Daily Mass Project – Notre Dame Edition

19092599_10100262755303354_1284647603911676525_oA couple weeks ago I had the privilege to be selected with 46 other people across the world to attend the Vita Institute at the University of Notre Dame. From their website:

The Vita Institute is an intensive interdisciplinary training program for leaders in the national and international pro-life movement. The Vita Institute aims to further enhance participants’ expertise and prepare them to be even more effective advocates on behalf of the unborn. Held for a week every summer on Notre Dame’s beautiful campus, this program is wholly unique: it provides participants with the opportunity to study the fundamentals of life issues with world-renowned scholars across a wide range of disciplines, including social science, biology, philosophy, theology, law, communication, and counseling. No prior knowledge of these disciplines is assumed or required. Vita Institute alumni include the senior leaders of the most high profile and important pro-life organizations from around the world, grassroots activists, and concerned citizens from across the full spectrum of pro-life vocations.

 I met people from all over the world working in all different aspects of pro-life work while being taught by top-notch professors and scholars. Truly an amazing experience and one that I will use in my future work to fight for the rights of the unborn, the elderly, and the disabled.

One of the best parts of the entire 10 day experience was attending daily mass. This was my first trip to South Bend to see ND’s campus and I was just blown away. I didn’t want to leave! I had wished that I went there for college. But since it’s too late for that, no reason I can’t start prepping my nephews to go there. I bought them ND shirts and told my sis to start getting the applications ready. I mean so they’re 9 and 14 years old. Never too early to start, right?

On Sunday, the feast of the Holy Trinity as well as the Saturday Vigil mass of the feast of Corpus Christi, we attended mass at the Basilica. The pictures just don’t do it justice. I highly recommend going there yourself to experience this holy place.

I took a ton of pictures but too many to post here. Suffice it to say, it’s worth a road trip for any of you who live in the midwest.

In addition to those Sunday masses, we had daily mass in the chapel at the School of Law where our classes were held. Fun fact: There’s a chapel in every dorm and (I think) in every major building. Yeah. Super Catholic. LOVE IT!

Our chaplain was Fr. Michael Sherwin, O.P. for all but one of the masses. And all but one of the masses were held in the St. Thomas More Chapel. One was held in the Holy Cross Chapel in the Engineering building.

 

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Holy Cross Chapel
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Holy Cross Chapel
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St Thomas More Chapel
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St. Thomas More Chapel

And the chapel were I spent most of my time in prayer everyday, right there in the dorm where we stayed:

 

While I took many notes from the homilies that Fr. Michael had, I found myself quite distracted much of the week. Unfortunately, I had a hard time detaching myself from the “real world” and distractions at home. As hard as I tried to be present, I found myself crying at mass more than joyful, lamenting more than trusting, and under attack more than feeling loved. It wasn’t until the tail end of the course that I finally surrendered and told God, “Okay I get it! I asked for an increase in trust in You and You answered that prayer. I can’t control the outcome of this situation but I can trust that You have your hand in it.”

In fact, one of the Antiphons from one of the Evening Prayers during the week was:

Doing my Father’s will is the food that sustains me.

And one of the Responses:

God is my savior and my glory.

-I take refuge in Him.

And one of the Readings from 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.

So it was consoling to realize that every time I went to pray my Liturgy of the Hours, I found an answer in prayer to what was distracting me.

Not to mention the weather was absolutely perfect the whole time I was on campus and even when it rained, it was short-lived. Which was really great because it allowed me to take all these amazing photos of the campus.

 

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Some closing thoughts on the Vita Institute experience:

One of the most profound things that was said during the entire week came from one of the participants from the Archdiocese of New York. She said:

“The Catholic parish is the alternative to Planned Parenthood.”

What she meant is that people need an encounter with God first and foremost. Our Catholic parishes do indeed have all the right tools to counter-act the Planned Parenthood message of death.  We, the Church, have the truth, we have the beauty and we have the good. We are indeed the alternative to Planned Parenthood. But we need to actually speak up about this truth as much as we possibly can so women (and men) far and wide know that if they are in a crisis pregnancy, they can come to their local parish and be welcomed and assisted.

