Holidays, Mass, and Memories

The holidays are here and that means it’s time for me to write about my most favorite subject ever – My mama! ūüôā

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So holidays for my Mom and my family were simply the best. My Mom could be described as “Festive to the Extreme.” To give you an idea, she decorated our house for Fourth of July and Memorial Day and Labor Day with little flags everywhere. I mean, lets face it, most people will celebrate by enjoying the day off work but my Mom would get out her flags and put them in the potted plants outside and in the yard, she’d get on her Flag sweatshirt and grab her Flag Tote bag and would just LIVE for stuff like that.

Christmas was always a bit over the top, and Mom just made it really special. Her last Christmas was no exception. In fact, we considered it a miracle (and looking back, I think Mom just WILLED herself to get enough of her strength back) to be released from the hospital in time to celebrate Christmas.

One of my last memories of that final Christmas was walking down the stairs to the kitchen and stopping on the landing halfway, to just take in the smell of baked cookies and her famous sweet bread baking in the oven and thinking, “This is the last time this house will smell like this. It won’t be the same anymore. I’ll never hear her fiddling in the kitchen, I’ll never hear her playing her favorite Christmas CD’s, I’ll never see her smiling to present her bread.” And I don’t remember crying or anything, but I remember just inhaling that smell before I walked all the way downstairs into the kitchen. And just saying to myself,

“Damn. That was it. This won’t ever¬†be this¬†again.”

And you know what? That first Christmas was really rough. I won’t say it was awful but it was really hard. We tried to decorate the house like she would have but I had zero desire to even put up the tree or anything.

One day in the fall of the year that she passed, I think around Thanksgiving, I just decided to pick up her digital camera and see what was on it.

And the first picture I see is of the interior of our house…at Christmas…the year before. And then another. And another. And another. She took about 20 photos of the entire house with the Christmas decorations because she knew we wouldn’t know how to decorate quite like her. It was basically a Tutorial of How To Do Christmas Like Mom.

I pretty much lost it and called my sister to tell her about Mom’s picture-by-picture guide and she came over and we began to unpack the boxes and started to decorate the house.

And we found a note in one of them. I can’t recall what it said, but something like “Take care of each other.” Mom wrote it apparently when she was feeling well, in remission. We thought “How neat! Mom left us notes!”

We kinda forgot about it until Christmas time and started to unpack those decorations and found..you guessed it – more notes! (I wrote about this whole thing in greater detail in a blog post here). <—Get the Kleenex ready if you start to read that one.

My point with today’s post was to give some sort of solidarity to those who are about to experience their “first” holiday post-loss of a loved one. The first holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers Day/Fathers Day, etc are not really…enjoyable.

I mean, let’s just be real¬† – they suck.

I hate that word, but it’s just so true. You’re always thinking about THEIR last holiday and how they looked, what they said, what they wore, what they made, where you went with them. And it’s just not the same. Nothing is ever the same.

And people will always try their hardest to make you feel better by saying, “Their memory lives on forever.”

Gag me.

That’s straight out of a Hallmark Channel Movie! So lame. Yeah yeah, their memory lives on. In our minds. Yes.

But that’s not good enough – we want our loved ones here in the flesh. I want to be able to hug my Mom right now, ya know? I can’t hug a memory. (I had the BEST dream about her the other day where I DID hug her and it was so great!)

I want to smell that bread again (IT’S THAT GOOD okay? Trust me, everyone RAVED about my Mom’s sweet bread. Thank God my sister bakes it now and it’s just as good although she’ll read this and say “No, it’s not as good as Mom’s. No one made it like Mom.”)

I want to hear her play her favorite Christmas music and hear her wrapping gifts and complaining that she had to scour the internet looking for that one obscure rare gift my brother always asked for every year, and couldn’t find (but she always found it! Sometimes at the last minute, but she did.)

I want to see her, in her recliner, reading her little devotional books, ask her how she’s feeling, and hear her voice and talk to her.

