TOB and the Interior Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other links:

TOB Institute

Christopher West/Cor Project

Theology of the Body – What is it?

 

 

 

 

 

Using my gift of gab for good.

“What am I supposed to do now? Just tell me what to do!”

This is the PG version of my prayer a few weeks ago on the Feast of the Assumption, as I sat in front of the tabernacle at a tiny chapel at my parish. I had just come from the noon mass and attempted to pray in larger day chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, but it wasn’t doing much for me. So I changed venues and went to this smaller chapel (nicknamed the closet chapel because it’s about the size of a walk-in closet).

Gratefully, no one was there. I say gratefully because I proceeded to kneel down and sob openly for about 20 minutes. I had read just a few lines from the PA Grand Jury report the night before and managed to avoid most of the worst headlines from it the next morning. But apparently, the gruesome details I did manage to read by accident the night before crept back into my mind. And I was devastated. And angry. And frustrated. And at a loss for what to do or what to even ASK the Lord in this situation.

Eventually, my feelings of anger turned into actual prayers:

“How can I turn this into something for YOU? What can I do to channel this into something that helps to heal your Church that is going through a major crisis right now?”

It’s basically the prayer we probably all should/do pray everyday: “Thy will be done.”

The answer I received was pretty quick and simple: “Keep going.” 

Keep going with what? With my discernment of my vocation? Keep sobbing in chapels?! Can you give me a bigger hint here, Lord?

But then it became obvious to me: What have I been doing for the past 3.5 years? What  am I good at? What excites me and where do I really thrive? To be honest, as awkward as it is for many people, I actually LOVE to talk about chastity and sex and marriage to complete strangers. 🙂 I know, who woulda thought?

And from the feedback I’ve received, especially this past year, apparently people are responding well to my speaking engagements. You can view one of them here for a talk I did called: Engage the Culture – The Catholic Response To the Sexualization Of the Culture. Unfortunately, you can’t quite see my powerpoint on the screen, but at least you can hear me.  There are more/will be more of these as they are posted on the OLGC channel.

So with that affirmation, I asked what I needed to continue on with my “TOBsessive” practices.

And quite frankly, I need the certification in order to speak well to this teaching from JP2, but most importantly, to be seen as a credible resource.

The great news is that I’m almost done with the certification process through the Theology of the Body Institute: I’m just 3 classes away!

The reality is that the classes are not cheap. I’ve been blessed to be able to take 5 of them without really doing too much damage to the bank account. But these last 3 will be a bit of a challenge.

So after more prayer and wise counsel from people I trust, I decided to ask for help with the finances by creating a GoFundMe page. Several other TOBsessives have done this as well and so I figured, why not give this a shot?

Full transparency: Each class is $1,175 and you can see the price for yourselves right here: http://tobinstitute.org/programs/courses/

If you cannot give financially, I simply ask for your prayers. I know God is faithful and He always provides. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for whatever you give. I promise you I will continue to use the knowledge I’ve obtained from the 5 courses I’ve already taken to promote the Catholic Church’s teachings on human sexuality and always to speak the truth in love. I have seen firsthand and experienced how the power of the Gospel works in everyday lives.

TOB changes lives because it changes hearts. I’m a living testament to that and I would love to give this gift of transformation to others, with God’s help, as best as I am able.

In Christ,

Michelle

Helping Myself To Some Leftovers

aisle-altar-arches-226345Rod Dreher, in his book The Benedict Option – A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, writes a short section on “Love and Support Unmarried People in the Community.”

Dreher correctly writes that the church can me a lonely place for singles.

While it’s correct and right for the Church to affirm marriage and family as the ideal forms of the Christian life, we singles sometimes get overlooked.

What about our witness? What about our lives? And what about those of us who haven’t discerned a call to marriage? It’s not wonder that our nickname is “the leftovers.”

Their status as singles that leaves clergy and parish staff scratching their heads a lot. Where can they “place” us besides babysitters and clean-up crew?

