The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, was a beautiful slice of Heaven located a few miles from our resort. It took only 15 minutes or so to arrive by taxi, and my husband was kind enough to accompany me into town so I wouldn't be travelling around in Mexico by myself.
That's right, folks. My wonderful (and atheist) husband agreed to chaperone. Having him with me, I felt confident and comfortable. Thank God he's such a gem. I know Mass was the last thing he wanted to do (especially on our last morning in Mexico), but he came. God bless him, he came.
We arrived about 20 minutes before Mass which gave me ample time to snap a few photographs and pay attention to the pre-Mass cleaning and organization that happened in a flurry of volunteers.
In the sanctuary, an adorable sister swept the marble floor. She paid careful attention to the stairs and shooed away someone dropping palm strands unwittingly before the podium.
An older gentleman, his one arm bandaged tightly to his chest, was using his other arm to deftly maneuver a broom in and out of each pew, somehow navigating kneelers, feet and purses. The action must have been hard on his good arm and shoulder - even his lower back probably hurt from constantly stooping to get under the seats - but he did not seem to mind. He offered himself as custodian of the Lord's House, and I marveled at his quiet dedication.
Then there were ladies in dressed in red. Obviously part of a society of sorts (or maybe a hospitality committee), these women acted like an army of mother hens, hurriedly flitting back and forth through the entire church, ushering some folks to their seats, handing out copies of the readings, informing folks where they could go for palm, etc. It was like they were everywhere at once, working together as a well-oiled machine in anticipation of the swell of Palm Sunday worshippers.
Then there was Father Patrick. At least I'm about 99.9% sure it was Father Patrick. This thoroughly Irish priest stood out from the procession both for his fair complexion and his height. My husband chuckled with surprise and confusion at his presence. He and our friends wondered why they'd need to import an Irish priest given the country is thoroughly Catholic.
They failed to realize that tourists need Confession, too, and English is the best way to reach the majority of us. At least that was my guess. Not that it matters. A priest is a priest regardless of his country of origin, and Lord knows I'm always grateful for them wherever they are.
I had briefly connected with Father Patrick before travelling down to Mexico. My blogger-friend, Jacob Wall, kindly put us into contact when Jacob found out I was trying to plan for Mass while on vacation.
***As a complete aside, I must take a moment to publicly thank Jacob for his incredible help. Without his e-mails of reassurance and helpful pointers, I'm pretty sure I'd've stuck out like the sore thumb I am for more reasons than simply language. His guidance was instrumental in making me feel at ease leaving the resort to cross through town to get to this parish. I honestly cannot thank him enough for his willingness to patiently answer my questions. THANK YOU, JACOB!!!
Mass was exactly what I'd envisioned. There was a wonderful procession into the church led by Father Patrick in his alb and two young altar boys. A lone guitarist strummed simple (but beautiful) melodies that engaged the whole congregation. The readers were direct and humble, each being sure to pay respect to their God in the tabernacle with a genuflect or a reverent bow. Their attention to this often-forgotten reverence made my heart leap with joy.
One thing that surprised me, though, was the Gospel reading. As many of you know, the Passion Narrative is re-enacted by the priest, lector, and congregation. This re-enactment is a reminder to us that we, too, participated in the Crucifixion of Christ.
I retract that statement for correction. Instead, it should read "This re-enactment is a reminder to us that we, too, PARTICIPATE in the Crucifixion of Christ." After all, we participate each and every time we sin. Each sin is an echo of "Crucify Him!" Heaven forgive us.
As this narrative was being read, I noticed that no one in the congregation was reading their portion. Only I was (or it seemed that way to me). I can't speak fluent Spanish, but I can fluidly read the words printed in front of me, so I read our portion aloud only to realize I was the only one reading aloud in addition to the second lector.
I was confused. I wasn't sure if it was a cultural thing to not take part in the spoken liturgy beyond prescribed responses, or if the majority of parishioners were unable to read. I can't imagine it being the latter because it seemed like they were reading along, just not being vocal about it. Regardless, I kept pace with the reading figuring if I was wrong, the folks around me would chalk it up to my own ignorance at custom. At least I hoped they would.
