Daily Mass Project – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

IMG_1176

Wednesday, January 1, 2020 – Private mass at my friend Dawn’s chapel in her house, Lansing, MI (Yes, Dawn has a chapel in her house. Being a Consecrated Virgin affords her that awesome privilege!)

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Celebrant: Fr. John Whitlock

Homily Reflection: A homily geared specifically to the small audience of three women – myself, another discerner, and Dawn who was Consecrated to a Life of Virginity in November.  (Check out photos from this blessed event here as she and another young woman were both Consecrated by Bishop Earl Boyea)

Fr. John started out by saying that all of us are called to fathers and mothers. He then put forth a few questions for us to reflect on: How am I specifically called to be a mother, a spiritual mother? What does that look like in my life since I’m not married to an earthly spouse? The short answer – Imitate Mary, specifically focus on her relationship with Jesus. He asked us to focus on the times, as a Mother, the times of “being with” and “being without” Jesus.

For example, Jesus was with her in her womb. He was without her and Joseph when he was absent from them for 3 days while they sought him and found him in his Father’s house. She was with him for 30 years. But she was without him (at least at certain moments) throughout his public ministry. She was with Him while He was dying on the cross, but then she was without Him when he was in tomb.

Another way to imitate Mary is to acquire a motherly heart. Mary no doubt had moments of consolation and desolation and that’s not unlike what all of us endure in our spiritual lives. And during those moments of being with, those are the times of consolation. The moments of being without, those are the times of desolation.

He then had us think of the spiritual children who are brought into our lives for a time. Just like biological and adoptive parents, whose children are with them until they leave the nest, so we may encounter our own spiritual children who will be with us for a time before moving on. God does indeed bring people into our lives for a time. As difficult as it can be to let go, love doesn’t cling, it only gives. Jesus is the only One we cling to.

It can be difficult, especially in seasons of discerning your vocation, when it feels like Jesus is asleep on the boat, when it doesn’t feel like He’s speaking to us. Fr. John quoted an Archbishop who said, “At those times when Jesus is asleep on the boat, that’s when we should love Him even more.” Because He’s always at work in us. He’s there working in our soul.

Finally, Fr. John called us to pray for our spiritual children, “with and without” us.

Holy Moments: This was 3rd annual New Years Eve “retreat” with Dawn and other discerning women and I think it may have been my favorite. There’s really nothing quite like ringing in the New Year with Jesus and a few close friends. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend the quiet and silence of a retreat as opposed to the fireworks and noise makers (depending on your season of life, of course). And for those of us who consider it a miracle that we can even stay awake until midnight on New Years Eve, this is the way to do it!

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!


 

Daily Mass Project – Christmas Day and the Feast of St. John the Evangelist

67842297_2878968618845277_7641602690601975808_o

Our Lady of Good Counsel – Plymouth, MI – Christmas Day Mass – 12pm

Presider: A visiting priest who probably has a lovely name but I never asked so I don’t know. #HugeFail

Gospel: MT 1:18-25

Homily Reflection: Father reflected on how it must have been an exciting time for all the holy people back when Gabriel went to Mary. As they await her answer. And then the unbelievable JOY that took place at the moment of her fiat.  As Mary goes in haste to visit Elizabeth, what does she do but brings Jesus to Elizabeth. Fast forward to the Wedding at Cana. Mary takes the waiters to Jesus. It’s what Mary does – she brings people to Jesus. When talking about the angels going to the shepherds, Fr. said that God “unleashed the angels.” They are glorifying God now at this moment.

He then mentioned to reflect on Joseph and Mary’s journey in these last days, finding no room to have their baby. They are tired and in desperate need. Maybe that’s how we’re feeling right now? Just glad that Christmas has arrived and tired instead of feeling that joy that we should be feeling. God says to let it go and rejoice! Joseph and Mary are at peace as they look at their child and don’t think about that tiresome journey it took to get there. Lastly, he said to go back in Scripture and place yourself at the scene of the nativity. “Open up your heart and soul like never before & invite Him in. Today, we celebrate His birth now and forever.”

Holy Moments: It’s Christmas Day at my home parish – The whole day was a holy moment.


ourladyoftherosary

Our Lady of the Rosary – Detroit, MI – Friday December 27th – 5:30pm – Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist

A true Daily Mass – A random Friday evening with about 7 of my closest friends. 😉

Presider: Fr. Marko Djonovic, Founder and Director of Better Way Detroit – a ministry that provides dignity to the homeless by offering work for pay to help beautify the city of Detroit.

Initial thoughts: I visited Holy Rosary about 8 months ago. (or maybe a year ago by now, I can’t recall). It didn’t have a crucifix and it didn’t have pews – so they’ve made vast improvement since the last time I was there.

IMG_1153IMG_1152

Homily reflection: Short and sweet. Father reminded us that John is the disciple that Jesus loved, that stayed with Jesus at the foot of the cross. He didn’t waiver in his trust and love for Jesus and that’s what God is asking us to do. To stay close and trust and love our Lord. To stand with Mary at his feet and imitate St. John in his spiritual companionship.

