Rediscovering Our Identity

I had the honor of being asked to give a brief talk to a group of women at a parish in Detroit called Shrine of the Little Flower. This was a women’s Lenten Retreat and I was one of three speakers invited to talk to a group of about 75 women in attendance.

What a joy it was to present to these women. The organizer of the event and I thought a good theme for me would be “Rediscovering Our Identity.”

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So the good news is that I did record this talk via my phone but the bad news is that the volume ended up being really low. But the GREAT news is that thankfully, the entire evening was video recorded! As I anxiously await for a copy to upload to Vimeo, I thought I’d at least share the transcript of the talk, although I definitely did not stick to this script completely. The parts in bold are just there to make sure I mentioned them and didn’t forget. Enjoy!


Thank you! So first off I just have to mention that this reminds me of the first retreat I went on as a young adult. It 6 years ago, right around this time of the year almost exactly. Because it was two weeks after my mom passed on March 10, 2013. And on that retreat, I met other young adults, people around my age, who talked and spoke differently. Like they knew God in a different way. I wasn’t intimidated by them or anything. In fact, it’s safe to say I wanted what they had!   I started to go on more retreats and I found these people to be the first ones who really taught me what a real relationship with God is like! They sparked something in me to take a second look at my relationship with God.

And it was on yet another retreat where I was prompted to pursue and study Theology of the Body, which was the main catalyst that brought me to the point where I am today and my relationship with our awesome God.  

Theology of the Body is 600 pages long so I wouldn’t expect anyone here to read it..BUT, if after my talk you are inclined to learn more, I promise there are a ton of digestable resources/videos and books that I can recommend.

For our purposes tonight, I wanted to talk about how TOB helps us rediscover our identity, as it did for me.

I don’t know if you knew this, but we are all daughters of God. I did not see myself or think of myself as a beloved child of God. And I went to Catholic school for 12 years. I did know that we are created in the image and likeness of God, but I had no idea what that really meant.  I didn’t really get that…I think, perhaps like many of you, I believed the lies of the evil one and of the culture in general. “I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough to be loved…etc”

Or maybe we believed the lies that exboyfriends or former friends told us about ourselves and therefore we think – this is who I am. Or “I am stuck in this way of life and that’s all there is to it and there’s no hope.”  So many of us are wounded by sin, especially by men, whether that be fathers or husbands or boyfriends.  And that’s really where TOB comes in to play because we can receive healing from it, once we understand why Jesus came. Because He came to heal us, to restore our identity. And that’s really good news!

And He can heal us of those distorted images of our identity.

So one way in which I was able to rediscover my identity is how JP2 unpacked God’s original plan for us.

He took us back to the beginning in the Garden of Eden to show us that look, God didn’t intend for us to have this ruptured relationship with each other and with Him and with ourselves. That’s what sin did, it ruptured these relationships. But if we go back before original sin, we see the real beauty of that original relationship between man and God in the garden. and when man and woman looked at one another for the first time, they knew the truth – that we are made for relationship. That’s what it means to be human – created in the image and likeness of God. And made for relationship. Man discovered who he was in light of woman, and woman discovered who she was in light of seeing him. That the body is sacred. That we don’t have bodies, these aren’t shells – we ARE Bodies. And our bodies speak a language. That the body matters. I wasn’t created to be used by another.

Young ladies need to hear this – We were not created to be used and objectified. We were created to LOVE. We were created for Union. For relationship. And Love is not using someone as a means to an end, as an object for pleasure and satisfaction. No, that’s another lie of the evil one. That’s what sin does, it distorts and cheapens our true identity.

There’s one particular aspect of TOB that really struck me: JP2 speaks about this “echo” in all of us. This echo of the beginning. That we know deep down that we were made for more. That there is more to life than this. That this, as great as it is, is not our final home. That I was made for more.  

TOB makes it clear that we have ACCESS To that. We have access to God’s original plan for our lives! This is really good news! We can access it by grace and taking part in the Sacraments. I can pray to God to help me be healed of these distorted views and perceptions of myself and OTHERS and of my body, my body image issues that I may have, and I can live my life in such a way that I don’t have to be bogged down by sin.

Yes we are all sinners and yes we live in a fallen world, but that’s not the end of the story. Because, guess what, Jesus came! He came to restore our identities and heal us. In the beginning, it was not so…what was not so? SIN! Lust, divorce, use, mistrust, degradation of the body. We have access to that life before sin distorted everything. We won’t ever be 100% perfect – not until we’re in union with Him in heaven but in the meantime, we can strive for holiness…that universal call to holiness is no joke.

