Daily Mass Project: Long Overdue

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


St. Priscilla – Livonia, MI- August 10

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Celebrant: Fr. Theo D’Cunha, Pastor

Feast Day: St. Lawrence

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

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


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

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Celebrant: Fr. George

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


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

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

 

Celebrant: Fr. Joseph Gates

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

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

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


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

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

Celebrant: Fr. Tom Wasilewski

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

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

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

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


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

Celebrant: Fr. Bob LaCroix, Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

1. Don’t run from God.

2. You can’t even if you try!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

 

Memories, Memorials and Meditations – Daily Mass Project

I have been meaning to go to my grade school parish for some time now. I really wanted to go either for my Confirmation anniversary or my First Communion anniversary but it just wasn’t meant to be. But it doesn’t matter because I got there last week and I think we end up exactly where we are supposed to be for a reason. And that reason, I think, was for me to meet Fr. Peter Kovacina, the Parochial Vicar at St. A’s. There’s a really cool story (I think) that goes along with this. I’m pretty sure the place (in this case the chapel) has not changed in 32 years. Very nostalgic for me.

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Saint Anthony of Padua – Parma – 8am – Chapel Mass – May 24th

Celebrant: Fr. Peter Kovacina (We’re related! Read below!)

Initial Thoughts: A little history lesson for you – This church was built in 1985 and I am all too proud to tell you that my class of 1992 was the first class to make our First Communion in this church. Yeah, kind of a big deal. 😉 But I think when it was first built, from the outside, I remember hearing words like “Non-traditional” and “really modern.” All I knew, as a kid, was that it wasn’t the gym. That was our old church and this was the NEW church.

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Homily Reflection: What God wants from us is a relationship, not just knowledge or data. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and have a deep relationship. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can grow in holiness. Come to know the Holy Spirit who lifts you up.

Holy Moments: I’m related to a priest!! Sort of. Fr. Peter is my second cousin’s brother-in law. Did you get all that? Yeah, whatever I’m claiming him as a relative. He and I had a lovely chat after the mass and little did I know but I actually saw his classmate Fr. John Mullee at St. Rita’s a few days later. (Read on!)

Extra Blessings: Just a few photos from my First Communion. I know there are more but probably tucked away in a box or album somewhere. The sister is Sr. Agnela who was also my 2nd Grade Teacher. LOVED her! (No idea who the chick in the back eating her necklace is) And then there’s the program from my 1st Communion where all my cousins and aunts and uncles came to celebrate.


Saint Anselm – Chesterland – Adoration  – May 24th

No mass, just taking in the beauty of this church inside and outside.

 


Saint Rita – Solon – 8:45AM – Chapel -May 29- Memorial Day

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Celebrant: Fr. John J. Mullee, Parochial Vicar

Initial Thoughts: I walked in to hear someone playing America the Beautiful on the piano in the chapel. Turns out it was Fr. John! It was so sweet to “set the tone” for the mass that way. In fact, all of the hymns were patriotic, of course. How can you not get a little choked up singing America the Beautiful at the end of a mass?

Homily Reflection: Father started out making the statement that over a million men and women have lost their lives in service to our country and how easily we take this for granted. He read a story from a book (I should have asked the name!) where a young teen girl didn’t really understand the point or the purpose of Memorial Day or Veterans Day. She disregarded it because she couldn’t understand the concept of living “unfree.” It wasn’t until she heard the National Anthem playing and seeing men and women tearing up and crying at the loss of their friends and relatives in wartime, that she truly understood the sacrifice they made.

Holy Moments: I went across to the Blessed Sacrament chapel after mass (You can see it in the picture above. It’s behind the sanctuary) to pray a rosary on this sunny day when we remember those who gave their lives to serve our country. And from this little chapel you can see in to the church which provided a nice “view.” Once again, I left the church forever grateful that I have the means and the time to continue on with this project.


Next week: A week of “Finals” – My priest and Spiritual Director celebrates his final mass at Holy Angels, my nephew has his final school mass before graduating 8th grade, and I finally get back to Communion of Saints in Solon as promised.

