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.

 

4 Moves To Become a Morning Person

Ugh, Monday. What’s worse than Monday? Sunday night. Sunday evenings have always been the absolute worst for me for as long as I could remember. Back when I was a child, I would have the worst anxiety on Sunday nights. Pretty sure this caused me my insomnia that I had for decades.

But now? I LOVE Mondays. Not only that, but now I’m a morning person!

How does a night owl with anxiety become a Monday loving early morning riser?  Train for a marathon!  Okay, so that’s extreme. But honestly, that’s how the early mornings started for me. But for those that can’t just decide one day to train for a race, you can start an Early Morning Routine.

For most people, the mere ACT of getting up early IS their early morning routine. For those that have mastered turning off the snooze button, your next step is to MOVE. Out of the bed is preferable. For those who are super lazy, I suppose you can stay in your bed and do these moves but…yeah, you should probably roll onto the floor for these.

  1. Iron Cross
    If you can’t straighten your leg in the first picture, try bending one (or BOTH!) as pictured here.

    2. Glute/Hip Bridge

    Squeeze the glutes together at the top of the movement; hold it for a few seconds before lowering down.

    3. Bird Dog

    Alternate opposite arm and leg. The challenge is to keep the head, shoulders, back and hips all in alignment. Very challenging, especially first thing in the morning.

    4. “Sneaky” 30 Second Plank

    Rest for 10 Seconds; then Hold a Plank for 10 Seconds. Repeat 2 more times. Adds up to 30 seconds. Clever, eh?

    There you go. A simple Monday morning (or any morning) “Just Move” routine anyone can do by just rolling out of bed. There’s no mention of reps except for this last move because you can do as many or as little as you want. Enjoy!

 

Do You Desire Holiness?

This is an excerpt taken from Patty Schneier’s talk “Prove it, God…and He did!”

Do I desire holiness? Do I even want it? Do I search for holiness in my life?

Do you search for holiness like a mother would search for her missing child?

Do you struggle for holiness as if your head were being held underwater, how that person would struggle and fight to come up for air with every ounce of his being? Do you struggle for holiness like that?

Holiness is being nothing more than what God intended me to be in my everyday life.

How can one become more holy in their day to day life? It starts with prayer.

A day without quiet, reflective, meditative prayer time everyday makes you spiritually dead.

Just take the daily readings of the church and unite your prayer time with Catholics all over the world and ask yourself “What does God want to say to me today?”

Holiness begins right here and right now. That’s your challenge. Not, “When my kids are grown or starting school.” Not, “As soon as we move into our new house.” or not “next year or next week.” You start your quest for holiness NOW.

Get a reflection or guidebook to help explain these readings so you’re not just guessing at their meaning.

Make a resolution – Pick one thing to think about, pray about, or do each day that will take you one step closer to living a holy life.

As busy as you may be, there is always time to pray. How much time a day do you dedicate to God? Is 30 minutes a day too much to ask?

Fit in Your Faith Today: Your challenge is the same as what was presented to Patty – Daily reflective meditative prayer is key to becoming closer to God. Without prayer, we are “spiritually dead.” Instill in your life this quiet time everyday. You’ll be surprised at how much your life will change after just a few weeks of this routine. If you already pray everyday, there is still no such things as praying too much. 🙂 Adoration, praying the rosary, reading spiritual literature, praying the Examen, bible studies, evangelizing, etc are more ways to seek a closer relationship with God as well.

Trust in the Lord…

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.

When faced with big decisions in life, it’s hard to know who to trust. Who can you turn to for advice and guidance? You might have doubts with whom you can go to in situations like this. You might think people you work with or even people in your own family are not trustworthy. They might not have your best interests at heart and could steer you down the wrong path.

But there is always someone you CAN trust in 100% and that’s God.

These verses from the book of Proverbs tell us just this. By discerning and coming to God with our questions and what path we need to take, He will lead us in the right direction. Who knows us better than the one who created us? He has the answers.

Yes, we have the ability to reason and think carefully because of the mind God gave us. But we shouldn’t forget that He wants us to come to Him when faced with difficult decisions and problems.

The second verse is also an important part of any decision-making process: Remember God in all that we do. This means each area in our life has to include God. What’s important to us? Is God a part of it or do you exclude Him?

Fit in Your Faith Today: What are your priorities in life? Is God present in those areas or do you exclude Him for some reason? If you feel like God cannot help you in an area of your life, ask God to intervene. When was the last time you had to make a difficult choice? Did you pray to God to help you decide what to do? Next time you are faced with a challenge, pray about it first. God has your back.

Your Body is a Temple

1 Corinthians 10:31

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

This scripture passage is my screensaver on my iPad and laptop. Why? I found it one day while searching for some sort of guidance while dieting and trying to stick to my meal plan.