Last week we celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day. All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation but All Souls Day is not. I feel like they both should be obligatory.¬† All Saints Day mass was exactly what I needed. The incense, the chanting, the lighting…it was incredible. All Souls Day had the same feel and although it’s a solemn mass and lots of tears are shed, the homily filled me with hope.

I LOVE going to the mass and feeling my Mom there with me.

After all, mass itself is heaven on earth. It’s where we encounter Jesus and it’s where we pray to the Saints and to Mary and it’s where I feel closest to my Mom and all of my relatives and friends who have passed on. They are where I want to be someday (hopefully not soon) but I know it’s where I’ll see her again and hear her laugh and see her smile and give her the biggest hug ever!

And when I’m on my knees in prayer after the Sanctus (the Holy Holy Holy…) I really try to envision all of the saints right there and my Mom too, hovered around the altar, kneeling with us before God on His throne.

I know it can be a chore and really tough to picture this when you’re at mass where there’s crying babies, fidgeting kids, people’s cell phones going off (come on people, it’s been 10 years can we please learn how to turn them off!?) or an off-key singer in the choir or just distracted by your random thoughts, but if you shut your eyes and just listen to the priest, you CAN do this.

Even if it’s just 10 seconds of being truly present at mass, it’s a game-changer. It may be the most peaceful moment you’ll have that day. And if you keep experiencing that peace, I would be willing to bet you’ll want to keep coming back to get those peaceful experiences again.

My prayers are with all of my friends and family members who are experiencing their “first” holidays without your favorite person in your life there with you this year. But you’ll see them again.¬†And it won’t be from a memory.

It’ll be real.¬†

Can’t wait to see you again, Mom! Save a slice of that bread for me will ya? ūüėČ

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. ūüôā


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. ūüôā 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. ūüôā

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

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

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

1. Don’t run from God.

2. You can’t even if you try!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 

 

Daily Mass Project: Intimate Gatherings

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St. Patrick – Ohio City – Thursday March 23rd – Chapel Mass (Rectory)

Celebrant: Rev. Mark DiNardo, Pastor

Initial Thoughts: I’m sure most people find it odd to go to a mass that is NOT celebrated in the church itself, but in the little chapel located in the rectory. But this is the beauty of the daily mass project – attending mass where you normally wouldn’t.

I was early so I was alone in the chapel for a good while so I took the opportunity to take some pics. The whole place reminded me of my grandparents house in Old Brooklyn. Almost like I was back in time and sitting in their living room, except the television is replaced by a tabernacle.

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1st Reading: Jeremiah 7:23-28¬† – Summary from St Joseph’s Weekday Missal: Jeremiah speaks of what God commands his people. Nations are made up of individuals, but when the majority of individuals break away from God, the nation becomes godless even though a few righteous and holy people are scattered here and there. Because of deaf ears, the word of God is not among them.

Gospel: Luke 11:14-23 – Summary from St. JWM:¬† Jesus expels a devil. This text is an appropriate conclusion to the whole argument between our Lord and his enemies: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” There is no such thing as a neutral position in the kingdom of God.

Homily Reflection:¬† Speaking about the 1st reading, Father said we need to acknowledge our own brokenness. Admit it when we break from God, always seek for forgiveness, even when we don’t think we deserve it. We also need to forgive others, even if we don’t think THEY deserve it. In reference to the Gospel, he mentioned that God needs ministers, not Messiahs. The leaders at the time didn’t listen to God. They were blind to God present in their midst, as Jesus performed miracles right in front of them by driving out demons.¬† He concluded his homily by mentioning something I hadn’t really heard phrased like this before: We are not Messiahs, we are servants.¬†

Holy Moments: Many!!! I met a woman named Marge who could clearly see that I was a visitor. She was so helpful in guiding me to the rectory and introduced me to a few others there. Because of the small crowd we were able to give the sign of peace to pretty much everyone in attendance. There was a little boy of about 2 or 3 years old (should have gotten his name!) who provided a truly adorable moment as he started munching on crackers during the Eucharistic Prayer and Communion.¬† We concluded with singing the first verse of “Peace is flowing like a river.”