I also reflected on conversations with pro-chociers and how I try not to mention God or the Bible or my faith when making the claim that all humans, regardless of size, have a right to life. I try not to mention all of this because I don’t want to turn the conversation into a religious one. And I’ve been there on more than a couple occasions when I’ve been accused of being a “right-wing nut job” or “misogynist” or even when I’m told to “take your prayers and shove them up your sanctimonious a$$.”

So that’s why I have tried to refrain from mentioning anything remotely “religious” as the basis for my pro-life beliefs. But I find that it’s really difficult to keep the conversation going if I don’t credit my God with creating human life. At some point, I have to acknowledge where that dignity comes from in each and every human being (Spoiler alert: It’s given to us by God.)

So as much as I would love to appeal to atheists and agnostics and anti-Catholics when it comes to fighting for the rights of the unborn, the elderly and the disabled, and I will continue to try, I can’t be so quick to strip God and my faith out of the conversation so I don’t “offend” them. None of us in the pro-life movement can afford to worry about offending anyone. We have the truth on our side. And that’s what wins in the end. No matter what Cecile Richards, George Soros, Gloria Steinem or any other pro-abortion advocate has to say on the matter.  This is not a time to be cowards or to be shy. Compassionate speech does change hearts and minds. Speaking the truth in a charitable manner does cause people to pause and think twice about their views.

So to all my fellow pro-life warriors, keep fighting the good fight. We know who wins.

For more on human dignity and abortion, watch this great video from Bishop Barron*: Bishop Barron on Planned Parenthood and the Loss of Human Dignity

*Start at the 4:57 mark


Next blog post will be back to the regular format of the DMP – Two parishes in Michigan – Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth and Christ the King in Ann Arbor. And as an added bonus, I attended my first Lutheran mass ever in Elkhart Indiana at Trinity Lutheran.

Random Acts of Worship – Daily Mass Project

 

Church of the Resurrection  – Solon – Wednesday April 19th – 8:30am

Ever walk into a church and just STARE? That’s what you do when you walk into Resurrection. First of all, it’s circular, which could possibly drive you nuts if you’re not used to it. “Where do I look? Where do I sit so I can see everyone? Will my back be to the ambo? This is awkward!” But once you get past that, you realize it’s SO gorgeous and there’s so much to look at. In fact, there’s so much to look at that I’m refraining from blogging about this one until I go to an actual mass. This was just a communion service (and a very good one) but it is WAY too beautiful to NOT attend a Sunday service. I plan on going back next month. In the meantime, check out their website for stunning photos and a virtual tour.


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St. Matthias – Broadview Heights – Sunday – April 23rd – 9am – 2nd Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday

Gospel: JN 20:19-31

Celebrant: Fr. Ray Sutter

Initial Reaction: I feel like I may get chastised for this but I have just a small criticism: Sometimes I feel like reverence goes out the window when the church is set up like a hall or if it’s just a smaller church or whatnot. It just seemed like I walked in to a bingo hall at first. The music minister/organist was announcing the songs and why he chose them and what to expect and people were still chatting. And pretty loudly. I thought that was a little disrespectful, but perhaps they are just used to that and it’s not a big deal to them. Clearly, this is a close-knit community where everyone knows each other. But I guess I’m a little “old-school” and I would prefer if people would chat in the gathering space and silence themselves once they actually walk into the worship space.

Homily Reflection: The homily was given by Deacon Tom Litwinowicz; He said he felt he HAD to give the homily today of all days because the Gospel was about his namesake. Personally, I love the doubting Thomas gospel because it seems like the most realistic reaction. If it was today, I’m sure there would be people who would say, “Unless their video of this Jesus walking around, I won’t believe.” The Deacon mentioned how he’s analytical and likes to dig deep to ask questions to find out if something is true or not. He looks for the proof until he finds it. He talked about how Thomas didn’t quite “get it.” Thomas needed physical proof, he wouldn’t take the apostles’ word for it. He needed to SEE Jesus in the flesh. Now, after Jesus appears to him and has him touch his wounds, Thomas finally believes and grasps the concept beyond the physical and into the DIVINE. And what about us? Do we accept Jesus without seeing?

