On April 20, 1986, I made my first Communion as a second-grader at my home parish in Parma, Ohio at St. Anthony of Padua.
Thirty-three years later, here at my new hometown of Plymouth, Michigan, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church I was blessed to attend our Easter Vigil and was honored to be a sponsor to an engaged couple. I also witnessed 31 other individuals (yes 33 people entered the Catholic Church at our parish; God is so good!) enter into full communion of the Catholic Church, after spending the past 8 months meeting every week for their RCIA classes.
This was only my second Easter Vigil and it was absolutely hands down, one of the most amazing experiences EVER.
The choir, the music, the decor, the baptisms, the readings, the rituals, the prayers, the homily, the candles, the fire, the crowd, the incense. As one of our teenage candidates said, “It didn’t feel like 4 hours.”
As soon as it was over I wanted to start it all over again! And as our pastor said to the newly initiated – They know more being Catholic than anyone else – because they made a point to learn, to ask questions, to seek the answers and it led them to the fullness of Truth.
33 years after making my first communion, I have a much deeper appreciation for our faith, due in large part to the friends I’ve made here who are converts, as well as taking the initiative to learn and study and ask questions. It’s been remarkable living here and attending this awesome parish for the past 21 months.
OLGC records everything so luckily, I’ve been able to re-live the entire Holy Week all over again. You can watch the Vigil in it’s entirety here,but before you click, allow me to share what I think, are some of the more moving and particularly special moments of the night:
The Exultet – Starting at 40:00, written by our music minister Tom Oram and sung masterfully by a gentleman named Scott Piper as well as our Pastor.
You may recognize a certain someone at 1:28:25 reading from Isaiah. 😉
All of the Psalms were sung so well and every reader did tremendous so I wouldn’t be able to choose just one to highlight. Although I’m partial to my friend Karen who sang Psalm 19.
Finally, my favorite part – The Preparation of the Gifts as Is It Worthy is sung most beautifully by Tom and the Choir. Check out the first part of the song lyrics:
Do you feel the world is broken? (We do) Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do) But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do) Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)
Is all creation groaning? (It is) Is a new creation coming? (It is) Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is) Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole? Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll? The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
Is He worthy? Is He worthy Of all blessing and honor and glory? Is He worthy of this? He is
I’m still on a high from it all. I think when you witness such a grand event, when you truly start to “get it,” and understand what Jesus did on that cross, it brings you to tears.
I was blessed to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from March 24th until April 2nd. A trip of a lifetime!
It’s going to be next to impossible to describe everything I saw the “holy moments” that all took place and the awesome other pilgrims I met on this trip, but I’m going to do my best to summarize in one post my top favorite moments. Here we go:
1. Basilica of the Annunciation – Mary’s House:
From the outside and this little pitiful picture, it doesn’t look like much. But this is all you can really see from the walk on your way up to it. It wasn’t until I got back home that I saw what it looks like from afar:
This was one of the sites we went to after arriving in Nazareth. And we arrived on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation! (Although this year, March 25th was Palm Sunday so it was moved to April 9th.) But, it didn’t really matter. It felt like divine intervention that we were there.
This is the spot where the Angel Gabriel asked Mary to the most important question and her answer changed the entire world. Quite a lot to take in as we stood there.
The inscription on the altar reads: Verbum Caro Hic Factum Est =
“Here the Word became flesh”
Here. Right here!
Later on that night we were able to come back and spend an hour of silent prayer here. I prayed Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Feast of the Annunciation, as well as a rosary. It was easy to become emotional in that moment as the Annunciation has special meaning for me personally. But just, when you sit there and think, “A girl of 14 or 15 years of age was approached by an angel to bear the Son of God…” I just wanted to thank her for her YES. So that’s what my prayer became.
The upstairs/main part of the Basilica is beautiful, decorated every inch with mosaics and sculptures and paintings of Mary from several different countries, including this iron one from the USA:
2. Basilica of Agony – Garden of Gethsemane
Some fellow travelmates and I saw a holy hour advertised at the Garden of Gethsemane and the Basilica of Agony on Holy Thursday night. Well, it was not so much a holy hour as it was an hour of standing in the back of the church for an hour with 2,500 of my closest friends. Shoulder to shoulder. This was not for the claustrophobic!
But what made this so special was that it was during the night of Holy Thursday, at 9pm. Most likely around the same time that Jesus was praying there in the Agony of the Garden, sweating blood.
I was sweating (because it was pretty warm and several people had to leave to go outside because it was just too darn crowded) I began to pray to the Lord to align this “suffering” with His. All I could see was what they projected on the huge screens but for the most part I could only stare straight ahead at the painting of Our Lord praying at the rock.
I couldn’t get my hands on of one of the programs, but from what I understood what was spoken in English, there were 3 Gospel readings and 3 Psalms, all of which were spoken and sung in several (I’ll guess at least a dozen) different languages. We then did Prayers of the Faithful and then chanted the Our Father in Latin to conclude.
While I wouldn’t say it was particularly enjoyable, I don’t think it was really supposed to be. The crowds didn’t make it a comfortable experience, but thinking about it afterwards, it was exactly what it was meant to be: It was prayerful. I was next to a French couple, I was in front of a German family, to the left of me was a Spanish family and directly in front of me was an Arab pair of men. And I think a few American’s sprinkled in there too! The point being, we were clearly there to be with our Lord, as He suffered and prayed in that garden knowing what was about to happen to him. What a time to be present there, despite the crowds!