The homily went well beyond my realm of understanding. The only portion I was able to catch was when Father Patrick explained that Christ did not come as a mighty conqueror. He came as a humble Man who died a terrible death on the Cross. He was not what the people were expecting their champion to be. Instead, He brought salvation in a way no one had foreseen. I'm very likely butchering even my weak paraphrasing of the snippet I think I understood, but it was enough of a reflection to keep me sustained through the rest of his homily. Maybe that's all God thought I needed to think on... especially given how arrogant I tend to be sometimes.
Christ didn't come as a warrior who violently clamped down on His enemies. He came as a gentle victim, offering Himself as a beacon that would lead us home.
Stay tuned for my next entry, dedicated to their artwork.
Here I go again.
I'm about to gush about Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish for the billionth time. A quick search pulled the following entries:
Those are just the ones I found doing a quick search. I know I've written about this parish and its pastor plenty of times. In fact, should MY pastor ever figure out I've got a blog, he might be inclined to think I'm playing favorites. *Grin*
Truth be told, you guys know I love my priests - all of them. And I view each of them as gifts. I adore my pastor, but I try not to write about my actual home parish for privacy reasons.
That being said, I LOVE this priest, and I love the community he has built up in Collingswood. If you're ever lucky enough to find yourself in S. Jersey and in need of an evening Mass, stop on by. Fr. John will welcome you with open arms and an educational homily that stirs both your intellect and your heart.
God bless him, he's a true pastor in this regard. He takes time to teach his parishioners, and he teaches straight from his super-sized heart.
He doesn't just teach during the homily, either. He pointed out the liturgical colors of the 4th Sunday at the beginning of Mass, and also touched on why the readings and music were thematically different from those we hear the rest of Lent.
After all, we've now reached the midway point. Though we still face the night, we see dawn on the horizon. The light of the Resurrection - Christ's triumph over sin and death - is awaiting us should we persevere in His Way just a little longer.
The music director chose an entrance song I'd never heard before. I snapped a photo of the missal after Mass so I wouldn't forget it. Have any of you (barring Frank K. or his wife who, I feel, have a terribly unfair advantage - ha!) ever heard of it?
I thought it was a great balance between the solemness of Lent and the hopeful supplication we offer for the promise of the Resurrection. I absolutely BUTCHERED the music (sorry, Congregation), but I was appreciative of the thoughtfulness put into the selection.
The Recessional Hymn was a favorite from childhood - Lead Me, Lord. All you trads out there, try not to roll your eyes too much at me. I enjoy uplifting songs at the end of Mass, especially when they are warranted and flow with the message of Mass. This was perfect.
Offertory / Communion songs were also fitting. Kudos to the music director - really. In truth, he always does a great job, but last night's selections were just so spot on that I couldn't help but say a prayer of thanks for his subtle highlighting of theme.
But back to the pastor. His homily was STELLAR. He's a homilist who can happily run on for 20 minutes. Best part? He's a homilist you don't mind listening to if he does stretch his time. I love that he's not worried about keeping within a restrictive time limit. He's not afraid to expound or share anecdotes that color God's movements in his life. He shares what's in his heart and what's in his heart is a complete reflection of the Gospel message.
He made a great point about "the poor" last night. So often we talk about "the poor" during Lent, offering prayers and alms for "the poor." We need to shift our view and recognize them as "our poor." These people belong to us. They are our responsibility and God gifted them to us as ways to act in the name of Divine Providence. We can and must reach out with love to these brothers and sisters. I just found that reflection to be beautiful.
Alright, I'm gonna stop now because I'll just wax poetic for another mindless 10 paragraphs. I'll spare you, but be warned... I'll likely be bringing up BTC in the future. BTC and Mary, Mother of the Church (St. Rita's Parish) are my two buddies. If I'm not at my home parish (which I also love), I'm hanging out with one of them.
I'm so excited that Andy (one of our super talented musicians and apparently the photographer for the homily) finally posted this to Facebook. I've now stolen it to share with you guys!
You can see our beautiful nativity scene with all the children crowded around Fr. Piotr as he shared the story of Jesus' birth. The kids can't even fit into the frame. They spilled out a good amount on all sides of this picture.
Vincent is just beyond the bottom right side of the photo, but that's okay. I've got that photo tucked into my memory for years to come.