Week 6 Daily Mass Project

Before we get to the DMP, I have to share just a few thoughts about this past weekend:

I had the honor of being chosen among 24 other women to be flown to D.C. to be trained in all forms of media as a Spokeswoman on the issues of marriage, dating, sex, religious freedom, abortion and contraception, all courtesy of a grass roots movement called Women Speak for Themselves.  It was incredible and I’ll spend another blog post discussing all that took place. In the meantime, a shortened (much better) version of my previous post about the Women’s March/Planned Parenthood has been published by WSFT.  A huge honor. I do hope to blog for them again soon!

Meanwhile, I took the DMP “on the road” and found an adorable church called Holy Rosary. According to their website, they are the only national Italian parish in Washington, D.C. The Italian side of me was beaming with pride as I walked in to this little historic church…


Holy Rosary Church – Washington D.C. – 1st Sunday of Lent

Celebrant: Fr. Ezio Marchetto (How’s that for an Italian name?)

Gospel: MT 4:1-11

Homily Reflection: I know I took notes on the homily on a small pad of paper. But unfortunately I’m pretty sure I left the pad in the hotel lobby or in my hotel room. So some random person somewhere in D.C. is probably attempting to read my chicken scratch about the 3 temptations of the devil to Jesus in the desert. Oops.

Holy Moments: Be still my heart, I loved it all! From the bilingual bulletin, to the Italian missal, to the teenage lector with the most adorable accent I’ve ever heard, I didn’t ever want to leave. You could tell just by walking in that this place was rich with history. Even though it’s not very large, it had all the aspects of a Catholic mass: chimes, communion plates, a pipe organ, 2 side altars and one of those winding staircases for the pulpit and of course, a Facebook page. Check out this beautiful song being sung for the victims of the earthquake that hit Italy last year.

My favorite part was going to leave the church and coming eye to eye with this beautiful sculpture of Our Lady and Jesus in her arms. IMG_6643

I finally Googled “Stabat Mater Dolorosa” and figured out that it means: “the sorrowful mother stood.” The Stabat Mater is an ancient hymn sung at the liturgy on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

 


St. Clement – Lakewood – 5:15PM – 3/6/17

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Celebrant: Fr. Joe Workman

Gospel: MT 25:31-46

Homily Reflection: The priest told us about an encounter he witnessed at a recent funeral: The man who died was a Navy veteran. (Any time a veteran passes, representatives from the branch come and perform a flag ceremony and usually play taps a recorded version, usually not live.  It’s really beautiful and moving if you have ever witnessed one.) At the cemetery, the priest saw a few of the friends of the deceased man walk over to the 3 sailors who had performed the flag ceremony and thanked them one by one for coming to the funeral. The priest thought this was a small but very powerful example of the gestures we can perform everyday to make someone’s day a little better. The Gospel mentioned “when I was naked you clothed me, when I was hungry you fed me, etc” and the lesson for us is simply gratitude. The little extra things we do, like a smile and a thank you to someone at the grocery store or saying thank you for good customer service, can go a long way to being a loving neighbor.

Holy Moments: The Preface/Eucharistic Prayer were really beautiful and different. If you go to mass during Lent (I would HOPE you do/are) be sure to listen to the prayers said at the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It’s the most sacred part of the mass and the words the priest says really strike your heart. I don’t know if this was his exact prayer but here’s an example from what’s called Preface IV of Lent. For reference, this is after “It is truly right and just…”

For through bodily fasting you restraint our faults, raise up our minds, and bestow both virtue and its rewards, through Christ our Lord. Through him the Angels praise your majesty, Dominions adore and Powers tremble before you. Heaven and the Virtues of heaven and the blessed Seraphim worship together in exultation.


St. John Neumann – Strongsville – 3/8/17 –Chapel Mass*

Celebrant: Fr. Robert Kraig, Pastor

Gospel: LK 11:29-32

Homily Reflection: The people ask Jesus for a sign, but he’s not in the sign-making business. During Lent, the best sign we can look to is the crucifix. If all we do during Lent is sit at the foot of the cross and look to Jesus, we’ll know that we are valued and loved.

Holy Awkward Moment: So here’s a question for you: When the priest sits down after the opening prayer and it’s time for the 1st reading and he just sits there in silence and no one comes up to read…What do you do?