Holy Moments: The priest said that in lieu of reciting the Creed, he was going to do what he did on Easter and have us renew our baptismal promises. So he recited the questions having us answer in the affirmative. I liked that!

After the proclamation of the Gospel, no one sat down right away. We waited for the Deacon to place the book in front of the ambo. I also noticed the lectors stood at the ambo for a beat or two before sitting down.

All the music was well done! At some points during the songs, some people had their arms raised. So maybe a little charismatic movement has made its way in. Love it!

During the Eucharistic prayer/consecration, the woman in front of me knelt (no kneelers) so I knelt too. As far as I could tell, we were the only ones. I don’t kneel to show how super pious I am. I kneel because I feel it’s the right thing to do. Plus it’s not comfortable. And I don’t think it should be. It’s a small sacrifice to make to remind us…well, it reminds ME, of His suffering. Maybe I shouldn’t have because this church didn’t have kneelers but it was carpeted. So it’s not like it was kneeling on nails.

I took a seat in the last row but they have the communion procession start at the BACK. The last shall be first and the first shall be last? I was first. That’s almost as good as getting a piece of the big host! 😉


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St. Albert the Great – Divine Mercy Chaplet – April 23rd – Divine Mercy Sunday

This wasn’t a mass, it was a Divine Mercy Chaplet service. So this includes Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a reading, a brief homily and then we pray the chaplet by chanting/singing. I LOVE to pray the chaplet this way. (Click here to hear what I mean)

I attended this last year and was so moved by the Cantor and her singing that I had to come back again. It’s one thing to just pray the chaplet alone, but it’s quite another to sing it in a group. Just beautiful as always.

I first learned the chaplet on the night my mom passed away.  We recited it at her bedside as she lay there taking her final breaths, so this has always had a special meaning for me. Speaking of which…this brings me to the last parish, my parents own parish of:

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Church of the Assumption – Broadview Heights – Monday – April 24th – 8:30am

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Celebrant: Fr. Justin Dyrwal, O.S.B.

Initial Reactions:  I have good memories of attending church with Mom here, who would often say to me when we went together, “I like going to Assumption because I feel close to MY Mom.”  Well, the feeling is mutual. I even sit in her usual spot whenever I go.

And since I just wrote about divine mercy, it seems only fitting to say that Fr. Justin was the one to teach me the chaplet. The first time I heard it was when he came to the house he prayed the chaplet over her. I hadn’t really heard of it before this.

Homily Reflection: Nicodemus is “on the fence.”  He approaches Jesus in the night because he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s a disciple. Nicodemus wants it “both ways.” But Jesus says we must be born again. And Nicodemus doesn’t understand what this means. Jesus means for us to literally change our lives. To live differently. And what about us? We may miss God’s voice telling us to turn around and change our lives because we are too busy living on the fence, listening to the world instead of focusing on heaven. What does the Resurrection mean? It means Transformation. How does the Resurrection change our lives? Am I avoiding change? Am I going where God wants me to go? Imagine the wondrous things that can happen when we allow the Risen Lord in.

Holy Moments: I really wanted to share a picture of their stained glass window of Mary all lit up at night. I ASSUMED (see what I did there?) that they would have one on their website but no. Short of going there at night and taking a photo myself (which I will probably do because I’m THAT crazy person), I found this sub-par blurry photo.  It doesn’t do it justice but it’ll do for now.

UPDATE: I did in fact go to the parish at night, in the rain, and took this picture after the rain ceased. And I have emailed it to the parish permitting them to use it if they wish.

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Not so great looking photo
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MUCH BETTER PHOTO (courtesy of moi)

For those keeping track, this brings me to 41 parishes attended this year so far. Considering there are 185 parishes in the diocese, the dream of attending all of them before January 1st next year is fading. Like with all goals, you gotta know when to admit you may have been a bit over zealous and scale it back. So I’m re-setting the goal to attend 100 by January. A nice even number and completely doable.

Again, I feel strange for even mentioning it but for those that wish to donate to the Daily Mass Project, please send a donation to Father Michael Denk of The Prodigal Father instead. Include somewhere in the notes section that you’re donating because of this or mention the blog or my name (Michelle) and he’ll see that it gets noted. I would always welcome a “Donation” of your prayers more than anything else.

