I wanted to give it a subtitle of – “Michelle – Talks with her hands 99% of the time – Piccolo.” Gee, can you tell I’m half Italian!?!
As a follow up to my previous post of the transcript of my Women’s Lenten talk, I have uploaded the audio to my Vimeo channel. There’s nothing to watch, it’s just audio.
Still awaiting the full video of all three of the talks from that night. But in the meantime, here is the talk. Note – You’ll probably have to put the volume up as high as you can go in order to hear me.
I had the honor of being asked to give a brief talk to a group of women at a parish in Detroit called Shrine of the Little Flower. This was a women’s Lenten Retreat and I was one of three speakers invited to talk to a group of about 75 women in attendance.
What a joy it was to present to these women. The organizer of the event and I thought a good theme for me would be “Rediscovering Our Identity.”
So the good news is that I did record this talk via my phone but the bad news is that the volume ended up being really low. But the GREAT news is that thankfully, the entire evening was video recorded! As I anxiously await for a copy to upload to Vimeo, I thought I’d at least share the transcript of the talk, although I definitely did not stick to this script completely. The parts in bold are just there to make sure I mentioned them and didn’t forget. Enjoy!
Thank you! So first off I just have to mention that this reminds me of the first retreat I went on as a young adult. It 6 years ago, right around this time of the year almost exactly. Because it was two weeks after my mom passed on March 10, 2013. And on that retreat, I met other young adults, people around my age, who talked and spoke differently. Like they knew God in a different way. I wasn’t intimidated by them or anything. In fact, it’s safe to say I wanted what they had! I started to go on more retreats and I found these people to be the first ones who really taught me what a real relationship with God is like! They sparked something in me to take a second look at my relationship with God.
And it was on yet another retreat where I was prompted to pursue and study Theology of the Body, which was the main catalyst that brought me to the point where I am today and my relationship with our awesome God.
Theology of the Body is 600 pages long so I wouldn’t expect anyone here to read it..BUT, if after my talk you are inclined to learn more, I promise there are a ton of digestable resources/videos and books that I can recommend.
For our purposes tonight, I wanted to talk about how TOB helps us rediscover our identity, as it did for me.
I don’t know if you knew this, but we are all daughters of God. I did not see myself or think of myself as a beloved child of God. And I went to Catholic school for 12 years. I did know that we are created in the image and likeness of God, but I had no idea what that really meant. I didn’t really get that…I think, perhaps like many of you, I believed the lies of the evil one and of the culture in general. “I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not good enough to be loved…etc”
Or maybe we believed the lies that exboyfriends or former friends told us about ourselves and therefore we think – this is who I am. Or “I am stuck in this way of life and that’s all there is to it and there’s no hope.” So many of us are wounded by sin, especially by men, whether that be fathers or husbands or boyfriends. And that’s really where TOB comes in to play because we can receive healing from it, once we understand why Jesus came. Because He came to heal us, to restore our identity. And that’s really good news!
And He can heal us of those distorted images of our identity.
So one way in which I was able to rediscover my identity is how JP2 unpacked God’s original plan for us.
He took us back to the beginning in the Garden of Eden to show us that look, God didn’t intend for us to have this ruptured relationship with each other and with Him and with ourselves. That’s what sin did, it ruptured these relationships. But if we go back before original sin, we see the real beauty of that original relationship between man and God in the garden. and when man and woman looked at one another for the first time, they knew the truth – that we are made for relationship. That’s what it means to be human – created in the image and likeness of God. And made for relationship. Man discovered who he was in light of woman, and woman discovered who she was in light of seeing him. That the body is sacred. That we don’t have bodies, these aren’t shells – we ARE Bodies. And our bodies speak a language. That the body matters. I wasn’t created to be used by another.
Young ladies need to hear this – We were not created to be used and objectified. We were created to LOVE. We were created for Union. For relationship. And Love is not using someone as a means to an end, as an object for pleasure and satisfaction. No, that’s another lie of the evil one. That’s what sin does, it distorts and cheapens our true identity.
There’s one particular aspect of TOB that really struck me: JP2 speaks about this “echo” in all of us. This echo of the beginning. That we know deep down that we were made for more. That there is more to life than this. That this, as great as it is, is not our final home. That I was made for more.