Here is a brief video from the service as well as some photos from our official visit to the Garden of Gethsemane later on as a group during the daytime.
The bedrock where it is believed Jesus prayed is the stone you see me praying as well as a miniature sculpture of Jesus kneeling in prayer.
This is outside the Basilica and just on the outskirts of the Garden. You cannot walk into the Garden of Gethsemane although I know there are people who have been able to spend the night or spend some time in prayer there. It’s most likely doable when you don’t have a large group.
3. Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee
We made our way down towards the Sea of Galilee and into a boat that, without the motorized engine, would be very similar to the kind of boats Jesus and his disciples may have used to go fishing. After about a 10 minute “tour” and explanation of the landscape and surrounding area, the drivers shut off the engine and allowed us some quiet time just to contemplate this scene. I set my phone on the ledge and hit record, knowing this was a moment I would want to go back to again and again.
Technology somehow doesn’t allow me to share the video of the sea to the blog so you’ll just have to take my word for it. 🙂
4. Church of the Nativity – Bethlehem
Preparing to see where Jesus was born was something I really wanted to focus on as we made the bus ride to Bethlehem. I was trying hard to just contemplate this momentous, universe-altering event in my mind. Similar to the Annunciation, I found it difficult to comprehend that I was on my way to see this spot where He was born. I had seen friends’ pictures from their trips here and I knew not to expect a giant chapel or a decked out manger. I knew it was a star in the floor and that it was cramped. 🙂
This is our group making our way down the stairs to the cave:
I had asked one of our pilgrims to get a picture of me venerating the spot. This all took place in the span of about 10 seconds. Our guide was encouraging us to go two by two to make the line move a little faster. Of course, in my mind, I was thinking, “NO! Can I just have this one moment alone!?” But really, there’s no time to be selfish (and literally no space). It worked out completely perfect actually. As I wait for my travel-mate to send me that photo (he took it on a professional camera and I saw he got a great shot of me) I can share with you this photo I took of one of our pilgrims about to kneel down to see the spot. It’s impossible to get an up-close shot because, obviously, it’s in the ground.
As we got back up from the spot, we noticed that hardly anyone else was down there (very rare!) So before another group made their way there, we gathered in the small space and sang the first verse of O Come All Ye Faithful.
Quite a few teary eyes as we sang this…Right here, where Jesus was born!!!
5. Visiting the Holy Sepulchre to see the Tomb and Calvary
Within the same day (Wednesday, the day before Holy Thursday) after visiting the Church of the Visitation and some other sites, we hopped back on the bus assuming we were going to check-in to our hotel just outside the city walls and just a 15 minute walk from the Holy Sepulchre.
No sooner do we get on the bus and we were told, “We’re not going to the hotel to check or to have dinner yet. Surprise! We’re going to the Holy Sepulchre, NOW!”
Having no idea of the amount of crowds that were no doubt making their way to the Holy Land this week and most likely a lot in the next few days, our guide thought it best to go now to be guaranteed a visit to the tomb and Calvary.
Before getting into my experience, let me share some photos I took myself and then some MUCH BETTER photos so you can truly grasp what this all is. Because I must say, if you’ve never been there, it can look really confusing.
After waiting an hour in line, we made our way into the tomb. This is the entrance to it:
Another view of the entrance to it (taken on a different day during a procession):
This is a shot of Calvary:
And underneath that small altar is a hole that you can reach into with your hand and touch the rock that Jesus was crucified on:
Since you may be thinking, “What am I looking at?” I did the leg work for you and found some better photos of all the Holy Sepulchre contains:
Hopefully these photos make it a little more clear.
As for the experiences themselves, at first it was quite rushed. No one can really spend more than a minute at Jesus’ tomb. I think the longest it ever “felt” that someone was in there was maybe 90 seconds. They definitely keep the line moving!
Secondly, we were instructed not to take photos of his tomb which I wouldn’t have anyways, I was just trying to comprehend what I was kneeling in front of. The magnitude of it all!
By the time I was done kissing and kneeling, it was time to get out of there. Maybe 30 seconds?
Knowing I’d be back there, I wasn’t too upset. We then made out way to Calvary where we waited about 10 minutes to kneel down and touch the rock of Calvary. Again, a bit rushed and not completely understanding that THIS was Calvary! It’s hard to imagine it all when you’re surrounded by other pilgrims, speaking all kinds of languages, some of them pushing a little bit, some of them taking selfies (ugh!) and many just talking a lot so if I was hoping for a moment of silence, that was never going to happen.
We then walked back down stairs from Calvary and were able to venerate the Rock of Unction:
This is the rock that Jesus was laid on and prepared before He was put in the tomb.
That was the first experience at the Holy Sepulchre.
The second and third experiences I had there were much better, much more prayerful.
And most definitely require a separate blog post about it….
SJB has a perpetual adoration chapel where I spend a good amount of time. But what I didn’t realize is that they have a 7pm mass on Thursdays. I just happened to be in the area and thought I can mark it off the list!