Thank you again!

Daily Mass Project: West Side Welcoming

I made the trip to the far west side for one of my many jobs and was really excited to add a few more churches to the DMP. In addition to the parishes listed below, I also attended Adoration at St. Anthony of Padua in Lorain and Benediction/Adoration as well as Evening Prayer at St. Peter’s in North Ridgeville.


back_windowSt.Thomas the Apostle  Sunday March 19th 11am

Celebrant: Fr. Stephen Shields

Gospel: The woman at the well, my all time favorite Gospel story. John 4: 5-42

That window! Gorgeous and ginormous. Even though it had the numbers for a larger daily mass, (maybe 70 people) it made for a more intimate Sunday mass. St Thomas is part of a cluster parish including St. Teresa of Avila and St. Anthony of Padua. We recited the parish prayer at the beginning and the prayer to St Michael at the end.  No kneelers but since it’s carpeted, everyone kneels regardless.

Homily Reflection: On Ash Wednesday, we say, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The Samaritan woman had repented after meeting with Jesus at the well. As she left him to go tell others about him (I’ve heard it said she was the first evangelist) she was starting to believe in the Gospel. During this time in Lent, are we starting to believe? Or do we still need to repent?

Holy Moments: Since there isn’t really a gathering space, Father waved hello to many of us before he processed in. As he preached his homily, he walked up and down the aisles and shook hands with all of the kids who were there. And as he processed out with the servers, he motioned for a few of the kids to join him as well. They all genuflected and walked out holding hands. Very sweet and tender moment!

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Some other beautiful things to look at in this parish…

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St. Jude – Elyria – Monday March 20th – 7am – Chapel

The Feast of St. Joseph

Initial thoughts: As I was driving to mass, I noticed how the sun hadn’t come up yet so it was really dark. I was actually feeling a little sick that morning and thought of skipping it and trying to find an evening mass instead. But I thought I should just tough it out and go. Because any time I think, “Well maybe I just won’t go,” I always notice that there’s a REASON I am there. And this time was no different as you’ll see.

Homily Reflection: The priest mentioned how St. Joseph was declared to be the Defender of the Family and someone we can pray to as the spiritual father of Jesus. Whenever I hear defending the family, for me personally, I always think of how the family and marriage is under attack right now. I also think of the unborn being attacked physically thru abortion. So I must admit, my mind did tend to wander into that realm as Father preached. But I do recall the end as he said we must be obedient to God as Jesus was obedient to his parents before he began his ministry.

As I did more research on St. Joseph I found this prayer from JP2 in Redemportis Custos

“Most beloved father, dispel the evil of falsehood and sin…graciously assist us from heaven in our struggle with the powers of darkness…and just as once you saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God’s holy Church from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity.”

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As I was admiring this beautiful replica of the Pieta there, a man came up to me and hugged me out of the blue! He was hugging everyone goodbye as they left. What a sweet man! He then proceeded to tell me all about their stained glass here. He introduced himself as we walked out by saying his name was Henry, “Henry the hugger,” he said. after I got done talking and hugging Henry, I felt so much better! As we walked out to our cars, I noticed how the sun had come out and it was a beautiful spring day. Very much divine timing. Probably one of the best ways to start a Monday morning.


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Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary-Lorain  Wed- March 22nd – 6:30pm

Celebrant: Fr. Robert Glepko

Gospel: Matthew 5:17-19

Initial thoughts: Just pulling up to this Church from the street, you notice how it stands out. I am not that familair with Lorain in general so driving through it I wasn’t sure what to expect. But as I turned the corner and drove down the street and saw the Church, it’s such a stark contrast to the other buildings around it. It felt like I was just in a completely different world.

Homily Reflection: The priest noted that as we gathered, we had heard on the news about the London terrorist attack. Interestingly enough, it was the feast day of Nicholas Owen, an England born saint. He became a carpenter/builder and served the Jesuit priests in England for two decades by constructing hiding places for them in mansions throughout the country, called priest holes. He is believed to have saved the lives of many priests during the 16th century.