TOB makes it clear that we have ACCESS To that. We have access to God’s original plan for our lives! This is really good news! We can access it by grace and taking part in the Sacraments. I can pray to God to help me be healed of these distorted views and perceptions of myself and OTHERS and of my body, my body image issues that I may have, and I can live my life in such a way that I don’t have to be bogged down by sin.
Yes we are all sinners and yes we live in a fallen world, but that’s not the end of the story. Because, guess what, Jesus came! He came to restore our identities and heal us. In the beginning, it was not so…what was not so? SIN! Lust, divorce, use, mistrust, degradation of the body. We have access to that life before sin distorted everything. We won’t ever be 100% perfect – not until we’re in union with Him in heaven but in the meantime, we can strive for holiness…that universal call to holiness is no joke.
So if you have a distorted twisted or just an unclear view of who you are – if you are struggling with your identity, I would really just pray for the lord to reveal to you the lies that you have believed so you can be healed with the truth. He is the divine physician and TOB teaches us that yes, with God’s grace, we CAN change, We CAN heal we can Love because we ARE loved.
One last key point – Confession. I don’t think it was an accident that I came back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation after being away from it for 23 years at my first TOB course/retreat 4 years ago. Let me tell you, there’s no greater feeling than walking out of the confessional having been forgiven by God for your sins. Being lent, we’re wearing purple for a reason. Let me just gently nudge you if you have been away for awhile to come back. I love going to confession and I love having a spiritual director – that’s really key for me.
Let me close with this – Are you familiar with the scripture passage from St. Paul that says “It Is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me?” I used to read that and not think that it was possible. I thought that was just for super holy people. But you know what? That’s for all of us! And what’s awesome is now I read it and I think to myself – YES that’s me!!! I was lost but now I’m found. My life isn’t perfect by any means, but now I read that line and I get it.
Every day I need the Lord to remind me to put off the old self and put on the new self. I don’t know if anything I’ve said tonight resonates with you but at least let me close with this – We can all do this with God’s grace. We can change. We don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) content to live in sin. So I hope I have encouraged you to put on a new life in Christ and Rediscover your Identity as a beloved daughter of God.
As you can see from the agenda I shared, it was a great little evening and all three of our talks were very well received and appreciated.
I’m scheduled to give another Theology on Tap talk in the Diocese of Lansing on “The Catholic Church and Feminism” on April 23rd which will be livestreamed via Facebook. I do hope that the video will be available to share afterwards and if so, will upload it to Vimeo as well. Read More »
Today is Palm Sunday when we hear the Lord’s Passion from the Gospel of Matthew.
I can remember going to Palm Sunday Mass as a kid and getting a little antsy while listening to the priest and narrator recite the Gospel. I always followed along in the missal so I could chime in during the “Crowd” responses. It was always really awkward and pretty devastating to shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” as a middle schooler. I always had it in the back of my mind to ask, “Why didn’t they crucify that Barrabas guy instead?” I hadn’t quite grasped the meaning of the Passion.
More recently, I hear the passion and I think of the movie The Passion of the Christ. I read the one line, “and they had him scourged,” and quickly think back to that 30 minute scene in the movie. That gut-wrenching, violent, emotionally wrecking scene. And it’s just one sentence in the Gospel.
Another set of verses that startles me, and I don’t think I EVER noticed it until I was narrating it today at Mass:
And behold, the veil of the sanctuary
was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,
and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
After more than 30 Palm Sunday Masses and I just *now* decided to pay attention to these few verses??
I decided to go to a book called Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri to see just what in the heck Matthew is talking about here. Because you would have to assume, if we are talking about people OTHER than Jesus being resurrected and walking around, I think I want to know about it.
Here is the commentary direct from the book, for people as curious, or as crazy, as me:
The most mysterious apocalyptic occurrence is the opening of the tombs and many saints being raised, which for Matthew highlights how Jesus’ death makes the resurrection of others possible. The “many saints” refers to the righteous Jews who had fallen asleep, a metaphor for death. Matthew reports that they were raised from the dead and entered the holy city of Jerusalem, appearing to many. Matthew leaves many questions unanswered in his account of this extraordinary event: the identity of the saints, what kind of bodies they possessed, the duration of their stay in Jerusalem, what happened to them after their appearance. A few points of theological significance can be noted. First, Matthew notes they came out of their tombs after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus, “the first born from the dead” and the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” is the basis for their resurrection as well as ours. Matthew, however, mentions this extraordinary event in the context of the crucifixion scene in order to make the theological point that Jesus’ death imparts life to others.
