So something random and interesting and really quite extraordinary happened to me yesterday (Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday) morning.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that it was the first sunny day in who knows how long here in Michigan.
I don’t know if it was the fact that I was in a good mood to begin with.
I don’t know if it was the smell of clean clothes and clean countertops in my kitchen that I just sprayed as I cleaned my apartment and did the dishes and laundry. (Who doesn’t appreciate a clean dwelling space?)
But all of a sudden, as I was listening to a podcast from Bishop Robert Barron (of all people!) and folding laundry (of all things!), I had this overwhelming sense to drop to my knees and praise and thank God out loud.
This has simply never happened to me. The urge to thank Him was simply overpowering. I was just overcome with a mixture of joy and elation and gratitude, for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t get over it!
Maybe it was the fact that I had gotten up very early and just started to clean like a madwoman. I had incredible energy and had neglected to do my “typical” routine of sitting down on my couch, opening my LOH, or praying a rosary.
I almost feel like God was saying, “Umm…Hello!? Creator of the universe over here. Are you even going to acknowledge me, my daughter? What happened to thanking me first thing? The dishes can wait.”
So I went out on my balcony, because it was such a beautiful day, and I was literally watching birds chirp in the trees and prancing (jumping?) in the grass. And not a cloud in the sky. The only other sounds coming from the cars driving by on the street. And maybe my neighbor’s wind-chimes when the breeze picked up a little.
It was simply the most beautiful scene I could have envisioned on this Sunday morning. Truly a day that the Lord had made.
I came back inside and saw my Grateful Giving prayer card sitting on the table. I had been given this little card at a church function in Cleveland a couple years ago and kept it on my kitchen table and another copy in the visor in my car. A great prayer to pray on the way to work/school/etc:
God, Creator and Giver of all that is good,
we thank you for our many blessings.
Mindful of your generosity, we acknowledge
that all that we have is from you.
Daily, we offer you thanks and praise for
the beauty of the earth, our work, our family
and our loved ones.
In the dawning of a new day, you are with us.
In each dark hour you are here.
Blessed by your grace, we show gratitude to
You by sharing what we have.
By serving our brothers and sisters,
We serve You.
As you protect and guide us on our journey,
We, your disciples,
remain ever grateful for your constant love.
But wait, it gets better!
This morning, I read this in the Office of Readings:
“In a word, every blessing is showered upon us, both in this world and in the world to come. As we contemplate them even now, like a reflection in a mirror, it is as though we already possessed the good things our faith tells us that we shall one day enjoy. If this is the pledge, what will the perfection be? If these are the firstfruits, what will the full harvest be?“
From the book On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil the Great
I’m pretty sure they call this an affirmation.
Because that’s what it felt like; a showering of blessings. And if I’m this overwhelmed by His goodness to little old me, how much more awesome is going to be when this is all perfected?!
As I sat on that balcony, I thought- I GET to clean!! I know it sounds so strange but how many people would DIE for the chance to have a roof over their heads to clean! Or a bed they get to sleep in. The ipad that I GET to listen to a podcast or a homily or watch a TV show or a movie, anytime I want. I GET to read all these books on my shelf, anytime I want. I GET to write on this computer for my little blog, anytime I want. I GET to text or call or email anyone in my family or my friends, anytime I want.
I get to live in the greatest country in the world where I am free to worship my Lord and Savior. I get to drive a car to a job that I get paid to fight for religious freedom and pro-life causes. And just a month ago I got to travel to the Middle East to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. I’m still in the shock and awe phase apparently.
Maybe I’ll come back to this post the next time I feel like complaining about my slow internet connection, or the price of gas going up, or when I burn my toast.
I was blessed to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from March 24th until April 2nd. A trip of a lifetime!
It’s going to be next to impossible to describe everything I saw the “holy moments” that all took place and the awesome other pilgrims I met on this trip, but I’m going to do my best to summarize in one post my top favorite moments. Here we go:
1. Basilica of the Annunciation – Mary’s House:
From the outside and this little pitiful picture, it doesn’t look like much. But this is all you can really see from the walk on your way up to it. It wasn’t until I got back home that I saw what it looks like from afar:
This was one of the sites we went to after arriving in Nazareth. And we arrived on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation! (Although this year, March 25th was Palm Sunday so it was moved to April 9th.) But, it didn’t really matter. It felt like divine intervention that we were there.
This is the spot where the Angel Gabriel asked Mary to the most important question and her answer changed the entire world. Quite a lot to take in as we stood there.
The inscription on the altar reads: Verbum Caro Hic Factum Est =
“Here the Word became flesh”
Here. Right here!
Later on that night we were able to come back and spend an hour of silent prayer here. I prayed Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Feast of the Annunciation, as well as a rosary. It was easy to become emotional in that moment as the Annunciation has special meaning for me personally. But just, when you sit there and think, “A girl of 14 or 15 years of age was approached by an angel to bear the Son of God…” I just wanted to thank her for her YES. So that’s what my prayer became.
