Memories, Memorials and Meditations – Daily Mass Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saint Anselm РChesterland РAdoration  РMay 24th

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

 


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

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Celebrant: Fr. John J. Mullee, Parochial Vicar

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

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

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


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

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 Gift of: Wasted Time

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

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

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

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

But, I think my friends can handle it:

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

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

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

So allow me to sell you on this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Jesus will be thrilled to see you too!

 

 

The Four Nonnegotiable Pillars of the Spiritual Life

Excerpt from The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality

Four essential pillars undergird any healthy Christian spirituality. These are universally prescribed spiritual challenges and are revealed by Christ as being nonnegotiable elements within Christian discipleship. What are they?

We see that Jesus was prescribing four things as an essential praxis for a healthy spiritual life: 

a) Private prayer and private morality

b) social justice

c) mellowness of heart and spirit

d) community as a constitutive element of true worship 

These are not elements we may choose or not choose to incorporate within our spiritual lives. They comprise the essence of the spiritual life. They also supply its balance. Only when all four of these are present in our lives are we healthy, as Christians and as human beings.

We can spend our whole life trying to live out all 4 of these pillars without 100% success. But the point of this section of the book is to understand that if we call ourselves Christians, THIS is what Jesus wants us to strive for. The Christian who has all 4 of these things present in their spirituality, they are the living the ideal Christian life. Chances are, though, that we are lacking in at least one of the 4 areas. ¬†I know I certainly am, especially the part about social justice. But there’s hope! We can identify this absence and work on incorporating it into our lives.

For example, let’s say you’re like me and you do everything listed above except you do not have a passion for social justice. You aren’t the type to sign petitions or stand in front of a courthouse holding a sign or perhaps you don’t feel you are outgoing enough to take a stand. You can fix that by joining a group at your church that holds vigils outside abortion clinics or a group that helps the homeless by taking them meals at local shelters. You don’t have to be on the “front lines” to still take part in social justice. Personally, I was always pro-life in my mind but I never vocalized this opinion to too many people. Recently, and especially after reading Theology of the Body, I am very adamant and quite passionate about preventing abortions in society today. I also look at issues like human trafficking and capital punishment in a different light. Understanding that Jesus wants us to stand up for what He believed and what we as Christians believe has ignited a fire in me to take action.

You might recognize that you are passionate about social justice issues, you have mellowness of heart and spirit, and you pray everyday privately and you obey the commandments. However, you might be the kind of person that doesn’t actually go to church. (Letter D above). You might not “believe” in it. Some people think, “I don’t want to be among all those hypocrites,” or “I prefer to worship in private.” ¬†Here are the authors thoughts on this:

The grounding, earthiness, and necessary pain that only real involvement within a concrete, parish-type family can give you [is what is missing from the life of a person who does not attend a church]. In parishes, we do not get to pick who we will be standing beside as we worship and celebrate various things together. A parish-type family is a hand of cards that is randomly dealt to us, and precisely to the extent that it is truly inclusive, will include persons of every temperament, ideology, virtue, and fault. Also, church involvement, when understood properly, does not leave us the option to walk away whenever something happens that we do not like. It is a covenant commitment, like a marriage, and binds us for better and worse. 

Fit in Your Faith Today: Examine these 4 Pillars ¬†and ask yourself where you are lacking. ¬†Pick up a copy of the book if this peaks your interest and you want to learn more! This exercise isn’t meant to make you feel inadequate or guilty. It’s meant to enhance your relationship with God and examine your spirituality as a Christian. It’s changing my life for the better; think about what it can do for you and for others!

Will You Pray for Me?

James 5:16

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

“I’ll pray for you.”

Do you think this or say this often to your friends or family members who are in need of help? And if you do, do you mean it?

It’s good practice to pray for people and for things that don’t directly benefit you. Often, it’s those that are near and dear to us who need prayer, too. Sure, it’s easy to assume that they’ll just pray for themselves but wouldn’t it be nice to know that you are earnestly praying for them as well?

Not only is prayer the best way to communicate with God but confession as this passage from James reminds us is also a huge part of our faith. Discussing our faults, our problems and our troubles with a spiritual adviser, priest, minister or even a friend can help us become closer to God and become better Christians overall. By discussing and praying and confessing, we build that relationship with God that we need, even though we might not think this to be true sometimes.

Too many times we might think, “I’ll solve this problem on my own,” or “I can do this myself, I don’t need anyone’s help.”

Think of prayer and confession as the telephone line linked directly to God. He is the first one you should call upon when you need help, not the last resort.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Who will you pray for today that needs help? Even if they didn’t come out and directly as you to pray for them, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you are praying for someone else other than yourself?