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!

 

Close Encounters, Last Chance Mass and a Lesson on the Basilians

St. John Neumann – Canton, MI – January 2nd

Celebrant: Fr. Manny Chircop, CSB (Congregation of St. Basil) – Appropriate he was the celebrant on this, the feast day of St. Basil “and some other guy.” 🙂

Initial Thoughts: I saw the words “Established 1978” on the wall as I walked in to the gathering space. But as I walked into the worship space I thought, “No. There is no way this place looked like THIS in 78.” Turns out, SJN did indeed have a reconstruction revamp about a year ago. I would be curious as to what it looked like prior to this, but needless to say, it looks very up-to-date and modern. Lots of natural light.

Homily Reflection: Fr. Manny apologized for going “off script” but he couldn’t let this feast day go by without a word about the Basilian Fathers, which is his order. So the homily was about his experience with this order and how he came to join them. In a nutshell, he was a teacher at an inner city school, they were looking for a place to have a retreat, found a retreat center in Pontiac, Michigan run by Basilians, he was so impressed with how they ran the retreat that he joined the retreat house and then later, joined the order.

He was most impressed with how the Basilians tried to blend in with most of the laity. They didn’t wear a collar nor any outstanding garb that would make them stand out as Fathers. They didn’t push their values on anyone. They didn’t want anyone thinking that they were better than anyone else.

Fr. relayed this back to the Gospel by saying that John the Baptist could have taken on a high and mighty role/attitude – But he was not there for himself – he was there for the people, as if to say, “No, don’t pay attention to me, pay attention to the one who is to come.” Fr. concluded by asking us to pray for this group of men, the Basilians, to remain humble and simple, to educate and to teach in school and in all walks of life and to continue to inspire young men to their order.

Holy Moments: Fr. asked before the end of mass if there were any birthdays or anniversaries that day. A woman behind me, named Sarah, was pointed out and so the whole congregation sang Happy Birthday to her. A sweet idea!


26231970_928056427362721_5702370253614707561_oEncounter Ministries Conference – Christ The King- Ann Arbor – January 4th, 5th and 6th

Forgive the longevity of this experience but I promise this is the shortest I could make it:

I’m not even sure where to begin but I will just say this was my very first experience at Christ The King, which is a charismatic parish in Ann Arbor. Encounter Ministries is described as a ministry that “exists to train and equip disciples to manifest the love and power of the Holy Spirit in their own sphere of influence.”

I heard about this particular conference on social media and at the urging of a friend, and after seeing my pastor, Fr. John Riccardo as well as Dr. Mary Healy listed as keynote speakers, I registered. I didn’t even do any research on Encounter Ministries prior to registering, except for watching this YouTube video of Fr. Mathias a couple of days prior.

The first night of the conference was Thursday night. I saw a ton of people from my own parish of OLGC but I actually ran into a young adult friend from Cleveland, who was there with many of her classmates from the University of Akron. After speaking with her for several minutes, I found a seat next to my good friend Karen. I told her this was my first time at something like this and she remarked that I was “going to be fully immersed in the Holy Spirit,” or something to that effect. I was really excited and just prayed for continued receptivity to whatever I was going to experience.

 

Fr. Mathias began the evening by speaking on sort of an “Intro to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit” but also spoke about his own journey and how he felt called to a healing ministry. He made several references to Scripture from the book of Acts but wanted to focus more on getting the message that this is for everyone, not just for extroverts or missionaries. Everyone needs the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. He asked us to think about the apostles BEFORE and then AFTER Pentecost = Before, they were afraid, they hid and they denied. But AFTER, they couldn’t shut up! Without Pentecost, there’s no power and there’s no evangelization. The same is true today.

And so that’s what he called us to – a New Pentecost for a New Evangelization, a renewed desire for prayer, for praise, to read Scripture, to share the gospel, more victory over sin, a desire for community and most of all – JOY.

There was a lot more that was said but those are as far as my notes got me. He then asked us to bow our heads and he was going to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. I’m still a little confused as to this whole thing but all I know is I almost immediately started crying as soon as he asked us to bow our heads. It came out of nowhere. But then it wasn’t so much sadness as much as it was repentance, or at least a feeling of repentance. Fr. was speaking words into the mic but I can’t recall all the phrases he was saying, I just remember feeling a sense of tingling and warmth coming over me.