But my favorite part was the very end: Instead of the typical “Let us Go in Peace,” Father DiNardo said something to the effect of: “Let our lives give expression to our beliefs that we profess…”


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Sacred Heart of Jesus – Wadsworth – Thursday March 30th – School Mass

Celebrant: Rev. Joe Labak, Pastor

Initial Thoughts: As soon as I walked in, 20 minutes early, I saw a bunch of my 7th grade students for the Choose Life class I teach there. (The main reason I went to this mass since the class is right after). They were servers and were so excited to see someone they knew. As I sat down, I heard two young girls singing a beautiful hymn that I later found out is called Pie Jesu. Just hearing them rehearse this song, I had a feeling I was in for a really special mass.

1st Reading: Exodus 32:7-14

Gospel: John 5:31-47

Homily Reflection: In regards to the first reading, as Moses was receiving the commandments from God during the 40 days while he prayed and fasted, the Jewish people molded a golden calf and broke away from God. They became distracted and forgot about all the good things God had done for them. In just a matter of 40 days! As Moses asked God to have mercy on them, they were eventually brought back to the Lord. The priest cautioned the students not to become distracted during their Spring Break. He emphasized the need to remember that we are still in Lent as we are waiting for the Resurrection.

Of course, as he’s talking about not being distracted, I immediately became distracted. But I kept thinking that my 7th graders might be watching me and if they could see me possibly looking around, that might not be the best example. So that helped me re-focus.

Holy Moments:¬† Granted it’s just the final 44 seconds, but these two young girls nailed this hymn. AWESOME JOB girls!

The Holy Holy Holy (Sanctus) was sung completely in Latin and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know it at all! So now I want to study that and learn it for next time.

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. Dóminus Deus Sábaoth. Pleni sunt caeli et terra glória tua. Hosána in excélsis. Benedíctus qui venit in nómine Dómini. Hosána in excélsis.

After the closing hymn was sung, everyone knelt down and remained silent. A young girl, guessing 3rd grade, walked up to the ambo and announced for us all to recite one Hail Mary for vocations. What a beautiful way to end.

As I left, I couldn’t get over how I saw grade school students show so much respect and reverence for the liturgy and the Eucharist. I think this can possibly be attributed to one main “attraction” smack dab in the middle of the church: A perpetual adoration chapel. More on this in a later blog…but there’s something to be said when Christ is at the center of EVERYTHING. Ministry, catechesis, program development, prayer life, etc. And when it’s in the middle of the church? Pretty sure that’s a win-win.

Before the school year ends, get yourself to a school mass! I can’t guarantee latin hymns and extreme reverence, but you can bet you’ll see the future of our Church is bright.

 

 

Daily Mass Project: 3 Counties in 3 Days

I was all over the place this past week, attending mass in Berea, Brunswick and Norton.

And yes, that’s 3 different counties 3 days in a row. ¬†Just a day in the life…

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Saint Adalbert – Berea – Tuesday March 14th – 6:30pm

Celebrant: Fr Barry Gearing

Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12

Homily Reflection:¬†I heard three distinct messages from Father’s homily: “Get outside your own head during Lent.” Ask yourself “Are you looking out for yourself or others?” And lastly, “We need to be the selfless servants that God calls all of us to be.” ¬†How much of what I do this Lent is about ME and how much of it is about serving others? Is HE at the center of my life? Or am I making this all about ME and MY issues, MY fasting, MY prayer life and no one else?

Holy Moments: I’m so glad to hear the prayer of St. Michael recited at the end of mass. This is a tradition that not many churches do today. And it’s really a shame because we are in a spiritual battle. And we absolutely need to call on St. Michael to defend us.

I also remembered a line from Morning Prayer in the breviary that seemed appropriate to mention, especially in light of this battle: “Lord, watch over your Church, and guide it with your unfailing love. Protect us from what could harm us and lead us to what will save us.”

Ran into some friends after mass that I just love.¬†Another great community there in Berea. Fr. Barry is a fellow Theology of the Body teacher¬†so I’m very grateful the students at the¬†Academy of St. Adalbert¬†are receiving this crucial teaching.