Some scholars think these details are merely fictional means by which Matthew indicates the significance of Jesus’ death. Yet however mysterious this account may be, it is not the kind of story one would have invented, since there is no record of anyone in first-century Judaism expecting the Old Testament prophecies about resurrection to be fulfilled quite like this. For the Jews, resurrection involved not the rising of one or many, but the general resurrection of all God’s faithful people. Matthew, therefore, would have had no reason to insert into his Gospel this surprising account about some faithful Jews being raised unless witnesses in Jerusalem actually reported the event.
And I suppose that’s as good of an answer as we’ll get.
It’s been suggested by many to watch The Passion of the Christ in preparation for Holy Week. After watching it the other day, I realized something that I haven’t thought about in years. Whenever I was asked as a teenager/younger adult that curious question of:
“If you could go back in time and witness a historical event, which one would you choose?” I always responded with “The crucifixion.” At first I thought I gave this answer because I had doubt on my heart if this ever happened. But as I reflected on it more I came to the conclusion that I’ve always been attracted to the cross. I think I was naturally drawn to this event because I wanted to maybe join Him on there. Not for attention or to be the Savior. I think I just wanted to be near Him. Interesting that I didn’t answer that witness question with “That time Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,” or “Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.” Nope. I chose the most violent event ever recorded in history to witness. Another mystery…
Concluding this little post with some wise words from a sermon by St. Andrew of Crete:
“Let us go together to meet Christ on the Mount of Olives. Today he returns from Bethany and proceeds of his own free will towards his holy and blessed passion, to consummate the mystery of our salvation…Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward Jerusalem, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us.”
The Daily Mass Project will be in full effect on the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, specifically St. Joan of Arc, St. Rita’s, my own parish of Holy Angels, Church of the Resurrection, and St. Anselm.
I made the trip to the far west side for one of my many jobs and was really excited to add a few more churches to the DMP. In addition to the parishes listed below, I also attended Adoration at St. Anthony of Padua in Lorain and Benediction/Adoration as well as Evening Prayer at St. Peter’s in North Ridgeville.
Celebrant: Fr. Stephen Shields
Gospel: The woman at the well, my all time favorite Gospel story. John 4: 5-42
That window! Gorgeous and ginormous. Even though it had the numbers for a larger daily mass, (maybe 70 people) it made for a more intimate Sunday mass. St Thomas is part of a cluster parish including St. Teresa of Avila and St. Anthony of Padua. We recited the parish prayer at the beginning and the prayer to St Michael at the end. No kneelers but since it’s carpeted, everyone kneels regardless.
Homily Reflection: On Ash Wednesday, we say, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” The Samaritan woman had repented after meeting with Jesus at the well. As she left him to go tell others about him (I’ve heard it said she was the first evangelist) she was starting to believe in the Gospel. During this time in Lent, are we starting to believe? Or do we still need to repent?
Holy Moments: Since there isn’t really a gathering space, Father waved hello to many of us before he processed in. As he preached his homily, he walked up and down the aisles and shook hands with all of the kids who were there. And as he processed out with the servers, he motioned for a few of the kids to join him as well. They all genuflected and walked out holding hands. Very sweet and tender moment!
The Feast of St. Joseph
Initial thoughts: As I was driving to mass, I noticed how the sun hadn’t come up yet so it was really dark. I was actually feeling a little sick that morning and thought of skipping it and trying to find an evening mass instead. But I thought I should just tough it out and go. Because any time I think, “Well maybe I just won’t go,” I always notice that there’s a REASON I am there. And this time was no different as you’ll see.
Homily Reflection: The priest mentioned how St. Joseph was declared to be the Defender of the Family and someone we can pray to as the spiritual father of Jesus. Whenever I hear defending the family, for me personally, I always think of how the family and marriage is under attack right now. I also think of the unborn being attacked physically thru abortion. So I must admit, my mind did tend to wander into that realm as Father preached. But I do recall the end as he said we must be obedient to God as Jesus was obedient to his parents before he began his ministry.
