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.

 

Overcome with Gratitude

So something random and interesting and really quite extraordinary happened to me yesterday (Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday) morning.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that it was the first sunny day in who knows how long here in Michigan.

I don’t know if it was the fact that I was in a good mood to begin with.

I don’t know if it was the smell of clean clothes and clean countertops in my kitchen that I just sprayed as I cleaned my apartment and did the dishes and laundry. (Who doesn’t appreciate a clean dwelling space?)

But all of a sudden, as I was listening to a podcast from Bishop Robert Barron (of all people!) and folding laundry (of all things!), I had this overwhelming sense to drop to my knees and praise and thank God out loud.

This has simply never happened to me. The urge to thank Him was simply overpowering. I was just overcome with a mixture of joy and elation and gratitude, for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t get over it!

Maybe it was the fact that I had gotten up very early and just started to clean like a madwoman. I had incredible energy and had neglected to do my “typical” routine of sitting down on my couch, opening my LOH, or praying a rosary.

I almost feel like God was saying, “Umm…Hello!? Creator of the universe over here. Are you even going to acknowledge me, my daughter? What happened to thanking me first thing? The dishes can wait.”

So I went out on my balcony, because it was such a beautiful day, and I was literally watching birds chirp in the trees and prancing (jumping?) in the grass. And not a cloud in the sky. The only other sounds coming from the cars driving by on the street. And maybe my neighbor’s wind-chimes when the breeze picked up a little.

It was simply the most beautiful scene I could have envisioned on this Sunday morning. Truly a day that the Lord had made.

I came back inside and saw my Grateful Giving prayer card sitting on the table. I had been given this little card at a church function in Cleveland a couple years ago and kept it on my kitchen table and another copy in the visor in my car. A great prayer to pray on the way to work/school/etc:

God, Creator and Giver of all that is good,

we thank you for our many blessings.

Mindful of your generosity, we acknowledge

that all that we have is from you.

Daily, we offer you thanks and praise for

the beauty of the earth, our work, our family

and our loved ones.

In the dawning of a new day, you are with us.

In each dark hour you are here.

Blessed by your grace, we show gratitude to

You by sharing what we have.

By serving our brothers and sisters,

We serve You.

As you protect and guide us on our journey,

We, your disciples,

remain ever grateful for your constant love.

AMEN.

But wait, it gets better!

This morning, I read this in the Office of Readings:

“In a word, every blessing is showered upon us, both in this world and in the world to come. As we contemplate them even now, like a reflection in a mirror, it is as though we already possessed the good things our faith tells us that we shall one day enjoy. If this is the pledge, what will the perfection be? If these are the firstfruits, what will the full harvest be?

From the book On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil the Great

I’m pretty sure they call this an affirmation.

Because that’s what it felt like; a showering of blessings. And if I’m this overwhelmed by His goodness to little old me, how much more awesome is going to be when this is all perfected?!

As I sat on that balcony, I thought- I GET to clean!! I know it sounds so strange but how many people would DIE for the chance to have a roof over their heads to clean! Or a bed they get to sleep in. The ipad that I GET to listen to a podcast or a homily or watch a TV show or a movie, anytime I want. I GET to read all these books on my shelf, anytime I want. I GET to write on this computer for my little blog, anytime I want. I GET to text or call or email anyone in my family or my friends, anytime I want.

What gifts!!!

I get to live in the greatest country in the world where I am free to worship my Lord and Savior. I get to drive a car to a job that I get paid to fight for religious freedom and pro-life causes. And just a month ago I got to travel to the Middle East to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. I’m still in the shock and awe phase apparently.

Maybe I’ll come back to this post the next time I feel like complaining about my slow internet connection, or the price of gas going up, or when I burn my toast.

Thank you God for this little life of mine.

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?”