Holy moments: Seeing a few familiar faces in the pews. Mass was followed by adoration and confession. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night!

St. John the Evangelist, pray for us!


Up next week – The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God at my friend’s house – Yes, we had a private mass at her house in her chapel and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Daily Mass Project – 4th Week of Advent – Names, Kneelers and Nephews

Aerial of St Albert The Great-11

St. Albert the Great – North Royalton, OH – Fourth Sunday of Advent – Dec 22nd

Presider: Fr. Joshua Trefney, Parochial Vicar

1st Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14

2nd Reading: Romans 1:1-7

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

Initial thoughts: The one thing (besides having the most beautiful adoration chapel) that I always liked about St. Albert’s is that their bulletin has a little Lectio Divina for everyone to do for the following week’s readings. So this way, you aren’t just skimming the bulletin – you could take it home and pray with it.

I’ve been to this parish several times since it’s just down the street from my childhood home and I have met a very dear friend of mine in the pews here too. (Hi Ivi!) It’s a gorgeous parish and it is clearly thriving. They are also celebrating their 60th year which is crazy to think that I attended it as a kid (when we couldn’t make it to our home parish of St. Anthony’s) in the late 80’s in just their 28th year.

Homily reflection: Fr. Joshua preached on our names and how we come to be named. Clearly, our parents make this decision but there’s usually a meaning behind why they chose that particular name for us. (A family name, a unique spelling of your name, maybe they even prayed about it before naming you).

Sidenote: Whenever anyone talks about how they got their name, I tell them that according to someone in my family (this story has been disputed by my parents at separate times but SOMEONE said it was true) but apparently they were trying to come up with names for me and the phone rang, either Mom or Dad answered, the person asked for a Michelle, they told them it was the wrong number, hung up and said, “Michelle, that’s a good name. Let’s name her that!” I like to think the story is true even if they dispute its validity.

Back to the homily – Every name has a meaning. The prime example is Moses and burning bush talking to God and God reveals His name “I AM WHO AM.” I am the foundation of all reality, the Creator of the world and everything in it. God also reveals His heart to His people. Emmanuel has a meaning, “God with us.” God is always present and never abandons us. Jesus means, “God saves,” the Savior of the world. Our names define who we are, too.

Another sidenote: One of my most prized possessions is a little wooden plaque with my name on it that says “Godly One.” My parents had one for myself and my siblings and mine hung on my wall above my dresser and I would just stare at it, wondering, “Godly one? Me???” But I still have it to this day and it’s one of the few things I have kept from my childhood that hangs in my room. Who knows where Mom bought it but I will always treasure it.

Fr. Joshua concluded by mentioning that in the book of Revelation, it says that we will one day know the name GOD calls us.

“To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17.

Holy moments: I had to confirm I wasn’t hearing things when, during the Eucharistic prayer, Fr. Joshua added the names of “St. Raphael and St. Dysmas” after St. Albert. Turns out they’re his patron saints. I have recently learned a lot about St. Raphael the Archangel and so I thought that was a little “sign” that perhaps I was really supposed to be at this particular mass. Plus, it occured at a moment when my mind was wandering (oops!) and this was probably God’s way of hitting me on the head to pay attention.

St. Raphael, pray for us!


80258813_1421636631346333_3376098518065217536_n

St. Charles Borromeo – Parma, OH – Fourth Sunday of Advent – Dec 22nd – Noon mass

Yes I double dipped. And I’m not sorry. 😉

Readings: (See above)

I really wanted to go because my nephew was serving and I sat in the pew with my other nephew which was such a treat. Proud, proud auntie!

I did however manage to sit in a cushioned pew!! Ha! Apparently only a few pews have cushioned seats. Wow, what a treat! It’s the little things…

Presider: Fr. Lou Thomas, Parochial Vicar

Homily Reflection: Well finally, someone preached the homily I have NEVER heard before on St. Joseph but always wanted to. I was just talking to someone about the “house of David” thing and how it just baffled me: Jesus is from the house of David…but it’s Mary’s DNA that’s in him, not Joseph’s. Right? So how can we really say He’s from the lineage of David if that’s Joseph’s line and not Mary’s? That has bothered me to the point of tears in praying about it because I felt like I was questioning the entire Incarnation. Fr. Lou explained that in those days, it’s not like anyone would ever question family lineage by DNA. There was literally no difference between a biological father, a foster father, a guardian father, etc. You’re the father? You’re the father. Period. So that really helped me understand it better.

Holy Moments: The sign of peace with my 6’2″ nephew and watching my other nephew serve and carry the cross. “I volunteered to carry the cross for you, Auntie!” My heart was leaping. Also, the Communion Chant was “O Holy Mary.” SO beautiful and one I know I’ve never heard before in my other mass experiences. And kudos to the violinist. I’d love to hear a violinist at every liturgy. Outstanding job!