So if you have a distorted twisted or just an unclear view of who you are – if you are struggling with your identity, I would really just pray for the lord to reveal to you the lies that you have believed so you can be healed with the truth.  He is the divine physician and TOB teaches us that yes, with God’s grace, we CAN change, We CAN heal we can Love because we ARE loved.

One last key point – Confession. I don’t think it was an accident that I came back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after being away from it for 23 years at my first TOB course/retreat 4 years ago. Let me tell you, there’s no greater feeling than walking out of the confessional having been forgiven by God for your sins. Being lent, we’re wearing purple for a reason. Let me just gently nudge you if you have been away for awhile to come back. I love going to confession and I love having a spiritual director – that’s really key for me. 

Let me close with this – Are you familiar with the scripture passage from St. Paul that says  “It Is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me?” I used to read that and not think that it was possible. I thought that was just for super holy people. But you know what? That’s for all of us! And what’s awesome is now I read it and I think to myself – YES that’s me!!! I was lost but now I’m found. My life isn’t perfect by any means, but now I read that line and I get it.

Every day I need the Lord to remind me to put off the old self and put on the new self.  I don’t know if anything I’ve said tonight resonates with you but at least let me close with this – We can all do this with God’s grace. We can change. We don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) content to live in sin. So I hope I have encouraged you to put on a new life in Christ and Rediscover your Identity as a beloved daughter of God.


As you can see from the agenda I shared, it was a great little evening and all three of our talks were very well received and appreciated.

I’m scheduled to give another Theology on Tap talk in the Diocese of Lansing on “The Catholic Church and Feminism” on April 23rd which will be livestreamed via Facebook. I do hope that the video will be available to share afterwards and if so, will upload it to Vimeo as well. Read More »

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!

 

Matthew’s Mystery

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Today is Palm Sunday when we hear the Lord’s Passion from the Gospel of Matthew.

I can remember going to Palm Sunday Mass as a kid and getting a little antsy while listening to the priest and narrator recite the Gospel. I always followed along in the missal so I could chime in during the “Crowd” responses. It was always really awkward and pretty devastating to shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” as a middle schooler. I always had it in the back of my mind to ask, “Why didn’t they crucify that Barrabas guy instead?” I hadn’t quite grasped the meaning of the Passion.

More recently, I hear the passion and I think of the movie The Passion of the Christ. I read the one line, “and they had him scourged,” and quickly think back to that 30 minute scene in the movie. That gut-wrenching, violent, emotionally wrecking scene. And it’s just one sentence in the Gospel.

Another set of verses that startles me, and I don’t think I EVER noticed it until I was narrating it today at Mass:

And behold, the veil of the sanctuary
was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,
and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Ummm…WHAT???

After more than 30 Palm Sunday Masses and I just *now* decided to pay attention to these few verses??

I decided to go to a book called Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri to see just what in the heck Matthew is talking about here. Because you would have to assume, if we are talking about people OTHER than Jesus being resurrected and walking around, I think I want to know about it.

Here is the commentary direct from the book, for people as curious, or as crazy, as me:

 The most mysterious apocalyptic occurrence is the opening of the tombs and many saints being raised, which for Matthew highlights how Jesus’ death makes the resurrection of others possible. The “many saints” refers to the righteous Jews who had fallen asleep, a metaphor for death. Matthew reports that they were raised from the dead and entered the holy city of Jerusalem, appearing to many. Matthew leaves many questions unanswered in his account of this extraordinary event: the identity of the saints, what kind of bodies they possessed, the duration of their stay in Jerusalem, what happened to them after their appearance. A few points of theological significance can be noted. First, Matthew notes they came out of their tombs after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus, “the first born from the dead” and the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” is the basis for their resurrection as well as ours. Matthew, however, mentions this extraordinary event in the context of the crucifixion scene in order to make the theological point that Jesus’ death imparts life to others.

Some scholars think these details are merely fictional means by which Matthew indicates the significance of Jesus’ death. Yet however mysterious this account may be, it is not the kind of story one would have invented, since there is no record of anyone in first-century Judaism expecting the Old Testament prophecies about resurrection to be fulfilled quite like this. For the Jews, resurrection involved not the rising of one or many, but the general resurrection of all God’s faithful people. Matthew, therefore, would have had no reason to insert into his Gospel this surprising account about some faithful Jews being raised unless witnesses in Jerusalem actually reported the event.

And I suppose that’s as good of an answer as we’ll get.