The upstairs/main part of the Basilica is beautiful, decorated every inch with mosaics and sculptures and paintings of Mary from several different countries, including this iron one from the USA:
2. Basilica of Agony – Garden of Gethsemane
Some fellow travelmates and I saw a holy hour advertised at the Garden of Gethsemane and the Basilica of Agony on Holy Thursday night. Well, it was not so much a holy hour as it was an hour of standing in the back of the church for an hour with 2,500 of my closest friends. Shoulder to shoulder. This was not for the claustrophobic!
But what made this so special was that it was during the night of Holy Thursday, at 9pm. Most likely around the same time that Jesus was praying there in the Agony of the Garden, sweating blood.
I was sweating (because it was pretty warm and several people had to leave to go outside because it was just too darn crowded) I began to pray to the Lord to align this “suffering” with His. All I could see was what they projected on the huge screens but for the most part I could only stare straight ahead at the painting of Our Lord praying at the rock.
I couldn’t get my hands on of one of the programs, but from what I understood what was spoken in English, there were 3 Gospel readings and 3 Psalms, all of which were spoken and sung in several (I’ll guess at least a dozen) different languages. We then did Prayers of the Faithful and then chanted the Our Father in Latin to conclude.
While I wouldn’t say it was particularly enjoyable, I don’t think it was really supposed to be. The crowds didn’t make it a comfortable experience, but thinking about it afterwards, it was exactly what it was meant to be: It was prayerful. I was next to a French couple, I was in front of a German family, to the left of me was a Spanish family and directly in front of me was an Arab pair of men. And I think a few American’s sprinkled in there too! The point being, we were clearly there to be with our Lord, as He suffered and prayed in that garden knowing what was about to happen to him. What a time to be present there, despite the crowds!
Here is a brief video from the service as well as some photos from our official visit to the Garden of Gethsemane later on as a group during the daytime.
The bedrock where it is believed Jesus prayed is the stone you see me praying as well as a miniature sculpture of Jesus kneeling in prayer.
This is outside the Basilica and just on the outskirts of the Garden. You cannot walk into the Garden of Gethsemane although I know there are people who have been able to spend the night or spend some time in prayer there. It’s most likely doable when you don’t have a large group.
3. Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee
We made our way down towards the Sea of Galilee and into a boat that, without the motorized engine, would be very similar to the kind of boats Jesus and his disciples may have used to go fishing. After about a 10 minute “tour” and explanation of the landscape and surrounding area, the drivers shut off the engine and allowed us some quiet time just to contemplate this scene. I set my phone on the ledge and hit record, knowing this was a moment I would want to go back to again and again.
Technology somehow doesn’t allow me to share the video of the sea to the blog so you’ll just have to take my word for it. 🙂
4. Church of the Nativity – Bethlehem
Preparing to see where Jesus was born was something I really wanted to focus on as we made the bus ride to Bethlehem. I was trying hard to just contemplate this momentous, universe-altering event in my mind. Similar to the Annunciation, I found it difficult to comprehend that I was on my way to see this spot where He was born. I had seen friends’ pictures from their trips here and I knew not to expect a giant chapel or a decked out manger. I knew it was a star in the floor and that it was cramped. 🙂
This is our group making our way down the stairs to the cave:
I had asked one of our pilgrims to get a picture of me venerating the spot. This all took place in the span of about 10 seconds. Our guide was encouraging us to go two by two to make the line move a little faster. Of course, in my mind, I was thinking, “NO! Can I just have this one moment alone!?” But really, there’s no time to be selfish (and literally no space). It worked out completely perfect actually. As I wait for my travel-mate to send me that photo (he took it on a professional camera and I saw he got a great shot of me) I can share with you this photo I took of one of our pilgrims about to kneel down to see the spot. It’s impossible to get an up-close shot because, obviously, it’s in the ground.
As we got back up from the spot, we noticed that hardly anyone else was down there (very rare!) So before another group made their way there, we gathered in the small space and sang the first verse of O Come All Ye Faithful.
Quite a few teary eyes as we sang this…Right here, where Jesus was born!!!
5. Visiting the Holy Sepulchre to see the Tomb and Calvary
Within the same day (Wednesday, the day before Holy Thursday) after visiting the Church of the Visitation and some other sites, we hopped back on the bus assuming we were going to check-in to our hotel just outside the city walls and just a 15 minute walk from the Holy Sepulchre.
No sooner do we get on the bus and we were told, “We’re not going to the hotel to check or to have dinner yet. Surprise! We’re going to the Holy Sepulchre, NOW!”
