The garden leads you directly from one mystery into another, which I like. There are areas for you to sit or kneel for prayer, but the path simply continues to follow in the footsteps of Christ on the road to our salvation.
I really like that.
This set of mysteries is my favorite of the bunch. I just love the expressions of Christ. The artists did a fantastic job. They really, really did.
The Scourging was a little sad and confusing for Vincent. He couldn't understand why Jesus ("a good guy") had His Hands tied up. Vincent went behind Him and tried to undo the rocky tethers that bound Him. I explained that Jesus wasn't trapped anymore, but that when He was on earth, He took the beating so that His friends didn't have to. That made Him a hero to everyone. Vincent understood that, but it left him kinda quiet for the next couple minutes.
The Crowning with Thorns is simply Christ seated with with a simple robe, His Hands still bound, and a sad (and regal) expression on His Face. The way the artists placed His Hands enables the faithful to leave behind flowers as a sort of scepter. Of the mysteries, I think this is my favorite. It's nothing like the Coronation of Mary, but the way the artists created the two, they obviously parallel one another.
Next was Christ taking up His Cross, and again the expression on His Face is remarkable.
Walking along the path a bit father I saw a huge chapel-like shed which stood directly across from the Nativity "stable" from the Joyful Mysteries. Obviously drawing yet another parallel, the Crucifixion placement and artistry again highlights a theological truth. Christ was born to die on a Cross. He came into the world to die saving it. Incredible.
Stay tuned for the Glorious Mysteries. Hopefully it won't take me a month to cycle back through and update you! :)
The outside of this church belies its spacious, breezy interior with golden sunlight streaming in from every window. It feels like you are ambling under a gazebo during a relaxing summer afternoon. I was surprised with how massive it felt, especially when you considered the size of the image of Mary that hung high and proud behind the tabernacle.
I grinned when I noted that the pews were very modest. There were no cushions, no padding on the kneelers. Worship isn't about creature comforts... it's about praising God.
I captured this sacristan's head along with the tabernacle to give you an idea just how massive this piece of artwork actually is. This rendition of Our Lady of Guadalupe might be among my favorites. She is simply beautiful, as she should be. Above her are the words "Queen of Mexico and Empress of America." At least I'm 99.9% sure of that, anyway.
I felt like this piece was woven or embroidered somehow. It wasn't a painting... at least I don' think it was. I just couldn't imagine the time it took to painstakingly stitch each glorious detail.
Here is a full shot of the sanctuary. Given the scope of the Virgin's tapestry, you can imagine how large the crucifix actually is.
I didn't notice until after I'd taken the photo, but the detail of Christ's Face moved me. I don't typically like the super gaunt versions of Our Lord looking anorexic (He was a carpenter - He would have been strong and broad from all His toil with wood), but I did not mind this one so much. The artist did not shy away from the Blood that oozed from His wounds. I appreciate that His shoulder wound and those on His knees were accounted for. So often they are forgotten.
On either side of the Virgin stood these statues. St. Joseph holding Jesus as a toddler and St. Juan Diego with his unfurled tilma displaying the miraculous image of Our Lady.
I was struck by the Child Jesus' depiction with short, cropped hair. It was styled similarly to Vincent's! It made me think of him reaching up for John. Usually Jesus has long curls. I think I like this version! Juan Diego was painted a darker color than I'd ever seen. I liked that touch so much because so often our saints are Anglicanized and their natural skin and hair colors completely ignored for the common blond hair, blue eyed "ideal" in so many picture books.
St. Michael and a beautiful guardian angel flank both sides of the sanctuary. St. Michael has the power of the Holy Spirit above him while the guardian angel protects her three native charges. I really loved this latter stained glass image. It was very peaceful and loving.
One of their beautiful circular stained glass windows, this one depicting the Holy Family.
Which one of you dares to disbelieve Our Lady's intervention now?! :)
A fitting painting for above the confessional - Jesus saving St. Peter from his own lack of faith.
A couple of their stations. I'm always appreciative when the Resurrection is included. :)
I probably should've mentioned these last two points in my other blog entry, but here will do just fine.
Instead of having lay ministers, this parish utilizes the Brides of Christ to bring Communion to the people. I'm not the biggest fan of women acting as Eucharistic Ministers, but if you're going to allow it, I can't imagine a better way.
Also, the altar servers sat at opposites sides of the sanctuary facing one another (behind the altar but in front of the tabernacle). I thought they were very much like the Seraphim who guarded the Ark of the Covenant. It made me smile to think of them as such given their constant gaze upon the tabernacle.
Finally, a photo of me (graciously taken by my husband) with a frond of palm across from the church. On the way back to the resort, I braided what turned out to be four long leaves into small crowns for my statues at home.