St. Joseph, pray for us!


holyangels1

Church of the Holy Angels – Bainbridge, OH – 9am – Monday December 23rd (Chapel mass)

My former parish! I saw some good friends I hadn’t seen in quite some time. Always nice to see familiar faces.

Gospel: Luke 1:57-66

Presider: Fr. Max Cole Pastor and Deacon Vince Belsito

Homily Reflection: Deacon Vince gave a great homily about the question in the Gospel, “What will this child be?” He used a real life example of the only child in the chapel for mass that day and asked the mother if she ever wonders what her child will be. Deacon Vince is a teacher so he always wondered that of his students. Heck, I’m still wondering what will become of me and I’m 41!

In the meantime, he asked that we reflect on that question and I remember thinking, “I don’t need to write any of this down because for sure I’ll remember it.”

Well, I can’t recall anything else from that homily so that’s about it. In my defense, I wasn’t preparing to blog about it so that’s my excuse.

Holy Moments: During the prayers of the faithful, the priest asks for the people in attendance to speak their prayers out loud if they wish so it’s always interesting to me to hear what specific prayers people are asking for. There was always one woman when I would attend there who every single mass would pray “For the lost souls and those separated from the church, that the light of God shine upon them.” So even if no one felt like speaking up, she would always say that, without fail. This particular mass was for a gentleman’s mother who passed and so he spoke up and thanked everyone for supporting him and thanked us all for praying for her. So while some may say it’s a distraction to others to hear all of these prayers being said out loud (one at a time of course), I did appreciate hearing from him since I could remember her when it came time for the Eucharist.

Bonus material: So here’s a question to ponder: If you have a chapel with kneelers, should they be used? I noticed that only a few of us knelt during the Eucharistic prayers and everyone else remained standing. Maybe this is because in the Worship Space, there are no kneelers. So it’s what people are USED to. But, I was told by a priest once: “If you have kneelers, you use them.” Why not have the presiding priest simply suggest, “If you are able, please kneel?” That would seem to solve that issue. Speaking simply for myself, it helps me enter in more fully to this mystery that I’m about to take in the precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord. I can reflect and think about that much more deeply when I’m in a posture of humility, is all I’m saying. Feel free to comment and tell me otherwise!

In the meantime, my prayer is that someday a tabernacle will be placed in the sanctuary. And maybe some kneelers too. 😉

Our Lady, Queen of the Angels, pray for us.


 

Daily Mass Project Returns – 2nd & 3rd Week of Advent

Merry Christmas to you all. It’s been almost two months since my last post and as I’ve mentioned before, I despise it when people have blogs and only blog literally a few times a year. Irks me to no end.

I have gone back and forth about completely deleting the site. But then something happens and I’m back to blogging on a temporary basis.

I have also expressed a few times that nothing made me happier than to do The Daily Mass Project almost 3 years ago now. 85 parishes in a year and a half and it was absolutely the most fun, most fulfilling project I have done. And it’s STILL on the bucket list to convert all the blog entries into a PDF or ebook or an actual book. Someday…

It was something that gave this site some purpose and I know a few friends had asked if I would ever start it up again here in Detroit. There’s really no way it can happen on a regular basis, BUT, I am going to try to blog about the masses I do make it to that aren’t at my home parish of OLGC. And it turns out, with Advent and Christmas and New Years, I have already attended a handful that could use a little blog.

So for the next few weeks, I hope you enjoy this temporary resurrection of the DMP.


IMG-8722

St. John Neumann – Canton, MI – Second Sunday of Advent – December 8th 2019, 6pm

Celebrant: Fr. Mark Livingston, Pastor

I first visited SJN almost a year ago and wrote about that mass here.

This time, since it was a Sunday mass and not a daily, the experience was much different.

1st Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10

2nd Reading: Romans 15:4-9

Gospel: Matthew 3:1-12

Initial thoughts:  It struck me as a parish that’s very similar to OLGC (where I belong) in that there are projector screens that advertise upcoming events and such. There are cards in each pew that encourage you to take notes during the homily, and the cantor announced at the beginning to “greet your neighbor and ask if they have a prayer request.”

Well, I introduced myself to my pew neighbors and asked the people behind me if they have any prayer intentions and they both said, “No. But thanks for asking!” I couldn’t help but laugh a little because I was kind of hoping THEY would ask me what MY prayer intentions were. And I had a big one so I thought well, God knows my heart so I’ll just keep this intention to myself.

So this was the first mass I was using my new Every Sacred Sunday journal and it has been well worth the money. There’s space to take notes for the homily but there’s also space to write prayers of thanksgiving and another space for your prayer intentions. There’s also room to do some Lectio Divina with all of the readings too. So for any hubbies out there looking for a belated Christmas gift for your wives….Just sayin!