I lector at my own parish quite often and I was going to go up there but thought I’d better not. But then I thought, “Maybe this is why I’m here tonight?? God wants me to lector?!?” After the longest 45 seconds of my life, a man came up from the back and read. I was so relieved but also really confused. I kept thinking, “Is this typical protocol? Does the priest expect volunteers?” I think I have to go back just to see if it happens again.

Real Holy Moment: A little girl of about 5 years old was in the front row with (assuming) her parents had to sweetest voice. It’s always nice to hear the one YOUNG voice belt out the Our Father or the responsorial psalm amid the adult voices. It really feels like a community at that point because we’re all different. I even had a couple people behind me that spoke a different language. Just reiterates the point that we’re all part of the One Body of Christ.

*The only downside, so far, with the DMP is that many of these masses are held in chapels and not the main worship space. So I don’t get to see the architecture and design of them unless the lights just happen to be on and I can see in. The DMP may have to be the S(unday) Mass Project in coming years.


Next week: Although no plans are solid (are they ever?) chances are I’m going west for masses in North Ridgeville, Avon, Elyria and Sheffield Lake. Expect a post about my friend Fr. Michael Denk and his mission talk at St. Raphael in Bay Village as well. 

 

 

Week 3 Daily Mass Project

This week took me to Medina and Valley City to visit Holy Martyrs, St. Francis Xavier and St. Martin of Tours. Enjoy!


holy-martyrs-church-medinajpg-bb2f7159550ca2abHoly Martyrs Friday January 13th 8:00AM – Chapel Mass

Celebrant: Pastor, Rev. Steve Dohner

Number of Attendees: 10 including me.

Gospel: Mark 2: 1-12

Homily Reflection: Father emphasized that we are all the friends in the Gospel, the friends who lower down the paralytic to be healed. But we are also the paralytic, in need of healing.

Holy Moments:  The chalice. Sounds strange but I couldn’t stop looking at it. It was this beautiful gold embossed (am I using that word right? Whatever) with wheat imagery all around it. Like the wheat was wrapped around it. I want to go back there just to ask if I can get a photo of it.

At the end of the mass, one of the women turned around and as she was leaving she said, “Thank you for visiting with us today.”  It’s nice to be noticed. Which was pretty easy since there were so few of us.

Our Father Orans Posture: Neither hands clasped Nor Orans posture – These folks went old school and we all HELD HANDS! I couldn’t help but laugh a little as I thought about sharing it on the blog.  I’m sure some people would rather not touch one another, similar to the sign of peace where people literally make the peace sign and don’t shake hands. But I would almost prefer it to the Orans Posture.


sfxcampusSt. Francis Xavier – Medina – Saturday January 14th 8:30am Mass

Celebrant: Rev. Tony Sejba

Gospel: Mark 2:13-17

Initial Thoughts: As I put in “St. Francis Xavier Medina” into Google Maps on my phone, it actually directed me to their old church on Liberty Street. So someone may want to inform Google Maps to fix that. Luckily, Medina isn’t too big so it was pretty easy to find the current St. Francis Xavier Church off of Washington.

Homily Reflection: Fr. Sejba started out by mentioning an unfortunate event that happened with our local Catholic Charities and a woman who had stolen almost 2 million dollars from it. Not a common way to begin a homily. He related it to the Gospel, which was about how Jesus came for the sinners. Specifically for those of us who are broken and in need of mercy. Especially those who are in need of forgiveness. No matter how many times someone may hurt us, no matter who causes us pain, we have to learn to forgive them, because God forgives us. How can we ask God to forgive us for the wrongs we have done and not expect the same in return? Fr. also mentioned the police officer in NYC, Steve McDonald, who passed away and was known for forgiving the man who shot him and caused his paralysis. What a story! I’m so glad I was there to hear him mention this story because it truly is a great example of forgiveness.