A short time later we were instructed to have the person next to us pray over us. So that meant Karen laid hands on me and prayed over me. I felt that same warmth and although I didn’t shed tears, I felt like God was trying to say something. I even felt, at one point, like I was weightless, almost like I could float away any minute. VERY strange but a GOOD strange. Luckily, Karen seems to have some gifts that the Lord has blessed her with and said that she felt the Lord asking me to praise him out loud (more). I don’t really praise God as much as I thank God out loud. But I thought, if this is what the Lord is asking me to do, then I’ll be obedient to that. So if that was the only message I was to receive the entire Encounter conference, I was content with that. I mean, God has given me the gift of gab. He wants me to speak His name more? I can definitely do that. 😉

Friday night was Fr. John’s turn to give his talk. I would categorize it as a call to back to reality.  It was a nice balance, I think. He started out discussing the famous Rublev icon of The Trinity, which he’s given a homily on before, here (around the 5:30 mark) . He then discussed Matthew 9:35-38. Jesus has compassion – meaning internal turmoil. Why this response? Because we are like sheep without a shepherd – meaning we are torn, weary, ripped apart, mangled, helpless, tossed aside, thrown down. Before he discussed what Jesus did, he mentioned exactly what Jesus doesn’t do:

He doesn’t throw his hands up in frustration

He doesn’t yearn for the good old days

He doesn’t vent on social media

He doesn’t condemn those who are lost

He doesn’t act – He tells the disciples to pray for HIM to act and to reclaim His creation. But only if we’ll be the kinds of laborers He has in mind.

After a brief reflection on St. Francis of Assisi, Fr. John then went into details of why some people are not healed. Why do some people suffer? Why does the Lord allow this to go on? In his opinion, (and I concur) he said that perhaps God wants to conform us to His Son, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. If we all long for an encounter of His love, then how far do we go? How much do we look like Jesus? Do we have the Sacred Heart of Jesus? And what does that look like? Fr. remarked that to have the heart of Jesus means you are present, you are attentive to the needs of others, you express care and concern for the other. He asked us to pray to God and show us: “How far is my heart from Jesus?”

Saturday, Dr. Mary Healy spoke before the vigil mass. Her talk was AMAZING.  She spoke about so many things but my favorite part, aside from an unexpected reference to the movie The Bourne Identity, was her explanation of the Prodigal Son. She talked about the older son/brother and how we as a Church can sometimes have that same attitude towards others, especially those who are new. How can we help the lost if this is our mentality? And here was the kicker question: “What if the prodigal son would have ran into the older brother and NOT the Father as he came home?” What if that’s what it’s like when someone approaches US? Are we like the Father or are we like the older brother? Wow. Convicted much?  I could sit and marinate on that for hours.

Fr. Ed, the pastor of Christ the King, gave a great homily on Saturday but for some reason, I didn’t take notes. You would think, my first charismatic mass but no notes. Not one! Big time fail on my part.

After mass was dinner in which I made a fool of myself gushing over Dr. Healy for the second time so that was nice and embarrassing for me. After dinner, was the big Worship session followed by testimonials from 3 different people.

All of their experiences were different but the underlying theme was “I wasn’t so sure about this. I had my misgivings/doubts, but I knew God wanted me to use this gift.”  I had no reason to doubt their personal experiences of healing others. But a very small part of me, thought “This is good for them, but I’m not so sure that’s my gift.”  I would LOVE to be able to pray over someone and heal them but is this really a gift that God grants to all of us? Even if we ask for it? Something to think about…

To conclude, if Fr. Mathias desired for all of us there to have a personal Pentecost so we can have the courage to share our experiences with others, then I would say that desire was met in me: I experienced a personal Pentecost of the Father affirming me in my identity of being a beloved daughter, I’m using the gifts He has given me, especially with regards to teaching, and He is pleased with what I’ve done so far. He wants me to openly praise Him more often, to remember that all that happens is because He wants union, and that all the work He has done in my life is due to my obedience to His will, not my own. All glory to Him! 


St. John’s Chapel – 7pm – Sunday January 14th

Celebrant: Fr. Walt

Initial Thoughts: This chapel is part of a large retreat center and banquet hall, hence the long and narrowness (is that a word?) of the layout. I’ve grown accustomed to sitting across from one another since this is the same set up as the chapel at Domino’s Farms. I walked in 30 minutes early so was able to get the pictures, although there are better ones on their website .

Something I noticed right away was there was no crucifix, but I happened to be sitting across from the 12th Station of the Cross, so I gazed on that for awhile. I was trying to figure out who exactly comes to this last chance mass (which, I found out is NOT the last chance mass in the area – apparently there’s a 9pm in the area). But it was a pretty packed chapel with various types – singles, couples, families, older. A true variety pack.