As I did more research on St. Joseph I found this prayer from JP2 in Redemportis Custos
“Most beloved father, dispel the evil of falsehood and sin…graciously assist us from heaven in our struggle with the powers of darkness…and just as once you saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God’s holy Church from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity.”
As I was admiring this beautiful replica of the Pieta there, a man came up to me and hugged me out of the blue! He was hugging everyone goodbye as they left. What a sweet man! He then proceeded to tell me all about their stained glass here. He introduced himself as we walked out by saying his name was Henry, “Henry the hugger,” he said. after I got done talking and hugging Henry, I felt so much better! As we walked out to our cars, I noticed how the sun had come out and it was a beautiful spring day. Very much divine timing. Probably one of the best ways to start a Monday morning.
Celebrant: Fr. Robert Glepko
Gospel: Matthew 5:17-19
Initial thoughts: Just pulling up to this Church from the street, you notice how it stands out. I am not that familair with Lorain in general so driving through it I wasn’t sure what to expect. But as I turned the corner and drove down the street and saw the Church, it’s such a stark contrast to the other buildings around it. It felt like I was just in a completely different world.
Homily Reflection: The priest noted that as we gathered, we had heard on the news about the London terrorist attack. Interestingly enough, it was the feast day of Nicholas Owen, an England born saint. He became a carpenter/builder and served the Jesuit priests in England for two decades by constructing hiding places for them in mansions throughout the country, called priest holes. He is believed to have saved the lives of many priests during the 16th century.
Holy Moments: The mass itself was largely attended for a daily mass. I realized later it was probably because they were going to do Stations of the Cross right after mass, which unfortunately, I couldn’t attend. For this mass, not only did they have a Deacon assisting, they had 4 adult servers (1 was lector and I believe the other was EM).
My favorite part of this church has to be the giant crown of thorns hanging from the ceiling. I tried to get a picture of it as best I could –
It’s somewhat hard to tell from this picture but I promise you it’s there. For more pictures of this gorgeous 120+ year old church, go to their website photo gallery.
For those that have been following along, you may recall I went out to Valley City to visit the historic St. Martin of Tours. I heard, what I referred to at the time, as one of the best homilies given by the priest there, Fr. Dunphy. I was told from one of the parishioners that I should make a point to come out on St. Patricks Day to hear Father sing. I made a note in my calendar that I would do this.
I went on Facebook for just a few minutes a couple weeks ago and saw that Fr. Dunphy passed away on March 11th at the age of 86. What a tremendous loss for the community of Valley City and the parish of St. Martin.
I thought it was incredibly fitting that he was buried just a day before St. Patricks Day. And I feel so very blessed that I was able to hear this man preach and be at St Martin’s when I normally would never have been there if it hadn’t been for this project God put on my heart. May he rest in peace.
Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.
But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.
Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.
From the New Life Study Bible: Jesus came with the greatest gift ever offered, so why did he often act secretly? The religious leaders hated him, and many would refuse his gifts of salvation, no matter what he said or did. The more Jesus taught and worked publicly, the more these leaders would cause trouble for him and his followers. So it was necessary for Jesus to teach and work as quietly as possible, and worshiping publicly with little persecution. These believers should be grateful and make the most of their opportunities to proclaim the Good News.
The Jewish religious leaders had a great deal of power over the common people. Apparently these leaders couldn’t do much to Jesus at this time, but they threatened anyone who might publicly support him, most likely with excommunication. Excommunication from the synagogue was one of the reprisals for believing in Jesus. To a Jew this was a severe punishment.
Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you hide your belief in Jesus? Do you think you’ll get grief or persecuted for your belief in Christ? We don’t need to hide or keep our faith quiet these days. Learn from the early followers of Christ. Take opportunities to spread the Good News. Today, many of us living in the free world don’t need to worry about persecution for our beliefs. Do not be concerned about a negative reaction or someone not “hearing” your words. In time, they might come back to you with questions or inquiries and you can expand on your love of God and possibly help this person become a follower as well!
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea,
he went to him and asked him to come down
and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him,
“Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
While the man was on his way back,
his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live.
He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him,
“The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him,
“Your son will live,”
and he and his whole household came to believe.
