Behold, The Lamb of God: Easter Vigil 2019

On April 20, 1986, I made my first Communion as a second-grader at my home parish in Parma, Ohio at St. Anthony of Padua.

Thirty-three years later, here at my new hometown of Plymouth, Michigan, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church I was blessed to attend our Easter Vigil and was honored to be a sponsor to an engaged couple. I also witnessed 31 other individuals (yes 33 people entered the Catholic Church at our parish; God is so good!) enter into full communion of the Catholic Church, after spending the past 8 months meeting every week for their RCIA classes.

This was only my second Easter Vigil and it was absolutely hands down, one of the most amazing experiences EVER. 

The choir, the music, the decor, the baptisms, the readings, the rituals, the prayers, the homily, the candles, the fire, the crowd, the incense. As one of our  teenage candidates said, “It didn’t feel like 4 hours.”

As soon as it was over I wanted to start it all over again! And as our pastor said to the newly initiated – They know more being Catholic than anyone else – because they made a point to learn, to ask questions, to seek the answers and it led them to the fullness of Truth.

33 years after making my first communion, I have a much deeper appreciation for our faith, due in large part to the friends I’ve made here who are converts, as well as taking the initiative to learn and study and ask questions. It’s been remarkable living here and attending this awesome parish for the past 21 months.

OLGC records everything so luckily, I’ve been able to re-live the entire Holy Week all over again. You can watch the Vigil in it’s entirety here, but before you click, allow me to share what I think, are some of the more moving and particularly special moments of the night:

Do you feel the world is broken? (We do)
Do you feel the shadows deepen? (We do)
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? (We do)
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? (We do)
Is all creation groaning? (It is)
Is a new creation coming? (It is)
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? (It is)
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? (It is)
Is anyone worthy? Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
Is He worthy? Is He worthy
Of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy of this?
He is

 

I’m still on a high from it all. I think when you witness such a grand event, when you truly start to “get it,” and understand what Jesus did on that cross, it brings you to tears.

As it should.

Happy Easter Season everyone!

Daily Mass Project – Michiana Edition

Trinity Lutheran Church – Elkhart, Indiana – Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ  – June 11th

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Stunning sanctuary.

Presider: Pastor Spencer Mielke

Gospel: John 6:51-58

Initial Thoughts: My first Lutheran service! Very exciting! (This is what excites a SuperCatholic like me these days). My friends Spencer and Christopher are Pastors here at Trinity and having never attended a Lutheran service before, I was invited to come on my way home from Notre Dame/Vita Institute.

During the mass, I really only noticed differences from a Roman Catholic service during the liturgy itself, such as:

The Creed had different wording. I’m pretty sure this is the one we said:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life; Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spoke by the prophets. And I believe one holy Christian and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and life of the world to come. Amen.

The Confession of Sins had different wording as we knelt to pray it together:

All-Powerful God, merciful Father, I, a poor, pitiful sinner, confess to You all my sins and unrighteousness. By them I have continually offended You and fairly deserved Your punishment, both now and eternally. But from my heart I am sorry for them, and I sincerely repent of them, and I pray You, in Your limitless mercy for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being.

No need to open a worship aid/missal to follow along because the words were projected onto the screens they had up which was a great help to those of us who were not the “regulars.” 🙂

Homily Reflection: You can hear the whole thing right here under June 18th.   He had projected the icon of Rublev’s Trinity on the screen as he referred to the previous week’s celebration of the Feast of the Trinity.

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And then went into why we celebrate the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ this weekend, two central doctrines of our faith.

We are invited into this eternal exchange of love, this communion of persons, this family.

And what will it look like? It’s a communion of saints – this is our destiny. Spencer shared this image during the homily at this point:

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We are made for communion! But unfortunately, we live in so much dis-union. Division among our fellow countrymen, our friends, our families. That’s what sin does, it tramples on unity.

We have no way to fix our mess and come back to God, and God knows this so what does He do. He comes back to us through The Incarnation.

The 2nd person in the Trinity came down from heaven for us. In the Flesh and the Blood of Jesus of Nazareth IS GOD!

My favorite part EVER comes around the 9:35 mark in the homily that you can hear for yourself. It’s entitled The Body and Blood of Christ – The Center of Our Lives!