I refer to it when I’m feeling like having a huge binge or having some food that I know will not be healthy for me. So I would read this sentence over and over until it sunk in. I also remembered other passages that remind us that our bodies are our temples and you shouldn’t trash the temple (by eating junk food).

But you can also reflect on this passage a little differently and think that whatever task you do, as mundane as it may be, do it for the glory of God. Does the food you eat and the drinks you consume glorify God? Do they honor your body and your health?

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do your actions throughout the day glorify God, or do they dishonor God and yourself? Are you giving in to tempting foods and drink that you know don’t do honor to God or to your body? Treat your body and your mind as a holy temple. Visualize yourself as this temple the next time you are tempted to engage in behavior or habits that don’t glorify God.

Thoughts on Suffering from Charles Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

I came across this blog post from Charles Sidoti and just had to share.

Sidoti as well as Rabbi Akiva Feinstein share their thoughts on suffering and the questions we should be asking when tragic events occur in our lives.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The span of a human life is simply too brief to achieve any meaningful understanding of the ways of the universe.  Just as we cannot judge a movie by arriving in the middle and leaving before the end, we cannot judge God’s master plan for us or for the world.  It is only with the passage of significant amounts of time that we could hope to gather even a measure of illumination.

 

  • It is perfectly natural to ask “Why?” but our response needs to evolve from there if we are to grow spiritually.

 

  • It occurred to me then that our own suffering, if we could learn to accept it in some measure into our lives, could serve a similar purpose for us.  Even as the sabal (the porter), cheerfully carried his heavy load knowing that he would be compensated, we can be buoyed by the knowledge that our sevel (our suffering) is not in vain.  We can live with confidence that our suffering has a higher purpose and represents an opportunity for growth, even though that purpose and opportunity may not be apparent to us.

 

  • Our personal response to suffering is our responsibility, and we do have a choice.

 

  • We will discover that, although in a different way from joy and happiness, the suffering that naturally comes our way has its part to play in our spiritual growth and in our becoming the loving person that God is calling us to be.

I would highly suggest reading the entire post (it’s not that long) to get the full effect. I was truly moved by the Rabbi’s explanation of the porter and the connection to our suffering. Think of the transformations that could occur in people everywhere if we view suffering not so much as a burden but as an opportunity for growth.

Fit in your Faith Today: Read today’s blog post from Charles Sidoti and reflect on the suffering that you have experienced and endured in your life. Ask yourself how you can see these “tragedies” as “opportunities” to grow in your faith.

Book Review: Made to Crave by Lysa Terkeurst

made-to-crave1

I’m not a book reviewer. I just read this book and thought, “I should blog about it!”

So I’m calling it a book review but I think it a better classification might just be:

“My favorite parts of a book that I read that might be useful to my readers because it’s a book about food and healthy eating and females and Jesus.”

But that title would be really really long.

So let’s call it a book review and be done with it.

The gist: Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst has the subtitle: Satisfying your deepest desire with God, not food. From the back cover: “This book is not a how-to manual or the latest, greatest dieting plan. Made to Crave is a helpful companion to use alongside whatever healthy eating approach you choose- a book and Bible study to help you find the “want to” in how to make healthy lifestyle changes.”

There’s no discussion about paleo or veganism or eating certain foods. It’s not a diet book at all and that’s what attracted me to it initially. Also, the author is the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries which has nothing to do with fitness but everything to do with women and how to live awesome God-filled lives. Plus, her daily devotional kind of inspired me to start my own daily devotional blog (shameless plug!)

Back to the book – Lysa takes certain passages from the Bible and applies them to real life. It’s a book geared toward women (but men struggle too, I’m sure) and how we put so much pressure on ourselves to be these thin, skinny jean wearing fit females.  Basically, the lesson is – turn your cravings of food into a craving for God. Instead of trying to summarize the book, I’m going to outline some of my favorite parts. (I highlighted and underlined practically every chapter which goes to show to just how much I loved this book…and I think you females would be wise to pick it up).

Disclaimer: Lysa never suggests that you CAN’T have any treat EVER AGAIN. She actually believes what I believe: You can have a taste of sweets and cake on your birthday and all that…but probably not at first. Not until you learn self-control. You may have to abstain or cut out the junk for a “season” as she puts it (i.e. a long time) but when you have that self control, then you can re-introduce those treats back into your eating plan. But it takes time to learn and apply that self-control and discipline, no matter what “diet” you’re on.