Didn’t take any notes on the homily or anything since it was a last minute addition. But what I do recall was the music minister was very very good. And the words to not only the songs but the responses were displayed on screens above the sanctuary. Not something you typically see at a Catholic church. Very much enjoyed it.
Initial Thoughts: I came early to go to Confession which was how I was able to get a picture of an empty church.
I took the time to notice little things, like this sketch on the opposite wall.
I walked up to it later to get the picture of it and saw that they have relics of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Oh and these beautiful statues above the sanctuary…
Homily Reflection: Fr. Misenko mentioned a painting of the road to Emmaus and silly me, I thought I could just Google “Emmaus Painting” and all of a sudden figure out which one he was talking about. Yeah. Not possible. (Go ahead and Google it and you’ll see what I mean).
He went on to say that as Jesus was the teacher to these two disciples, and that walking and talking was a form of teaching called Socratic, started by Socrates. Sidenote: I learn so much better by listening while I’m walking or jogging on the treadmill. In fact I know there’s a school in Indiana that has their kids exercise while teaching them and how they performed so much better learning this way. So maybe there’s something to it!
There’s also a sense of peace and tranquility as the disciples were affirmed that they had seen the Lord. And finally they feel joy at recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread. For us, we learn from the teachings in the Liturgy and in the words of the homily. We feel joy as we see Christ in others and as we do His will. And finally, we find peace as we live out our faith.
Holy Moments: I noticed the altar servers seemed incredibly ON POINT. Not sure how else to describe it. But it was clear they took their job seriously for young boys. Beforehand, going to confession, was probably the holiest and most peaceful moment. For a 5pm Saturday mass, it was packed. I know several friends who attend here and really like it. I can see why!
Now someone tell me what those statues mean!
Saint Richard – North Olmsted – 7am – Monday May 1st
Initial Thoughts: SOOOO quiet. As soon as I walked in, I saw that every person that was there was reading. They all had their heads down and were reading (probably the daily readings or the Magnificat or something). No chit chat beforehand. But then again, it was 7am on a Monday.
I wish I had a better picture of the stained glass that goes around the church. Here is one from the stained glass designers. It’s dark but I guess that’s the best way to see the design:
Homily Reflection: To be a disciple of Jesus requires us as individuals to know what our faith is about. We can’t rely just on what we learned in school. We need to develop a sense of knowledge and deep reflection. We need to learn to live what we believe. How are we putting our faith into practice?
He preached a lot more but I couldn’t write fast enough. 🙂
Holy Moments: A nun sighting! In a habit! I should have probably gotten her name. I actually got sad when I realized I was getting elated at the sight of a religious sister in a habit. It made me a little nostalgic for my grade school days being taught by my FAVORITE teacher, Sr. Agnela. (And yes it was Agnela, not Angela)
Saint Agnes – Elyria – Tuesday May 2nd – 9am – Memorial of Saint Athanasius
Celebrant: Fr. Albert Veigas, Pastor
Initial Thoughts: I normally wouldn’t be available Tuesday mornings but a client canceled a session and so I was able to attend this church. It was a total unexpected blessing.
I walked in early to hear the end of a rosary being recited by about 5 women and 1 man. They were all on one side of the church and I took a seat on the opposite side. And while they were still reciting it, I decided to snap a picture.
As I waited for the mass to begin, only 1 other person (another woman) walked in for mass. So in all I think there was maybe 7 of us. ALL ladies.
And then here’s the kicker: The mass started when the priest walked up to the sanctuary from the pews. HE was the lone man among the women reciting the rosary! It was kinda crazy because I wasn’t expecting it and all of sudden he was in our midst.
And then he started talking and it’s clear from his accent that he’s an Indian priest, which I must say I didn’t think we had any in this diocese. Very cool!
Homily Reflection: Father mentioned Stephen from the First Reading. How he was killed in front of Saul, who later became St. Paul. I’m not quite sure WHEN I figured out that Saul from the Stephen stoning was Paul, but I wish more people DID realize this. That God can save even the most fallen away sinners. Father also mentioned Saint Athanasius and his defense of the faith. Saint A is responsible for why we say the Nicene Creed. And how we believe that Jesus and God are the ONE. He used the example of the sun and light beams from it. How can you say that the light that comes from the Sun is separate from the Sun? It’s one and the same. They cannot be separated, just as Jesus and God can never be separated.
I gotta admit here, I saved the best for last:
Communion of Saints – Cleveland Heights – Wednesday May 3rd – Feasts of Saints Philip and James
This is the parish where a young priest friend of mine, Fr. Pat Schultz, is one of the Parochial Vicars. Him and the other PV, Fr. Matthew Byrne, are such energetic and fun priests. They do this video series with their school kids called “Hey Father, Can you explain why…?” where the kids pose all kinds of questions about the Church and our faith and they answer them.
So the picture above is the outside (there’s a school and a church, but couldn’t manage to get/find a good picture of the ENTIRE exterior). Doesn’t matter, because when you walk in:
Initial Thought: Whoah.
But wait…it gets better:
Continuing Initial Thoughts: The whole place is just beautiful and magnificent! Columns and stained glass and that ceiling!! I got to the 5:30pm mass about 20 minutes early and I’m so glad I did because I took the time to take in all this beauty.
