One of the coolest things about the Great Turnpike Mass of 2016 was that it involved so many young people!
ChurchPOP interviewed one of the students who not only attended this amazing event, but helped build the snow altar. And get this: he says he may have witnessed a Eucharistic miracle at the Mass!
Experiencing God’s Protection
“I really learned about God’s plan,” James Rotondo told ChurchPOP, “and how he can provide for every one of his children.”
Rotondo is a sophomore at Blaine High School in Minnesota and went to the March for Life in Washington D.C. with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
When their bus first got stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Friday evening, Rotondo explained, everyone thought it would just be a temporary traffic jam. But by the time Saturday morning rolled around, they got word they might not move until that evening.
So did people panic? Far from it: “We were just having too much fun! We took advantage of the situation and went outside to stretch our legs even more and maybe play in the snow.”
“It never felt like we were in danger,” he said. “It felt like our home away from home.”
Building a Sacred Snow Altar
Rotondo credited the idea for having Mass to Bill Dill, one of the leaders of Rotondo’s group. At first, the plan was to have Mass inside the bus. But Jack Dorcey, another leader, suggested they try to do it outside, and that became the new plan. Dill and Dorcey gave the task of building a snow altar to twelve students, including Rotondo.
“At first the thought of a snow altar didn’t seem reasonable,” Rotondo said, “because the snow wasn’t sticky at all and we didn’t think it would stand, but we believed God would help us.”
They only had a few make-shift tools, mostly just a few bent signs left over from the March for Life. They made a huge pile of snow, evened out the top, and then pushed away the snow around the base so the priest could stand close by. They then cleared as much snow as they could in a 50 ft radius from around the altar to create a level place for worshippers to stand.
“Shortly after we finished clearing it, we had other buses full of students walking in,” Rotondo said, “and it looked majestic as groups of hundreds of Catholics came in to share in the Mass.“
Reflecting on the experience, Rotondo says it had a powerful spiritual meaning: “My fellow pilgrims from my parish all say that the whole experience really showed how much God cares about us and how much he does look out for His people.
“His plan isn’t always obvious and He always knows what is best for us. Even in our time of need, we turned to God and he provided.”
And What About the Eucharistic Miracle?
Word of a possible Eucharistic multiplication miracle has already been passed around on social media, but Rotondo says there might be some truth to it:
I would like to mention how at first, we only had priests, a Mass kit, and 6 hosts. Somehow an estimated 30-40 hosts showed up and nobody knows from where. The priest then split up the hosts into little pieces so everyone could receive, which was an estimated 500+ people.
It was God’s miracle that they hosts were able to be distributed to everyone, all down to the last person, who then received the last particles inside the priest’s chalice. There was exactly enough hosts for everyone.
I don’t know if that’s scientifically possible, but it stood out that we didn’t have any more, or any less.