CM Goes To DC


What?? The I-395 has a closed exit… yikes!

dislike being late. Call it a product of having a dad who was always an
hour early, and a mom who was always an hour late (they're still
together after 37 years; that's definitely love!). I'm just right on
time. I had set off for the CM DC get-together quite early, but traffic
in DC is only predictable in the sense that there’s always a jam

Today, it looked like it was going to make me late.
I made a decision to go to the next familiar exit and thank goodness,
that one was available.

I parked right at the National Museum of
Natural History parking area and made it on time–just barely. The
meeting time was 9:00am and the place was the Smithsonian Castle Information
Center. There was a group of around seven people right in front of the
Castle, and I thought I saw a few familiar faces among them from the
events page on the Catholic Match website.

Apparently, mine
was a familiar face as well, since I got greeted by a few of the people
in the group. Ben greeted me with “Michelle isn’t here. So you’re
it.” Apparently, Michelle, the one who started the planning for this
event, had come down with something and had to go to the hospital for a
few hours the night before.

Gulp. I wonder if a few prayers would help push down the golf ball that suddenly blocked my esophagus.

asked them to wait while I got the Smithsonian museums kits I'd put
together a few days before the weekend tour. I rushed in, took a few
deep breaths, picked up the kits and went back outside.

waited for a few latecomers before starting off with a tour of the
Castle. I gave them a short history of the Smithsonian. I told
everyone I was a klutz and I backed it up a few moments later–by
dropping a few papers while we stopped to distribute the map-schedule I
made so that everyone would know where to go and the number to call in
case they got lost.

Our next stop was the National Air and
Space Museum. Most of the guys groused a bit when we had to leave
before the highlights tour ended, but willingly went off so that we
could get to the St. Patrick in the City Catholic Church on time. We
compared the different train systems in different cities like Boston,
New York and DC as we rode the Metro since some of us have gone on
all three. By this time, I was gradually becoming aware of the fact
that we had more men than women in our group.

More men than
women? How can that be? I had looked at the ratio of men versus women
on the events page. I even printed out the sheet of attendees.
Apparently, some didn’t even sign up there and just showed up at
the meeting place.

Not that any of us were complaining, mind you.

had a photo-op in front of the church doors before going in. By this
time, we had lost one member who had to leave for a noon appointment,
but gained a few who joined us during the Air and Space tour.

I was reading during the Mass, I glanced periodically at the attendees.
From the time I did the first reading to the end of the responsorial
psalm, I thought I was hallucinating. It seemed there was a
multiplication miracle taking place, unless I just counted wrong (and I
have to admit, I’m bad at math).

No, there was no mistake. We
had gained a third in size when we had our picture taken after Bishop
Olivier blessed our group after the mass. We trekked to Capitol City
Brewing Company for lunch, where we gained other CM members. This was
getting better and better. We had children and even friends of CM
members coming along, with one CM member sending over a friend because
he himself could not come.

Lunch was a riot. We had to move to
our own area of the restaurant, after it was apparent that my original
reservation needed major revision. It was at this point that Michelle
called to say she was on her way. At the end of the lunch,
after everyone tossed in their share of the bill and we even had a little left over for the poor box at St. Pat's. We
enjoyed each other’s company so much, we overstayed a little before
going on to the next museum.

The tour at the Reynolds Center
for American Art and Portraiture was an enjoyable one, although
shepherding a big group was a little nerve-wracking. I could do it
Jesus' way and look for the missing one and leave the ninety-nine
behind, but the people in this group were definitely no docile sheep.
They started getting comfortable with each other and one of us got her
shoes stolen mischievously.

Lesson? Never remove your shoes in
an art gallery when you have pranksters in the group. Poor Thanh got
picked on by Tom, Timothy and Bowen. I can probably never look at that
security guard in the eye and I’m there on some weekends, so I’ll have
to see her again.

After spending way more time than expected
at the art gallery, we headed down to the monuments. By then we
downsized the number of monuments we were originally supposed to visit
to just one: the WW II Memorial. There was a sighting of some Hollywood
stars (one of which was Jennifer Garner, and Ben took a picture) that
were having a shoot nearby. Jessica looked at her pedometer and said
that we had walked a total of almost nine miles around DC. Wow!

people had confirmed for the dinner at Ruth’s Chris but over 30 people
showed up. Imagine a function room with a big center table… and small
side tables being added as our group continually grew. Everyone had a
lot of fun at dinner, although it was a headache trying to calculate
the bill.
The good thing was, people stayed until things were settled, thanks to
our temporary accountants, Donald and Christopher. Perhaps it was
because we all came from a Catholic website and were quite honorable.

got lost driving around Crystal City! I was getting worried with a car
full of sleepy people (although we had been thinking of going on to a
nightclub for some dancing) but it was during this journey that
Michelle was able to share her conversion story. It reminded me of
something I had read before and thought that it was never truer then:
that sometimes it takes a convert to teach the natives how to
appreciate their faith more. I remember having had a crisis period in
my faith before being led back to the church, which eventually led me
to seek a faith community through Catholic Match. I have a very good
group of friends in DC and frequently go out, but there is nothing like
finding a faith family to help understand and strengthen one’s beliefs.
Especially when I’ve got parents, older sister (Yaz) and younger
brother (EJ) on their knees for me. Which may explain the calluses… but
I digress.

Which came to Michelle, Luz and I spending some
time clowning with Ben, Michael and Mark late at night (early
morning?). Why is it that when three women come together, there is an
insane urge to pose Charlie’s Angels-style? Or was it because we were
all high from lack of sleep? There was certainly a lot of excitement
that day.

The celebration of the Mass at the Basilica of the
National Shrine of the Immaculate the following morning was marvelous.
Theresa had reserved a section of the front pews and we gathered
together for the solemn Mass. More CM members joined us afterwards when
we went down to the cafeteria for a simple lunch. Some of us did a
short tour of the basilica, because we had planned on going to the tour
at the Franciscan Monastery (Holy Land of America). Others opted to
stay at the basilica for their scheduled tour so we said our goodbyes
with promises to keep in touch and share photos.

leaving, we did a group photo, and then took men only and women only
pictures. We definitely had a good-looking group of CM members.

you’ve never been to both the Basilica and the Franciscan Monastery, it
would be a shame not to go if you’re in DC. The monastery had replicas
of places in the Holy Land, down to the catacombs and relics.

were exchanged and goodbyes were said joyfully, mainly because we have
plans of seeing each other again (and soon!). The fellowship among CM
members was a joy to behold. All in all, 41 unique individuals came,
announced and unannounced, member and nonmember.

CM DC was a resounding success. Ad majorem Dei gloriam! (For the
greater glory of God!) Photos can be found in the message forums by clicking here.


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