Homily Reflection: A month from today we’ll be in Lent! Today’s readings remind us to be be still and allow ourselves time to get away from the noise. Not just the audible noise but the noise we see, like social media feeds and Instagram photos and news headlines on the tv and internet. Samuel, in the first reading, quieted his heart so God could speak to Him and that’s what we are called to do during this Ordinary Time.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus’ very first words he spoke. He asked a question: “What are you looking for?” Well, what are WE looking for? Jesus tells the apostles, “Come and see.” He extends the invitation into His life. They could hear and see clearly because they were receptive, and that’s what we are called to be as well.

Holy Moments: The cantor and the music minister on the piano were both outstanding! I don’t know if it’s because this place has awesome acoustics or what, but both were really pleasing to listen to. You know how you can tell someone is smiling as they are singing? I think she was that way, especially for the final song.

If I ever want to end my weekend on a high note, especially in the evening, I’m coming back to St. John’s, most definitely.

Until next time…


Daily Mass Project Wrap Up 2017

The final tally is 82 parishes/masses that I made it to in 2017. 58 of those were in the Diocese of Cleveland, the rest were in Detroit and then a few in cities that I was visiting including East Lansing, Notre Dame, Elkhart, Sanibel, D.C., and Toledo. Of course, I went to daily mass more than 82 times in the year, but only blogged about 82 of the experiences.

In talking to some friends just yesterday about the DMP, they remarked that it was amazing that I could remember details about each one. They asked how was I able to retain all of that information. I responded that it helped that I wrote it all down. But the best memories I didn’t really need to write down, but I’m glad I did! From meeting Henry the hugger at St. Jude’s in Elyria, to crashing a wedding with my friend Kristen at Sweetest Heart of Mary, to finding out that I heard one of the last homilies given by Fr. Dunphy at St. Martin of Tours, and witnessing my friend’s Fr. Jim and Fr. Anthony say their first masses as newly ordained priests, this was quite the year and quite the project. And it’s one I’m happy to continue for as long as I’m able.

I took it upon myself to make a little Wrap-Up/Best of the Best post. I’m sure those who have visited other parishes will have a different opinion on my “awards” and to those people I will say, “My blog, my rules.”  🙂

Top 3 Holy Moments:

1. Receiving a traveler’s blessing from Fr. Jim Cosgrove – St. Christopher – Rocky River

On the day I was leaving to move to Plymouth, my dear friend Fr. Jim gave me a blessing in front of the whole congregation.

2. Two 7th grade girls singing Pie Jesu –  Sacred Heart – Wadsworth –

Thankfully I was able to record a good portion of it. I get the goosebumps listening to it. These young girls did so well. I would bet they will grow up to be gifted cantors.

3. St Hugo of the Hills – Bloomfield Hills, MI– Witnessing the Renewal of Vows of Dolores and Raymond, two people I’ve never met. But what a beautiful witness of 50 years of marriage!

Best Singing/Hymn:

St. Bartholomew – Middleburgh Heights – “How Great Thou Art”

All 4 stanzas and every single one sung with the same enthusiasm as the first. And this is coming from not only the choir, but the congregation. No one left early. My all-time favorite singing moment.

Best “Flatware:”

Holy Martyrs – Medina

I don’t know if anyone ever notices the chalice and the ciborium but I’m telling you, if you would have seen these at Holy Martyrs, you’d be impressed. You’ll have to take my word for it.

The Breathtaker:

Sweetest Heart Of Mary – Detroit

Best Homily Reflection:

St. Martin of Tours – Fr. Thomas Dunphy

Best Exterior Design:

Cathedral of the Holy Rosary – Toledo

Best Interior Design:

Category – Chapel – Holy Angels – Bainbridge

Category – Worship Space – St. Michael – Independence

Category – Stations of the Cross (Indoors) – St. Martin of Tours – Valley City

Category – Stations of the Cross (Outdoors) – Malvern Retreat Center – Malvern, PA

Category – Baptismal Font – Resurrection – Solon

Category – Best Use of Stained Glass – Assumption – Broadview Heights

Category – Best Stained Glass DesignSt. Sebastian – Akron

Category – Best Use of a Small Space – St. Patrick- (Bridge Ave) – Cleveland

Category – Best Sanctuary – Communion of Saints – University Heights

Category – Most “Awe”-some Crucifix – St. Albert the Great – North Royalton

Best Small Town Feel:

St Thomas the Apostle – Sheffield Lake

The Church I Wish Was In My Backyard:

St. Martin of Tours – Valley City

The Once-In-A-Lifetime Mass:

Ford Field – Beatification of Solanus Casey

The One Where I Felt Closest to God:

All.