Holy Moments: We sung Marian hymns to open and close the mass and I noticed the prayers also mentioned Mary. I was confused because I knew it wasn’t a Marian feast day so after consulting with my super smart priest, I learned that every Saturday in Ordinary Time the priest has the option to do a memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since I rarely attend daily mass on Saturdays, I had no idea. Learn something new everyday!


martin6St. Martin of Tours – Valley City – Sunday  January 15th – 10:30am mass

Celebrant: Pastor, Rev. Thomas Dunphy

Gospel: John 1:29-34

Initial thoughts: One of my favorites so far. Immediately upon arriving I was met with a lovely woman who upon giving me a missal/hymnal, and I informed her I was a first timer to her parish. She was incredibly welcoming and told me to go visit the historic church first, which serves as their chapel for daily masses, weddings and funerals.

Here’s just a few pics I took while in there, but you would be wise to go visit it sometime.

The current “newer” church  (below) is just as beautiful but has a great blend of old/traditional mixed with modern. The choir members wore traditional choir robes. The stations of the cross were just as stunning as the ones in the historic church. There was a good blend of families mixed with older folks and even a few singles such as myself.new_church_inside_400

Initial thoughts: Fr. Dunphy was just terrific. He spoke very eloquently but casually.  Kind. Gentle. Heartfelt and sincere. His microphone wasn’t quite working so he went to fix it, accidentally turning it off after turning it on, and finally getting it to work. He looked over at the Deacon and said, “Where were you on that one? You’re supposed to be assisting me!” which got a lot of laughs from the folks in the pews. You could tell right away this was a close-knit community.

The whole homily had to be one of the best homilies I had heard in a long time. He spoke directly to the people, as if he was looking directly into their hearts. He was speaking to them as a friend. It was truly beautiful. I do think it had to be a 20 minute homily but I hung on every word. There was a time when he asked the congregation a question: “Were you baptized in the Holy Spirit?” to which everyone said Yes. He then asked, “How?” and pointed right to a young man by name in the front pew who proudly answered: “Because Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The initial message was simply: You need to get Jesus into your life. Jesus sent you here today. Simply ask Him: “Jesus, I want you to come into my life today.”

Holy Moments:  I suppose the best moments were spent in the historic church and praying and just taking it all in. I had time to reflect on this project of mine and what it means and how grateful I am to be able to do it.


Heading to the D.C. March for Life this week but the Daily Mass Project continues. Expect a nice long post about the March; it’ll be my first one and I’m very much looking forward to writing about the experience, especially in comparison to the so-called “Women’s March” on Washington last weekend.

As for the DMP in the coming weeks: I keep it local and head to St. Albert the Great and St. Charles. And I finally make good on my promise to bring someone with me to a mass. Also reflections from masses at St Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Avon and St. Mary’s in Elyria.

As always, thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Love Thy Neighbor or Mind Thy Own Business?

no-access-71233_1280You know how people usually compare  the journey of dieting and losing weight to the journey of faith?  Maybe it’s just me since I seem to have an ear for this sort of thing and my ears perk up when I hear anything related to food. But I swear ever since I started reading more about the saints and listening to Catholic speakers and reading Catholic books, it seems like desire and sin are always compared with our desire for food, and the  journey to sainthood and heaven is always linked to a weight loss goal.  It’s fascinating because, truthfully, it’s spot on!

Don’t believe me? Read on.

So I have a spiritual director (Hello Fr. Adam!) and what I’ve discovered is that SD’s are similar to Personal Trainers in a lot of ways (similar to any coach/counselor).

We give instruction, we give guidance, we ask questions. But ultimately, we can’t force you to lose weight/get stronger etc. That’s something you have to do on your own. My SD can’t force me to do anything but he does provide guidance, instruction, asks probing questions (that I sometimes hate to answer). “Did you workout like you planned?” similar to “Have you prayed using Lectio Divina?” to which I usually answer, “I plead the fifth Father!”

Most personal trainers or strength and conditioning coaches will ask their client to record their workouts and their food intake in a journal. It’s more about self-reflection than anything else. Same is true for anyone seeking the “more” to life. I’ve always journaled but I go through periods of lulls where I just don’t feel like writing anything. And I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I’ve attempted to log my food and kept failing because of laziness.  It’s an ongoing struggle.

And then there’s the gym. Clearly, the most obvious similarity is that to a Church, with the congregation being fellow gym-goers.