It’s normal to be confused by us because really, we confuse ourselves! We’re in our 20’s, 30’s and some of us are nearing our (gasp!) 40’s. More and more people are delaying marriage, more and more of our friends are co-habitating, and more and more of us are getting sucked into the online dating scene or possibly something worse out of desperation to be in a relationship.

We may be succumbing to the hook=-up culture. If you haven’t dated anyone in the past 5-10 years, the dating marketplace has dramatically changed. And if you haven’t dated in more than 20 years, I doubt you’ll recognize single-dom today. It’s messy. It’s strange. It’s sad. And it’s lonely.

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Of course, it’s not all bad news. There are still good men and women out there. I picture them all wandering…aimlessly searching for their equivalent. They want someone just to have a conversation with. It’s been a while since they’ve sat down and had an actual conversation face to face. They’re used to 1 dimensional screens. Some of them don’t know life without a smartphone, without the internet.

Most would love to meet someone organically. But lately, that seems to be harder and harder.

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As more and more people become secularized, and more and more people leave the Church, that whole, “Maybe you’ll meet someone at Church” seems to be falling away.

Where are the solid young people, the orthodox Christians and Catholics?

Besides the pews, because I promise you there are some of them there, many of them are hanging out at the Latin Masses, which is growing in popularity, at least in my diocese. A lot of the TLM’s take place in parishes that aren’t your typical Catholic parishes with Bingo and Daycare. It’s usually the larger cathedrals/older churches that still have a Low and a High mass and that’s attractive because it’s different. And for those young adults who desire authenticity, the traditional Latin mass is home to many young adults these days.

There’s also groups like your local Young Catholic Professionals chapter or simply those that attend a Theology on Tap event or Young Adult event. And they may not go just to meet a potential date; they go so they can meet other people, period. It’s an added bonus if they end up dating.

While it’s good to meet like-minded singles, it doesn’t always end up being the case. And it’s hard to meet people at mass when you’re in the pews trying to worship.

So gatherings of young adult singles doesn’t always have to revolve around religion, per se. Recreational/intramural sports leagues and going to the bars for trivia nights and just hanging out in casual social situations is usually enough to meet someone to engage in a conversation with.

But in the meantime, I appreciated Dreher’s advice for the parish community with regards to guiding and mentoring young singles:

All unmarried Christians are call to live celibately. And that can be incredibly difficult in today’s culture. So it wouldn’t be a bad idea, besides a Young Adult Ministry, to “consider establishing single-sex group houses for unmarried members to live in prayerful fellowship.” He goes on to point out that it’s difficult to live chastely in a culture “as eroticized as ours, especially when there is so little respect for chastity. One expects this from the world, but the church must be different.”

While setting up housing may not be an option for your local parish at the moment, there is something you can do, no matter what your state in life, to help with the “leftovers” – encouragement and mentorship.

I’m attempting to do something like this with a 4-week series with the Young Adult ministry at my parish called Dating and Discerning Marriage As A Catholic. We’ll be hearing testimonies from young married couples (some with kids, some without) about their dating experience, their marriage, how they pray as a couple, how they pray as a family, practicing chastity as they dated and now that they are married, the ups and downs of NFP, etc.

It’s going to be a very engaging series touching on subjects like interfaith dating, setting boundaries within friendships, how the heck to practice chastity in today’s world and how singleness bears fruit, despite it’s difficulties.

I’d love to report back on it after it’s over here so look for that in the fall.

In the meantime, pray for the young people who come to this series to have receptive hearts and minds as they hear from the couples as well as myself; that they learn something new and especially for those who have been single for a long time, who desire nothing more than to do God’s will and feel a painful ache to be married, but for whatever reason, haven’t met their future spouse.

Spend some time with your single friends when you get a chance. Ask them how life is going. Don’t pry into their dating life unless they begin that conversation. And don’t pity them. Pray for them and offer any insight you have with them on relationships and marriage. Don’t try to tell them that you know what it’s like, but DO try to share your own stories of struggle and success. Give them hope.