There you have it! DMP 2017 wrapped up and now we are on to 2018.

I’ll be attending the churches of all churches as I travel to the Holy Land for EASTER. It’s going to be life-changing, no doubt.

As for the future, I’m so excited to continue on this little project of mine here in Detroit. But CLE will always be my home. I do plan on making frequent visits back so I can check a few more parishes off the list.

Happy 2018!

Be A Saint and Sleep in on Saturdays – Daily Mass Project Detroit

Be a Saint

Having the day off because of a holy day of obligation definitely has its perks. Besides getting a ton of stuff done during the week when places are open, I found a 12pm mass at nearby St. Colette. All Saints Day is such a great feast day – It’s a reminder of what we are all called to be. And while it’s not easy, we can find little moments of opportunity to be “saint-like” with those we interact with on a daily basis. Enjoy!


Saint Colette – Livonia – Solemnity of all Saints – 12pm

Celebrant: Fr. Mike Loyson

Initial Thoughts: Got there early enough to snap the photos (above) as well as take a look around. They had photos of their dearly departed parishioners lining the window sills in anticipation of All Souls Day (the following day). There was also a large white banner with the names of all the parishioners who had passed away since last November.

I also loved the side chapels (altars? or side chapels? Someone tell me exactly what these are called because I feel like I should know by now). Mass started with the commentator asking everyone to stand and introduce themselves. I’m ridiculously used to this by now and I love it, although if you had asked me that a few years ago I probably wold have rolled my eyes. I was pretty anti-social when it came to mass. Thank God I changed my attitude about that.

The only “downside” is that the mass didn’t conclude with the prayer to St. Michael. So I ended up praying it to myself afterwards.

Homily Reflection: Echoing some of the thoughts I shared above, Fr.Mike mentioned that we need to “storm the heavens.” We are saints in the making. But how do we get to heaven? By putting on the attitude of Christ. Taking all of the beatitudes (todays Gospel reading) such as humility, meekness, peacemaker, etc. and living as Christ calls us to. He ended by saying, “We’ll meet up with the Saints in heaven, and what a party that will be!”

Holy Moments: The Adopt-a-Seminarian table caught my eye. They had a basket of prayers cards with all the seminarians and their names/years on them to take. I may have taken more than 10. But I couldn’t help myself! These boys need our prayers! (I mentioned this quite a bit in my last blog but always worth repeating.)

Final Thoughts: So how many versions of the Gloria are there exactly!? I have to laugh at myself as I try desperately to  figure out the tone and tempo of any given parishes’ version of this.  I feel like as much as I try to get it all in, I end up just singing in a monotone for fear I sing “Have mercy on us” in a high pitch or I come in too soon, throwing myself all off. It’s comical. But can we just have one version maybe? I thought Catholic meant “universal.” 😉


Thursday November 2nd – Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day) – St. Joseph Oratory – 7pm – Requiem High Mass

It’s really difficult for me to describe a Latin mass. As I attempted to blog about it before (here) words aren’t sufficient. It’s not really the kind of thing to Blog about, to be honest. It’s an experience. I want to make it a point to attend these once a month.


Sleep in On Saturdays

So guess what? I found out I have an option for Saturday daily masses if I happen to oversleep (totally did this past weekend). A 12:30pm Mass in Detroit at Old St. Mary’s. I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilled I was to find this out. No more waking up at 7:30am on a Saturday to roll out of bed and get to an 8am mass. I mean, Saturdays were MADE for sleep…didn’t God say that in Genesis somewhere?

Saturday – November 4th – Feast of St. Charles Borromeo – Old St Mary’s – Greektown – 12:30pm

 

Initial Reaction: Wow.

I really have no other words to describe what you feel or think when you first walk in. And of course, the pictures don’t do it justice. I could have spent the entire day there just sitting and looking and praying and staring and basking in the glow. 🙂

Homily Reflection: I think I know more about St. Charles than ever thought possible. It was great! Very thorough job by the presider. I couldn’t help but think of all my friends and family who belong to St. Charles at home in Cleveland. So I said a special prayer for them during communion. Fr. mentioned that St. Charles was “totally giving of himself, helping people, exhorting people.” His whole entire mind and heart was dedicated to doing the will of Jesus. He died while tending to people in Milan during an outbreak of a plague. As for the Gospel, St. Charles was also like the good shepherd that Jesus says He is. Like a good shepherd, when the sheep get out of line or wander off, the shepherd is there to get them back in line. Those among us who have no faith in the Lord, non-religious people or non-Christians, these are the people who need to hear the voice of the good shepherd. And St. Charles was a great example of that. We need to do the same if we want to be saints.