But I would say watching people work out is not like sitting in the pews. That’s probably more comparable to every day activity.

For example – I see people at the gym doing exercises improperly at least once or twice at each visit. Of course, no one is going to be perfect all of the time, but that’s why we have gyms – so people can exercise and work their way to their own version of the “perfect” body. (A whole other blog post)

But what about these gym people who seem to have terrible form and their breathing is off and they look like they might drop a dumbbell on their foot (or face!) any minute now?

Do I have an obligation to go up to them to tell them what they are doing is wrong and that they might hurt themselves? If the potential to hurt themselves is imminent, I do and I have. (A dumbbell to the face is no something I would like to watch!) But usually, they’re just going to hurt themselves over time. Not right away.

Keep in mind these are people I have seen repeatedly throughout the week. It’s usually something as simple as improper form. Will it kill them? No. Will it hurt them? Most likely, over time. Will it be an injury they can’t recover from? No idea. But most likely not.

Do I now have an obligation to help them or to say something? What if I wasn’t a PT and just a regular knowledgable gym-goer? Do I interrupt their workout and say something or just let them figure it out on their own? I could just wait until they learn from someone else more qualified. But then, won’t they feel kind of silly or stupid for doing it “their way” for so long? Will they wonder – “Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?”

Why is it so hard for me to work up the nerve to say something, and offer a better way for them to achieve their exercise goal at that moment?


Won’t You Be My Nosy Neighbor?

As you ponder that, let’s take the guy out of the gym and put him in a real-life scenario. Let’s say it’s a neighbor. Like, literally, your next door neighbor.

You know he’s married with a kid. You’ve met his wife and daughter. They go to your church. But you don’t know them that well. Just well enough to wave hello and once in a while borrow a cup of sugar or something. (Does anyone do that anymore?)

Let’s say over a period of time, you notice this guy talks down to his wife and daughter. But he seems to verbally abuse the wife more than the kid. You only notice this when you can overhear them if they’re outside. But let’s say it starts to become more frequent. And let’s say he starts to do it while you’re hanging out with him and his family at a cookout or something. Or at a church function.

Do you wait and not say anything? Do you pull her aside and say something? I mean, these people go to your church. But it’s not like he’s sinning right? He’s not hitting her because you’d be able to tell, right? You could always assume he’ll learn how to be a better communicator eventually from someone more qualified than you. You’re just a neighbor and you should probably just mind your own business…right?

The big dilemma is this: At what point do we go from casual observer to intervener?

Because I think that’s what’s happening in the world today but it’s being misinterpreted as being nosy and injecting your self into someone else’s life. Or the most popular argument: “You’re forcing your beliefs onto me!”

No, actually, no one can force you to believe anything. I can’t force you to lose weight, I can’t be forced to lose weight and I can’t force you or anyone to become a saint.

The Christian and Correct Response

It comes back to what I said in the beginning: We can guide. We can offer assistance. We can start the conversation.

And one thing I’d love for people to know, especially those who don’t quite get us Christians, is that we want to help people. I know some Christians are better at this than others. Some yell and scream (not good, seriously can we stop that please?) some calmly approach (better) and some literally offer to accompany and walk with that person on their journey (best). But even this approach may come across as hurting someone, because we are telling them bluntly, that they are hurting themselves by whatever sin they are committing. But even if we tell them the truth in love, I promise we really have their best interests at heart.

When we see someone living their life a certain way that we believe to be wrong and that will hurt them, we have a moral obligation and a duty to help that person the best way we can. But, and this goes to my fellow Christians, once you try to help someone, you have to get out of the way and drop it. No amount of coercion or yelling or degrading will ever get anyone to change their ways.

So I end with a question, for myself and for you, to think about: If you see someone, your neighbor, your fellow parishioner, your friend, doing harm to their soul, will you work up the courage to provide a better way?  Or will you just walk on by? Is minding your own business really the loving thing to do?

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of a Public Faith

“Authentic Christianity is meant for the world and will always be a challenge to the corruption of the world.” – Bishop Robert Barron

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The past few weeks I’ve heard and experienced a very clear message from several public figures in the Catholic world: Faith wasn’t meant to be privatized. Christianity is not a privatized religion. It must be shared publicly in order to fight the resistance of the world.