They are not leftovers. They are the future of the Church. And they need our support and our love.

 

The Prophetic Message of Humanae Vitae

It’s been 50 years this July 25th since Pope Paul VI released the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae (On Human Life).

There’s even a documentary about it that is being screened across the country.

There’s so much to be said about this prophetic letter, negative and positive. Most people talk today about the negative effects – how it caused such a rift between the Church, between priests and bishops who didn’t agree with the Pope’s message, between Catholic couples who ignored it altogether, between secularists who thought the Church was being old-fashioned and “should just get with the times.”

No matter what your feelings are on the Church, one cannot help but read the letter (it’s only 6 pages) and come to understand that, tragically, what Pope Paul VI predicted has come to fruition.

Section 17 of the document is the most “famous” for what the Pope saw as the notable and disastrous effects on society if birth control were to be embraced, namely – increased marital infidelity, a general lowering of moral standards, reducing women to mere objects, as well as the government and public authorities imposing their use on everyone.

Plenty of theologians and people smarter than I have written extensively on Humanae Vitae. I added a new section to the blog specifically for it.

As for me and this post, I just thought I’d offer some common sense logic as far as this document goes and express my thoughts on what I came to understand after reading it for the first time a few years ago.

First, a fun fact: Did you know that long before Pope Paul VI wrote HV, there already was a 100% guaranteed effective method of preventing pregnancies? It’s called abstinence.

Not the most glamorous word. Not a word that gets us very excited. It’s pretty blah, I admit. But maybe that’s because it’s not a virtue. It doesn’t take PRACTICE to be abstinent.

It DOES take practice to be chaste, though. And that challenge of practicing chastity, especially with someone we love and are deeply and completely devoted to, is difficult for people to adhere to. And I think, at least in my opinion, this is a key reason why so many folks became bitter and dissident from HV. They don’t like being told what to do.

And all they saw/heard when this document was released was “No.” But they never heard the WHY. They just heard a Rule and didn’t hear the love behind it. It’s really a pity because Pope Paul VI was just trying to do what the Church does – Mother us. Guide us. And protect us from going down a destructive and sinful path.

So let’s look at each of the main predictions and see how they match up to today’s reality:

  • Decline in morality and uptick in divorce

Last I checked, despite the controversy over the ACTUAL percentage, it looks like around 42-46% of marriages end in permanent separation or divorce.

Among some studies I found, many of them ask participants open ended question of why they got a divorce and infidelity was in many of the top 5 most common answers.

So what’s the link between infidelity and contraception? Well, I had never thought of it this way, but think about it – Men who cheat/women who cheat won’t do it if there’s a possibility of their spouse finding out, right? But how would they know? If the woman gets pregnant.

So where does the Pill come in to play here? Well, if a woman is taking a contraceptive that prevents her from becoming pregnant, you can clearly have an affair much more easily. And if she does become pregnant, she can always get an abortion and the “problem” goes away. And no one is the wiser.

What is argued from the pro-life Catholic perspective is that the Pill tells the man and the woman that sex is all about pleasure. We’ve eliminated the possible outcome of a pregnancy so we can just “have fun” with no consequences.

But that’s not pleasure – that’s USE. The man uses the woman for her body only. And the saddest part is hearing other women argue against this and say that this is crazy talk. But it’s not. It’s the truth. Maybe that’s not the INTENTION of the woman. Because of course, who the heck wants to be used and then discarded once the man gets tired of her? But this is exactly what the pill/contraceptives do.

Another way women are treated as objects is through exploitation in prostitution and human trafficking. According to Mary Leary of the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America, sex trafficking and prostitution is a $40 million industry in D.C. alone.  “Women are seen as one-dimensional objects – commodities – to be bought and sold in this “modern-day slavery.”