This is the first church I’ve been to where instead of a crucifix, they have a painting of a crucified Jesus. My favorite part.
And as of 5:28pm I was the SOLE person there. I thought maybe THIS was the day – the day I get a mass ALL to myself, ha!
But slowly and surely, other people walked in.
Celebrant: Fr. John McNulty, Pastor
Since there were so few of us, I didn’t take notes from the homily. Since it was so intimate, I didn’t want to be distracted by frantically writing down his points. He also came down from the ambo and started talking to us in the aisle and I can’t quite bring myself to take notes when the priest is directly in front of me. 🙂
What I DO remember was that he emphasized that Philip and James were ordinary people, just like us. They sought the lord, and they found Him. May we do the same.
Holy Moments: I got what I will call a “double host.” I’m pretty sure it was the biggest host I’ve ever received. I thought, “Maybe God knows I need a large amount of healing so he caused the priest to give me the two hosts attached to each other.” 🙂
Afterwards, there was Adoration for a half hour which was an unexpected treat. You know how I adore adoration (Pun intended, always).
I had just enough time to pray Evening Prayer and highlighted this Psalm Prayer:
“Grant that those who labor for you may trust not in their ownwork but in your help.” (Emphasize is mine. Seemed to be an answer to a prayer for me at the time.)
COS is just down the street from Nighttown which is where Theology on Tap Heights holds their monthly events. This was the main reason I attended mass since it was the only evening service in the area.
The speaker at this months event was Rachel Benda, the foundress of Bethesda House, a post-abortive healing ministry. She gave one of the most moving and heartfelt talks I’ve heard at a TOT event.
For more information about the Bethesda House, and if you know someone who is post-abortive, be sure to visit their website.
Heading to Elverson Pennsylvania this week to take my 5th course as part of my ongoing Theology of the Body certification. It’s called TOB and Art: The Way of Beauty.
You know what they say: “Beauty will save the world!”
So no DMP’s until the week of May 15th. Although, we will have mass everyday of the course, so perhaps a little DMP roadtrip edition is in the works.
Ever walk into a church and just STARE? That’s what you do when you walk into Resurrection. First of all, it’s circular, which could possibly drive you nuts if you’re not used to it. “Where do I look? Where do I sit so I can see everyone? Will my back be to the ambo? This is awkward!” But once you get past that, you realize it’s SO gorgeous and there’s so much to look at. In fact, there’s so much to look at that I’m refraining from blogging about this one until I go to an actual mass. This was just a communion service (and a very good one) but it is WAY too beautiful to NOT attend a Sunday service. I plan on going back next month. In the meantime, check out their website for stunning photos and a virtual tour.
St. Matthias – Broadview Heights – Sunday – April 23rd – 9am – 2nd Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday
Initial Reaction: I feel like I may get chastised for this but I have just a small criticism: Sometimes I feel like reverence goes out the window when the church is set up like a hall or if it’s just a smaller church or whatnot. It just seemed like I walked in to a bingo hall at first. The music minister/organist was announcing the songs and why he chose them and what to expect and people were still chatting. And pretty loudly. I thought that was a little disrespectful, but perhaps they are just used to that and it’s not a big deal to them. Clearly, this is a close-knit community where everyone knows each other. But I guess I’m a little “old-school” and I would prefer if people would chat in the gathering space and silence themselves once they actually walk into the worship space.
Homily Reflection: The homily was given by Deacon Tom Litwinowicz; He said he felt he HAD to give the homily today of all days because the Gospel was about his namesake. Personally, I love the doubting Thomas gospel because it seems like the most realistic reaction. If it was today, I’m sure there would be people who would say, “Unless their video of this Jesus walking around, I won’t believe.” The Deacon mentioned how he’s analytical and likes to dig deep to ask questions to find out if something is true or not. He looks for the proof until he finds it. He talked about how Thomas didn’t quite “get it.” Thomas needed physical proof, he wouldn’t take the apostles’ word for it. He needed to SEE Jesus in the flesh. Now, after Jesus appears to him and has him touch his wounds, Thomas finally believes and grasps the concept beyond the physical and into the DIVINE. And what about us? Do we accept Jesus without seeing?
Holy Moments: The priest said that in lieu of reciting the Creed, he was going to do what he did on Easter and have us renew our baptismal promises. So he recited the questions having us answer in the affirmative. I liked that!
After the proclamation of the Gospel, no one sat down right away. We waited for the Deacon to place the book in front of the ambo. I also noticed the lectors stood at the ambo for a beat or two before sitting down.
All the music was well done! At some points during the songs, some people had their arms raised. So maybe a little charismatic movement has made its way in. Love it!
During the Eucharistic prayer/consecration, the woman in front of me knelt (no kneelers) so I knelt too. As far as I could tell, we were the only ones. I don’t kneel to show how super pious I am. I kneel because I feel it’s the right thing to do. Plus it’s not comfortable. And I don’t think it should be. It’s a small sacrifice to make to remind us…well, it reminds ME, of His suffering. Maybe I shouldn’t have because this church didn’t have kneelers but it was carpeted. So it’s not like it was kneeling on nails.
