Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 9, 2002
On pilgrimage with my baby
By CINDY MacDOUGALL
"What an adorable baby," a woman in a wheelchair says as she approaches my family. She stops next to the table where we're having lunch. "And he's being so good!"
My tired but patient baby, Alex, looks around at this new person. She's one of dozens who have cooed over him today. He rewards her with a smile.
"Thank you," I say, cuddling him a little closer. "He's being a very good boy."
After the inevitable request to hold him, I snap a picture of my six-month-old son with his new friend. We're only two days into our Toronto pilgrimage, but he knows what to do. He grins for the camera like a pro.
When my husband, Clayton Morrell, and I started planning for World Youth Day, we were childless newlyweds. When I learned I was pregnant, we were concerned we wouldn't make it to Toronto. But, being new parents, and not knowing any better, we just shrugged and said, "We'll take him with us." That decision completely changed the nature of my pilgrimage.
World Youth Day was full of interesting and exciting events, but I missed a lot of them. I quickly learned that crowds of hundreds of thousands don't mix with a baby stroller and a tired, wailing infant. There were days I thought I was crazy to have brought Alex, especially when we were trying to squeeze onto overcrowded subways and streetcars.
However, I experienced things few other pilgrims did, because I had baby in tow. People were uncommonly kind, offering to carry my things, bring me food and water, and hold the baby while I used the bathroom. I appreciated it, since Clayton was leading our diocesan group, and often had to leave me to deal with a crisis.
I spent a lot of time in what peaceful refuges I could find. Duc in Altum Park, with its shady trees and contemplative mood, was my favourite spot. I spent an entire afternoon there with friends, praying the rosary and talking about our faith.
I also got to know many people from our host parish. I was billeted with a young family, the Flannerys. On those days when the events were too exhausting for Alex and me, we watched them on television with our host family. Marion Flannery often said she felt part of World Youth Day because I was there.
I also joined my host parish's Divine Mercy Chaplet group for prayer. These women were inspiring in their faith, and I was glad to share my WYD experiences with them.
But the best part of my pilgrimage was realizing my family was an unspoken testament to life, to all those who met us. Lots of people commended me on my decision to be a mom.
People often asked me my stance on artificial birth control, and I would share with them the natural family planning method my husband and I use. I hope, through meeting us, other people consider using NFP.
As for Alex, he weathered the pilgrimage beautifully. Every time I sing a song we learned at World Youth Day, his eyes light up and he smiles. Clayton and I are now wondering if he'll let us go to the next World Youth Day in Cologne without him.