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Saint Colette – Brunswick – Wednesday March 15th – 11am

Celebrant: Fr. William Krizner, my high school chaplain!

Gospel: Matthew 20:17-28

Homily Reflection: Jesus predicts what is going to happen in today’s Gospel: He tells us he will be raised on the 3rd day. The all important feast we celebrate NOW, at this moment in mass, is the Resurrection.¬†Come Holy Week, we remember Jesus’ passion, death and burial. But right now, actually, we remember and celebrate His resurrection.

His homily reminded me of Bishop Robert Barron and one of his video’s about Easter.¬†He says: “We are an Easter people.” If we don’t believe in the Resurrection we’re basically saying that Jesus was just a prophet. This is why we profess in the creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” What is Christianity without Easter? I picture us celebrating Christmas and then…nothing. We’d be talking about this guy who lived 2,000 years ago, who was crucified, died and was buried. And that would be the end of the story! And not a very good one.

Holy Moments:¬†In my search for images to attach to the blog, I went on St. Colette’s website and noticed in the Staff page the most awesome thing I’ve seen on a parish website. No I’m not going to tell you, you’ll just have to click here to see (be sure to scroll down). Notice what every staff member is pictured next to? ¬†I think that’s¬†spectacular. It shows what Church¬†is all about. (Hint:It’s about JESUS.)

I did introduce myself to Fr. Krizner after mass telling him he wouldn’t remember me from (gulp!) 20 years ago. He was as friendly and kind as I remember. I¬†wasn’t involved in my high school ministry at all. I don’t really remember too much about religion in high school either. I remember bits and pieces of what we learned but unfortunately, I just didn’t pay attention as a teenager to that sort of thing. Completely opposite of how I am now, clearly. I didn’t get too much time to chat with Fr. so I am going to have to make it a point to go back again for another mass.

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Saint Andrew the Apostle – Norton – Friday March 17th – 8am

Celebrant: Fr. James Maloney

Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Homily Reflection: Father did an awesome job of bringing together the First reading about Joseph being sold into slavery with the Gospel of the parable of the vineyard and the tenants. He even managed to speak about St. Patrick at the end to bring it all together. And wouldn’t you like to know exactly what he said? Me too! Except while I’m at mass, I tend to try to listen more than I write. So…my scribbled notes don’t have much to add except Father’s final line: “Be open to what God is planning in your life. May His will, not yours, be done, as we pray in the Our Father.”¬†

Holy Moment: After communion there was a longer than usual break before the closing prayer. ¬†Usually daily masses seem to be sped up because clearly they are shorter. During this mass, it felt like time stood still. And it was completely silent even though there were easily 30 of us there. And then I noticed an incredible sense of peace in my heart. I was completely content. I just contemplated what communion is: Receiving the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ. Even someone with the tiniest amount of faith has to admit that that’s¬†incredible and beautiful. And I just sat there in awe.

And here’s one of the prayers from Morning Prayer that again, seemed to echo this same feeling: “Give the fullness of peace now to your faithful people. May peace rule us in this life and possess us in eternal life. You are about to fill us with the best of wheat; grant that what we see dimly now as in a mirror, we may come to perceive clearly in the brightness of your truth.”

Moments like that, I wish everyone was Catholic. ¬†I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to have the flexibility and the freedom to do this project. I just wish I could take everyone I know with me…literally, like pack everyone I know into my little Honda and bring them to every mass I go,¬†so they too can meet all these interesting people in the pews, and hear the homilies and see the beauty of our rituals and¬†the sacraments.

And that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, we experience heaven on earth when we’re at mass. Why wouldn’t I want to bring everyone with me to heaven?


Next week: Sunday mass at St. Thomas the Apostle in Sheffield Lake, an Adoration experiences in Wadsworth and Lorain unlike any other and daily masses in Avon Lake and Elyria. Phew!

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 Body is a Sign of the Divine Mystery

If you’re just joining us, be sure to read my last post to get “caught up.”