I think now, more than ever, it seems we need more public displays of Christianity.

Why?

Well, not only to fight off evil, which is a good enough reason of course. But more to dispel the myths of who Christians are and what they look like and how they act. To clear up the confusion! Because I gotta tell you, there are a LOT of confused people out there who have a warped idea of who an authentic Christian is.

Due to the rise of secularism and people identifying as being either non-religious or just plain old “spiritual,” a common assumption is that we are all just like the group of Westboro Baptists. I was astounded to hear this!  Not only is this completely FALSE but it’s also disgusting and hurtful to be associated with this very very small group of individuals. In doing research for my post today I actually went to their website just to confirm that this group has nothing good to say and I was right. Sadly, they are all very misguided. They preach hate. Plain and simple. It was sickening and most of all, discouraging.

I thought to myself, “This is what non-Christians think of us? That among the 30,000 different denominations of Christianity, we are all associated with these people who preach nothing but hate and make it their duty to protest funerals?”

Isn’t this even more of a reason to publicly express our faith and what we believe, in love and with compassion? It won’t do us much good to retreat to our cozy homes or stay inside our churches and just keep our faith to ourselves.

So it starts with us; with me and you.

But where to begin?

The smallest acts can go a long way

Something as simple as saying grace before every meal, even when you’re someplace like a fast food place or a restaurant can go a long way.  How? Well, because you are being SEEN. Others notice that kind of thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said grace before eating a meal and have gotten just a simple smile from across the room from folks. Almost like a nod of approval or a just a simple gesture to show that they respect it. And it serves as a reminder to others that may have stopped practicing this ritual.

I read somewhere recently to always pray before eating a meal at a restaurant and make sure to pray before the waiter/waitress leaves the table after placing the order. That way, you take that moment to ask him/her if you can offer up any prayers for them, too!

It could be something like just bringing your Bible somewhere. Or the Magnificat or the Liturgy of the Hours. Plenty of people are nosy, I have found. They’ll strike up a conversation with you just about anywhere. (Unless it’s just a friendly Midwestern USA thing?)

Take for example, reading a book. Any place that’s public like a beach, or park or commuting on the bus or at the airport is a place where you find many people are reading while waiting for something. I’m always curious what people are reading so I have no problem just asking someone, “What book is that and is it any good?” Fr. Tom of the TOB Institute mentioned that he brought his Breviary with him on a fishing boat recently and it always gets the locals talking and asking him, “What’s that? Is that a Bible? You some kind of holy man or something?” It’s a great icebreaker.

I will give just one small example from my own life that I thought was interesting. It took place at the car dealership where I was getting my oil changed. Of all the places, I ended up evangelizing to the service guy!  He initiated the conversation by asking, “So is it Sister Michelle? I noticed that book in your car when I went to move it.” The book in question was called A Vowed Life that one of my dear friends loaned to me.

I laughed and said “Oh no, it’s most definitely not Sister Michelle.  But funny you should mention that because I’m actually discerning consecrated life, which is different than religious life.” So he proceeded to ask me all kinds of questions about that which was fantastic. Then I went to see my sales guy and he had heard from the service guy what we talked about and so then HE proceeded to ask me more questions about consecrated life and what that would look like, etc. So we had an awesome conversation about discerning one’s vocation. Both of these men had discerned married life so I explained how and why I discerned that married life is not my vocation and how I came to that conclusion. What a place to have this random encounter, at a car dealership of all places.

The point is that when out in public, and not just in the pew, we are being seen. We are being observed. Is our conduct in line with what our faith teaches us? Are our actions one of faith or one of what the culture tells us we should be doing? Are we going to let non-religious people stereotype us as “those hateful bigots?” Or are we going to stick up for what we believe while simultaneously preaching the love of Christ?

The public square is open. It’s up to us if we’re going to step into it and declare our faith to all who can hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift of: Wasted Time

monstrance1For the past 7 months I’ve been kind of sneaking around.