There’s a reason why Jesus’ arms on the cross are spread wide open to us. This is that 2nd person of the Trinity, in that exchange of love, opening His life and His heart to you and to me and inviting us in to that sacrifice. Because you see THAT flesh and blood, as sinless as it is, comes into contact with YOUR flesh and blood, and MY flesh and blood, as sinful as it is, and obliterates that sin and makes us holy and brings us back into that scene.

Holy Moments: Pastor Spencer’s homily concluded by having us sing Down in Adoration Falling which is such a beautiful hymn and very appropriate for the feast. It was just such a pleasure to hear him preach as I’ve never heard a sermon by him or my friend Chris. And now that I have the link to their website, I’m going to gladly feed my homily addiction by listening every chance I am able to.

I was able to meet Spencer’s wife ever so briefly and I was able to spend a lot of time with Chris and his wife Rachel and their three adorable children. It’s always great to reunite with my TOB friends and now that I know that Elkhart Indiana isn’t too far of a drive for me, I will definitely make a point to visit again to get some Lutheran love!


Feast of Corpus Christi Mass – St. Francis Convent – Mishawaka, Indiana – Sisters of Perpetual Adoration

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Prior to making the drive to Elkhart, I first went to Mishawaka to visit the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. They invited all of us who were a part of the Vita Institute (see previous blog post) to come join them for Morning prayer and then stay for mass and  the Corpus Christi procession on their grounds. I’ve never taken part in a procession like that so it was a welcome treat. (They have better pictures on their website from past processions) and much better photos of the worship space itself like this one: SOPA

as opposed to mine that I snapped just about 10 minutes prior to Morning Prayer: IMG_7341

I didn’t get a chance to stop into their Adoration Chapel but here is a beautiful photo of it:

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These lovely holy women dedicate their lives for the Kingdom of God. And they spend hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament praying for all of us. We carry the Eucharist into the world and bring the fruits of our adoration to all our activities. Thus, our whole life becomes a single act of adoration and praise of God.

I was so grateful to have met 3 of these Sisters as they attended the Vita Institute and then to pray and worship with them as a great treat. They are praying for me and they will pray for you too. In fact, you can submit your prayer request to them here.


Christ the King – Ann Arbor, Michigan – 5:30pm – Friday June 23rd

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From their website:

We are a personal parish of the Diocese of Lansing under Bishop Earl Boyea. As a personal parish, we do not have a territory that we are responsible for like most parishes. Instead we are officially called to minister to Catholics who are seeking a deeper presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Our liturgies and overall ministry are oriented to encourage growth in the Holy Spirit and the charismatic gifts that He wishes to provide.

Our spiritual life as a parish is characterized by four elements. We are charismatic, contemplative, Eucharistic, and Marian.

Initial Thoughts: Until I read the website just now, I had no idea they were a diocese of Lansing and not Detroit. But after reading the description of their history, that made more sense. This church sits on land directly located adjacent to the property of Domino’s Farms, the corporate headquarters of Domino’s Pizza, whose founder is Tom Monaghan. This guy! He’s a devout Catholic AND founded a pizza chain? How did I not know this? What a great man of God. Read more about him here and here.

As for the church itself, I stopped in to their perpetual adoration chapel first before heading to the mass. I was told to check out the staircase that leads up to the Sanctuary – The word “Sanctus” is engraved in each of the 3 steps. IMG_7367IMG_7366

Note the Icons of all 4 Evangelists behind the Sanctuary. Stunning!

Homily Reflection: I’m just going to skip over this part and say 2 things:

1. The presider was a visiting priest.

2. We don’t come to mass to hear a great homily, we come for the Eucharist. (That’s my charitable way of saying I didn’t enjoy the homily). Forgive me.