I took a seat in the last row but they have the communion procession start at the BACK. The last shall be first and the first shall be last? I was first. That’s almost as good as getting a piece of the big host! 😉
This wasn’t a mass, it was a Divine Mercy Chaplet service. So this includes Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a reading, a brief homily and then we pray the chaplet by chanting/singing. I LOVE to pray the chaplet this way. (Click here to hear what I mean)
I attended this last year and was so moved by the Cantor and her singing that I had to come back again. It’s one thing to just pray the chaplet alone, but it’s quite another to sing it in a group. Just beautiful as always.
I first learned the chaplet on the night my mom passed away. We recited it at her bedside as she lay there taking her final breaths, so this has always had a special meaning for me. Speaking of which…this brings me to the last parish, my parents own parish of:
Initial Reactions: I have good memories of attending church with Mom here, who would often say to me when we went together, “I like going to Assumption because I feel close to MY Mom.” Well, the feeling is mutual. I even sit in her usual spot whenever I go.
And since I just wrote about divine mercy, it seems only fitting to say that Fr. Justin was the one to teach me the chaplet. The first time I heard it was when he came to the house he prayed the chaplet over her. I hadn’t really heard of it before this.
Homily Reflection: Nicodemus is “on the fence.” He approaches Jesus in the night because he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s a disciple. Nicodemus wants it “both ways.” But Jesus says we must be born again. And Nicodemus doesn’t understand what this means. Jesus means for us to literally change our lives. To live differently. And what about us? We may miss God’s voice telling us to turn around and change our lives because we are too busy living on the fence, listening to the world instead of focusing on heaven. What does the Resurrection mean? It means Transformation. How does the Resurrection change our lives? Am I avoiding change? Am I going where God wants me to go? Imagine the wondrous things that can happen when we allow the Risen Lord in.
Holy Moments: I really wanted to share a picture of their stained glass window of Mary all lit up at night. I ASSUMED (see what I did there?) that they would have one on their website but no. Short of going there at night and taking a photo myself (which I will probably do because I’m THAT crazy person), I found this sub-par blurry photo. It doesn’t do it justice but it’ll do for now.
UPDATE: I did in fact go to the parish at night, in the rain, and took this picture after the rain ceased. And I have emailed it to the parish permitting them to use it if they wish.
For those keeping track, this brings me to 41 parishes attended this year so far. Considering there are 185 parishes in the diocese, the dream of attending all of them before January 1st next year is fading. Like with all goals, you gotta know when to admit you may have been a bit over zealous and scale it back. So I’m re-setting the goal to attend 100 by January. A nice even number and completely doable.
Again, I feel strange for even mentioning it but for those that wish to donate to the Daily Mass Project, please send a donation to Father Michael Denk of The Prodigal Father instead. Include somewhere in the notes section that you’re donating because of this or mention the blog or my name (Michelle) and he’ll see that it gets noted. I would always welcome a “Donation” of your prayers more than anything else.
I may have set the bar a tad too high this past week. I had all the intentions of attending 5 different parishes during the week but it just. didn’t. happen. But instead of sitting here feeling pity for myself, I am REJOICING (see what I did there?) in the fact that I DID attend some beautiful services this past week. The message was clear: It’s about HIM, not a project. So I took the pressure off myself and tried my best to be in the moment of Holy Week as best as I could. Enjoy!
Holy Moments: Heard a different Penitential Act than the usual “I confess…” In fact, this was the third or fourth time hearing this version and I finally understand what everyone is saying:
Priest: Have mercy on us, O Lord.
People: For we have sinned against you.
Priest: Show us, O Lord, your mercy.
People: And grant us your salvation.
I get the feeling this is an older version because I have been hearing it at more traditional parishes, although I could be wrong? I’m sure one of my super Catholic readers will comment and tell me for sure.
Homily Reflection: The Gospel was about Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive oil. Judas makes the comment that it could have been sold and given to the poor. Fr. Gary mentioned that anointing takes a special place in our Church. We anoint the sick, the newly baptised, the confirmed, and use the oil during ordination of holy orders. Our oils are called “chrism” which is named after Christ. This week begins Holy Week. It’s not called Holy just because we label it that way. It’s holy because it’s who we are called to be. More like Christ. We are reminded, especially because of the Coptic Christians recently martyred in Egypt, of this call to holiness. Their blood splattered on the walls reminds us of the one who’s blood was splattered for us.
Bonus Material: Upon leaving the Church, my eye caught this:
In case it’s not obvious from the forthcoming bragging, this is MY parish that I’ve belonged to since moving back to Cleveland in the fall of 2009. I officially joined in the summer of 2010 and continue to tell everyone I know, that “Yes I do in fact belong to a parish 25 miles from my house. Why? Ummm….because it’s awesome!? That’s why.”
How about that Paschal Candle? Is that not beautiful? Our TEENS make that candle. TEENS! How awesome to attend mass and every time you see the candle you can say, “I helped MAKE that!”
Friday Morning Prayer – I couldn’t make it to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday night so after beating myself up for missing it, I made sure to attend Friday mornings prayer service. This was just Morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours but it was so nice to say the prayers of the Church in an actual group instead of by myself as I so often do. We sang a few verses of Were you there, when they crucified my Lord, which ALWAYS makes me tear up. How can you sing that and not get the least bit emotional?