  • If we want to conquer our cravings, we’ll have to redirect them to God.
  • Lysa discusses our “Want To.” In other words, we all know what to do to lose weight, don’t we? It’s the fact that we don’t “want to” change enough to do it. She says it’s about “recalibrating our souls so we want to change.” So she lists a few ways we need to Find our Want To:

1. SpirituallyShallow desires produce only shallow efforts. Seek a spiritual want to empowered by God Himself. In other words, don’t use the vanity seeking reasons to lose weight. That will only get you so far. Just saying “Oh I want to look good in a bikini” is a vanity seeking reason. Besides, who DOESN’T want to look good in a bikini? Dig deeper.

2. PhysicallyTurn those spiritual insights into practical choices. As I’ve mentioned a few times, our weight is a direct reflection of our choices and our health. Whatever spiritual perspectives we read about are awesome for our mind and our soul, but you have to put the healthy food choices into practice to make it work.

3. MentallyWe were made for more than compromise. We were made for God’s promises in every area in our lives. Stop settling and thinking: Well this is just the way I’m meant to be. I’m meant to be overweight, there’s nothing I can do about it so I might as well not even try.  Enough with the self-pity talk. We were made for more and we can do better than settling for garbage food and garbage quick fixes.

  • God, not food, is who is in control of me. Food can fill our stomachs, but never our souls.
  • We grow closer to God by learning the powerful principle of denying ourselves things that distract us and hold us back from following. We grow closer to God as we learn to look and act more and more like Him. The bible calls this participating in His divine nature.
  • As you go to get on the scale once a week – Define your week by obedience, not by a number on the scale.
  • Confession from the author that I thought was interesting and applicable to all of us: I depended on food for comfort more than I depended on God.
  • Embrace the benefits (of exercise) instead of resisting the hardship. (This is definitely worth an entire blog post in the near future)
  • There is a good reason we must face our temptations (food, addictions, drugs, sex, etc). The struggle to say no may be painful in the moment, but it is working out something magnificent within us. Asking ourselves, “This feels good now, but how am I going to feel in the morning?”
  • On Idolatry and Food: Expecting anything outside the will of God to satisfy us is idolatry. Nutrition, which is food’s intended purpose, means consuming proper portions of healthy choices that enable our bodies to function properly. Idolatry, in the case of food, means the consumption of ill-sized portions and unhealthy choices because we feel like we deserve it or need it to feel better. We are to flee the control food can have over our lives. If we flee from the pattern of idolizing food and stop depending on food to make us feel emotionally better, we will be able to more clearly see the way our God promises to provide when we are tempted.

There is so much more that I could quote as Lysa had countless examples of scripture that could be applied to so many situations we might find ourselves in as we attempt to eat healthy and lose weight. I might take a few of her examples and apply them to my other blog since I feel it might be more applicable there. (trying to keep my faith and fitness separate although, to me, they go hand in hand).

I highly encourage all women of faith to purchase this book, regardless of where you are in your journey to be healthy. The book was/is so popular, the author wrote a study guide and a ton of other resources to go along with it.

I read this book in less than a week. And anyone who knows me knows I don’t read that quickly unless I REALLY like a book so, for what it’s worth!

 

Pray for Those Who Won’t, Those Who Can’t and Those Who Don’t

Spend time praying for 10 things that don’t benefit you. – Dale Partridge

Dale Partridge of The Daily Positive posted this status update on his Facebook page the other day.

I shared it on my own Facebook page with the subtitle  – “A great 2015 resolution!”

Quite the challenge for all of us. Not only to pray for others but to pray for things that will aren’t necessarily going to benefit us. Of course, any type of prayer is always good for us but Dale’s point was for us to see that prayer doesn’t always have to be all about us. It’s quite selfish to always pray for circumstances to benefit ourselves, although that’s what prayer is sometimes – a request for help.

But I think Dale’s point was to get us to stop thinking of ourselves for more than a few minutes a day. Think of others. Think about ways to help someone else for a change.

I admit it was challenging for me to think of 10 different things to pray for that don’t involve me. At first, the first few were easy to write down and pray (a friend of a friend who is ill, a family member looking for a job, a parishioner who recently had surgery) but then I really had to stop and think about more people and events that did not directly affect me. Of course there are always people out there who need our prayers. But do we really stop and think about them? These complete strangers?  These unknowns?

I thought of 3 categories of the people who need prayers:

Those that don’t pray: Non-believers, or just anyone who makes it a point to tell you that they just don’t pray. They might even believe in God and maybe go to church regularly. But, these people just don’t pray. Maybe it’s just not their thing. Maybe they don’t think prayer works.

Those who won’t pray: The people who refuse to acknowledge a higher power. The ones who perhaps believed in something or someone at one point but have left the church or had a bad experience with faith. Maybe they think God hurt them in the past.

Those who can’t pray: Those who are physically or mentally unable to pray; someone with a debilitating disease or condition who can’t speak or communicate in any way; those who have passed on (yes they need our prayers too!).