Holy Moments:  The mass itself was largely attended for a daily mass. I realized later it was probably because they were going to do Stations of the Cross right after mass, which unfortunately, I couldn’t attend. For this mass, not only did they have a Deacon assisting, they had 4 adult servers (1 was lector and I believe the other was EM).

My favorite part of this church has to be the giant crown of thorns hanging from the ceiling. I tried to get a picture of it as best I could – IMG_6756

It’s somewhat hard to tell from this picture but I promise you it’s there. For more pictures of this gorgeous 120+ year old church, go to their website photo gallery. 


For those that have been following along, you may recall I went out to Valley City to visit the historic St. Martin of Tours.  I heard, what I referred to at the time, as one of the best homilies given by the priest there, Fr. Dunphy. I was told from one of the parishioners that I should make a point to come out on St. Patricks Day to hear Father sing. I made a note in my calendar that I would do this.

I went on Facebook for just a few minutes a couple weeks ago and saw that Fr. Dunphy passed away on March 11th at the age of 86. What a tremendous loss for the community of Valley City and the parish of St. Martin. 

I thought it was incredibly fitting that he was buried just a day before St. Patricks Day. And I feel so very blessed that I was able to hear this man preach and be at St Martin’s when I normally would never have been there if it hadn’t been for this project God put on my heart. May he rest in peace.

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Week 1 Daily Mass Project

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#1 – Saint John of the Cross – Euclid – Thursday January 5 6:30pm

1st Reading: 1 John 3:11-21

Gospel: John 1:43-51

Celebrant: Fr. Salvatore Ruggeri, Pastor

Estimated Number of Attendees: 10

So this mass started it all. I was sitting completely alone in this church when I got the idea to start this project. For some reason, I remembered my friend Mike telling me years ago that he has a life goal of visiting every single baseball stadium in America.  He’s clearly a huge baseball fan and I remember thinking how his idea was so interesting to me. What a bucket list item! And then the next thing I know, an idea popped in my head: Why not visit every single parish in the Cleveland diocese as your goal? And so here we are!

Homily Reflection: As Fr. Ruggeri gave his homily, he repeated the following phrase: “Come and see.” What I heard was a repeated invitation to experience all that God has to offer us. Come and see the Word made Flesh. Come and see what God does to those who follow Him. Come and see what He has done and what He continues to do in all of us who open the door to His invitation.

During the 1st reading, I was struck by the line, “Do not be amazed if the world hates you.” This particular week I had read and shared an article which said that Christianity is the most persecuted faith in the world. And that a record amount of 90,000 people were killed because of their faith in 2016 alone. 90,000! I was sitting there thinking how fortunate I am to live in a country where I am free to worship, without fear of being killed. I may get strange looks, I may be called names, and I definitely think I know a few people who hate me because of my faith and strong pro-life convictions. But that’s all the more reason to carry on and persevere.

Holy Moments: As I went up to receive Eucharist, I was given a BIG piece of the BIG host. Not too surprising given the amount of people, but still special.  Fr. also led us in singing opening and closing hymns. This isn’t unusual for a weekday mass but when there are only 10 people, I consider it gutsy. He had a beautiful singing voice which drowned out any tone deaf singers, which I was grateful for. He also chanted and had us sing the responses, which, for me, helps me to slow down and take in all that’s happening instead of rushing through.

Our Father Orans Posture: Mixed. This is completely for comic relief because what I find so amusing is that we all seem to have our typical posture during the Our Father. And ever since they suggested we take the Orans posture, I see NO one being consistent with this. I was told it should be whatever the community does. So as a community, we should be consistent. But I’m one of the stubborn hands-folded people. (I know, you hate me now). But I simply refuse to take the Orans posture. I just don’t feel it. So whenever it’s time to say the Our Father, I always take a quick look around to see what everyone else is doing and I have yet to attend a mass where everyone is the same.  Who knows, maybe at the end of this project I’ll be an Orans-er.