I’ve been lying to my friends on Saturday nights. They wouldn’t have noticed if you asked them because I normally don’t stay out past midnight on Saturdays, if I am out. (I’m old I know).

But if there’s an event or a get-together on a Saturday evening, I’m usually the first to head home as soon as the clock strikes midnight.

No one ever really questioned me or harassed me why I would leave “so early.”  But I never did speak up and say why, although I really wanted to. But there’s that little voice that would say: “Don’t bother. They won’t get it.”

But, I think my friends can handle it:

I get up at 3:45am on Sundays. Why? Because I signed up 7 months ago to be an Adorer at my local parish from 4am to 5am. An adorer is a person who volunteers to sit with the Blessed Sacrament (AKA, Jesus) so He is never alone.

Pretty comical to me that I actually chose 4am on a Sunday to do this. But I gotta say it’s kinda cool to have Jesus all to myself. Not that it’s supposed to be that way, but let’s face it, 4-5am on a Sunday is a bizarre time to be out and about.

Several parishes in the area have a 24 hour adoration chapel actually. (I’ve been to almost all of them, because I’m crazy like that) and all of them have the same request in the bulletin – Adorers are Needed!

So allow me to sell you on this:

You have this great opportunity to sit in a quiet space in front of Jesus for just an hour and pray or listen (preferably both). I normally say a Rosary, journal, or read some sort of spiritual book. Most chapels have a little “library” to borrow from if you don’t have anything to read. And trust me when I say they will have a rosary (or 20) to borrow as well.

In the past I’ve also brought my (gasp!) phone with me to read emails of prayer requests. I usually look at the person’s name and substitute their name for “us sinners” in the Hail Mary as I pray the Rosary. I’ve listened to homilies online, I’ve read prayers from my favorite saints. But much of the time, especially if it’s the 4am time slot, I’ll sit in silence. And because it’s 4am, it’s quiet outside too. So it’s probably the quietest time I’ll ever have. By the way, if you live in a loud household with pets and kids, you will LOVE the quiet and stillness of a chapel, I don’t care who you are. It’s a terrific break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life..

Another good suggestion, especially for visual folks –  Take the photo collage of the seminarians (I assume all dioceses print these out, right?) and look and read each name of the young man and say a prayer for him. It’s gotta be rough being in the seminary, wouldn’t you think?  All I know is they could definitely use some prayers. And since there are so many of them, this usually takes up a good chunk of the hour.

As someone who has spent probably more hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament than actual working hours or hours at the gym this past year, I can tell you there are some incredible things that happen to you as you sit in silence and meditate.

I’ve had emotional highs and the lowest of lows sitting there. I’ve laughed and smiled, and  I’ve cried my eyes out. And sometimes, yes, I feel nothing. (But only later to discover that my prayers were indeed answered).

I’ve had funny experiences and downright bizarre experiences. Especially at 4am.

Being a frequent adorer at various churches in the area, I can tell you which parish has the creakiest sounding roof and the church with the comfiest seats. I now know which chapel to avoid on a Sunday afternoon when the ice cream truck goes by outside while you’re trying to remember the words to the Apostle’s Creed but that darn jingle is echoing through the walls. I can tell you someone will most likely distract you with their snoring (it’s EASY to fall asleep) and their growling stomach (Fasting and prayer go together like PB and J).  I can tell you you’ll more than likely run into people who don’t abide by the “quiet” rule and proceed to pray in a loud whisper, making it really uncomfortable to hear their prayer requests. (Bring headphones!)

But the little distractions that can occur during your holy hour are actually helpful in that they force you to really call out His name to focus your attention back to prayer. And really, that’s the whole point. I read once from a Saint (can’t remember which) that even if you just sat in the chapel calling the name of Jesus for the whole hour, that would be sufficient and a completely suitable prayer! So what we might consider a “waste of time,” would actually be considered a very worthwhile prayer.

I suppose this is my plea for you to check out your neighborhood church my Catholic friends. Adoration is the best thing ever! Even if you don’t belong to the parish you can still volunteer to adore Him. I would suggest that even if you know you can only take that hour for a month and then you’ll be on vacation or whatnot, just sign up! The people in charge will be so grateful.

And Jesus will be thrilled to see you too!