Having no idea of the amount of crowds that were no doubt making their way to the Holy Land this week and most likely a lot in the next few days, our guide thought it best to go now to be guaranteed a visit to the tomb and Calvary.
Before getting into my experience, let me share some photos I took myself and then some MUCH BETTER photos so you can truly grasp what this all is. Because I must say, if you’ve never been there, it can look really confusing.
After waiting an hour in line, we made our way into the tomb. This is the entrance to it:
Another view of the entrance to it (taken on a different day during a procession):
This is a shot of Calvary:
And underneath that small altar is a hole that you can reach into with your hand and touch the rock that Jesus was crucified on:
Since you may be thinking, “What am I looking at?” I did the leg work for you and found some better photos of all the Holy Sepulchre contains:
Hopefully these photos make it a little more clear.
As for the experiences themselves, at first it was quite rushed. No one can really spend more than a minute at Jesus’ tomb. I think the longest it ever “felt” that someone was in there was maybe 90 seconds. They definitely keep the line moving!
Secondly, we were instructed not to take photos of his tomb which I wouldn’t have anyways, I was just trying to comprehend what I was kneeling in front of. The magnitude of it all!
By the time I was done kissing and kneeling, it was time to get out of there. Maybe 30 seconds?
Knowing I’d be back there, I wasn’t too upset. We then made out way to Calvary where we waited about 10 minutes to kneel down and touch the rock of Calvary. Again, a bit rushed and not completely understanding that THIS was Calvary! It’s hard to imagine it all when you’re surrounded by other pilgrims, speaking all kinds of languages, some of them pushing a little bit, some of them taking selfies (ugh!) and many just talking a lot so if I was hoping for a moment of silence, that was never going to happen.
We then walked back down stairs from Calvary and were able to venerate the Rock of Unction:
This is the rock that Jesus was laid on and prepared before He was put in the tomb.
That was the first experience at the Holy Sepulchre.
The second and third experiences I had there were much better, much more prayerful.
And most definitely require a separate blog post about it….
Initial Reaction: Another parish, another giant baptismal font! 🙂
So I originally had plans to pray outside the Planned Parenthood in Ann Arbor this day at 10am. But when I went to sign up, it said on the website that a special event was planned at nearby St. Francis of Assisi. Never one to miss an opportunity to attend a different parish for daily mass for my Daily Mass Project, I made sure to change my plans so I could go to this.
Upon walking in, I actually saw the pipe organ first. (The picture below is from Wikipedia):
And then made my way to the center to get a picture of the sanctuary and altar, where a statue of Mary was placed surrounded by the roses, which we carried later to Planned Parenthood.
You may also see a basket with rosaries hanging out of it; those were also provided for the Rosary rally, as we recited the rosary as we walked.
As I waited for mass to start, I just sat in silence and prayed for the priest to give us some inspiration as this was clearly a mass centered around the pro-life movement. I thought about how I hear from people in the pews who are passionately pro-life like me and wish “Fr. So and so would talk about this from the pulpit more often!” I understand this argument because I too have sat there and wished that more priests would talk about tough topics more often – divorce, same sex “marriage,” contraception, abortion, pornography. And there are priests who do in fact preach this from the pulpit and I do commend them. But I think we all have to admit – aside from the anniversary of Roe in January, do you ever hear a priest talk about abortion? Do you ever hear them mention Rachel’s Vineyard? Do you ever hear them mention the men who regret lost fatherhood?
I have a feeling people will respond to this by saying, “It’s not the time or place for a priest to talk about those subjects during a homily. Give them a break.” And I would tend to agree with that. But, when you consider that 70% of women who are post-abortive call themselves Christian, and 1 in 4 in women in the USA will have an abortion by the time they are 45, maybe you want to say something about that? And you may be right, a homily is when the priest breaks open the Gospel and the readings and makes it relevant to our lives. How can he possibly link abortion to a Gospel? I agree that’s not such an easy thing to do. That’s probably really unfair to ask a priest to do that.
On the other hand, we can’t just keep ignoring it. It’s happening in our world. Right now. Today. 3,000 babies are killed every day in the United States. I for one, think, that’s worth discussing.
I understand the risk of “losing” parishioners if they hear a message they don’t agree with and walking out. I was one of them! I heard the most ridiculous mission talk from a priest when I was 22 that made my blood boil. What was the subject of his talk? SIN. I was too stubborn at the time to realize that he was speaking the truth.
I thought to myself, “I can’t believe that I attended a church with all these hypocrites!” Looking back, obviously, I was convicted. And we can choose to stay or we can choose to leave in those moments. And I “left” (meaning I didn’t go to mass the following Sunday, had a particularly heartbreaking chat with God shortly after, and came back).