And then you have women being used for their eggs through surrogacy, egg donation and in vitro fertilization.

Seriously though, what happened to our moral compass?  I try to think, for me, personally, how was I influenced as a youth/young adult? Who did I look to and who was I influenced by when it came to what was immoral vs moral? Of course, the Church. And the 10 commandments. But, I was also easily influenced by the culture. And when I think of the culture I think of tv and what was popular in those years. For me, when in high school and college, the biggest hit tv show that I think *most* of my generation watched was “Friends.”

Watching some of the repeats now on syndication, I am shocked at how much every single episode is literally about sex. Apparently someone with a lot of time on their hands counted 2,000 references in all of the episodes. And this was on NBC, this wasn’t HBO’s Sex and the City. This was one of the most popular sitcoms on TV in the 90’s-early 00’s.

And I would argue the quality of the tv shows on today haven’t gotten much better as far as morals. And let’s not get started on movies. Fifty Shades of Grey ring a bell?

I’m not about to blame the decline of morality on one tv show or one movie. It’s just that we have to admit at some point that things started to take a turn for the worse.

Abortion stats are widely known.For those that aren’t aware, we’re at just over 60 million unborn babies killed in the womb in the United States since Roe v Wade.

The stat on children born out of wedlock is staggering – about 2/5th’s of all births are to unmarried women. In the African American community it’s extremely high at 72%. 

I found the reason for this increase from an article particularly fascinating:

“The increased availability of contraception and abortion made shotgun weddings a thing of the past. Women who were willing to get an abortion or who reliably used contraception no longer found it necessary to condition sexual relations on a promise of marriage in the event of pregnancy. But women who wanted children, who did not want an abortion for moral or religious reasons, or who were unreliable in their use of contraception found themselves pressured to participate in premarital sexual relations without being able to exact a promise of marriage in case of pregnancy. These women feared, correctly, that if they refused sexual relations, they would risk losing their partners. Sexual activity without commitment was increasingly expected in premarital relationships.

That last sentence is particularly of interest. That’s the definition of the hook-up culture. Sex without commitment. It’s happening right now. It’s happening on college campuses at this very moment. And with the internet and online “dating” sites like Tinder and goodness knows what else (do we really want to know? I sure don’t) the hook up culture shows no signs of slowing down or stopping.

Keep in mind that quote above is from an article in 1996. I would argue things have only gotten worse in the past 20 years.

  • The lack of respect for women and treating them as objects

I’ve already covered this with the hook up culture and sex outside marriage (sex without commitment) but I would throw in the rampant use of online pornography and the now infamous #MeToo movement. 

  • Government would forcibly use contraception abortion and sterilization for population control.

In other words, if two people can control their own family population, what’s to stop the government from enforcing their own population control onto their countries?

The most glaring example of this was the Obama Administration and the HHS Mandate; forcing pro-life/religious organizations to provide their employees with contraceptives and abortifacients.


So what’s the Good News?

I think there’s a lot of hope for the future. I think many women, especially young women, are waking up to the fact that the sexual revolution sold them a bunch of lies. Freedom does not equal happiness and empowerment. There’s nothing empowering about raising a child alone because the father left and wasn’t ready to commit. There’s nothing empowering about taking a level 1 carcinogen that could possibly cause you to have a stroke. There’s nothing empowering about getting a ride to an abortion clinic to kill your unborn child. And there’s nothing empowering about waking up next to a man in bed after a one night stand. There’s nothing empowering about your spouse leaving you for someone else. There’s nothing empowering about finding out your infertile because you were on birth control for decades because your doctor told you as a teen that it would clear up your acne. And there’s nothing empowering about selling your body for money or drugs.

This is empowering? No, this is degrading. And women, and men, and children, all deserve better.

The answer to how the Church can fix this mess is still the one it’s always been and continues to be – Prayer. And speaking the truth in love. Women are speaking up. Mothers are speaking up. Priests and Bishops are speaking up.