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#2 -Sts Robert and Williams – Euclid – Friday January 6 12:00pm

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1st Reading: 1 John 5:5-13

Gospel: Mark 1:7-11

Celebrant: Fr. Scott Goodfellow

Assisted by: Transitional Deacon Eric Garris

Initial thoughts: Beautiful stained glass in the middle of the church. And do feel lucky that I get to see churches decorated with Christmas still before they take them all down. In the back of the church are various statues of Mary and St. Anne, St. Jude, and St. Therese among others. At the front of the church they have statues of St. Robert and St. William. I’m sure there were more but I didn’t have time to do a complete re-con. 🙂 They have a quaint Perpetual Adoration Chapel which I DID spend quite a bit of time in. What’s really different is that the monstrance is located behind glass. And so when someone leaves and there’s no one in the chapel to stay, you just draw little curtains over the glass to keep Him covered up.

As I looked around at the people for mass, I recognized 2 of the local leaders from the pro-life group 40 Days for Life in attendance. I had no idea this was their parish so it’s always kind of fun to see people you never expected to. I was also excited to hear Deacon Eric proclaim the Gospel. He’ll be ordained a priest in May this year. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to know quite a few seminarians and priests. This isn’t an easy life these men sign up for and I think we all need to recognize that they all need our prayers because it’s very counter-cultural to discern these vocations. So pray for our priests, and especially those that are still discerning this vocation. We need more good priests!

Homily Reflection: Fr. Scott spoke about faith in his homily. Faith is about knowing and seeing. Faith allows us to know Him and see Him everyday in our lives and in each moment and each person we encounter.  He asked us, “How do we make faith real? And he answered the question by responding that we live “incarnately.” Thats not a real word but, I believe he meant we live as the Incarnation, as the Word was made flesh. We make faith real as baptized Catholics by living the Incarnation, recognizing that Jesus comes in the flesh to live in us and with us.

Holy Moments: No singing or chanting but bonus points for chimes during the consecration. And great conversation after the mass with my 40 Days for Life pals as well as Fr. Scott as he begins his Theology of the Body class with his 8th graders.

2 parishes down, 183 to go!

Up next week: I’m all over the place! I take advantage of a snow-free Sunday and make the trek to St. Gabriel in Mentor; St. Joe’s in Strongsville sings the Antiphons in tune, and a children’s mass in St. Clare in Lyndhurst. Read all about it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The CLE Daily Mass Project

Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist - Cleveland, Ohio
St. John the Evangelist Cathedral, Cleveland. Photo courtesy of Photography By Francis 

Ahh daily mass. What a gift! There’s something really unique and interesting about this brief encounter with Christ. This 30 minute mass has been instrumental in bringing me back to the Church. 

It may seem difficult to take part in a daily mass due to a busy schedule, but the good news is that is indeed possible. It requires something we don’t like to mention and that’s sacrifice, usually in the form of sleep. Living in a large diocese as Cleveland, I have noticed there’s quite a few parishes that offer daily mass in the evening after work. And they offer it usually early in the morning before work. So most people can attend daily mass if they adjust their schedules. 

I’ve also recently discovered that I know quite a few lapsed and Christmas/Easter Catholics. Reflecting on this I thought:  “What would be a good way to grow in my faith, but also help lead these people back home to the Catholic Church?”

Well, I had an Epiphany during mass (shocker!) and here it is:

I want to attend 1 daily mass at each parish in the Cleveland Diocese, all 185, within the year. And I want to bring people WITH me. That would be the ultimate goal: To help those Christmas/Easter Catholics rediscover their Catholic roots and hopefully bring them back to the Church full-time.


I initially referred to it as a Challenge (because it will be) but I also thought of the word Project, due to the goal of getting others involved. Kind of like a team effort. I’ll then write a short blog about what I experience at each parish I visit. But I want to make it clear that it won’t be a Critique or Review as if I’m going to a restaurant and reporting on the food by rating it on a point system.

Can you imagine?!

I give this priest 3 out of 4 hosts for the Homily but I’m giving 2 hosts for Overall Atmosphere based on that sorry excuse for a nativity scene. And what is up with the design of that tabernacle?  Clearly this church was built in the 60’s, which is probably the same decade these kneelers were installed. Ouch! Will be back again but hoping for a different lector who is a little less monotone and knows how to pronounce “Colossians” correctly.