But I didn’t really acknowledge what I had heard from that priest until a decade or so later. I stayed in denial about sin for a LONG time and avoided confession because of it. And finally, 15 years later, I was in a place where I was ready to hear the truth (again) and this time, I embraced the faith, instead of running from it. And I pray for the conversion of those who haven’t stepped foot into a church because they fear condemnation. I pray that they will be led back to the fold and the laity will embrace them as a fellow sinner and lead them into the light. That doesn’t require a passionate and amazing homily from the priest (although it would be great!) – that requires love and compassion from us in the pews. So it starts with us.
Homily Reflection: Fr. started by thanking us for our witness for the unborn. It was the feast day of St. Katherine Drexel, who was a very wealthy socialite turned religious sister. She was determined to bring love and hope to a world so full of hate and evil. Her family had a great heart for those who were seen as the “lowest.” She saw them as her brothers and sisters in Christ and grounded all of her work in prayer. And prayer is what Fr. said we ourselves, as we set out to process to Planned Parenthood to stand up for the unborn, prayer is what we needed first and foremost.
He also mentioned that we all have gifts from God. And we can use these gifts to promote a culture of life; we can use our voices, our presence outside clinics, our writing skills (holla!), our time, our talents, to promote the kingdom of God.
He said as the baptized, we bear the stamp “Property of Jesus Christ,” on us at all times. We may tarnish it, but we wear it. Ain’t that the truth? I can relate to that. How many times have I tarnished this “stamp?” But I still wear it, messy as it is!
As for abortion and the culture of death, Fr. James said that there are many who promote choice, who try to silence the Christian message, to put it to the side and so, make it a private matter because then it can be controlled and not visible.
But the Saints never did that! We will find ways around these clever maneuvers that abortion advocates will try in order to silence us!
We need to remember that it is God alone who creates and ends life.
Life does not end in butchering. It ends in the promise of eternal life.
The witness of love is always greater than the witness of death
Can I get an amen people!?
After mass there was Exposition and Benediction and Father read some beautiful prayers centered around the unborn, family, motherhood and fatherhood and pro-life efforts.
We then processed out singing Hail Holy Queen, as the servers carried the statue of Mary the ENTIRE way to Planned Parenthood. What a great witness to see young men carrying Our Lady and leading us as we prayed the Rosary!
Many people honked their horns in support of us, a few gave us the middle finger (As an Ohio gal, I wish I could just say it’s a “Michigan thing,” but we all know that’s not true) 😉 And one beautiful daughter of God shouted at us from her car. I couldn’t make out what she was saying but it was something along the lines of, “Why don’t you pray for the children already born?” To which I would tell her, We do.
As we arrived at PP we chanted the Salve Regina. We then placed roses on the island outside Planned Parenthood, which I later found out is public property.
I just want to thank 40 Days For Life Ann Arbor Chapter for putting this awesome event on. What a gift to be able to spend part of our day marching and praying and worshiping on behalf of the unborn.
It’s not too late to get involved in your local 40 Days for Life chapter. It’s NEVER to late to stand up for the unborn. Click this link to find your local chapter and sign up for an hour to pray outside the clinic or find out to get involved in other ways. You could literally save a life!
But wait…there’s more. Here’s mosaics featuring St. Joseph.
And then a side chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe:
And one to The Sacred Heart Of Jesus:
But my favorite has to be….
I think I could sit and stare at this for hours. And I would have if we didn’t have the speaker series, which was the entire reason I came to this Church. (I wish I would have made it for mass but it was in Spanish anyways. Perhaps one day soon I will visit for an English one!)
The speaker for this Young Catholic Professionals event was Dan Weingartz, President of Weingartz Supply Co., an outdoor power equipment company based here in Detroit.
The purpose of YCP Detroit Executive Speaker Series is for executives to share their professional and faith journeys with young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s, challenging them to ‘Work in Witness for Christ!’ As for Weingartz, he had a great witness to share. He mentioned how we all need good authentic friendships. And we need that close friend that isn’t afraid to tell us when we’re veering off the path. Do we have a friend like that? ARE we that friend to others? He discussed family and his young adult years and his growth in his relationship with Christ. But then he started talking about work and his job and “the grind.” And then he started to say something that really sparked my interest:
His company was one of the organizations that fought the HHS mandate and named as a plaintiff in the case. And who was the public interest law firm that he worked with? The one I work for! How’s that for a God moment? Here I am, the public relations coordinator for this law firm, and here is one of our former clients giving us praise for the hard work our lawyers did to fight for him.
I would encourage all young (and older!) Catholic professionals to attend one of these events in your city if you have a chapter. It’s a great way just to hang out with others in the faith and possibly build yourself a little community of friends, if you’re lacking in that area.
Initial thoughts: When you walk in and see a giant photo of your favorite Pope at the entrance to the sanctuary, pretty sure you’re in a good place.
And: “That’s one giant baptismal font.”