Holy Moments: Seeing my friend AnnMarie lector and not even knowing this was her parish and HER not knowing I was coming to attend. Surprise! And also spying Catholic “superstar” Dr. Mary Healy sitting in the pews. I had the awesome privilege of meeting her at the Seminary the next day. I’m pretty sure I scared her as I babbled on about how her book (Men and Women are From Eden) helped me teach TOB to my non-Catholic friends and how I love her writing style, etc. I admit it, I fawned over her. 🙂

Considering CTK is known for it’s Charismatic liturgy I should probably go back on a Sunday to write a better blog for the DMP. Stay tuned…


Our Lady of Good Counsel – Plymouth, Michigan – Saturday June 24th – 8:30am – Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

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Presider: Fr. John Simoneau

Initial Thoughts: This is my 4th trip to Plymouth to visit this “second home” of mine. I visited last fall and blogged about the Alpha experience I had there and have been addicted ever since. As anyone who attends this mega-church will tell you, it’s unique in that they really try and make you feel as if you are the most important person to walk through their doors. I’ve had 4 people, 2 of whom had met me for about all of 10 minutes, offer their spare bedrooms for me to stay if I ever needed to for as long as I needed to as I try and find a job up there. Radical hospitality? Yeah, pretty sure OLGC gets that part.

Their mission is to offer every person in their community (and even if you’re a visitor, you’re a member of their community!) a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. From their website: We exist to offer every person in our community a life-changing encounter with the person of Jesus so that we can grow evermore as His intentional disciples so that we can offer an evermore credible witness to the difference Jesus alone can make.

So yes, it’s obvious. I have a thing for OLGC. 🙂

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Homily Reflection: I didn’t actually take notes on Fr. John’s homily, thinking “I’ll remember to write down some quick notes afterwards.”  That totally didn’t happen. #SuperCatholicFail. In the meantime, OLGC posts most of the Sunday homilies on their YouTube Channel or Fr. John Riccardo’s podcast library.

Holy Moments: I’m clearly biased because as soon as I get out of my car in the parking lot and make my way to the grotto or the Garden of Gethsemane before heading into the church itself, it feels like a giant holy moment. There’s reverence here. There’s hospitality here. There’s peace here. Maybe because Plymouth itself just feels like Main Street USA, Americana, apple pie and all that good stuff. Maybe it’s the fact that OLGC is a Marian parish. Or maybe it’s just simply that people here in this community exude something that says, “We’re here to help you and meet you wherever you are at in your journey. Tell us how we can do that.”


Next week I’m going to attempt to write a blog about my 3 dear sisters in Christ and their Consecration of Virginity ceremony that took place on Saturday June 24th in Detroit. They are the first 3 women in the Archdiocese of Detroit to consecrate themselves to Jesus as a part of this Rite and it’s something I am discerning as well. There’s plenty of confusion about it, however, from secular to Catholics alike, and I hope my little blog will serve as a good source of information to clear up some of this confusion.

Made for Community: An Afternoon with Alpha

 

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Life was never intended to be lived alone; community with God and one another was always the plan. The desire for community is built into our DNA. – Dan Blythe

 

Let’s talk Alpha folks.

No doubt you’ve seen the billboards around town about it. Or maybe you’ve heard about it from a friend or co-worker. Or maybe you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. In any case, let me tell you about my short but very fruitful encounter with Alpha this past weekend.

My first encounter with Alpha took place last fall at a friends’ house. I was sent an invitation to it via email and was told there would be food (let’s be real here, I had said “YES” before I even read the rest of the invitation) as well as a short video followed by a discussion in a small group.  All we who were invited were told was that we would be learning about the basics of Christianity and that all would be welcome, no matter where we were on our faith journey.

In a nutshell this is what Alpha is: An informal and casual environment for people of all walks of faith and all backgrounds to engage with other people about what it means to be a Christian.

Looking back, it was an incredible experience. The food was delicious, the videos were inspiring and easy to understand, and the conversations we had were thought-provoking, not superficial or mundane. I LIVE for conversations like this! These are the kinds of discussions I WISH I had with my family and friends!

The weeks flew by and I was legit bummed when it was over, but I had gained SO much insight and perspective about Christianity that I had never bothered previously to explore or consider. And did I mention the food???

More than just a random visit

Fast forward to a year later (just about a month ago) and I’m in the midst of emailing a woman named Kathy, who works at a parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit called Our Lady of Good Counsel. I told her I had felt compelled to visit OLGC since this summer and would it be okay to go to the Church for mass one day over the weekend, pretty please?

Before I tell you her response, you may be wondering why *this parish? It’s actually a long story but I will say most TOB-addicted peeps such as myself have most likely heard of the pastor, Fr John Riccardo. I would encourage you to visit their website or their YouTube page and just explore. Guaranteed you’ll find something that makes you think, “Whoa. What did he just say? That’s different.”