Yeah that wouldn’t go over too well. 

My Six Commandments

In the meantime, I’m giving myself some rules. Feel free to apply these to yourself if you care to join in:

  1. I can attend a church by myself that can count toward the challenge but only if it’s within a 5* mile radius of my work/home. If it’s outside the 5 mile radius then I must provide a legit reason for attending – This includes: A social event nearby within a 1.5 hour timeframe, a baptism/wedding at the church, having an appointment within the area, etc. If I cannot provide a legit reason for going, then I must follow rule #2.
  2. I need to bring someone to mass. In other words, I can’t just drive to Painesville** for mass to check a parish off the list. I must find a friend to meet me/go with me. If I don’t find someone, I can still attend but it won’t count as a part of the project. I still have to go with someone in order for it to count and to reinforce the point which is to bring people (literally) closer to Christ. 
  3. I must provide a few words/thoughts on the homily and what message I heard during the mass/what I experienced. I can also write about what the church was like and what the atmosphere was, people I saw, any interesting occurrences that might be noteworthy. Of course, only in a positive light because again, the point is to bring people closer to Jesus and not criticize something such as the vestments the priest wore: “Is that supposed to be Rose for Gaudete Sunday? He looks like human cotton-candy coming down the aisle.”
  4. Reflections will be posted on Wednesdays and will include the previous week’s masses attended.
  5. Sunday mass will count for the project but only if I can never make it to a daily mass with a friend/a daily mass is not offered/I can’t find a willing friend to go with me. Most applicable for parishes that don’t offer mass in English and parishes in the far counties like Wayne** and Ashtabula** as I have zero friends in those counties. 
  6. No double dipping. (One mass per day, unless I have a legit reason for going to two. For legit reasons, see rule #1)

*May change to 10 mile radius to expand my territory to make it more do-able.

**Lake, Wayne and Ashtabula Counties will be squeezed into the non-winter months. Because even Jesus wouldn’t live in the snowbelt.

Some Final Thoughts

  • Daily Mass is intimate. That’s the most appealing part of it! But there’s no intimacy if others don’t even know that they can have the same relationship. I don’t seem willing to share the benefits of going to mass with many people besides my fellow Super Catholics. Which is great but I can do better.
  • The most costly part of this will be mileage on my leased car. I’ve had people make jokes that I must drive all over the country considering I’ve put 40K miles on my car in 18 months. But I always respond the same: I’m happy to go where I’m needed and where I’m called. And it’s an honor and privilege to have 3 part-time jobs which take me to all parts of the city. I may as well try and encounter Christ while I’m at it. If the gas/mileage is just too much of a burden at some point, I’ve already have had friends express interest in giving me rides, which helps accomplish the goal.
  • The friend(s) I attend mass with may contribute to the challenge by telling me their responses to #3 and #4, which will make the blog post more of a conversation and dialogue than just my own scattered thoughts. It would also be very interesting to hear what someone heard at their own daily mass at a different parish from a different priest. 
  • The end goal may be an ebook or something, I haven’t quite figured that part out. I just know that God put this idea on my heart and I’m trying very hard to see it through. If you have your own ideas/feedback about this, I’m all ears! Feel free to comment!

So stay tuned! This Wednesday’s post will include reflections from St. John of the Cross and Sts. Robert and William, both located in Euclid.

 

The Gift of Teaching Others How to Pray

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For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.

—St. Therese of Lisieux

I just love the different people I encounter at adoration on any given day.

Just the other day, as I was praying the rosary, a woman in the row of seats next to me seemed restless. She kept getting up and going to the back of the chapel to get some books. She didn’t seem to comfortable just sitting there and looked like she needed something to read.

As I went on with my rosary, the woman asked, “Excuse me, but do you have the Our Father over there by you?”

I rummaged through my bag o’ books and had to laugh: Of all the prayer cards and books I have on me at any given time, how could I not have the Our Father, the most common prayer?!

I apologized for not having it handy but then informed her it was in the Bible. (Matthew 6 for future reference.)

She had no idea and was so grateful that I mentioned this to her.

