Gelato and grace

About 2 months ago we got the news that Dave would be going to Rome in September in connection with his work on the cause for canonization for Servant of God Julia Greeley. I was ecstatic for him, of course, and encouraged him to set other appointments and meetings and make the most of it by staying for a full week. One does not “weekend” in Europe from middle America, considering the 13+ hours of flight time to get there.

I felt a little sorry for myself, if only that I would miss out on a trip to our “second city” and that Dave would be catching up solo with all our old friends and coworkers, sipping espresso with Tonio and catching an appartivo with Alan, while I would be here holding down the fort at home, because our days of toting the whole family abroad are firmly in the rearview. One does not work for the Church and simply “take 5 kids to Italy” on 2 month’s notice.

But. We began to tentatively consider, could I possibly come too? Would anyone want to take a kid or two off our hands while we made a couple’s trip out of it? And at the beginning of the school year? Could I get some things done for work there? Was there a possibility of redeeming points for airline miles, of getting Zelie a passport in time, of coordinating all the moving parts of leaving 4 kids behind for 7 days?

The answer to all of the above proved to be a resounding: yes. I prayed and worried and second guessed and honestly felt a little sheepish because how many times can one family go to the Eternal City? It’s ridiculous. I know how ridiculous it looks and sounds. But after a few phone calls and one effortless passport appointment (at one of the 5 expedited passport offices that print onsite in the US – located in Denver), we were set.

So although my heart is grieving for the grave evil that has been unmasked within the Church during this “summer of shame,” it rejoices, because I love her still.

I love Rome. I love standing beneath the majesty of Bernini’s baldacchino and marveling at the splendor of St. Peter’s Square. I never feel more “at home” in the universal Church than when I’m inside the basilica, soaking in the mystery and grace of 2,000+ years of courage and sacrifice and love.

And while we absolutely, without a doubt do not deserve a trip like this, we’re choosing to see this ridiculous grace for what it is: God spoiling a couple of His undeserving children after a long, dry season.

We’ve joked together repeatedly over the past 6 months that 2018 has been our rebuilding year. Little did we know how much water that analogy would carry.

As we’ve adjusted to life with baby number 5 and settled into our new home, the stress of the previous 18 months slowly but surely started to dissipate. We started exercising again. Laughing again. Making time for nothing. I started going to therapy, both the physical and the emotional kind, while at the same time we trimmed back our expenses and got serious about our budget. I began praying in a way that was more personal and more intentional, edging closer and closer to a God whose apparent silence I had mistaken for indifference when in fact it was a severe mercy.

I look back at the previous year and some change of real estate disasters, at the 6 months we spent commuting an hour each way to school from our temporary digs at a friend’s home in a neighboring city, at a surprise pregnancy resulting in a surprisingly delightful baby, at financial worries that ended up being catalysts that nudged us further into God’s will, and I am humbled. Ashamed by my own failure to trust. Touched by God’s gentleness with me when He knew, as He always does, that I would fail. And so excited to introduce little Z to the cold stuff in the little paper cup that dreams are made of. (spoiler alert: she tried crema and cioccolato tonight and loved both).

If you want to follow along with our trip I’ll be checking in on Instagram under the hashtag #Zelitalia. I mentioned there that I’d be honored to take any prayer intentions along for the ride. We always make it a point to visit JPII in St. Peter’s one of the first days we arrive, and I will happily carry your intentions there with me tomorrow morning. Arrivederci!

Different babies, same piazza.


  • Teresa

    For my father who is going blind from advanced glaucoma at an early age. For my family of origin, for my husband, for my struggle with anxiety, for my children and godchildren. Thank you so much!

  • LeighAnne

    Oh please pray that God will provide me with a good and holy husband, and I will be a good wife for him. I’ve had a growing devotion to St John Paul II, and have visited his shrine in DC several times. But I’ve never been to Rome to pray at his tomb! Thank you!

  • Michigan_Mama

    I would appreciate prayers for my sweet husband, whose faith and belief in a loving God has been deeply shaken since his mother passed away from colon cancer a few months ago. Blow a kiss to JPII for me!

  • Mary Jo

    Dear Jenny

    Have a beautiful trip to Rome with your husband and baby Zelie.
    Please pray for McMahon family intentions while in Rome.

    Thank you.

  • Hannah

    Beautiful sentiments Jenny! What a beautifully gracious God we have.
    Can you please ask JPII to pray for my 9 yr old son Liam, stuggling with so many things, ASD, school refusal, friendships, toileting difficulties and worst of all, he HATES church, insists God isn’t real, and generally makes Sundays extremely miserable! He needs someone special in his corner in heaven!
    Also a special intention for my husband, Max. Thank you!!

  • M

    Please pray for my mom, Joann who is on hospice. And for my dad and his amazing courage. And my siblings and entire family and our heavy, heavy hearts during thus time.

  • Kathleen

    So happy for you and of course Baby Zelie that you could go to Rome! God is good all the time, but those unexpected gifts are such a joy! Hope you made it to La soffrita for some GF pizza!

  • Annette

    Well-deserved, I would say. Have fun. Our home is under great spiritual attack. I confessed my sins, need to confess some more. Except for one wasteful book that I threw out, our stuff is pretty pure.

  • Gretchen

    Prayer please for my son, recently diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, multiple myeloma, and facing stem cell transplant. Thank you very much!

  • Colleen

    Have a wonderful time!! I have been reading your blog for about a year and a half now, and I am currently in the (slow, but sure) process of a reversion. Your insights, humor, honesty, and commitment to submitting to God even when it’s hard have been an inspiration for me along that path. If you would, please pray for my agnostic husband’s conversion and the complete reversion of myself and my fallen away family members. Thank you and I will pray for you too!

  • Meg

    We would covet prayers, especially from JP2, for our family’s financial situation!

    Enjoy your trip and as my dad would say on vacations, don’t forget to breathe! Bask in God’s love for you.

  • Anamaria

    I’d appreciate prayers for our family as we transition to having a school kid, consolation that we made a good choice for her school (or a strong sign to switch if not!), and for my husband’s and my health.

    Have a beautiful time in Rome! I’ve been getting the travel bug but it’s not close to being in the budget.

  • Laura @ Life is Beautiful

    Please pray for my marriage and my children (we have a 5 month old John Paul and a 2 yo Gianna…Saint JPII had a hand in their conceptions and my fertility issues ). Please also pray for someone who is struggling with same sex attraction. Thank you!

  • Liz Avendaño

    That’s very kind of you Jenny. Please pray for me and my husband to conceive more babies after having an ectopic (third) pregnancy a few months ago. Thank you and enjoy Rome!

  • Cami

    Please deliver our intentions to JP2…Wisdom and patience in our parenting, prudence and providence for our family financially, job security and confidence for my husband’s career, strength in our marriage, thriving in our homeschool, peace and joy and order in our home. Above all… an increase in faith and Thanksgiving. Gracie, ciao ciao!

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