Holy Moments: I got here early enough to pray Morning and Daytime prayer and to do some Lectio Divina with the Gospel. Leaving at least an hour beforehand when it’s quiet and the only sounds are the people making their way into the creaky pews is soooo good for the soul. It’s great to prepare for mass like this. I highly recommend trying to get to mass as early as you can to really enjoy these moments of silence. (I’m sure those with small children will dismiss this as ridiculous advice, to which I would just say – 20 minutes of quiet time before you get ready to LEAVE for mass is also a great way to start the day. We all need moments of silence. Get it any way you can!)


So the bummer of the week is that the Church Tour of Old St. Mary’s, Sweetest Heart of Mary and Sacred Heart Major Seminary was canceled. But, the good news is that I’ll be attending the Beatification of Blessed Solanus Casey at Ford Field on November 18th. Along with thousands of other Catholics in Detroit. That’s probably going to out-blog anything I could have written about the Church tour. In the meantime, as my buddy Patrick Coffin likes to say, “Be a Saint! What else is there?”

Daily Mass Project: Long Overdue

I feel like I’m turning in a homework assignment two months late just to receive a passing grade.  I have zero excuses for not blogging about these masses earlier. Although moving to a different city and getting a new job are two pretty good reasons.


St. Priscilla – Livonia, MI- August 10

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Celebrant: Fr. Theo D’Cunha, Pastor

Feast Day: St. Lawrence

Homily Reflection: Fr. Theo told an incredible story of St. Lawrence’s influence in his native country of India (Fr’s native country, not St. Lawrence, duh). Apparently, Fr. grew up near St. Lawrence shrine and everyone would go to this church on his feast day and it’s been said that numerous favors have been granted and prayers answered by the faithful. I took this from Wikipedia: “St. Lawrence of Attur is known for his astonishing power of intercession with God. Over the past years the patronage of St. Lawrence over Attur has been remarkable. Not only the residents of Karkala and the pilgrims flocking there in great numbers, but also devotees who invoke St. Lawrence of Attur without visiting the shrine have experienced his powerful intercession. The number of pilgrims to the place throughout the year and specially those during the feast days in the month of January is an evident proof that St. Lawrence does not disappoint those who come to him in faith and devotion.” 

Holy Moment: Just one. I won’t say it was really a holy moment as much as it was kind of an awkward moment and one I want to ask any Extradordinary Ministers to clarify for me: The EM holding the Blood said to me, “This is the Precious Blood of Jesus.” To which I WANTED to reply, “And this is not the time for improv.” What happened to just the universal standard, “The blood of Christ.” I get thrown off if it’s something else. My only “complaint.”


St. Hugo of the Hills – Bloomfield Hills, MI – August 26

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Celebrant: Fr. George

Initial Thoughts: I’m the youngest one by far. But that’s also because I’m 20 minutes early and there are a large number of senior citizens filing in. I see the tabernacle is in some corner with stained glass around it. Kind of like an atrium. It’s a little confusing but, hey, at least I can see it. The pipes of the organ are STUNNING. Who looks at the pipe organ pipes and describes them as stunning? I wish I would have gotten a closer picture of them but as you can see from the pics below, they are not your standard silver pipes. I’d love to know more about the design on them if anyone knows.

Before mass begins, the commentator recognized the name of everyone involved with the liturgy – the names of the lectors, the servers, the cantor and the EM’s.

Homily Reflection: All the homilies are online, so I was able to listen to it again and compare it with my notes. I really liked how Fr. George mentions the humanness of Peter. He’s the only one who answers correctly, “Who do you say that I am?” yet he denies knowing Jesus 3 times. A few lines that stuck out: “Peter wants a Messiah that will conquer the world without getting his hands dirty. His expectations are not in sync with Jesus. Have we ever been there in our failings?”  Jesus doesn’t reject Peter and He doesn’t reject us.

Holy Moments: My favorite part was the blessing/renewal of vows for Delores and Raymond (Pictured below) of 50 years of marriage. I was tearing up and I have no idea who these people were. It was just so special to witness it.