I went back to my rosary but couldn’t help think: “How sad that this person didn’t  know the Our Father!”

And then I realized the hard truth: There’s no prayer in public schools anymore. There’s no prayer on tv. There’s no one praying out in the open for fear of being sued or ridiculed. So why should I be surprised that this middle aged woman didn’t know the most common prayer in history?

If I hadn’t been raised Catholic I may not know the Our Father, either. But I also didn’t start really praying from the heart until a couple years ago. I started seeing people sincerely speak words from their heart, as they would pray either over me or with me or even before a meal and I thought, “I gotta step up my prayer game. These people are professionals!”

There’s lots of books on contemplative prayer, and meditative prayer and repetitive prayers, novenas, chaplets, devotions, etc. It can seem overwhelming if your goal is just to learn how to pray everyday.

I’m no expert but I thought, if I were to try to help someone learn how to pray, here’s what I would suggest:

Books to Pray With

Two books by Jacques Philippe are great recommendations:

Time for God  And his follow-up book is called Thirsting for Prayer

Both books are under 150 pages, which is why I like them so much. Sometimes I think we say we don’t have time to read about how to pray, but we do. We just have to make the time. And these books can easily be read in a couple of days.

Meditation and Contemplation

There’s also a great way to pray with scripture called Lectio Divina. I’m not too great with this. My poor Spiritual Director had suggested it to me and I really struggle with this one. I can’t quite do this by myself but I have found it to be helpful in a group setting. It’s harder to become distracted with others around, for me at least.

Thomas Merton is probably one of the more widely known teachers of contemplative prayer. His book,  Contemplative Prayer is one of the most popular spiritual books out there. According to reviews, ”

Another great author is Richard Rohr. He has a book entitled, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.  Rohr also has a great website where you can sign up for his daily meditations. Richard Rohr, OFM – Center for Action and Contemplation

There’s an App for that

If books aren’t really your thing and you’d prefer to use an electronic device to pray, I have to mention two that are FREE and worthwhile.

The first is called Examen and it’s my favorite app to use.  Not only is it helpful with your prayer life, it gets you to take a look back at your day for some self-reflection. In our busy day-to-day hustle and bustle, it’s really key to take time to reflect on not only all the good that God provides for us, but the moments when maybe we weren’t really acting or thinking with the mind of Christ.

The second app is called iBreviary and it’s used to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This is what most priests use and religious as a way to pray for the Church and to mark each hour with prayer and song. I try to pray at least morning and evening prayer and lately I’ve been on a roll praying all 5 times throughout the day. It doesn’t take long and what I like about it is that this forces me to slow down and take a breather to focus on what’s really important. It’s amazing how SANE I feel and how any anxiety I have melts away after I pray this way.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 18:2

Recently, I shared with my 7th graders the 5 Finger Prayer. It was an easy way for them to understand a certain order to pray in because let’s be honest, sometimes we just don’t know where to begin after we make the sign of the cross.

Here’s an easy way to remember that even a kid can understand:

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“But when you pray, go in your room and shut the door and pray to your father who is in secret.” Mt 6:6

I’m in awe of people who create and construct their own home altars. Whoa. That’s a bit advanced for me.

I would suggest trying to find your own “cell” or private space in which to pray everyday. If you tend to become easily distracted, like me, then praying in the middle of a house full of people/kids/blaring tv, etc just isn’t going to cut it. A table or a desk and maybe enough space for a couple of books (the Bible being most important of course) is really all you need!

Speaking of the Word, if there was just one book you need or require to get started praying, the Bible is really the only one you need. And while there are Bible apps, I would suggest an actual Bible. And perhaps a notebook to act as your prayer journal. Because chances are, once you start to really pray religiously (ooooh see what I did there?) you will no doubt want to jot down thoughts that the Spirit stirs in you. Plus it’s a neat way to look back after a few months to see how some of your prayers have been answered!

When all else fails, when you feel overwhelmed by all these methods of prayer, just go back to the beginning and think of the woman I spoke to during Adoration. The most basic prayer you can pray is the prayer Jesus taught us:

Our Father who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done

     On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

And forgive us our trespasses

    As we forgive those who trespass against us;

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

Amen.