superfluous gift!

Although I'm sure I don't understand the impact of all I have seen and am still processing...on my prayer life, on my Faith and on my seems to me that it was an over-the-top, extraordinary gift. It was a gift that I certainly didn't earn or deserve and one that I will continue to reflect on for years to come....probably forever.

Roma Cristiana bus

As I rode on the top of the double decker bus, snapping pictures of the inspiring Churches and monuments, soaking in the Italian sun...I wondered how I had won this awesome adventure.

My answer was an overpowering, enveloping sense....

that WOW, Jesus really loves ME!

In a single shot, it was suddenly an experience in the heart: not just a nice thought I had been told, I had read or I had rationalized to believe. Smiling from ear to ear....I realized that I was at that moment experiencing exactly what I had been asking for....for over 20 years:

Jesus was showing His love for me and I was experiencing His Holy, loving and awesome Presence...right on that bus.

St Peters from the bus

Just like His Infinite Mercy ...I had done nothing to earn or deserve this extraordinary experience of His Love....or this trip of a lifetime to Rome, Florence, Assisi, Naples, San Giovanni Rotundo and Lucca.

While I have an inkling of my responsibilities and best response to His Will with regard to His other gifts to me of my husband, kids, parents, brother and friends...I can only hope that the experiences I treasure from the last two weeks will inform and guide, affirm and strengthen my trust in Jesus and my resolve to do His Will.

I remain...His Pilgrim.

Copyright 2014, Monica McConkey