Good Friday – Communion Service – The one day of the year when we don’t celebrate mass.
What a service! The homily was beyond fantastic and I told my buddy Deacon (soon to be priest) Anthony that he knocked it out of the park. I will just share a few lines from it:
His Love for YOU is just as real & passionate today as it was at that moment of His Ultimate Final Sacrifice.
Know, there is NOTHING we can do that will sway Christ’s Love for us.
Jesus wants us to know that This Act of Love Was Personal
When we kiss and touch the cross in just a moment, we are venerating the place & time when Jesus took His final vows to lay down His life for us and love us until the end of time. Let’s take a moment together to gaze upon the cross. To see Love in it, and not stop looking UNTIL ALL we see is Love…then Keep Looking.
There was also stellar chanting by Dcn. Anthony as the cross was processed in. It was probably one of the best services I’ve ever attended at my parish. I just felt such respect and awe and wonder at what Jesus has done on the cross for all of us. I finally had that Holy moment of holy week that I think I was waiting for. Prior to it I think I was just so focused on tasks that needed to be done and appointments that needed to be kept and the overall business of life that somehow made me forget what I should have been focused on.
Speaking of awe and wonder, there’s nothing like the Mother of All Vigils, is there? I only recall attending a few Easter Vigil services as a kid. I’m sure our parents didn’t think we could handle such a long service without being bored or acting out. So I only vividly recall one where people were submerged in the baptismal font at my childhood parish. I don’t think I quite understood that an adult could be baptized. I remember thinking, “But aren’t all babies baptized? Did their parents just forget to take them?” I was clearly very naive to the real world.
The Holiest of Holy Moments: The entire liturgy is a holy moment! The music, the candlelight, the readings and the outstanding job by all the lectors. There’s so much I could write about but for me, personally, my favorite part was seeing someone I got to know become initiated in the Church.
I volunteered as a Catechist for our RCIC (Rite of Christian Initiation for Children) program where we had one lovely little girl named Aurora. She was an absolute delight to teach. I only had a few lessons with her but each time she was engaged and eager to learn and had quite the entertaining remarks to make which threw me for a loop at times. She made things interesting, as any 9 year old would. 🙂 It felt good to see someone enter into the Church and to know that in some very small way, I helped.
Although I had high hopes of attending more than just two Churches during this past Holy Week, I know it’s not about how many places I get to. It’s pretty obvious that unless I clone myself, there’s not way I can possibly get to all of the churches by January. But that’s alright. I’m still amazed at the amount of comments and messages I get from all of you saying how much you enjoy following along. That’s motivating in itself for me to keep it going as long as I am able.
*A few folks have asked if they could donate money to the DMP to help me finish this, and while I am totally humbled and thankful for the requests, I don’t see how I can possibly accept money for doing this. If you’d like to make a donation, I would request you make it to The Prodigal Father.I love volunteering for Fr. Denk’s ministry and I’d feel better if any extra money you have could go towards his efforts. Simply put “Michelle from the Daily Mass Project sent me!” or something to that effect in the “Message” window so he knows who sent you. He has a lot to offer in return for your donation whereas I don’t have anything to offer except my thanks and prayers of gratitude. 🙂
Next blog post: Church of the Resurrection in Solon, St. Mathias in Broadview Heights and St. Albert the Great in North Royalton.
Homily Reflection: I heard three distinct messages from Father’s homily: “Get outside your own head during Lent.” Ask yourself “Are you looking out for yourselfor others?” And lastly, “We need to be the selfless servants that God calls all of us to be.” How much of what I do this Lent is about ME and how much of it is about serving others? Is HE at the center of my life? Or am I making this all about ME and MY issues, MY fasting, MY prayer life and no one else?
Holy Moments: I’m so glad to hear the prayer of St. Michael recited at the end of mass. This is a tradition that not many churches do today. And it’s really a shame because we are in a spiritual battle. And we absolutely need to call on St. Michael to defend us.
I also remembered a line from Morning Prayer in the breviary that seemed appropriate to mention, especially in light of this battle: “Lord, watch over your Church, and guide it with your unfailing love. Protect us from what could harm us and lead us to what will save us.”
Ran into some friends after mass that I just love. Another great community there in Berea. Fr. Barry is a fellow Theology of the Body teacher so I’m very grateful the students at the Academy of St. Adalbert are receiving this crucial teaching.
Celebrant: Fr. William Krizner, my high school chaplain!
Gospel: Matthew 20:17-28
Homily Reflection: Jesus predicts what is going to happen in today’s Gospel: He tells us he will be raised on the 3rd day. The all important feast we celebrate NOW, at this moment in mass, is the Resurrection. Come Holy Week, we remember Jesus’ passion, death and burial. But right now, actually, we remember and celebrate His resurrection.
His homily reminded me of Bishop Robert Barron and one of his video’s about Easter. He says: “We are an Easter people.” If we don’t believe in the Resurrection we’re basically saying that Jesus was just a prophet. This is why we profess in the creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” What is Christianity without Easter? I picture us celebrating Christmas and then…nothing. We’d be talking about this guy who lived 2,000 years ago, who was crucified, died and was buried. And that would be the end of the story! And not a very good one.