It’s been suggested by many to watch The Passion of the Christ in preparation for Holy Week. After watching it the other day, I realized something that I haven’t thought about in years. Whenever I was asked as a teenager/younger adult that curious question of:

“If you could go back in time and witness a historical event, which one would you choose?” I always responded with “The crucifixion.”  At first I thought I gave this answer because I had doubt on my heart if this ever happened. But as I reflected on it more I came to the conclusion that I’ve always been attracted to the cross. I think I was naturally drawn to this event because I wanted to maybe join Him on there. Not for attention or to be the Savior. I think I just wanted to be near Him. Interesting that I didn’t answer that witness question with “That time Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,” or “Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.”  Nope. I chose the most violent event ever recorded in history to witness.  Another mystery…

Concluding this little post with some wise words from a sermon by St. Andrew of Crete:

“Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will towards his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation…Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward Jerusalem, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.”


The Daily Mass Project will be in full effect on the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, specifically St. Joan of Arc, St. Rita’s, my own parish of Holy Angels, Church of the Resurrection, and St. Anselm.

Daily Mass Project: Intimate Gatherings

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St. Patrick – Ohio City – Thursday March 23rd – Chapel Mass (Rectory)

Celebrant: Rev. Mark DiNardo, Pastor

Initial Thoughts: I’m sure most people find it odd to go to a mass that is NOT celebrated in the church itself, but in the little chapel located in the rectory. But this is the beauty of the daily mass project – attending mass where you normally wouldn’t.

I was early so I was alone in the chapel for a good while so I took the opportunity to take some pics. The whole place reminded me of my grandparents house in Old Brooklyn. Almost like I was back in time and sitting in their living room, except the television is replaced by a tabernacle.

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1st Reading: Jeremiah 7:23-28  – Summary from St Joseph’s Weekday Missal: Jeremiah speaks of what God commands his people. Nations are made up of individuals, but when the majority of individuals break away from God, the nation becomes godless even though a few righteous and holy people are scattered here and there. Because of deaf ears, the word of God is not among them.

Gospel: Luke 11:14-23 – Summary from St. JWM:  Jesus expels a devil. This text is an appropriate conclusion to the whole argument between our Lord and his enemies: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” There is no such thing as a neutral position in the kingdom of God.

Homily Reflection:  Speaking about the 1st reading, Father said we need to acknowledge our own brokenness. Admit it when we break from God, always seek for forgiveness, even when we don’t think we deserve it. We also need to forgive others, even if we don’t think THEY deserve it. In reference to the Gospel, he mentioned that God needs ministers, not Messiahs. The leaders at the time didn’t listen to God. They were blind to God present in their midst, as Jesus performed miracles right in front of them by driving out demons.  He concluded his homily by mentioning something I hadn’t really heard phrased like this before: We are not Messiahs, we are servants. 

Holy Moments: Many!!! I met a woman named Marge who could clearly see that I was a visitor. She was so helpful in guiding me to the rectory and introduced me to a few others there. Because of the small crowd we were able to give the sign of peace to pretty much everyone in attendance. There was a little boy of about 2 or 3 years old (should have gotten his name!) who provided a truly adorable moment as he started munching on crackers during the Eucharistic Prayer and Communion.  We concluded with singing the first verse of “Peace is flowing like a river.”

But my favorite part was the very end: Instead of the typical “Let us Go in Peace,” Father DiNardo said something to the effect of: “Let our lives give expression to our beliefs that we profess…”


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Sacred Heart of Jesus – Wadsworth – Thursday March 30th – School Mass

Celebrant: Rev. Joe Labak, Pastor

Initial Thoughts: As soon as I walked in, 20 minutes early, I saw a bunch of my 7th grade students for the Choose Life class I teach there. (The main reason I went to this mass since the class is right after). They were servers and were so excited to see someone they knew. As I sat down, I heard two young girls singing a beautiful hymn that I later found out is called Pie Jesu. Just hearing them rehearse this song, I had a feeling I was in for a really special mass.

1st Reading: Exodus 32:7-14

Gospel: John 5:31-47

Homily Reflection: In regards to the first reading, as Moses was receiving the commandments from God during the 40 days while he prayed and fasted, the Jewish people molded a golden calf and broke away from God. They became distracted and forgot about all the good things God had done for them. In just a matter of 40 days! As Moses asked God to have mercy on them, they were eventually brought back to the Lord. The priest cautioned the students not to become distracted during their Spring Break. He emphasized the need to remember that we are still in Lent as we are waiting for the Resurrection.

Of course, as he’s talking about not being distracted, I immediately became distracted. But I kept thinking that my 7th graders might be watching me and if they could see me possibly looking around, that might not be the best example. So that helped me re-focus.