Homily Reflection: Fr. Mark emphasized 3 aspects of who we are in regards to the readings: Baptized, Chosen and Temples of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism: Individually and collectively we members of the Body of Christ and John the Baptist baptism was about emptying ourselves. Jesus’ baptism is about emptying completely and being filled up with Him.

As far as being Chosen, all of us have been chosen by God. All are called, but maybe some unbaptized people haven’t placed themselves up for adoption. (I loved that point!)

We know we are all filled with the Holy Spirit and all of the gifts and graces that the Lord has given us. But why? So we can live the life for heaven and be with Him forever. God doesn’t want us to live a quasi-happy life. We are to live the life of heaven, NOW.  Sometimes we don’t feel like we’re living heaven now. So that’s when we need to ask for healing and come back to the Sacraments. To repent and ask the Lord to stir a flame in us. Father then mentioned that he pictures us all with tongues of fire above our heads and to pray to give us MORE of that. “Make the temple shine! Stir a flame in me! Re-inkindle all your gifts in me and help me to live in your light and truth.”

Holy Moments: Right before the Eucharistic preface, Father Mark asked us to focus on what was about to happen; to place all of our petitions and prayers right there at the altar to be transformed and to focus on what God is trying to say to us. I think it may have been one of the best masses as far as keeping my attention fixated on every word he spoke. I think it also helps sometimes, when we are at mass that isn’t our “normal” parish. I find it easier to drift in daydream land when I’m in a familiar place.

He also mentioned in the homily (or at some point because I wrote it down) to picture Jesus before us and ask Him to speak a word of love to us after we receive Holy Communion. I’ll keep mine to myself but let’s just say, that’s now my new favorite post-communion prayer.

Bonus material: 81996270_10218170392868752_2322874916774346752_o

So someone needs to ask Fr. Mark or someone at SJN what the meaning is behind this stained glass window. Inquiring minds want to know. My money is on that it’s an homage to the working class and that’s St. Joseph the Worker. Right? Maybe?


cabrini

St. Frances Cabrini – Allen Park, MI – Third (Gaudete) Sunday of Advent – 8am

Celebrant: Fr. Steve Mateja assisted by Fr. Luis Flores, Permanent Deacon

1st Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6A, 10

2nd Reading: James 5:7-10

Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

Initial thoughts: I’ve been here before but not for an 8am mass. The set up is a little odd with rows of pews on all sides facing the sanctuary. And apparently no one likes to sit in the first few rows of any Catholic Church because they were bare up until 10 minutes to 8. And even then just a handful of folks sat in them.  I love the silence of an 8am mass. Literally counted 2 children in attendance. Awesome.

Homily Reflection: (Given by Deacon Luis) I was hoping for a homily given by Fr. Steve since he’s being sent to a parish in Macomb County in town called Armada. I’m told that’s very far away. And looking at Google maps right now, it is confirmed: It’s super far away. So since we wouldn’t be seeing him until a long-distance Daily Mass Project in the spring perhaps, this was my chance to hear him preach. Alas, it was not to be. But, the Deacon gave a nice homily and had I known I’d be blogging about it, I would have taken better notes. Overall, the theme was rejoicing and joy, considering it was Gaudete Sunday. He says (and I’m just guessing that he’s right) that the word “rejoice” appears in the bible over 300 times. He also mentioned the difference between being happy and being joyful. Happiness is the feeling we get whereas joy is based on faith, and faith is a gift from God. Joy comes from the heart and God won’t take that away from us. God has this amazing love for us that should compel us to pray everyday, “Lord, use me in whatever way is needed.”

Holy Moment: Not so much a holy moment as much as just funny that during the sign of peace, I was SO FAR AWAY from people, these pews are ridiculously long and people are SO spread out, that no one made their way over to me to give the sign of peace, we all just sorta gave that look that says, “Oh hey, peace be with you, I’m sure you’re a great person but you are just so darn far away and I just don’t feel like making the effort to take the 10 steps to walk over to shake your hand and you may be sick anyways and I don’t want to catch whatever it is you have so peace be with you okay?” 🙂

I just happened to read one of Fr. Steve’s last bulletin entries a few days before and in it he said that upon his arrival there a year ago, he had asked everyone to pray one Hail Mary a day for him specifically. I guess a lot of the parishioners kept that promise. And so now I am trying to say one Hail Mary for Fr. Steve, especially during this time of transition.

You should all be praying for our priests, by the way. And if you aren’t, get on it. They need them and WE need them.

Here’s a great one from the CLE diocese that’s a prayer for priests and seminarians:

74480989_495207201336305_6893263969952202752_o

St. John Vianney, patron of priests and seminarians, pray for us!


Next week: I visit 3 familiar parishes in Cleveland – Church of the Holy Angels in Bainbridge, St. Albert the Great in North Royalton and St. Charles Borromeo in Parma.

