Daily Mass Project – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

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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

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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.


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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.

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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

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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!


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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!


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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.


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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.

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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?


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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:

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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.

Holy Land Pilgrimage: Top 5 Moments

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: church-of-annunciation-muzio2

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.

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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:

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2. Basilica of Agony – Garden of Gethsemane

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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!

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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.

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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.

IMG_1250.jpg 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.

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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:

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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. 29792704_10155440826477544_8312783687370828990_n

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:

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Another view of the entrance to it (taken on a different day during a procession):

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This is a shot of Calvary:

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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:

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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:

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An outline of Holy Sepulchre
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The outside of Holy Sepulchre
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A view from above inside
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A view from around the edicule which houses Jesus’ tomb
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Jesus tomb
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Calvary/Rock of Calvary (under altar)

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:

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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….

Stay tuned!

 

When We Love The Least of These…

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St. Francis of Assisi – Ann Arbor – March 3rd – 40 Days For Life Mass, Holy Hour with Exposition and Benediction, Rosary Rally & Rose Procession

Celebrant: Fr. James Conlon, Pastor

Initial Reaction: Another parish, another giant baptismal font! 🙂 IMG-8883

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): Saint_Francis_of_Assisi_Catholic_Church_Organ_Ann_Arbor_Michigan

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.

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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!

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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!

 

 

 

 

Daily Mass Project: Most Holy Redeemer – Detroit and St. John the Baptist – Ypsi

Most Holy Redeemer – Young Catholic Professionals Series – Jan. 31st

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Seriously? How beautiful is this?!

But wait…there’s more. Here’s mosaics featuring St. Joseph.

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And then a side chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe:

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And one to The Sacred Heart Of Jesus:

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But my favorite has to be….

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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.

Here’s a short synopsis of his testimony in PDF form, and here is video of Dan’s testimony. The part that mentions our law firm and the HHS mandate case starts around the 16:00 mark.

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.


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St. John the Baptist – Ypsilanti – Sunday 4:30pm – February 18

Celebrant: Visiting priest – Msgr Patrick Marron

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. IMG-8844

And: “That’s one giant baptismal font.”

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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…

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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. 🙂

Until next time…Happy Lent!