All in all, a beautiful experience at a wonderful parish... even if I couldn't understand all the words being spoken, I could feel the love. For me, that is enough.
Not too often you hear the words "Lent" and "tripod" put together, but it was a concept I introduced a few weeks back to my CCD students.
So often you hear "What are you giving up for Lent?" I wanted them to understand that this wasn't a futile repeat of New Year's resolutions. Lent is a time for sacrifice.
One of my favorite quotes about sacrifice is this:
Love transforms suffering into sacrifice.
According to this, two things must be present for a sacrifice: Love and Suffering.
So for Lent, while they were all trying to figure out what they'd "give up," I asked them to also figure out a specific person or intention they'd be offering that sacrifice for. Giving up candy bars during Lent is great, but if you're just substituting the candy bars with milkshakes, nothing is accomplished.
Instead, if you give up candy bars, use the $.60 you save every day and donate it to the homeless man you pass on the street each day. Put it into a piggy bank and at the end of Lent, use it to buy your little sister that iPad app she's been dying to try. Better yet, secretly use it to buy a slew of your favorite prayer cards / medals and leave them in the back of your parish church for parishioners to share!
Little things add up, and as long as they're adding up to love, they're perfect sacrifices for Lent.
With that in mind, my students started coming up with some great ideas:
These are my favorites. It took a lot of leading, but when they finally arrived at their Lenten gifts (as I've been calling them), I think they really understood the purpose behind the practice.
Once they got this foundation set, I tied it together through Jesus.
We give up things, or sacrifice, for our community out of love. However, we don't do that for ourselves. We do it through Jesus. We unite our sufferings with Jesus' Passion. We don't sacrifice during Lent just because that's what you do during Lent. We do it so Jesus doesn't have to suffer alone. We share the burden with Him.
I likened it to riding a roller coaster for the first time. They all seemed to understand that. None of them wanted to ride a coaster by themselves the first time they went. They were scared! Instead, they asked a friend to come along so they could share the burden of fear.
During Lent, we consent to share the burden of suffering with Jesus. We consent to take part in the Passion, because as the Church, we are members of His Body, and we want to follow where He, the Head, leads us. During Lent, He is leading us to Salvation through the Cross.
It was like a little light bulb clicked over their heads. I started seeing them slowly understanding the concept of sharing in the Lenten journey. Each Mass isn't a recreation of the Passion so much as a time-machine that brings us back to the Foot of the Cross, time and time again. Lent helps us refocus on this by bringing the reality of Christ's Sacrifice into our daily lives (in a much more manageable way).
Just as Christ suffered for love of us, we, too, must suffer for love of others, uniting those sacrifices to the Sacrifice of Christ.
This is the Lenten Tripod analogy I used with my students, and I have to say, I'm really pleased with how well they took that lesson to hear.
Next week we'll check in to see how they're doing with their gifts. :)
About a year and a half later, my heart has been broken again.My sisters and I after Easter Sunday Mass
The closing of Incarnation Parish comes as no surprise. Even with the fundraising project I organized, I knew the buildings were too badly damaged - the community too fractured and jaded - to come back from the blow of losing our school.
And yet even knowing that the closure was to be announced did nothing to lessen the blow. Still my heart breaks knowing that the beauty of Incarnation's art, stained glass and communal spirit will be shuttered and stowed away.
It's hard to explain to folks why such news is so crushing. "It's just a building," they say. "There are other churches you can go to" they soothe.
And to a parish-hopper like myself, that might make sense. After all, I subscribe to the belief that ALL Catholic churches are homes of the Almighty God. I believe that they're all various rooms in His House and since each one boasts His Presence in the tabernacle, I shouldn't concern myself so much with any one in particular. They're each part of the Church (capital "C").
Still, though, I feel a very deep loss. The pain of loss is not just spiritual or emotional... it is physical. On my way home, I felt as if my heart was slowly being skewered by a spear. This physically hurts.
And I wondered why - aloud.
How can I explain such a painful, emotional reaction to news that a building is closing?
Because it's not just a building. It's my spiritual home... the place I first heard the Gospel, the school that raised me in the ways of Catholic Tradition, the church that celebrated with me my 1st Sacraments, the community that was and, in many ways continues to be, my extended family.
Knowing that so many of us will now be displaced and- for lack of a better word - homeless, it is a terribly sad and hurtful thing. I feel the confusion, frustration, anger and loneliness of my community. All over the Archdiocese, parishes are closing, beloved pastors are being reassigned and church communities are being told they are no longer going to have their familiar places of worship, comfort and prayer. The reason this is so heartbreaking to us is that many of those in these churches put their blood, sweat and tears into building their communities.