Fearlessly Faithful

I had the awesome privilege to hang with some 400 Catholic women a couple of weeks ago in Cleveland for their First Annual Cleveland Catholic Women’s Conference called Fearlessly Faithful.

I knew several women who were part of the team that brought this conference together and being from the CLE, I was excited to support it, even before I knew who was going to be there, where it would be held, and who would be speaking.

It was well worth the 2 hour and 45 minute drive for some sisterhood time, a time of rest and to be fed spiritually, and to hear from some amazing speakers.

72738113_478843509639341_5307909300964818944_n.jpg

The day was emceed by Brooke Taylor, who has an awesome podcast called Good Things Radio. She’s a speaker, writer, radio personality and super Mom. I love listening to her show as she interviews guests from all different states of life – religious, ordained, single, married, husbands and wives, authors, etc. She’s been hosting pilgrimages to the Holy Land for a couple of years and hosts a women’s retreat called Arise, which I am very stoked to attend for the first time next year in June. (Ladies, if you’re interested, I think there are still some spots left —> Click here to read more about it and purchase a ticket).

The first speaker of the day was Mary Bielski whom I did NOT manage to get a photo opp with nor did I get a chance to speak with her to meet her, but, alas, it’s a #FirstWorldCatholicProblem.  I had heard her name from some of my Theology of the Body friends years ago as a popular national speaker and youth minister. So I was really excited to hear what she had to say.  Her talk was called Fearlessly His and it was all about our identity. It wasn’t your typical, “Hey ladies, you’re a beloved daughter of God, dontchaknow?” She went deep, she got personal, she got raw and it was really good to dive deep into these waters.

She also talked about the Model of Identity, which is SO needed today in our culture which is clearly having an identity crisis. This 3 step model looks like this:

  1. Relationship – We come to know each other in an interpersonal relationship. We don’t look inward to “find ourselves,” we look up.
  2. Identity – Jesus received His identity from the Father. We received our identity from Him.
  3. Mission – He was sent to live it out right after His Father identified Him as His beloved Son. We are sent on mission as well.

Mary pointed out that today, in our culture, the model is reversed:

  1. We move/take action
  2. We declare our identity
  3. We try to form relationships

Another way to say it is: “I do, I have, I am.”

It’s very much an American thing to identity someone by what they do for a living instead of who they ARE; a beloved child of God.

The Good news is that we have been rescued, we’ve been adopted and we have the power that comes from the Father to rebuke the lies that the world feeds us.

She also said something that was very similar to something I had recently read in my Women’s bible study and that was this:

Jesus didn’t come to make bad women better. He came to make dead women fully alive again. 

I think I want to put that on a t-shirt.

75204486_478843536306005_6292819166785175552_n.jpg

The second speaker was Fr. Pat Schultz and there’s no need to even try to summarize his awesome talk entitled Fearlessly Forgiven and Restored because he recorded it (YAY for technology!) and you can listen to it here:

Fr. Pat’s talk was similar to Mary’s in that he really wanted us to know that God is saying to us: “You are a beauty to be revealed.” We were encouraged to expose and silence the voice of the accuser, to unleash love no matter our state in life, to nurture life and live out our feminine genius whenever possible. Beautiful and inspiring! I would encourage you to explore Fr. Pat’s Vimeo channel to hear his homilies and other talks as well. They are stellar.

72637898_478843662972659_3549423052871696384_n.jpg

The final talk was from Laura Mary Phelps. I did miss the first part of her talk, entitled Fearlessly Sent, but I did manage to catch the bulk of it. She had encouraged us to check out one of my FAVORITE books called “Into Your Hands Father”  by Wilfred Stinnison. It’s all about doing the will of the Father and how to know IF you are doing that, because, let’s face it, it’s difficult to discern if we’re really doing what God the Father wills for us or following our own selfish desires. I have half of that book highlighted – it’s THAT good.

I also loved her point about suffering and how it’s not written in the Bible anywhere, “This too shall pass.” That’s something we say to one another in difficult and challenging times of trial and suffering, but it’s not really…true.

An actual scripture to cling to is 2 Corinthians 4:17 which says:

“For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” which Laura “translated” into: “The suffering you’re in now is necessary to get you to the place of awesomeness that’s coming.” 

73022060_478843672972658_2215826155456430080_n.jpg

In between speakers was what I considered probably the BEST part of any Catholic Conference and that’s Adoration and Confession as well as Praise and Worship.  I think 17 priests from around the diocese made themselves available to over 400 women who wanted confession, while we were divided into groups to sit in front of Jesus while the lovely and talented Taylor Tripodi blessed us with her beautiful voice and musical gifts.

73083087_478843722972653_4926204377569427456_n.jpg

To wrap up, I wanted to share this I Declare card that I received at a Holy Hour for women at my parish over a year ago and I’ve kept it in my Bible ever since and refer to it daily. It’s from the women’s Bible study Walking With Purpose and the image is from the chapel in Magdala of the hemorrhaging woman called “Encounter.”