This is the entrance when you first come in, but when mass starts, you are instructed to enter on the side. There are ramps so you don’t just walk right into/onto what I would call “sacred ground.” I was just a bit surprised that this was the entrance. But then, when you come in from the back…
I need to come up with a better word than “stunning.” But really…This is quite beautiful and for me, very unexpected.
I got there 30 minutes early, which is why you don’t see anyone in the pews in these pictures. The musicians were rehearsing and I have to say, they sounded so good in the rehearsal, that I actually became excited to hear them during the mass!
This church is considered to be the hub, I believe, for Catholics on Campus serving the the Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw (I still can’t pronounce that word right) Community College. So there were many “Catholics on Campus” flyers in the gathering space on bulletin boards and whatnot. As people came in, you could see this was geared toward the college aged demo. However, there were still plenty of families and people my age there as well.
Homily Reflection: Monsignor Marron spoke on the gospel of Matthew 25; “Whatever you did for the least of these, you clothed me when I was naked, you fed me when I was hungry,” etc.
The Monsignor was there to discuss/promote his mission – Food for the Poor, a Christian non-profit organization that serves 17 countries. He was a very good speaker, a wonderful and moving story-teller, calling us to see Jesus present in the poor.
Some of the points that resonated: “All of us have a right to live. We also have a right to continue living until a natural end. But there are basic necessities that will help us do that and we all have a right to these: Food, clean water, housing, medical attention when needed, an education (to get a job) and clothing.
How do we put Matthew 25 into practice? By continuing the ministry of Jesus. What we do for them, we do for Him. What we DON’T do for them, we DON’T do for Him.”
You know how sometimes a talk/lecture/homily from someone can make you feel like you’re the worst person in the world? Or you feel anger because you think you’re being judged? Fr. Marron didn’t make me feel that way. He made me feel like it was my duty to help the least of these, (it is!) but he didn’t make me feel like I should do it out of guilt. I should do it because Jesus says to.Because we are called to. And I found myself delighted and happy to help someone. And that’s what it should feel like when we give alms, right? Not like it’s a drag or we’re giving something up. It should feel freeing! The more you give, the more you feel detached from these things. It sounds so counter-intuitive but I assure you, the less you have, the more free you are.
Holy Moments: The music. Oh my gosh the music!!! I can’t get over how captivating and sweet-sounding these three young people sounded. The music they created with the keyboard, a guitar and cello and their pitch perfect voices was just so fantastic. I should have recorded some of it on my phone. They should put out an album. Seriously. I would bet they’re music majors too. So shout out to whoever you are, you were so talented. Thank you for your gift of song/music!
By the way, have you thanked YOUR music minister lately? You really should. 🙂
Initial Thoughts: I walked in just as some sort of youth group was concluding with what seemed like 2nd or 3rd graders sitting and listening to a catechist tell them, “We need to be quiet because people are coming in for Reconciliation and Confession.” Very sweet (and humorous) to see about 50 kids turn around and stare at me as I was the only one there.
Homily Reflection: Fr. made a great humorous comment about the 1st reading which ends with these words:
Then David ran and stood over him; with the Philistine’s own sword which he drew from its sheath he dispatched him and cut off his head.
To which the lector then says: “The Word of the Lord” and we respond “Thanks be to God.”
…he cut off his head – Thanks be to God! What a thing to say!
He had a few more things to say about 1st and 2nd Samuel being about this desire for God – this passion that the people at that time had to say “I’ve come to do your will.” Fr. remarked that maybe we’ve lost that passion today. Most of all, the people wanted to be faithful. And he concluded by challenging us to reclaim that desire to be a faithful people.
Holy Moments: Confession before mass was a wonderful gift, but I actually enjoyed the quiet in between the time that confession ended and mass began. They played some Gregorian chants and dimmed the lights while people went to Reconciliation. I took the time pray but I also looked around at the folks waiting in line. You had a Mom with her kids and having them line up and sit as quietly as they could as she ushered them in to go to the priest. Then she took her turn. There was the young man who sat and waited with his head and his hands. I prayed hard for him. There was the older man who seemed to be at peace and joyful as he exited the confessional. It just made me feel so blessed to be Catholic and to have access to this Sacrament, where we hear Jesus say, “You are forgiven.”
And this actually serves as a great transition to my next Chuch on the list…St. John Vianney.
Celebrant: No one, (duh) since it wasn’t a mass but I’m checking this one off the list for the Daily Mass Project since I made the 53 minute trip, in the dark, in the fog, just to see one of my favorite speakers, Patrick Coffin.
His talk entitled, “Ignite!” was about an hour long and was meant to inform and educate those of us in the Catholic church on how we are called to be disciples, that we are meant to live lives of holiness, and that we need to work on spreading this Good News. But, too often we are “lukewarm” about the faith and therefore, a ton of people are leaving it! Not good. But the Good News is that Jesus did indeed instruct us, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the gifts necessary to speak the truth in love to those who are open to hearing it. We aren’t going to convert anyone. But we can begin to help them see that there is a God who loves them, who created them, and wants them to be happy. In fact, it’s a great summary of Unleash the Gospel from Archbishop Vigneron, which you can read here.