I wore my “Let God Plan Parenthood” t-shirt to this mass. One woman comes up to me and tells me “You are so bold for wearing that, You go girl!” I’m bold for wearing a pro-life shirt to a Catholic Church? Nope, I’m actually a coward for wearing it at Church knowing the chances of encountering someone who disagrees with it won’t confront me. But I was gracious for the compliment.

 

Afterwards, I went around and took pictures of the place and literally walked outside and wondered “What’s that other church-looking building?” Duh, it’s the Chapel. I had this entire chapel all to myself for an hour.


St. Isabel – Sanibel Island, Florida – September 2nd

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You can’t let vacation stop you from receiving Jesus, right? There’s one (literally) Catholic Church on Sanibel Island and this is it.

 

Celebrant: Fr. Joseph Gates

Initial Thoughts: The music minister HAD to be a classically trained pianist. He was playing beautifully as people filed in. Magnificent!

A baptismal font in the shape of a shell is something you don’t see everyday but I think it’s so Florida. The outside with the palm trees and the water and the statue of our lady was definitely different. Would be interesting to see if other Florida churches are designed in the same way or if this is just unique to this area.

Homily Reflection: Probably one of the best homilies I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Fr. Joseph gave what he called almost like a Good Friday homily. He mentioned St. Peter, he mentioned Jeremiah and St. Paul and Adam and Eve and Mary and John and he even threw Our Lady of Czestochowa in there in reference to this incredible image on the cover of their bulletin: sanibelbulletin I was dizzy with information. This priest was fantastic and I wish I could tell you just one line from his homily that struck me but honestly you just had to be there. 🙂


Old St. Pat’s – Ann Arbor, MI September 5th 7pm

Some historical background: Old St. Patrick is the oldest English-speaking Catholic church in the state of Michigan. Although the parish may have actually begun around 1829, the earliest records refer to its first building. In the spring of 1831 the parishioners erected a log church on a small plot of land where the rectory currently stands. In its more than 175 years of existence, the parish has had 31 pastors, at least two names, and has come under the jurisdiction of three different dioceses: Cincinnati, Detroit, and Lansing. 

Celebrant: Fr. Tom Wasilewski

Initial Thoughts: Working in Ann Arbor for a couple months now, I am still amazed at the amount of dirt roads that are in Michigan and especially AA. There’s literally no reason to wash your car, it’s just going to get dirty the next time you drive. What does that have to do with this post? Nothing, I just wanted to mention it. Oh! But actually this church is located off a dirt road. So yes, I did have a point after all.

To make things just a tad awkward, the church was in the middle of some renovations so when you enter, you actually enter by going through a door which takes you right to the sanctuary. So for those who are late, the entire congregation sees you. 🙂 I was way early, thank goodness.

Homily Reflection: The lord will come like a thief in the night. We all have a day of a judgment and we don’t know when that is. This is a warning not to be complacent. We may not have all the time in the world to convert, to improve ourselves. He ended with a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta that reiterated how we don’t (and shouldn’t try to) belong to the world. “I belong to Jesus. He must have the right to use me without consulting me.”

Holy Moments: They actually use their altar rail and so I received on the tongue at the rail. As I’ve mentioned previously, I love to receive this way. It’s incredibly reverent and humbling. Something I need to be reminded of often.


Holy Family – Novi – Monday October 9th-9am

Celebrant: Fr. Bob LaCroix, Pastor

Initial Thoughts: I heard they have renovated the main worship space and wanted to get pictures of it but because it was a daily mass, I couldn’t quite get the best pics (we were in the chapel). But you can see renovation pics on their website.

I love little chapel masses. Very quaint. And I was super excited to get to a daily mass because I had the morning off to get to an appointment by 10am less than 10 minutes away. Daily masses never take longe than 30 minutes.  Or so I thought. 🙂

We sang an entrance hymn which was handed out to all of us beforehand: IMG-8516

We then sang the Responsorial Psalm which I wasn’t expecting but the cantor/lector had a great voice. However, and this is kind of funny and not meant to be a criticism because this has happened a few times to me as well. But when she sang the Responsorial Psalm for us, she actually left out a couple words (I think O, Lord or something). So we responded back an incorrect reply. But then, after singing the first verses, those of us who were probably following along in the Magnificat or a missal, proceeded to respond back the CORRECT response, completely confusing those who were trying to follow what she initially sang. Then, she must have noticed her error and sang back the correct response but those who were NOT following along were still singing her initial response without the O, Lord. So it’s safe to say, all 4 responses were totally different, ha! It’s all good though, God was being praised, I’m sure He didn’t mind.