IMG-1027

Those declaration statements are so powerful when we not only pray with them, but we need to actually believe them and take hold of them in order to live these truths out in our daily lives. Because speaking from experience, we have a lot of women (and men) believing the lies. The lies of “You’re not good enough, you’re afraid, you’re weak, you’re not pretty enough, you’ll never belong…” etc.

These declarative statements are the antidote to those lies. I would encourage any woman struggling with her identity to pray with these often.

When we trust in God’s providence, when we believe that God is a good Father, and when we are receptive to what the Holy Spirit is telling us about the truth of our identity in Christ, that’s when we can live truly Fearlessly Faithful.

Until next time…be blessed!

Doing the will of the Father – St. Cyprian

I read this in the Liturgy of the Hours that I pray every morning and came across this last week. I wanted to share it for several reasons:

  1. If I blog about it, that means I can easily refer back to it. It certainly beats writing this on post-it notes
  2. It’s a long “checklist” that I’m pretty sure I’m not doing 100% but would like to.
  3. I’ve been wanting to write about something for a few weeks that would strike the heart of everyone, not just a select few and this appears to be something we can all strive for.

So here goes!

stcyprian-220x300

The following is from a treatise on the Lord’s Prayer by Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr.

All Christ did, all he taught, was the will of God. 

  • Humility in our daily lives
  • an unwavering faith
  • a moral sense of modesty in conversation
  • justice in acts
  • mercy in deed
  • discipline
  • refusal to harm others
  • a readiness to suffer harm
  • peaceableness with our brothers
  • a whole-hearted love of the Lord
  • loving in him what is of the Father
  • fearing him because he is God
  • preferring nothing to him who preferred nothing to us
  • clinging tenaciously to his love
  • standing by his cross with loyalty and courage whenever there is any conflict involving his honor and his name
  • manifesting in our speech the constancy of our profession and under torture confidence for the fight
  • and in dying the endurance for which we will be crowned

This is what it means to wish to be a coheir with Christ, to keep God’s command; this is what it means to do the will of the Father.”

St. Cyprian, pray for us!

Love vs. Lust – Fulfilling Our Desires

Is there anything more annoying than people who have a blog but don’t blog a darn thing for several months?

Yes, that would be me. Quite a bit has happened since the last time I posted. I’m not quite sure what is accounting for the lull of writing from me, but perhaps it’s due to the fact that I’m a better speaker and talker than a writer. At least when it comes to storytelling.

And that’s where today’s post comes in: I was asked to present a talk on Theology of the Body to the young adult group in my Archdiocese of Detroit for their Theology on Tap series last month. I was ecstatic to be asked and enthusiastically prepped a talk on Love vs. Lust – Fulfilling our Desires.

It seemed to be the best topic for me to present on given that I think all people, but especially single young adults, can relate to the misunderstanding of what exactly is authentic love. There is a lot of confusion today about what passes for love. So this talk aimed at clearing up those misconceptions ,as well as explaining what our faith teaches us about real love, how lust is using someone and treating them as an object, as well as what we can do as Catholic Christians to avoid falling into the trap of lust.

I did record it (audio only) in an effort to critique myself. I edited out the Q&A at the end as well as a chunk in the beginning and it *still* turned out to be quite long.

So I edited out all of my flubs and flaws, took out a really great story at the end, and managed to edit it down to just under 28 minutes.

So how would you like to spend your time in purgatory? Long and drawn out but really entertaining? Here’s the long version:

Or quick and relatively painless and gets to the point? Here’s the short version:

Overall, I’m pleased with how I did despite my obvious fast-talking – although those “young kids” today, none of them said I talked too fast. For anyone under 30, I talk at their regular speed, no joke.

I am hoping to do more talks similar to this and even have another opportunity to speak coming up at a Women’s Lenten Retreat next month about finding beauty in your relationship with Christ.

As more of these talks come up, I do hope to have them recorded and shared on here since the purpose of the blog was and remains an effort to educate, inform and inspire folks to learn Theology of the Body.

+JMJ

Holidays, Mass, and Memories

The holidays are here and that means it’s time for me to write about my most favorite subject ever – My mama! 🙂

IMG_0015

So holidays for my Mom and my family were simply the best. My Mom could be described as “Festive to the Extreme.” To give you an idea, she decorated our house for Fourth of July and Memorial Day and Labor Day with little flags everywhere. I mean, lets face it, most people will celebrate by enjoying the day off work but my Mom would get out her flags and put them in the potted plants outside and in the yard, she’d get on her Flag sweatshirt and grab her Flag Tote bag and would just LIVE for stuff like that.

Christmas was always a bit over the top, and Mom just made it really special. Her last Christmas was no exception. In fact, we considered it a miracle (and looking back, I think Mom just WILLED herself to get enough of her strength back) to be released from the hospital in time to celebrate Christmas.