“We [Catholics] have access to the God of the Universe as present in the tabernacle as He will be at the end of history when He returns. As present in the tabernacle as He was when He walked on this earth, when the most beautiful Jewish woman in the world said Yes to an angel’s marriage proposal at the Annunciation. We have this amazing gift.”
” The last words of Blessed Solanus Casey before he died are the words that we should be saying everyday. That should be our prayer. “Lord I give you my soul!”
“You can’t give what you don’t have. If you don’t have this indispensable amount of understanding about who Jesus is, you’re not going to be an effective disciple. It doesn’t mean you have to read big fat books, it doesn’t mean you have to be Thomas Aquinas. It just means you have to be willing to say Yes to what the Holy Spirit wants to do in and through your life.”
“Nothing here below lasts forever. So we have to be careful about whom and what we hitch our horse to. We have to belong first and foremost to Jesus Christ.”
There was a time for Q&A afterwards which brought up a number of different topics like how to handle family members with SSA, to how to bring back lapsed Catholics to the Church, and the difference between being repentant and being forgiven through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. <—-this was my favorite part because it prompted Patrick to speak these words which I love to reflect on:
“When we confess our sins, we are obeying what Christ wants for us and what we’re made to do. We want to confess our sins. We’re just chicken to. We’ve done things we can’t undo. We’ve hurt people…We need a Savior. We need someone to take those sins away. To delete them.”
“Our Lord knows us quite well. He knows what we need and we need to hear the words: “I absolve you.” And that I is not Fr. Smith or Bishop so and so, that’s Christ Himself. “I absolve you from your sins.” There’s no more beautiful words. That’s the most exquisite form of I love you, “I absolve you from your sins.”
Indeed. The most exquisite form of I love you. Indeed it is.
Most folks know me as unapologetically pro-life, no exceptions. And this Rose Mass has always intrigued me. I had heard about it over a year ago, hoping to do something very similar at my church in Cleveland. Well, God had some pretty big plans in mind because not only did I get to witness this mass this year, I was an active participant. Click here to watch it (already queued up for you to watch the “Rose Walk.”) It was such an honor to be asked to read the reflections for each year abortion has been legal in this country. As I read each reflection, a walker came up to the sanctuary and placed a rose in an empty crib. Walkers choose the year for a number of reasons – it could be the year they were born, it could be the year they were married, for some, it’s the year their aborted child would have been born. We never know the reasons they choose the year, but it’s not necessary to know. What’s important to see and to hear the impact legalized abortion has had on all of us. It was quite emotional towards the end, as it’s tradition to have a pregnant woman walk up for the final year. I couldn’t help but choke up as I read the final words as 45 people stood at the front of the worship space next to a crib with all 45 roses placed in it. Representing the 60 million unborn babies that didn’t get chance to live. It should cause us all to stop and think of how we can be a voice for the unborn.
In the words of Fr. Prentice, who was the celebrant for this mass, “Let us ask the intercession of Our Lady to put an end to abortion. This must stop.”
Celebrant: Fr. Manny Chircop, CSB (Congregation of St. Basil) – Appropriate he was the celebrant on this, the feast day of St. Basil “and some other guy.” 🙂
Initial Thoughts: I saw the words “Established 1978” on the wall as I walked in to the gathering space. But as I walked into the worship space I thought, “No. There is no way this place looked like THIS in 78.” Turns out, SJN did indeed have a reconstruction revamp about a year ago. I would be curious as to what it looked like prior to this, but needless to say, it looks very up-to-date and modern. Lots of natural light.
Homily Reflection: Fr. Manny apologized for going “off script” but he couldn’t let this feast day go by without a word about the Basilian Fathers, which is his order. So the homily was about his experience with this order and how he came to join them. In a nutshell, he was a teacher at an inner city school, they were looking for a place to have a retreat, found a retreat center in Pontiac, Michigan run by Basilians, he was so impressed with how they ran the retreat that he joined the retreat house and then later, joined the order.
He was most impressed with how the Basilians tried to blend in with most of the laity. They didn’t wear a collar nor any outstanding garb that would make them stand out as Fathers. They didn’t push their values on anyone. They didn’t want anyone thinking that they were better than anyone else.
Fr. relayed this back to the Gospel by saying that John the Baptist could have taken on a high and mighty role/attitude – But he was not there for himself – he was there for the people, as if to say, “No, don’t pay attention to me, pay attention to the one who is to come.” Fr. concluded by asking us to pray for this group of men, the Basilians, to remain humble and simple, to educate and to teach in school and in all walks of life and to continue to inspire young men to their order.