“You are made in the image and likeness of God.”

This statement was implanted firmly in my brain starting in Freshman Religion class. I remember thinking “I know this is true, but I’m still not quite sure what it means.”

I don’t think my 14 year old brain could process it. And this is probably true of a lot of teenagers.

I knew my life was a gift from God, but I also remember thinking, “But what does God have to do with my parents conceiving me?” In other words, what do Sex and God have in common? I literally had no idea the two were connected, as strange as that sounds to me 23 years later.

Now, after reading TOB, something finally clicked.

Human nature is both spiritual and physical. We aren’t spirits “trapped” in our bodies. The Church has always maintained that we are embodied spirits, or spiritualized bodies. Through the profound union of body and soul in each of us, our bodies reveal or “make visible” the invisible reality of our spirits. But it does even more. Because we are made in God’s image, our bodies also make visible something of God’s invisible mystery.¬† TOB For Beginners

God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange. CCC 221

And here’s where this all comes together –

God created us male and female so that we could image his love by becoming a sincere to gift to each other. This sincere giving establishes a “communion of persons” not only between the sexes but also-in the normal course of events- with a “third” who proceeds from them both. In this way, sexual love becomes an icon or earthly image in some sense of the inner life of the Trinity. TOB for Beginners

Whoa.

Have you ever heard anyone describe sex like this? Yeah. Pretty awesome right? It gets better.

As St. Paul says, quoting from Genesis, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).

This passage from Ephesians 5 is a key text- perhaps the key text- for understanding the body and sexuality “theologically.” Christ is the one who was sent by his Father in heaven. He also left the home of his mother on earth. Why? To give up his body for his Bride (the Church) so that we might become “one flesh” with him. Where do we unite sacramentally with Christ? In a most profound way in the Eucharist. TOB for Beginners

Confused? Don’t be! It’s simple really.

When all the confusions are cleared and the distortions are untwisted, the deepest meaning of human sexuality – of our creation as male and female and our call to communion – is “eucharist.” John Paul II describes the Eucharist as “the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.” God created us male and female right from the beginning to live in a “holy communion” that foreshadows the Holy Communion of Christ and the Church. In turn, the gift of Christ’s body to his Bride (celebrated in the Eucharist) sheds definitive light on the meaning of man and woman’s communion.

The Spousal Analogy

The Bible begins with the marriage of the first man and woman and it ends in Revelation with another “marriage” – the marriage of Christ and the Church.

And here is what we learn from the Pope’s Theology of the Body: God wanted this eternal “marital plan” to be so plain to us – so obvious to us – that he impressed an image of it in our very being by creating us male and female and calling us to become “one flesh.” TOB For Beginners

So two things to take away from this:

1. God is a communion of love

2. We are destined to share in that exchange (God wants to “marry” us – Hosea 2:19)

There is so much more to be discussed here but it is my hope, my dear readers, that you now have an idea of what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. I understand it’s a difficult idea to wrap your head around, and one that is never going to be understood completely due to our limited brain power, but that’s why it’s called the “mystery.”

Fitting in My Faith: I look at Eucharist differently now that I have read TOB. Now I understand why it’s a sacrament. Now I understand why marriage is a sacrament. Now I know why the Church takes it seriously, and now I appreciate it even more when I hear the words, “This is my body, given up for you.”

I also appreciate life, my own life and the lives of others, much more greatly. I don’t think of how we are created as just “sex between two people who love each other.” And 9 months later, life. It’s much more than that. It’s a sacred union. It’s not gross or disgusting or bad. It’s awesome and it’s miraculous and it’s a small, tiny, itty bitty taste of what heaven is going to be like. No, we won’t be having sex in heaven, ūüôā We’ll BE in heaven, we’ll be in UNION with God! We’ll be married to Him!

This is the purpose of sexual union in the divine plan: to prefigure in some way the glory, ecstasy, and bliss that awaits us in heaven.  TOB For Beginners

I don’t know about you, but understanding why we were created, makes me have greater faith of the heaven that awaits us all.

to be continued….

-Michelle