One of my last memories of that final Christmas was walking down the stairs to the kitchen and stopping on the landing halfway, to just take in the smell of baked cookies and her famous sweet bread baking in the oven and thinking, “This is the last time this house will smell like this. It won’t be the same anymore. I’ll never hear her fiddling in the kitchen, I’ll never hear her playing her favorite Christmas CD’s, I’ll never see her smiling to present her bread.” And I don’t remember crying or anything, but I remember just inhaling that smell before I walked all the way downstairs into the kitchen. And just saying to myself,

“Damn. That was it. This won’t ever be this again.”

And you know what? That first Christmas was really rough. I won’t say it was awful but it was really hard. We tried to decorate the house like she would have but I had zero desire to even put up the tree or anything.

One day in the fall of the year that she passed, I think around Thanksgiving, I just decided to pick up her digital camera and see what was on it.

And the first picture I see is of the interior of our house…at Christmas…the year before. And then another. And another. And another. She took about 20 photos of the entire house with the Christmas decorations because she knew we wouldn’t know how to decorate quite like her. It was basically a Tutorial of How To Do Christmas Like Mom.

I pretty much lost it and called my sister to tell her about Mom’s picture-by-picture guide and she came over and we began to unpack the boxes and started to decorate the house.

And we found a note in one of them. I can’t recall what it said, but something like “Take care of each other.” Mom wrote it apparently when she was feeling well, in remission. We thought “How neat! Mom left us notes!”

We kinda forgot about it until Christmas time and started to unpack those decorations and found..you guessed it – more notes! (I wrote about this whole thing in greater detail in a blog post here). <—Get the Kleenex ready if you start to read that one.

My point with today’s post was to give some sort of solidarity to those who are about to experience their “first” holiday post-loss of a loved one. The first holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers Day/Fathers Day, etc are not really…enjoyable.

I mean, let’s just be real  – they suck.

I hate that word, but it’s just so true. You’re always thinking about THEIR last holiday and how they looked, what they said, what they wore, what they made, where you went with them. And it’s just not the same. Nothing is ever the same.

And people will always try their hardest to make you feel better by saying, “Their memory lives on forever.”

Gag me.

That’s straight out of a Hallmark Channel Movie! So lame. Yeah yeah, their memory lives on. In our minds. Yes.

But that’s not good enough – we want our loved ones here in the flesh. I want to be able to hug my Mom right now, ya know? I can’t hug a memory. (I had the BEST dream about her the other day where I DID hug her and it was so great!)

I want to smell that bread again (IT’S THAT GOOD okay? Trust me, everyone RAVED about my Mom’s sweet bread. Thank God my sister bakes it now and it’s just as good although she’ll read this and say “No, it’s not as good as Mom’s. No one made it like Mom.”)

I want to hear her play her favorite Christmas music and hear her wrapping gifts and complaining that she had to scour the internet looking for that one obscure rare gift my brother always asked for every year, and couldn’t find (but she always found it! Sometimes at the last minute, but she did.)

I want to see her, in her recliner, reading her little devotional books, ask her how she’s feeling, and hear her voice and talk to her.

Last week we celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day. All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation but All Souls Day is not. I feel like they both should be obligatory.  All Saints Day mass was exactly what I needed. The incense, the chanting, the lighting…it was incredible. All Souls Day had the same feel and although it’s a solemn mass and lots of tears are shed, the homily filled me with hope.

I LOVE going to the mass and feeling my Mom there with me.

After all, mass itself is heaven on earth. It’s where we encounter Jesus and it’s where we pray to the Saints and to Mary and it’s where I feel closest to my Mom and all of my relatives and friends who have passed on. They are where I want to be someday (hopefully not soon) but I know it’s where I’ll see her again and hear her laugh and see her smile and give her the biggest hug ever!

And when I’m on my knees in prayer after the Sanctus (the Holy Holy Holy…) I really try to envision all of the saints right there and my Mom too, hovered around the altar, kneeling with us before God on His throne.

I know it can be a chore and really tough to picture this when you’re at mass where there’s crying babies, fidgeting kids, people’s cell phones going off (come on people, it’s been 10 years can we please learn how to turn them off!?) or an off-key singer in the choir or just distracted by your random thoughts, but if you shut your eyes and just listen to the priest, you CAN do this.

Even if it’s just 10 seconds of being truly present at mass, it’s a game-changer. It may be the most peaceful moment you’ll have that day. And if you keep experiencing that peace, I would be willing to bet you’ll want to keep coming back to get those peaceful experiences again.

My prayers are with all of my friends and family members who are experiencing their “first” holidays without your favorite person in your life there with you this year. But you’ll see them again. And it won’t be from a memory.

It’ll be real. 

Can’t wait to see you again, Mom! Save a slice of that bread for me will ya? 😉

Priesthood Sunday – A Rosary for the Sanctification of Priests

Happy Priesthood Sunday!

I’m not sure how many people really “participate” in this occasion but I know for me, I send a quick text or email to the priests in my life who have been particularly influential in my spiritual life.