Keep the conversation going.

Let’s not wait another 50 years before we speak up again.

 

 

Humility Month

Three years ago, the United States Supreme Court made a ruling that forever changed the way our country looks at marriage as between one man and one woman. It was decided in the landmark case of Obergefell vs Hodges that same sex “marriage” was legal.

If you were on Facebook, you were inundated with not only photos and news of this  event, you had the chance to change your profile picture to a rainbow filter. You were also pressured to repeat the mantra “Love Wins” in several posts.

At the time, I probably had close to 800 “friends” on Facebook. Unfortunately for them, I had just returned from Pennsylvania where I had taken a class called Theology of the Body 1 – A Head to Heart Immersion Course. I was on fire for the Lord and God’s plan for sex and marriage. I was really excited to share all of this newly discovered information (for me it was new, even though it was 2000 years old) with family and friends.

I recall working my part time job at the time and walking out of the store where I had just finished my shift and went on Facebook to find out what SCOTUS had decided.

My heart dropped as I scrolled thru my feed – It was inundated with rainbows. I didn’t need to read much of anything else. One look at people, some close friends, but most people I wasn’t very close to to begin with, had all of a sudden changed their profile picture to a rainbow filter, courtesy of Facebook, of course. The hashtag, #LoveWins was trending.

I knew it was my duty as a Christian to speak up. To say that this wasn’t right, that God created marriage between one man and one woman, and this is written right into our bodies as being created in the image and likeness of God.

I had read the statement from the USCCB and decided to cut and paste it:

Supreme Court Decision on Marriage “A Tragic Error” Says President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference

June 26, 2015

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The full statement follows:

Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

I prefaced this statement with one simple sentence: “Just because something is deemed legal, doesn’t make it right.”

Well, that was enough to emit a bunch of responses that I wasn’t really expecting.

“Wait, so, you think being gay is a sin? That’s horrible!”

“The Church needs to get with the times.”

“What makes you judge of someone’s sex life?”

“What two people do in the bedroom has no effect on you, love is love!”

“You sound like a hater. Another Christian bigot!”

and

“What would you say to one of your nephews if they came out of the closet?”

 

Others used much more colorful language. I defended my position as well as I could. I tried to do my best to talk about chastity and our universal call to holiness and promoting the short film “The Third Way.” I referenced the Catechism but mostly I mentioned how we are all sinners in need of mercy. And of course, I referenced some Theology of the Body books and resources for those that were open to learning more.

I was surprised at some of the people, many of whom were my Catholic high school classmates, who commented or sent me a private message. Some of them expressed similar feelings to me but admitted that they didn’t have the guts to post about it on social media for fear of offending someone. Others simply thought I was nuts for believing in traditional marriage.

Fast forward to this year. We are now in the month of June, typically known as Pride Month.  This is the month when, traditionally, most Gay Pride Parades take place.

For those that have never attended a pride parade, you can simply Google Image search them, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s heartbreaking and shocking. A better representation of what happens is to ask those who attend from a Catholic perspective. One of the best people to ask is a man named Joseph Sciambra. He has a great story of conversion. He wrote a book that I cannot seem to finish due to its graphic nature called “Swallowed By Satan: How Our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me From Pornography, Homosexuality and The Occult.”

Joseph attends the pride parade in his hometown of San Francisco, the biggest pride parade in the country (maybe the world?) every year and hands out rosaries and cards with his website that simply says “Jesus loves gay men.” He has posted on Facebook some of his interactions with the (mostly men) who he speaks to. The stories he tells are both tragic and troublesome to even READ.

I refuse to even type the words of what has been reported as happening during these parades because the devil isn’t someone to play with. This isn’t me being a paranoid Christian either, this is the real deal. Some legit occult-like acts happen right there on the parade route, some of the more evil ones behind screens.