Holy Moments:  Granted it’s just the final 44 seconds, but these two young girls nailed this hymn. AWESOME JOB girls!

The Holy Holy Holy (Sanctus) was sung completely in Latin and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know it at all! So now I want to study that and learn it for next time.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt caeli et terra glória tua. Hosána in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosána in excélsis.

After the closing hymn was sung, everyone knelt down and remained silent. A young girl, guessing 3rd grade, walked up to the ambo and announced for us all to recite one Hail Mary for vocations. What a beautiful way to end.

As I left, I couldn’t get over how I saw grade school students show so much respect and reverence for the liturgy and the Eucharist. I think this can possibly be attributed to one main “attraction” smack dab in the middle of the church: A perpetual adoration chapel. More on this in a later blog…but there’s something to be said when Christ is at the center of EVERYTHING. Ministry, catechesis, program development, prayer life, etc. And when it’s in the middle of the church? Pretty sure that’s a win-win.

Before the school year ends, get yourself to a school mass! I can’t guarantee latin hymns and extreme reverence, but you can bet you’ll see the future of our Church is bright.

 

 

Daily Mass Project: 3 Counties in 3 Days

I was all over the place this past week, attending mass in Berea, Brunswick and Norton.

And yes, that’s 3 different counties 3 days in a row.  Just a day in the life…

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Saint Adalbert – Berea – Tuesday March 14th – 6:30pm

Celebrant: Fr Barry Gearing

Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12

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 yourself or 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.

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Saint Colette – Brunswick – Wednesday March 15th – 11am

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.

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Saint Andrew the Apostle – Norton – Friday March 17th – 8am

Celebrant: Fr. James Maloney

Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

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!

The Gift of: A Happy Death

O Blessed Joseph, who died in the arms of Jesus and Mary, obtain for me, I beseech you, the grace of a happy death. In that hour of dread and anguish, assist me by your presence, and protect me by your power against the enemies of my salvation. Into your hands, living and dying, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, I commend my soul. Amen

March 10th 2016 will mark three years since my Mom passed away.

I’ve written about Mom in the past – this one is the fan favorite.

I wanted to write about so many things today in an effort to celebrate this most blessed anniversary of hers.

But after several drafts and re-writes, it seems I’m supposed to write about those 3 days. A Friday, Saturday and a Sunday 3 years ago.

Clearly, this will be a brief version with just the highlights.

There were many of us in the family that were there those 3 days but in an effort to protect their privacy, I’d like to just share my own views of those final days of my Mom’s life.


 

She requested hospice on a Friday and was gone by Sunday. 3 days…just like someone else we know.

“I hope I’m making the right decision.” She just kept repeating that…over and over. How do you even respond to that?

She was incredibly lucid in those first hours, especially that first day, to the point where we were in disbelief that the hospice nurse said she wouldn’t last more than 2 more days.

“But it’s Friday! What do you mean she won’t make it the weekend? This IS the weekend!”

It’s incredibly surreal – The hospice nurses instruct you when and how to administer the morphine and it’s like watching a movie, almost like it’s happening to someone else’s family.

“Will she tell us when she needs the morphine? How do we know if it’s too much? Or not enough?”

But then it becomes too real and you just want it to be over. But you can’t wish for that because this isn’t your battle. This is hers and you just have to be there.

We were told that she is going to go through a “life review” which at first you don’t quite believe but then you actually witness it. And it’s heartbreaking and mesmerizing and awesome and awful all at once.

By Saturday we had to laugh at certain points because if we didn’t we’d go nuts.

“She’s going to be so mad when she sees what she’s wearing and that we let the hospice nurses see her like this.”

The worst moment for me – I sat at her feet when she was in the recliner (before she had to move to the hospital bed) and just looked up at her and realized this was it. I cried at her feet and I can still hear her saying and repeating, “It’s okay, it’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

She eventually she had to be moved to the hospital bed. She just kept looking at it. She knew her own mother died shortly after being moved from the recliner to the hospital bed. I’m sure that’s what she was thinking. I know she was trying to prolong her stay here as long as she could. Not for herself, but for us. To spare us the pain of seeing her die.

She said goodbye to my nephews who recorded a beautiful voicemail for her that we played on speaker so everyone could hear. The look on her face as she listened was pure joy. I had never seen her smile like that in weeks. It was probably the most heartbreaking moment of all as we realized this was the last time she’d hear their young voices. Her grandsons were her source of joy. Hands down, they were her world. Especially Sean since he was so young and so oblivious to what was happening to “G.”