But you don’t need to be good friends or close to a priest to let them know that you care. You can simply pray for them. And I think, especially in light of this “Summer of Scandal,” our good priests could use our prayers now more than ever.

My parish is one the few that I know of that has dedicated a special page on their website to the Church abuse crisis and the McCarrick scandal. They have been updating the site with relevant articles and commentary and recently, they added this page –  Rosary for Sanctification of Priests.

I think it’s just a good way to show support for all of the clergy right now.

Another idea that I had was to pray for those priests who have been laicized due to abuse allegations. I think a lot of the times, we’d rather not think about these men as being worthy of our prayers or of our time do to the heinous nature of their actions. But, we simply can’t think that way. It’s times like this I remember that there is no sin too great for God’s mercy and forgiveness. I oftentimes just pray for these men to repent. That’s all we can ask. The rest is up to God. In a lot of cases, many of these men  are deceased, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for their souls.

My Archdiocese lists the name of every priest who has been removed from ministry or laicized. I made it a point to write down their names and pray for them by name. Maybe a good idea would be to find out if your diocese lists yours and do the same.

On this Priesthood Sunday, give thanks for the good priests (the majority of them are!) that you’ve encountered, and pray that more good young men will remain docile to the movements of the Holy Spirit and heed the call to the priesthood, if that be God’s will for them.

 

TOB and the Interior Life

A week ago today I set off for the Malvern Retreat House in Pennsylvania to take my 6th course with the Theology of the Body Institute called Theology of the Body and the Interior Life with Fr. Timothy Gallagher.

I had asked Christopher West in a Facebook Chat what to expect from this course, since I felt like I was one of the few Catholics in the world who had not heard of Fr. Tim before. His response was:

“Fr. Tim Gallagher is one of the foremost experts in the country on Ignatian spirituality, particularly what Ignatius called “the discernment of spirits.” It’s going to be a crash course on how to discern the interior movements of our lives — how to recognize the voice of the Lord and any contrary voices in our lives. This is essential for the journey of the interior life, which is essential for living TOB. I’ll be making those connections for the class in particular.”

I’m here to say, Fr. Tim exceeded my expectations and, together with Christopher teaching the TOB specific portion as well as another priest who spoke on the Examen Prayer, this was probably one of the most fruitful and enjoyable courses I’ve taken yet.

44029835_260139461509748_2754399309024722944_n

For those unfamiliar with the TOB Institute and the courses that it offers, a little background:

All of the courses take place at retreat centers in Pennsylvania. They run from a Sunday evening until Friday afternoon. They consist of 30 hours of teaching and the rest of the time is filled with meals, mass, prayer and adoration.

That’s the *structure* of it but that’s nothing compared to what happens in your mind and your heart as digest all of this. Because it’s not data or information that you’re learning – it’s so much more deep than that. This is literally life-changing. And it’s because it speaks directly to our heart.

This one was specifically on Discernment of Spirits and the Spiritual Exercises from St. Ignatius of Loyola. For more information on it, I’d recommend Fr. Timothy’s website as well as the *main* website called Discerning Hearts. For those who are more auditory learners, you’ll appreciate this site since all you’ll have to do is click on one of the many podcasts that Fr. Tim has done to really help you understand the exercises.

While attempting to summarize all that we learned in one blog post would be futile, (I wouldn’t even know where to begin!) I would instead like to share the BEST news about this retreat/course based on my last post from just a month ago: My GoFundMe Campaign funded this whole course entirely!

For those that don’t know, I was having some anxiety about paying for this course. I only had 3 courses left to obtain the full TOB certification and after a ton of prayer, I decided to start a Go Fund Me, simply reaching out just once to friends/family via email and posting to social media two or three times. I felt VERY uneasy about this because it’s not in my nature to ask for help, especially financial.

Much to my surprise, within 10 days, most of the course was paid for. Within three days of starting the campaign, the Institute granted me a small scholarship to the class as well. I was shocked and humbled and I’m incredibly grateful! I couldn’t get over how good God was to me with this journey.

I realized on the morning I was due to leave for the course (getting a ride with friends so I didn’t even have to put those miles on my leased car!) I was finishing up the 54 Day Novena for Our Nation. The novena consists of a rosary each day for twenty-seven days in petition; then immediately a rosary each day for an additional twenty-seven days in thanksgiving, regardless of whether or not the request has been granted yet.

Well, my petition was for funding for my TOB class. And on the final day of the novena, I was thanking Mary for interceding for me and granting this request. I don’t think this is any sort of coincidence – it’s clearly an answered prayer.

While it remains to be seen how the rest of the funding will pan out for my final two courses, I remain hopeful that God will provide.

For those wanting more information on Theology of the Body, I have updated my “Resources”  page with books on TOB and others.

Other links:

TOB Institute

Christopher West/Cor Project

Theology of the Body – What is it?