Homily Reflection: The first reading was about Jonah and the whale and spending 3 days in the whales belly. When Jesus refers to Jonah, He’s making 3 points that can be applied to our lives:

1. Don’t run from God.

2. You can’t even if you try!

3. It’s never too late to call on the Lord’s mercy.

Not-So-Holy-Moments: As much as I loved all the singing, I had to leave after communion, which I don’t think I’ve done in years. I feel like the bad Catholic if I ever do. But I couldn’t be late for my appointment. The entire mass took a good 50 minutes, and we should never be in a rush to receive Eucharist but unfortunately, I found myself a little distracted because I could sense it was running late.

There was another distraction and this one is actually becoming quite common and probably something that should be addressed by…someone. Talking during mass. But no, not talking to your neighbor, or your kids. No, I mean talking out loud during the Eucharistic Prayer. Speaking the actual words that the Priest (and ONLY the Priest) is supposed to say.

The woman next to me, God Bless her, was whispering loud enough for me to hear, most, if not all, of the Eucharistic prayer.
This is something only the priest says. He has his part, we have our part. But apparently that was not what this woman learned and I, being the easily distracted creature I am, could not focus.

A peek into my mind at the time: “Oh no no no no. NO PLEASE STOP PLEASE STOP PLEASE STOP WHISPERING THE PRAYER. Okay maybe she was just whispering the preface. I’m sure she won’t whisper the prayer, I mean how can she possibly know which one he’s going to use, and oh yeah she’s saying it all, every single word. But not the prayer of consecration, Please lord tell her not to whisper the consecration and OH DEAR LORD SHE JUST SAID DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME…I’m going to lose it. I’m going to lose it and I’m trying to be a good Christian here, I’m really trying, I need to be charitable in my thoughts and actions but GOD SHE’S DISTRACTING ME! I should say something to her. Right? If I was doing something wrong I’d want someone to tell me. But when? How? Should I say something at the sign of peace? How would that go?

Peace be with you and please stop whispering loudly you’re very distracting and I’m losing my mind.

Peace be with you and your tongue, can you maybe take it down a notch?

May the peace of Christ be with you and can we chat after mass?”

Needless to say, because I had to leave early, I didn’t get a chance to say anything. And honestly, I am not the type to do so. I am gutless when it comes to correcting people, especially total strangers. I simply prayed that someone will eventually inform her about the mass, about the role of the congregation and the priest, simply so she can understand and appreciate our parts more fully.

And then I chastised myself for being so distracted during the most important part of the mass. I should be able to tune everyone out. If it had been a crying baby next to me would I have been that distracted? I should be able to focus solely on my own unworthiness at what I’m about to receive and forget the issues my pew neighbor is having at the moment, right? Sigh…


In two weeks I’ll be going on a Church Tour through the Archdiocese of Detroit to see Sweetest Heart of Mary, Sacred Heat Major Seminary, St. Joseph Oratory, and Old St. Mary’s in Greektown. The tour ends with a Vigil Mass with Archbishop Vigneron at Sweetest Heart of Mary.  I’m SUPER excited about this and cannot wait to blog and share pictures of this most blessed event.

 

 

 

Daily Mass Project – Northfield, Macedonia, Akron and Hinkley

Saint Barnabas – Northfield – Thursday July 20th

 

Celebrant: Fr. Ralph Wiatrowski, Pastor

Initial Thoughts: Got there early enough to walk the grounds outside the church to take in all the awesome statues and statute of Our Lady of Fatima as well as the outdoor Stations of the Cross. I even managed to get a little lost, trying to find my way IN to the church. I think I tried every door before I realized if I just went in the FRONT door, that leads to, duh, the church. A very blonde moment for me.

The worship space is all carpet with no kneelers but really large pews. It reminded me of my grade school parish of St. Anthony’s in that sense – very wide. I probably should have taken a seat closer to the sanctuary. I felt like I was in the “cheap” seats at a stadium sitting towards the back.

Homily Reflection: Fr. briefly mentioned St. Apollinaris, who was martyred in the 1st century and who we celebrated (commemorated?) this day. Apparently he was a bishop ordained by St. Peter himself. He had the gift of healing, which caused a fair amount of jealousy among other priests and leaders at the time. But the people listened to him and started to believe in Jesus because of him.

The 1st reading was about the burning bush. Fr. mentioned God’s response of “I AM WHO AM” is almost un-translatable in to English. It means God is omnipresent, all powerful. He’s the one who cares about us and hopefully, we care about Him in the same way.