Back to my email convo with Kathy…

Can I visit? Well the answer was of course affirmative. But the noteworthy part was this: There was an Alpha retreat taking place that Saturday and she invited me to join.

I replied back with a resounding “YES! Sign me up!” Clearly, God wanted me there for a reason.  But for what reason exactly, I wasn’t so sure.


Community, Connection and Christ at the Center

There’s not nearly enough space to discuss how the Holy Spirit was moving within me the entire weekend. But let me just say, it was palpable. Much of it was felt at the retreat but assuredly the entire weekend was full of God-incidences.

The retreat itself was less than 8 hours but even in this short period of time, I felt an immediate connection with the people there. While I didn’t have a solid outline of the schedule, I had a general idea of what to expect given the typical Alpha schedule. But I also knew we would conclude with the opportunity to have people pray over us individually, which is such a unique and powerful experience.

In fact, my first real experience of someone praying over me occurred at a retreat just a few months ago. The gentleman who did it? An OLGC employee. Hence, one of the many connections I felt to visit this place.

After introducing myself as the “Clevelander just visiting,” I immediately felt welcomed by a table of 7 other folks. Normally, I’m pretty outgoing and can be quite chatty, but I felt a sense to just observe and quiet myself. I did talk, but only when I felt the Spirit calling me to. I mostly heard the Spirit say, Just listen and allow these people to teach YOU something. You are here for a reason. Let me reveal it to you.

When the Holy Spirit talks, you listen.

Just as my first experience with Alpha went, the conversations were profound and insightful. Just a few things of what I heard:

  • The significant growth individually and collectively in just the 7 weeks this particular group had been meeting
  • Their struggles with having faith and raising a family in our current culture
  • The difficult of having friends and family members who don’t agree with their particular views
  • The suffering and sickness of family members and children and how they were able to get through it
  • The balance of marriage and career and as well as being an example of the faith to their children
  • How to pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom, for knowledge and for the right words to speak and the right actions to take in order to lead others closer to Christ

One word kept coming back to me as I listened: Community. Here in front of me I had the privilege of observing community in action. I’m not sure if they realized it, but they were essentially evangelizing to each other by sharing all of these stories. And this was just one afternoon!  I think they’re on the verge of calling each other friends rather than just acquaintances. And isn’t that what forms a community? People who may be on different parts of a spiritual journey but have a common goal of sanctification and living in eternity with God?

By the end of the weekend, I truly feel God called me there to be something that I have failed at for the past year:  A witness. A real live, public witness. I talk a good game, but in the end, do I really live this out? Do people look at me and talk to me and think, “That’s a witness. That’s a person unashamed of placing her trust in God.”

I hope I showed this in the small amount of time I was there. But I distinctly felt that this Alpha retreat was supposed to prompt me to engage with others in a more concrete way.

I think this was God’s way of saying: You’ve done a lot of work this past year growing in your faith, and acquiring “data,” as Fr. Riccardo would say, but now I need you to really move and to speak up and be that living example I have called you to be.


One last word about Alpha

Alpha is a program you need to experience for yourself. If you are lost, join. If you are seeking, join. If you are confused, join. If you are prideful like me and think you know it all, join. You can find one near you here.

There are a few people who have been on my heart that I believe would benefit from Alpha. Please pray for me to have the courage to be a witness and lead them to an Alpha course. 

As I was dropped off at the house I was staying at for the weekend I remarked to my new friend from OLGC, “You all are so unbelievably nice to me. But it’s more than being nice. I feel as if you truly CARE about what happens to me and you don’t even know me.”

He simply responded: “Well, we love you.”

Ahh, I thought. So that’s what being a witness looks like.

May we all strive to echo this same sentiment, love each other as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and be a living witness to everyone we encounter.

I can’t adequately describe how hospitable, generous, and kind every. single. person. at OLGC I met was to me. Granted, you don’t have to travel 3 hours out of state to find generous and kind people. But I’m going on record as saying some of the best people are in Michigan.  (Don’t hate me, Buckeyes!)  Thank you to the amazing people at OLGC parish for your hospitality and generosity:  Mary, Pete, Kathy, Jennifer, Chris, Fr. John, Deacon Dave, Dr. Steve, Mary, Kristi, Heidi, John, Susan, Brad, Lauren and Nicole – You are all in my prayers and I can’t wait until we meet again. 

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