Holy Moments: Fr. asked before the end of mass if there were any birthdays or anniversaries that day. A woman behind me, named Sarah, was pointed out and so the whole congregation sang Happy Birthday to her. A sweet idea!
Forgive the longevity of this experience but I promise this is the shortest I could make it:
I’m not even sure where to begin but I will just say this was my very first experience at Christ The King, which is a charismatic parish in Ann Arbor. Encounter Ministries is described as a ministry that “exists to train and equip disciples to manifest the love and power of the Holy Spirit in their own sphere of influence.”
I heard about this particular conference on social media and at the urging of a friend, and after seeing my pastor, Fr. John Riccardo as well as Dr. Mary Healy listed as keynote speakers, I registered. I didn’t even do any research on Encounter Ministries prior to registering, except for watching this YouTube video of Fr. Mathias a couple of days prior.
The first night of the conference was Thursday night. I saw a ton of people from my own parish of OLGC but I actually ran into a young adult friend from Cleveland, who was there with many of her classmates from the University of Akron. After speaking with her for several minutes, I found a seat next to my good friend Karen. I told her this was my first time at something like this and she remarked that I was “going to be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit,” or something to that effect. I was really excited and just prayed for continued receptivity to whatever I was going to experience.
Fr. Mathias began the evening by speaking on sort of an “Intro to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit” but also spoke about his own journey and how he felt called to a healing ministry. He made several references to Scripture from the book of Acts but wanted to focus more on getting the message that this is for everyone, not just for extroverts or missionaries. Everyone needs the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He asked us to think about the apostles BEFORE and then AFTER Pentecost = Before, they were afraid, they hid and they denied. But AFTER, they couldn’t shut up! Without Pentecost, there’s no power and there’s no evangelization. The same is true today.
And so that’s what he called us to – a New Pentecost for a New Evangelization, a renewed desire for prayer, for praise, to read Scripture, to share the gospel, more victory over sin, a desire for community and most of all – JOY.
There was a lot more that was said but those are as far as my notes got me. He then asked us to bow our heads and he was going to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. I’m still a little confused as to this whole thing but all I know is I almost immediately started crying as soon as he asked us to bow our heads. It came out of nowhere. But then it wasn’t so much sadness as much as it was repentance, or at least a feeling of repentance. Fr. was speaking words into the mic but I can’t recall all the phrases he was saying, I just remember feeling a sense of tingling and warmth coming over me.
A short time later we were instructed to have the person next to us pray over us. So that meant Karen laid hands on me and prayed over me. I felt that same warmth and although I didn’t shed tears, I felt like God was trying to say something. I even felt, at one point, like I was weightless, almost like I could float away any minute. VERY strange but a GOOD strange. Luckily, Karen seems to have some gifts that the Lord has blessed her with and said that she felt the Lord asking me to praise him out loud (more). I don’t really praise God as much as I thank God out loud. But I thought, if this is what the Lord is asking me to do, then I’ll be obedient to that. So if that was the only message I was to receive the entire Encounter conference, I was content with that. I mean, God has given me the gift of gab. He wants me to speak His name more? I can definitely do that. 😉
Friday night was Fr. John’s turn to give his talk. I would categorize it as a call to back to reality. It was a nice balance, I think. He started out discussing the famous Rublev icon of The Trinity, which he’s given a homily on before, here (around the 5:30 mark) . He then discussed Matthew 9:35-38. Jesus has compassion – meaning internal turmoil. Why this response? Because we are like sheep without a shepherd – meaning we are torn, weary, ripped apart, mangled, helpless, tossed aside, thrown down. Before he discussed what Jesus did, he mentioned exactly what Jesus doesn’t do:
He doesn’t throw his hands up in frustration
He doesn’t yearn for the good old days
He doesn’t vent on social media
He doesn’t condemn those who are lost
He doesn’t act – He tells the disciples to pray for HIM to act and to reclaim His creation. But only if we’ll be the kinds of laborers He has in mind.
After a brief reflection on St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. John then went into details of why some people are not healed. Why do some people suffer? Why does the Lord allow this to go on? In his opinion, (and I concur) he said that perhaps God wants to conform us to His Son, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If we all long for an encounter of His love, then how far do we go? How much do we look like Jesus? Do we have the Sacred Heart of Jesus? And what does that look like? Fr. remarked that to have the heart of Jesus means you are present, you are attentive to the needs of others, you express care and concern for the other. He asked us to pray to God and show us: “How far is my heart from Jesus?”