The Gospel was the popular “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” from Matthew. When we listen to God, this His burden DOES become easy, because it’s what we are supposed to do. Our part is to do our best by hearing His word and putting it into practice and to cooperate with God in order to do His will.

Holy Moments: The walk outside beforehand was really a great way to silence my mind beforehand. I highly suggest, even if there is nowhere to walk outside your church before mass begins, to at least drive without the radio on and try to quiet your mind before entering the worship space. It really helps to focus on what is being proclaimed as well as to enter in to exactly what it is you’re about to receive. (Spoiler alert: Jesus). 🙂


Saint Sebastian – Akron – Saturday July 22nd

 

Celebrant: Fr. Anthony Simone

Initial Thoughts: WOW. I would never have guessed from the outside what this church looks like on the inside. Spectacular! The stained glass, the side altars and statues, the mosaic on the wall of the sanctuary. It was actually a gloomy rainy day when I walked in so to walk in from the downpour to this, was really beautiful.

Homily Reflection: Fr. Anthony is a buddy of mine and I was determined to travel to Akron to hear him celebrate mass. He mentioned the band U2 and the song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” as a way to convey the message of the Gospel. Mary Magdalene was desperately waiting and searching for Jesus at the tomb and when she saw Him she wanted to stay with Him and cling to Him. But He says to stop clinging, because He has yet to ascend. And that’s how it is with us; we are on a journey SEEKING and searching for Jesus. Faith is a journey, NOT a goal.

The Song of Songs from the 1st reading expresses this desire –

On my bed I sought him  whom my heart loves – I sought him but did not find him…I will seek Him whom my heart loves.

If we seek Him at all, He will find us to remind us that He loves us first and to go deeper. Enjoy this moment but don’t stay. Enjoy this moment but keep following me. There’s always MORE!

Holy Moments: The entrance hymn was one of my favorites, “You Are Mine.” And the Responsorial Psalm was my favorite, #63. And hearing my good friend up there preaching = priceless.


Fox 8 Studios – TV Mass

Celebrant: Rev. Robert Marva, OFM Cap.,Pastor of St. Agnes Our Lady of Fatima

Okay so, this really doesn’t count as a DMP, but it’s a legit mass! My nephew was selected to be a server for the TV masses that will air on August 27th and September 3rd here in Cleveland. It was definitely unique to hear a mass and receive communion in a tv studio. IMG_7866

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Our Lady of Guadalupe – Macedonia – Monday July 24th

Celebrant: Rev. Kevin C. Shemuga; assisted by Deacon Dave Govern

Initial Thoughts: I think there’s always something special about a Marian parish. Maybe it’s because I now belong to one in my new home of Michigan, but upon walking up to the doors, I was just taken in by the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and even the glass doors! I myself knew nothing about this apparition until just 2 years ago when I took a Theology of the Body class. I had zero knowledge about the tilma or the story behind it. I felt a little silly for not knowing anything about it but I suppose, if you aren’t exposed to it, how can you know?

Homily Reflection: The Gospel was about the Pharisees asking Jesus for a sign. Jesus says “The Son of man will be in the heart of the earth…” Father reflected that Jesus entered into all of our hearts by embracing the cross. He entered deeply into the sin of our lives. We too must choose to embrace our cross. Then Fr. said something that I didn’t quite write down verbatim but it was in reference to St. Teresa of Calcutta and what she did very well:  “The most splendid skill of the human being is to enter into the compassion and hearts of others.” No one stands above the rest. We’re all supposed to be here for each other. That’s our call, to listen and to be merciful.

Holy Moments: The music. I am always surprised when a daily mass has music accompaniment. I didn’t write down the opening and closing hymns but I just remember the organist/music minister was on point. During the consecration, the “chimes” were manufactured by the organ but I didn’t even mind. It’s really nice just to hear the chimes during that part of the mass. Even if it’s “fake.”


Our Lady of Grace – Church and Shrine- Hinkley (Photos Only)

I pass by this Church and Shrine about 2 times a week and never thought to stop by until recently. I wasn’t able to attend a mass but did manage to walk the Stations of the Cross and pray at the Shrine.

 


Next post: A traveler’s blessing during mass from my friend Fr. Jim at St. Christopher’s in Rocky River for my final DMP in Cleveland; my first High Mass experience at St. Joseph Oratory (Detroit), and a tour of the 2nd oldest church in America of St. Anne’s (Detroit).