So those are the people and their unfortunate circumstances that I’m praying for currently. And of course, this challenge isn’t just a one-and-done type of endeavor. I plan on trying to do this everyday. Let this be a challenge for all of us in this new year. To give and to think about others. To cease our selfish ways for a moment and pray for others.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Challenge yourself and pray for 10 things that don’t directly benefit you. Write them down and pray for all 10 things every day for a week. Then start a new list the following week and continue for the whole year. What a tremendous accomplishment and what an amazing number of answered prayers to be thankful for at the end of one year.

 

5 months to go

Or 159 days to be exact.   I wanted to have a special little “anniversary/countdown/I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this” post at the 6 month mark but life got in the way.

So much to update everyone on starting with the most exciting news:  I have booked a photo shoot for early June.  I’m really excited about this opportunity to showcase my progress so far.  I was feeling very unmotivated in March and earlier this month and this really was the goal that I needed to kickstart back into action.  Of course the photos will be posted as soon as it’s done and available. 🙂

Secondly, I joined a BLT Challenge courtesy of Nicole from Curls & Whey Training.

What’s BLT you ask?  Well it stands for Bites, Licks and Tastes.  Those little cheats, as little as they may or may not be, do add up.  For the average person just trying to shed a few pounds, do they make a difference? I would answer that it depends.  For someone like me trying to compete and get ready for a photo shoot? They absolutely matter.  Because in my mind I might say “Just one dark chocolate square won’t hurt.”  But guess what? I don’t have just one. I might have two or three or half a bar.  So what happened to “just one bite?”  Yep, it adds up and makes a difference probably more mentally than physically.

The challenge consists of teams of 3-4 people who pay a small fee that will go towards the prizes for the winning team.  You must record every BLT you have over the course of 2 weeks.  Just two weeks.  If you do have a BLT, you must pay a $1.  What’s just $1?  Well, again, small price you might say.  But after a few bucks, they add up to more $$$ correct?  Hmmm…are you getting the point?

The challenge officially started today and so far I am at 100% compliant with my plan.  Speaking of my plan, I’m trying a new plan out from a difference coach for now.  This particular plan incorporates what’s called Carb Cycling.  Two days of low carbs, 1 day of moderate carbs and one day of high carbs.  Then you start over with your low carbs.   I’ve done it for just a week and feel incredibly better.  I’m not feeling inclined to cheat (nothing to do with the challenge), I feel fuller longer, I’m not staring at the clock wondering when my next meal will be and I feel more alert than before as well.  I’ve also changed my workouts slightly to incorporate less steady state and more HIIT.  I think the combination of both of these is starting work very well.

Speaking of temptations and lack of cheating, one of our members at the studio brought in THESE the other day.

The Devil.
The Devil.

Ummm…Hello there sugary deliciousness, nice to see you again. Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Home made.  Soft batched. Free.

I somehow managed to have zero of these.  But here’s the best part – I didn’t exactly want them.  Yes, I told one of my male co-workers to eat them so I wouldn’t.  Yes I smelled them.  Yes they were described to me as being AMAZING tasting.  But perhaps it helped that they were brought in to work when I was just a couple hours away from the end of my shift.  Or maybe it helped that I had JUST finished eating Meal #3.  Or maybe it was the carb cycling taking effect.  All I know is that I avoided them and they were not at work the next day to stare at me for 6 hours.

This is what we call a Non-Scale Victory, or NSV.  This was a huge NSV.

Lastly, I’ve been getting some really sweet feedback on this blog as of late and I just want to say thanks to all of you who read my stuff.  I know alot of you read it without commenting and that’s quite alright.  I’m happy to inspire as many people as I can!

Not to close on a negative note but I must share that yesterday morning I was surrounded by cancer.  Three items were on the kitchen table – The Plain Dealer, Experience Life Magazine and a letter addressed to my Mom from the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

The Plain Dealer headline was about Cancer Clinical Trials and showed the journey of a 58 year old brain cancer patient, EL Magazine has a story about “A Healthier Way to Fight Cancer,” and lastly the piece of mail.

I hadn’t read the article in EP…I skimmed through the PD article…but I did open the letter.  I’m not sure what I was expecting to see or read but nothing could have prepared me to read the words “Dear Cancer Survivor.”

It was like a punch to the gut.  I was literally surrounded by all this literature that was a stark reminder of my Mom’s struggle and passing.

As much as it sucked to read all of this, especially at a time when I wasn’t expecting to read it, I had to look at what the message really was:

That there is hope (trials), there is a more holistic way to prevent it (integrative oncology according to the article you can find here) and there are survivors out there still raising funds for a cure (Relay for Life).

So to end on a positive note – Here’s to hope, health and happiness.

-Michelle