Saturday, Dr. Mary Healy spoke before the vigil mass. Her talk was AMAZING. She spoke about so many things but my favorite part, aside from an unexpected reference to the movie The Bourne Identity, was her explanation of the Prodigal Son. She talked about the older son/brother and how we as a Church can sometimes have that same attitude towards others, especially those who are new. How can we help the lost if this is our mentality? And here was the kicker question: “What if the prodigal son would have ran into the older brother and NOT the Father as he came home?” What if that’s what it’s like when someone approaches US? Are we like the Father or are we like the older brother? Wow. Convicted much? I could sit and marinate on that for hours.
Fr. Ed, the pastor of Christ the King, gave a great homily on Saturday but for some reason, I didn’t take notes. You would think, my first charismatic mass but no notes. Not one! Big time fail on my part.
After mass was dinner in which I made a fool of myself gushing over Dr. Healy for the second time so that was nice and embarrassing for me. After dinner, was the big Worship session followed by testimonials from 3 different people.
All of their experiences were different but the underlying theme was “I wasn’t so sure about this. I had my misgivings/doubts, but I knew God wanted me to use this gift.” I had no reason to doubt their personal experiences of healing others. But a very small part of me, thought “This is good for them, but I’m not so sure that’s my gift.” I would LOVE to be able to pray over someone and heal them but is this really a gift that God grants to all of us? Even if we ask for it? Something to think about…
To conclude, if Fr. Mathias desired for all of us there to have a personal Pentecost so we can have the courage to share our experiences with others, then I would say that desire was met in me: I experienced a personal Pentecost of the Father affirming me in my identity of being a beloved daughter, I’m using the gifts He has given me, especially with regards to teaching, and He is pleased with what I’ve done so far. He wants me to openly praise Him more often, to remember that all that happens is because He wants union, and that all the work He has done in my life is due to my obedience to His will, not my own. All glory to Him!
Initial Thoughts: This chapel is part of a large retreat center and banquet hall, hence the long and narrowness (is that a word?) of the layout. I’ve grown accustomed to sitting across from one another since this is the same set up as the chapel at Domino’s Farms. I walked in 30 minutes early so was able to get the pictures, although there are better ones on their website .
Something I noticed right away was there was no crucifix, but I happened to be sitting across from the 12th Station of the Cross, so I gazed on that for awhile. I was trying to figure out who exactly comes to this last chance mass (which, I found out is NOT the last chance mass in the area – apparently there’s a 9pm in the area). But it was a pretty packed chapel with various types – singles, couples, families, older. A true variety pack.
Homily Reflection: A month from today we’ll be in Lent! Today’s readings remind us to be be still and allow ourselves time to get away from the noise. Not just the audible noise but the noise we see, like social media feeds and Instagram photos and news headlines on the tv and internet. Samuel, in the first reading, quieted his heart so God could speak to Him and that’s what we are called to do during this Ordinary Time.
In the Gospel, we hear Jesus’ very first words he spoke. He asked a question: “What are you looking for?” Well, what are WE looking for? Jesus tells the apostles, “Come and see.” He extends the invitation into His life. They could hear and see clearly because they were receptive, and that’s what we are called to be as well.
Holy Moments: The cantor and the music minister on the piano were both outstanding! I don’t know if it’s because this place has awesome acoustics or what, but both were really pleasing to listen to. You know how you can tell someone is smiling as they are singing? I think she was that way, especially for the final song.
If I ever want to end my weekend on a high note, especially in the evening, I’m coming back to St. John’s, most definitely.
The final tally is 82 parishes/masses that I made it to in 2017. 58 of those were in the Diocese of Cleveland, the rest were in Detroit and then a few in cities that I was visiting including East Lansing, Notre Dame, Elkhart, Sanibel, D.C., and Toledo. Of course, I went to daily mass more than 82 times in the year, but only blogged about 82 of the experiences.
In talking to some friends just yesterday about the DMP, they remarked that it was amazing that I could remember details about each one. They asked how was I able to retain all of that information. I responded that it helped that I wrote it all down. But the best memories I didn’t really need to write down, but I’m glad I did! From meeting Henry the hugger at St. Jude’s in Elyria, to crashing a wedding with my friend Kristen at Sweetest Heart of Mary, to finding out that I heard one of the last homilies given by Fr. Dunphy at St. Martin of Tours, and witnessing my friend’s Fr. Jim and Fr. Anthony say their first masses as newly ordained priests, this was quite the year and quite the project. And it’s one I’m happy to continue for as long as I’m able.
I took it upon myself to make a little Wrap-Up/Best of the Best post. I’m sure those who have visited other parishes will have a different opinion on my “awards” and to those people I will say, “My blog, my rules.” 🙂
There you have it! DMP 2017 wrapped up and now we are on to 2018.
I’ll be attending the churches of all churches as I travel to the Holy Land for EASTER. It’s going to be life-changing, no doubt.
As for the future, I’m so excited to continue on this little project of mine here in Detroit. But CLE will always be my home. I do plan on making frequent visits back so I can check a few more parishes off the list.