Holy Moments: In my search for images to attach to the blog, I went on St. Colette’s website and noticed in the Staff page the most awesome thing I’ve seen on a parish website. No I’m not going to tell you, you’ll just have to click here to see (be sure to scroll down). Notice what every staff member is pictured next to? I think that’s spectacular. It shows what Church is all about. (Hint:It’s about JESUS.)
I did introduce myself to Fr. Krizner after mass telling him he wouldn’t remember me from (gulp!) 20 years ago. He was as friendly and kind as I remember. I wasn’t involved in my high school ministry at all. I don’t really remember too much about religion in high school either. I remember bits and pieces of what we learned but unfortunately, I just didn’t pay attention as a teenager to that sort of thing. Completely opposite of how I am now, clearly. I didn’t get too much time to chat with Fr. so I am going to have to make it a point to go back again for another mass.
Homily Reflection: Father did an awesome job of bringing together the First reading about Joseph being sold into slavery with the Gospel of the parable of the vineyard and the tenants. He even managed to speak about St. Patrick at the end to bring it all together. And wouldn’t you like to know exactly what he said? Me too! Except while I’m at mass, I tend to try to listen more than I write. So…my scribbled notes don’t have much to add except Father’s final line: “Be open to what God is planning in your life. May His will, not yours, be done, as we pray in the Our Father.”
Holy Moment: After communion there was a longer than usual break before the closing prayer. Usually daily masses seem to be sped up because clearly they are shorter. During this mass, it felt like time stood still. And it was completely silent even though there were easily 30 of us there. And then I noticed an incredible sense of peace in my heart. I was completely content. I just contemplated what communion is: Receiving the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. Even someone with the tiniest amount of faith has to admit that that’s incredible and beautiful. And I just sat there in awe.
And here’s one of the prayers from Morning Prayer that again, seemed to echo this same feeling: “Give the fullness of peace now to your faithful people. May peace rule us in this life and possess us in eternal life. You are about to fill us with the best of wheat; grant that what we see dimly now as in a mirror, we may come to perceive clearly in the brightness of your truth.”
Moments like that, I wish everyone was Catholic. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to have the flexibility and the freedom to do this project. I just wish I could take everyone I know with me…literally, like pack everyone I know into my little Honda and bring them to every mass I go, so they too can meet all these interesting people in the pews, and hear the homilies and see the beauty of our rituals and the sacraments.
And that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, we experience heaven on earth when we’re at mass. Why wouldn’t I want to bring everyone with me to heaven?
Next week: Sunday mass at St. Thomas the Apostle in Sheffield Lake, an Adoration experiences in Wadsworth and Lorain unlike any other and daily masses in Avon Lake and Elyria. Phew!
This past Sunday we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. And the Gospel was the story of St. Thomas and how he doubted that Jesus was risen from the dead.
So this got me thinking “What do mercy and the story of St. Thomas have in common?”
What I came up with was this: We have to show mercy to those who doubt us. Those who doubt our faith. Those who doubt the existence of Jesus, they doubt His love. They doubt not only His existence…they doubt His existence within us.
That’s probably why we take it personally (okay I take it personally, speaking for myself) when people say they are skeptics or doubters or unbelievers. It’s like they are saying they don’t believe in us. And we are sitting right in front of them and talking to them yet they say “I don’t believe.”
I’m actually quite hurt by four simple words – “I don’t believe you.”
It’s one thing for people to say they don’t believe in God. Okay, I get it. Well, actually I don’t get it but I’ll accept that you believe that.
But what I’ve noticed is that when you try to explain to a non-believer how God has shaped and completely changed your life only to hear them say they still don’t believe – that’s crushing and really devastating.
If I may be completely honest, this is what causes me sleepless nights. I know there’s doubters among us. And some of them I’m very close to. But they doubt any existence of God, causing a huge (and unspoken) rift in our friendship.
But then we come back to mercy. How would I begin to try to help untwist their “unbelief” while still showing them mercy?
I would need the same kind of reaction Jesus got from Thomas. I would need my Thomas’ to take notice and say, “Wow, this person went through something. This person lived through something. I might not relate to it directly but I believe they experienced something profound.”
There’s a name for this. It’s called being a witness.
We can all be a witness, actually. One way to is through the spoken word, usually the most common and most popular, in my opinion.
I never heard a witness talk until 3 years ago on a young adult retreat. I hadn’t even been on a retreat since maybe 8th grade. I was long overdue.
The first witness speaker on this particular retreat had quite the story. She told an incredible story that although it wasn’t directly relate-able to my life, it was a human experience that all of us in that room found very moving. It was incredibly sad and touching and left not a dry eye among us after it was over.
I have since been on numerous retreats and made Renewal at my parish where I heard more witness talks. And just last fall I had the privilege of being one of those witness speakers.
I cannot even begin to tell you how healing it is to share your journey with others. With total strangers! It was scary at first, but I was SO ready to get back up and share it all over again as soon as I was finished. Ever since, I have felt a calling of sorts to speak my story.
I have gone back and forth with myself if I should share my story here but it really truly is best HEARD and not READ. (Reminds me of my Spiritual Director who gives such great homilies but was hesitant to share them on his blog for the same reason. “Homilies are meant to be heard, to be proclaimed, not read.”)