Now this was the second sign Jesus did
when he came to Galilee from Judea.
The royal official traveled a good distance to seek out Christ’s help. At least 20 miles! Think about the determination this man had to find Jesus to help cure his sick son. When Jesus tells him bluntly, “Your son will live,” the soldier has faith that He is right. Reflect on that for a moment – This man traveled a great distance to be told that his son is going to live. Jesus didn’t even need to see this young boy to cure him, He just told the father directly that he was cured. That must have meant this father had a large amount of faith that his boy was going to be okay.
Another great nugget of this story is that his faith GREW over this short period of time and it spread! First when he traveled to find Jesus, then when Jesus told him to go home and that his son was going to live, then when the slaves met him and told him his son was without fever, and then his entire household came to believe as well.
That’s how we can grow in our faith as well – by telling others about answered prayers and the good graces that God bestows upon us.
Fit In Your Faith Today: Think of a time when Jesus answered one of your prayers with a simple, “Go, your prayers are answered,” response to your requests. You may not have realized it at the time, but God hears our prayers and responds to all of them. It might not be in the way we had imagined, maybe it’s not immediate, but it’s there. Small miracles of faith. They occur everyday if you look hard enough.
The key to getting our relationship with God right is the key to getting everything else right in the moral life. – Fr. Robert Barron
Fr. Barron gave a very insightful homily today on our first reading from this Sunday’s mass.
Here’s a summary of his thoughts on each commandment:
Fit in Your Faith Today: Take one of the commandments and focus on it and how you are possibly, without even realizing it, comitting one of these sins. Are you honoring your family? Do you covet things just because someone else wants it too? Have you stolen someone’s reputation by bad mouthing them? Do you treat Sundays just like any other day without making it a holy day? There’s so much we can work on spiritually to live out these commandments. We can go through our own transformation this Lent as we make an effort to not only memorize these commandments but live them out as well.
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Didn’t we already learn from the first week of Lent, that Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil to have all the honor and glory that he wanted? We don’t need that kind of temptation and we don’t need that kind of life here on earth. It might look good on the outside to be “seated at a place of honor at banquets and synagogues” as the scribes and Pharisees were in this passage. But as Jesus mentioned, they were not practicing what they were preaching. They loved being honored like that. We don’t need to mimic this behavior. It LOOKS attractive, but with all that praise and honor comes idolatry and worship of false idols. We don’t need people worshiping us and we certainly need not worship anyone but God.
It’s also interesting to note people who are called Master. We might not use this exact word but we do put people up on high pedestals, don’t we? We like to call celebrities Kings and Queens. We buy their clothing line or perfume, or we watch their tv shows and read their interviews and hang on to every word they say. Idolatry is alive and well today although you may think it’s an old school practice.
This passage reminds us to humble ourselves before the Lord. He is our one true Master, He is our only King, and He is the only one we need to honor and praise daily.
Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you have idol worship? Do you look to celebrities or even just friends or people in your inner circle as Kings and Queens? Take a look at what Jesus preached. Are you practicing or just going through the motions? Ask yourself these questions this Lent and make a change if you need to stop worshiping false idols and start praising the one and only King, Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”
The amount that we give will determine the amount given back to us in return. How much do you give? For those who give of their time and their hearts and their abilities, this is great news. For all that we give, we’ll be given back in return! And isn’t that usually the case? Sometimes it’s not right away – most times we have to wait patiently for it to come back to us. Some call it karma. I like to think it’s God. 🙂
But what about those times when we don’t do much good? What about those times that maybe we didn’t treat that stranger with respect. Or maybe that time we passed the donation basket down the pew when we knew we had a few bucks to spare? Or, that time we judged someone we just met based on their background or their accent or their clothing. We probably wish we could go back and do differently.
The good news is, it’s never too late. We can put some money in the basket at the next mass, we can give that stranger a smile next time we see them, or we can re-introduce ourselves to that person we misjudged. And for those “bigger” sins? We can confess and ask God to forgive us and the peace to move on.
Fit In Your Faith Today: As Lent continues, take stock of what you’re doing right now that is good. Are you shining your light on to others? Or are you still in the darkness of contempt or disappointment or shame? It’s time to be compassionate just as our Father is compassionate and merciful. Be merciful to others but also to yourself!