Our unparalleled stained glass
Incarnation, for example, still boasts the artist who painted some of our beautiful artwork in the sanctuary. Their families are still members of the parish! Families who have donated statues, the grotto areas, even those who volunteered their time and expertise in repairing architectural damage, painting the interior, and replacing broken panels of stained glass...
These families are still a part of the living, breathing community of Incarnation. The same is true ALL OVER Philadelphia. In many ways we feel as though we are being kicked out of the home and family we've forged through our years of love, worship and sacrifice there. Incarnation is our home because we MADE it our home in our united desire to worship God through serving one another.
The Body of Christ on earth is bleeding out, and I sometimes feel as if the wrists have been slit here in Philadelphia.
Oh prayers, fellow bloggers. This extends far beyond Incarnation... even beyond the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Satan's smoke has been suffocating our beloved Church for many, many years now. Our apathy, pursuit of pleasure and arrogance opened the door for him, and now we're choking on the illusion of fulfillment he gave us.
Mercy, Lord. We are our own undoing. Even with my rose-colored glasses, I know Incarnation was hurting for quite a while. I accept the closure as punishment for the transgressions we allowed...
Our priests found guilty of so many abuses.
Our laity falling lax in love, faith and worship.
Our communal apathy regarding keeping your house pristine and structurally sound.
Our disregard for true financial support given your many blessings to us.
Our arrogant superiority based on our blessed history in Olney.
We really were once "the" parish in N. Philadelphia. I suppose, given our history, we felt ourselves untouchable. I know as a child there, I never imagined there would come a day that Inky would close its doors. How in the world could I have foreseen such a tragedy? This place was, in so many ways, a touch of Heaven.
1st Communion - Mary and I
I remember as a sacristan, walking through the churches (upper and lower) after all the Masses were finished for the day. I felt so close to Heaven in those moments - completely alone with Jesus in the tabernacle.
I remember all my wonderful sacraments celebrated there... Holy Communion, Confirmation, my 1st Reconciliation. Baptism happened at Inky, too, but you'll forgive my 3 week old self for not remembering that one so well. *Grin*
I also remember as a rectory sitter the many times strangers would come to the door asking for food or clothing. How gratified I felt in making a simple sandwich or handing over clothes / canned food from the downstairs pantry! How VISIBLE Divine Providence was as I took part in it at Incarnation!
And now to whom shall these people turn? To whom shall they go seeking refuge, clothing or food?
Yet another church is closed which cauterizes a faithful avenue for Divine Providence to use.
How my heart bleeds its sorrow. How my soul prays for hope that this terrible cancer in our Church is healed by our Merciful God.
I don't know. I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.
I don't know what to say. I don't know what to do. I don't know how to feel, and I certainly don't know how to prepare myself for the closing Mass on June 30th.
Prayer, of course, but I just don't know how to reconcile my frustration, hurt and grief with the faith I have in God and Archbishop Chaput.
I love our Archbishop dearly. I believe he's been put here in Philly for the specific task of pruning us something fierce. He's made incredibly bold decisions that have had a very widespread effect on the entire Church in Philadelphia. He closed our school last year, and now our church was sentenced to the cross this weekend.
So together we much embrace this sacrifice like Christ, I guess. We must acknowledge the task of walking in His Ways, even unto Calvary.
And just as together with Christ we die, together with Christ we shall rise again. This is my hope; this is my prayer.
But prayers, dear bloggers. Prayers for us in Philadelphia. Prayers for the Church as She fights off the growing cancer of apathy, the pursuit of worldly pleasures, and arrogance. May the Spirit of Love alight in Her heart and purify Her of such malignancy.
Love transforms suffering into sacrifice.
I really wish I could figure out who is responsible for this particular piece of art. It's beautiful.
Anyway, I found the above quote in a new book I'm reading. It leapt off the page at me and I've been thinking about it ever since. Oddly enough, John and I were playing a game in which the question "What is a more powerful emotion - Love or Hate?" was asked. Without a doubt, the answer is "Love."
Hate may have been what inflicted Crucifixion upon Christ, but LOVE is what enabled Him to bear that hatred. Hatred cannot bear Love. It cannot sacrifice. Love, however... Love can not just bear the hatred... it embraces the sacrifice.
Sure hatred is fiery and fast - incredibly powerful and unfathomably destructive. Yet this destructive and fiery force burns out because it simply cannot sustain itself. Love, though... love is gentle and steady and infinite. Love creates. Love protects. Love perfects.
Surely Love is the most powerful emotion as love is the essence of God, Himself.
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