This isn’t something I say to shock anyone. I say it because not too many people even know about this. They think pride parades and promoting the gay agenda is all innocent because, “no one gets hurt,” and “love is love.”  Well, I beg to differ. Read Joseph’s story or read about those who used to consider themselves gay and who came back to the Church. They may still be attracted to members of the same sex, but they have embraced celibacy because they understand to love someone, is to will the good of the other.

But here’s the positive side of social media and these silly #Hashtags and a perfect example of how we as Catholics (or simply those who aren’t religious but believe in traditional marriage) –  can change the conversation. And we can come up with our own hashtag. Case in point – After Obergefell, someone posted a painting of a crucified Jesus with the hashtag #LoveWon.

Simple and very effective.

This month, after seeing one particularly popular Jesuit priest tweeting all about PrideMonth, I took it upon myself to Retweet his thoughts (they were blurring the lines between affirming pride and sin) but with the link to Desire of the Everlasting Hills, my FAVORITE film about same sex attracted folks, and I used the hashtag #HumilityCuresPride.

Granted, that’s a long hashtag and I didn’t think anyone would start using it, but the point was to insert our faith into the culture in order to steer others towards the path to God, not sin.

So imagine my surprise when I saw #HumilityMonth was trending this morning on Twitter! A bunch of popular Catholic authors and speakers and others were using this opportunity to talk about how pride is still a sin, that of course we love all of our brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of who they are attracted to, and by the way, let’s stop promoting a deadly sin!

So I thought about how I can help. How can I help steer people towards the Church? How can I share the Good News and how the Church is the antidote to our hyper-sexualized culture, not just for gay people, but for all?

My idea is this: Tweet out one line from the Litany of Humility each day with that #HumilityMonth hashtag.  It’s an amazing prayer, it’s a challenging prayer and it’s a great cure for pride. How great would it be to see Humility “trending?”

For those who would like to pray it, join me:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
That others may be esteemed more than I ,
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Happy Humility Month!

 

Distracted by Beauty – Daily Mass Project

A couple weeks ago I attended my 5th Theology of the Body Course called TOB and Art: The Way of Beauty. It took place at a beautiful retreat center in Malvern Pennsylvania. One of messages of the entire week was simply to receive. Receive the Gift of Beauty from God.

Easier said than done for most of us. This requires us to be still. Be silent. And look. Look up! Look up from our phones, our work, our computers. And just look around and take in all of this creation that God has given us.

We don’t do this very often do we? We’re too busy being human DOERS instead of human BEINGS.

Our instructor for the week, Bill Donaghy, mentioned many of us suffer from “MMC.”

Martha, Martha Complex. We’re all trying to busy ourselves instead of being like Mary, who sat at the feet of Jesus instead of being like Martha, who busied herself serving and being a hostess.

In light of wanting to be more like Mary and less like Martha, I tried to just receive more than reflect on the masses this week. Lots of pictures (although ONCE AGAIN, parish websites are in desperate need of photos of their art and design! I’m lookin at you St Mary’s in Hudson.)

So this week’s DMP’s are much shorter than in prior posts.

First up, I have to share the beauty of the Malvern Retreat House. Over 200 acres of statues, stations of the cross, mini shrines, a grotto, and a gorgeous chapel.  I got as many pictures of the bronze Stations of the Cross sculptures that captivated me. Then there were Mosaic Stations of the Cross and the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe. And on and on it went.


St Mary’s Hudson – Chapel Mass – Wednesday May 17th – 8am

Celebrant: Fr. Patrick Anderson – Parochial Vicar

Initial Thoughts: Music! At a daily mass! Shocker! I mean like an actual pianist. I didn’t write down the names of the hymns we sang (my bad) but I do recall very good singing voices. And for a daily mass, it was really well attended. Probably close to 50-60 people. Maybe more.

Homily Reflection: Father discussed what was said the day before to a group of graduating high school seniors from the Youth Ministers around the area. One YM gave the advice of having the students imagine they are going on a mission. Because they are! As they go to college, it is their mission to find Christ.