Another priest mentioned in a homily recently on the same topic of witness talks:
“I couldn’t help but think what a different place the world would be if each of us had the opportunity, the desire, the incentive to tell and share these stories of faith or be attentive to other’s stories. How God’s presence would be irrefutable, overwhelming and certain for those who don’t believe or struggle to see God near…This is the message we are called to live – with our words and in our actions – so that others who say, “Show me” will be able to exclaim, “We have seen the Lord!”
So the challenge is how can I, how can anyone for that matter, share their witness with others who are open to hearing it? We can’t just blurt it out. We can’t just tell people our messy problems and expect them to understand us better than ourselves. But what we can do is invite them in to our mess. And they can see how Jesus cleans it up!
Because, you know, Jesus didn’t force Thomas to touch Him. He invited Thomas to touch His wounds. So…wouldn’t that suggest to us that we invite people into our mess? Our brokenness? Our struggles?
I’m gonna go out on a limb and answer yep! (Finally after years of going to mass I think I’m finally getting this whole “applying the Gospel to your life” thing).
So consider this your formal invitation into my broken world.
Hopefully, if you ever have the chance to hear my witness story, you can say “Truly, the Lord has been at work in this woman’s life!”
From there, maybe you can find Him at work in your life too.
Beloved: Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God, and everyone who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by him. In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. The Spirit is the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.
I had the privilege of reading this passage from the first letter of Saint John yesterday at Divine Mercy Sunday mass. It stuck with me most of the day as I thought about these beautiful words. Each line is so important and so inspiring. You can reflect easily on just one sentence to take with you throughout your day.
She laments over the line “And his commandments are not burdensome…” In fact, she did think that some of his commandments were burdensome and thus, struggled to find herself thinking otherwise. But after a few weeks of prayerful reflection every morning and encountering the book “Good News about Sex and Marriage” by Christopher West, she concluded that his commandments are not burdensome. (She was speaking specifically about the sin of contraception). She was just looking at them through a stubborn lens. After reading more about the Catholic Church and the Catechesis, she discovered a whole other world and changed her mind completely about particular commandments that she had found once to be “old fashioned” and “silly.” So when I read that line I pictured and heard Patty’s voice coming through and I was so glad she had changed her mind about this.
But the conclusion is also very poignant. “The Spirit is truth.”
Yes, the Spirit is the one that testifies, that speaks the truth. Jesus Christ is this truth. I think it’s easy to forget this in our secular life. We go searching for the truth when it’s been right in front of us all along. We might be stubborn, we might feel set in our ways, we might not want to know the truth. But there it is:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6
Fit in Your Faith Today: What “truth” are you struggling to believe? What commandments do you find burdensome? How can you look at the commandments or seek the truth through a different “lens?”
The Sunday after Easter has been declared as Divine Mercy Sunday, based on Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus. But what exactly is mercy?
We certainly read the word mercy in the Bible over and over. Here’s a small sample from part of Psalm 118.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
his mercy endures forever.
Let Israel say:
his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say,
his mercy endures forever.
Let those who fear the LORD say,
his mercy endures forever.
Mercy, according to definition is a suffering of the heart. God’s mercy in the Psalm above can be interpreted as “I suffer with.” A deep loving identification with people in their suffering. Because as we know, God is love.
Pope Francis keeps stressing the divine mercy and just announced a year-long Jubilee of Mercy. According to America Magazine: For Pope Francis, mercy is the interpretative key to the Gospel of Jesus. Francis had his first profound experience of God’s mercy at age 17, when he went to confession and felt the call to the priesthood. Throughout his priestly ministry, he has sought to give concrete expression to God’s mercy by word and deed because he believes, as he wrote recently: “Mercy is not just a pastoral attitude; it is the very substance of the Gospel message.” He wants to bring the whole church, starting with the cardinals, bishops, priests and consecrated persons, to open themselves to God’s mercy and to find concrete, creative ways to put mercy into practice in their areas of ministry.
How did Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel show mercy? As he entered the room where his disciples were hiding in fear, he said, “Peace be with you.” Even after He showed them his hands and his side, he again said “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This is when he breathed on them so they could receive the Holy Spirit and forgive the sins of people everywhere, as He had forgiven theirs.
What a gift these men received! And what a relief to them. Jesus didn’t appear to them to inflict revenge for what had happened to Him on the cross. No, he showed them mercy and then instructed them to show mercy to others.
Fit In Your Faith Today: As Pope Francis declares a Jubilee of Mercy, so too should we show mercy to others. But we can start off on the right foot by using a sacrament that has gone into “disuse” according to Father Robert Barron in recent years: Reconciliation. Even our Pope has gone to confession and describes himself as a sinner. What better way to “celebrate” this special day than to repent and be healed by His powerful mercy.
Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
Fit in Your Faith Today: Focus on the words in bold and let them assure you of Christ’s love for you. Although we are unrighteous, we are saved through our baptism and the fact that Christ died for our sins. Our lives on earth are not easy; we suffer, we sin, we seek repentance and we ask for forgiveness constantly. It’s a process, but as long as we believe and worship our Savior, we can be assured our suffering is only temporary.