Time for a sidenote/side story:

Just two weeks prior to her death, she had ended up in the hospital again to drain fluid from her lungs. I was having a particularly bad time dealing with this and went over to my sisters to see the boys. Sean (the younger of the two) was hanging out with my brother-in-law. Out of the blue he pointed out that “Daddy has a cut on his head from shaving.” I glanced and saw, yes indeed he had a tiny cut on his head. Sean was asking me to look at it. I said I saw it but was clearly preoccupied with my Mom’s illness to not particularly care all that much.  Sean looked me in the eye and said in his sweet little 4 year old voice: “I’m going to pray that my Dad is healed from that cut. Because you know what auntie? God hears my prayers. Did you know that? He hears my prayers.”

Twice. My nephew said this twice and looked at me in the eye as if he was channeling someone.  I just looked at him and almost started crying. I wanted to tell him, “God DOES hear your prayers. And right now can you please pray that G is healed? Please?! I don’t want to lose my Mom!”

But I didn’t. I just remember that moment as being so surreal. How innocent a child prays. It wasn’t even a question – “Do you think God hears my prayers??” It was a STATEMENT. “God hears my prayers Auntie.” I will never forget that.

Sunday – I remember that morning as the one that my Mom saw her Dad. She spoke to him and said things like “Daddy, I’m afraid.”

“Afraid?  This wasn’t in the brochure! She’s not supposed to be scared!”

She also said things that were incomprehensible as she flowed in and out of lucidity. Sometimes her eyes were opened and she spoke but you could tell she wasn’t talking to us. I don’t recall responding too often so as not to confuse her. But I also felt like if I spoke or responded to her, that would be…rude. 🙂  She was clearly having a private conversation with someone and I was not about to interfere with that.

It was a sunny day and I thought “What a beautiful day to leave and go home!”  However, things didn’t progress that well. In fact, we called the hospice nurse on call to tell us what to do. We were concerned she was in pain! After all, she kept saying she was afraid. So that must mean she’s in pain, right?

“She’s in spiritual pain. Have you prayed with her?” – the hospice nurse asked.

The look on my face was complete embarrassment.

Had I prayed with my mother on her deathbed?  NO! Duh!!! What the heck was wrong with me?

I prayed with her as best I knew. I think many of us said the Our Father because that seemed to be the only prayer we all knew.

“How do you pray with someone who can’t hear you and can’t speak?”

I was clueless.

Sunday evening – We called her priest to come and give her last rites. He also managed to ask a question I was all too embarrassed to NOT know the answer to –

“What’s your mother’s favorite prayer?”

I went from feeling like a decent daughter to being the worlds worst. I had never even bothered to ask my Mother’s favorite prayer.

We ended up praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at her bedside which I think she would have approved.

Shortly before she passed, I ran out of “prayers” and instead took all the cards anyone had ever sent her and read them all out loud to her. I took her hand, told her it was okay for her to go and said I would see her in the morning.

My dad took over the “shift” change.

I went up to bed and prayed and cried to God to please ease my Mom’s sickness.

An hour later she passed away with my Dad at her side.

I don’t even recall crying. I immediately thought God heard my prayer just an hour before.  (Thanks to Sean for restoring my faith in prayer).


 

My Mom was always happy and forever smiling during her life and in countless pictures.

As her body lay there, I stared at her. She looked so….GOOD! As if she would just sit up and say, “What are you looking at? Be happy for me! I’m home!”

I couldn’t help but think …

…that’s how you die a happy death.

 

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No Need to Keep Jesus a Secret

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.

From the New Life Study Bible: Jesus came with the greatest gift ever offered, so why did he often act secretly? The religious leaders hated him, and many would refuse his gifts of salvation, no matter what he said or did. The more Jesus taught and worked publicly, the more these leaders would cause trouble for him and his followers. So it was necessary for Jesus to teach and work as quietly as possible, and worshiping publicly with little persecution. These believers should be grateful and make the most of their opportunities to proclaim the Good News.

The Jewish religious leaders had a great deal of power over the common people. Apparently these leaders couldn’t do much to Jesus at this time, but they threatened anyone who might publicly support him, most likely with excommunication. Excommunication from the synagogue was one of the reprisals for believing in Jesus. To a Jew this was a severe punishment.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you hide your belief in Jesus? Do you think you’ll get grief or persecuted for your belief in Christ? We don’t need to hide or keep our faith quiet these days. Learn from the early followers of Christ. Take opportunities to spread the Good News. Today, many of us living in the free world don’t need to worry about persecution for our beliefs. Do not be concerned about a negative reaction or someone not “hearing” your words. In time, they might come back to you with questions or inquiries and you can expand on your love of God and possibly help this person become a follower as well!