Another YM said: “Abide in Me,” referring to Jesus’ words. A good reminder if we don’t abide in Christ, we can’t bear fruit. We have to remain rooted, as Paul and Barnabas did as they preached and healed people. They also were attacked and persecuted. But they were on a mission! And as long as they remained rooted in Christ, they could go on.

Father Patricks final point resonated with me the most. He said when we justify our actions, when we talk to ourselves, we no longer remain in Him. (I talk to myself a lot so maybe this was the Holy Spirit speaking directly to me). Father ended by repeating the opening prayer: “O God, restorer and lover of innocence, direct the hearts of your servants towards yourself, that those you have set free from the darkness of unbelief may never stray from the light of your truth.” Restore in us that desire to remain in Him. Return to innocence, confidence and trust in the Lord.

Holy Moments: I had the privilege of witnessing my friend Father Anthony Simone’s first mass as a priest at this church just 4 days later. That entire mass was my holiest moment!


Holy Family – Stow – 8am – Chapel Mass

Holy Moments and Initial Reactions: One of the most crowded chapel masses I’ve ever attended. I think it’s safe to say there were close to 80 people packed into this chapel. They also have a perpetual adoration chapel that I went into afterwards.

What I noticed the most is that it clearly lives up to its name as there were at least 3 sets of families with small children in attendance. And what looked to be like a brother and sister pair of altar servers. Complete silence before the mass started which was nice considering there was no tabernacle. It’s always good when people still respect the fact that it’s a chapel even if He isn’t present. Wish I could have gotten more pictures of the chapel with the lights on.


Sacred Heart of Jesus – South Euclid – Saturday May 20- 4pm Vigil Mass

Celebrant: Fr. Thomas Winkel, Senior Parochial Vicar

Initial Thoughts: I walked into the adoration chapel first and see a married couple sitting there whom I have met through being an EWTN Media Missionary. Complete coincidence! We actually prayed together before they had to leave which was a very sweet holy moment as I mentioned I could use some prayers for an upcoming job interview.

Homily Reflection: FINALLY, after doing this DMP for almost 6 months, I attended a mass with a friend! Half the reason I wanted to do the DMP was to either meet up with a friend or relative at a mass or bring someone with me and so finally, my super Catholic friend Jim joined me for this one.

Father Winkel came out with a vestment on that had the initials/abbreviation “IHS.” As he processed in and approached the altar, I had the thought of, “How come I don’t know what IHS means? This seems like something I should know.” And wouldn’t you know it, he mentioned what it means in his homily. It’s actually an abbreviation of the name IHΣΟΥΣ which means “Jesus.” So it shouldn’t be a surprise but the REASON he gave for mentioning it and for wearing the vestment was because that was the feast day of St. Bernardine of Siena. St. Bernardine gave mission talks and preached devotion to the Name of Jesus every place he went. And apparently, Saint Bernardine designed the IHS emblem. (Unless I totally heard wrong but I thought that’s what he said).

Holy Moments: I was distracted a few times just by the enormous mosaic/art on the wall of the sanctuary. (Once again, the distracted by the beauty!) I didn’t get a picture but on the left and right sides of the sanctuary were the words of the Hail Mary inscribed into wooden beams. The mass ended with a novena to the Infant Jesus found at the back of the missal. (Pictured above).

Overall it’s clearly a very prayerful parish. But my favorite part was just walking around the outside and taking photos, especially of the statue of Jesus and Mary as well as the “For You I Died” crucifixion which is just outside the school.

 

If this week’s DMP had a message, it would be similar to that of the TOB retreat:

Stop, look up, and receive God’s masterpiece. There’s beauty in His creation all around us. We need to take the time to bask in the beauty.

Next Week: A mass for my Mom at St. Charles Borromeo, I visit my old grade school St Anthony of Padua in Parma, and Adoration at St. Anselm in Chesterland.

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!