Traveling with My Faith in Tow

There’s a side pocket on every suitcase for a traveler’s odds and ends: wrinkled train tickets, airplane sleep masks, and free hotel pens. It’s a place for stashing small items or found objects more than packing. The varied fragments of this pocket narrate snippets of a traveler’s tale. The stories from my suitcase often begin with a rosary.

Passport: Check. Wallet: Check. Rosary: Check. Whether venturing to South Dakota for a volunteer service trip or to London for an a cappella choir tour, I always keep a rosary nearby when I travel. I’m not the only one in my family with a rosary on their packing list. Before my latest solo journey, my uncle asked me three times if I had a rosary to bring with me. My brother asked me twice. My mom had already given me two to tuck into my suitcase.

For my family, a rosary is a symbol of faith and protection, a helpful device to keep you close to God. For me, the rosary symbolizes more than focused prayers. While I work the smooth beads through my fingers, I see the image of my grandfather, hear the voices of my siblings, and sense the presence of my mother and father. Every time that I hold my rosary during my travels, I feel close to God and to his earthly gift to me: my family.

I reached for my rosary during a tough conversation in the New York airport. Tense stares and angry glances greeted me as I shared the news that a member of our a cappella group forgot her passport and would not able to come on tour with us to London.

I weaved the rosary through my fingers one night in Paris, when the memory of a man’s searing touch on the Metro lingered on my body. The image of his grimacing smile as he grabbed for my purse prevented me from falling asleep.

I held the rosary in my clenched fist during a midnight drive through South Dakota. The driver pressed his foot too heavily on the gas pedal as the car sped toward the site of my first volunteer service trip.

As my rosary rustles on planes, on trains, and in taxis, I’m reminded of how my family’s continual presence in my life calms me when I am afraid and comforts me when I am alone. A relic, a security blanket, a physical connection to our deep devotion to God, my rosary is always just within reach, nestled among the other bits and pieces of my travels.

Caitlin Dermody is a rising junior at Yale University from Elmhurst, Pennsylvania and the 2014 Valedictorian of Scranton Preparatory School in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Caitlin’s family and Jesuit education have cultivated her love of writing and her strong Catholic faith. At Yale, Caitlin studies sociology with education and participates in many faith ministries.