This photo just makes me smile. My entire heart is happy when I see this. I love our pastor, and I love that he does this with the children each year. We are blessed to have him in our parish. <3
I love the above etching. It depicts Christ the King upon His throne of salvation - the Cross. The words above His crown translate as "High Priest of the Loving Sacrifice."
His wounds bleed forth mercy. His Sacred Heart, pierced, still burns forth love. He's wearing the chasuble and crown which denote His Kingship.
His facial expression is regal. Regal and yet still gentle - merciful.
This weekend, the pastor of a neighborhood parish pointed out something fascinating. During the homily, he repeated the final words of Jesus read from the Gospel reading:
"Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Father pointed out that these were the very last words we hear during the liturgical year. Are they words of condemnation? Are they words of despair?
No - they are words of hope... they are words of mercy.
What's more, they are words of the King promising His servant access to His Kingdom as He sat upon the throne that would open that Kingdom to us.
What a reflection. What a mind-blowing reflection.
These words were directed at a sinner worthy to humanity of crucifixion. Yet to God, He was a child worthy of Heaven.
We would do well to remember that.
Fr. Gospel took the theme of humility and went to town. He explained that all of the readings were hinged on humility and the need for humility if one wishes to be a servant of God.
The prophet, Isaiah, saw a vision of God in which he fell to the ground because of his unworthiness. Isaiah was royalty! Who was he to fall at the Feet of the Lord with feelings of unworthiness? He could have said, "Well, I, too, am a king! Here is my dominion!" Instead, Isaiah cast aside any thoughts of grandeur and surrendered to the Glory of God that filled the whole earth.
As a result of this humility, an angel came with a burning ember from the altar of the Lord and touched it to Isaiah's lips. This flaming bit of sacred wood burnt away Isaiah's sin and prepared him to become a sacred servant of God.
Here's the cool connection - the priest explained this as a precursor to the Mass. We come before God and recognize our unworthiness. In His Mercy, God sends us the burning ember of the Cross to purge us of our sin. Christ's Sacrifice is our salvation, and just as the ember was dispatched to Isaiah from God's altar, so too, does Christ's Sacrifice come to us through God's altar. Christ's Body, the Perfect Holocaust, passes through our lips to cleanse us body and soul that we may be transformed, going forth to become true servants of God.
In order for this transformation to take place, however, we need Isaiah's humility. We need to admit our faults to God just as Isaiah cried out his unworthiness. Isaiah cried out to the angels. We were given our priests in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We would do well to take part in this Sacrament often as a way to show humility to God and prepare to receive Him in the Eucharist.
So that was the cool connection for me. I never thought of the ember being touched to Isaiah's lips as anything more than a burning piece of charcoal or something that was a symbol of his purification. Now I realize it was another example of God's foreshadowing the even greater purification that would take place for all His children through Christ.
I admit... I love connections like that!
I've been sitting on this post for a week now. Actually, it's been brewing for longer than a week, but last Wednesday really sparked up some irritation regarding a few divorced women I know and their overt "We're awesome because our ex-husbands are evil people" pride.
I was at a meeting that devolved into a debate over our deacon's homily the previous weekend. I'd gone to a different parish that weekend on account of being sick (I missed my normal mass by an hour), so I was all sorts of curious to know what the hullabaloo was about.
Apparently our deacon preached about the sanctity of marriage and decided to use his God-given vocation to state, unequivocally, that homosexual marriage goes against the Law of God, and that to participate in such unions is a mortal sin. He also delved into the murky area of divorce and why those who sought Communion with the Church after such civil proceedings were dealing with mortal sin. Considering so many people are unaware of this, it's important to teach these things from the pulpit every now and again (especially with divorce rates being as high as they are).
I must've had the most confused look on my face. At first I thought the person relaying the "problem" was joking.
I actually said, "So people are upset that he's speaking the truth?"
I looked over to my council-mate who gave me the same stunned look of confusion I knew I was wearing. He said, "I was there. I heard the homily. I have no idea what the problem is, either."
This was met with the response of "Deacon Strong (as henceforth I'll call him) needs to learn to be more politically correct. You don't just alienate a bunch of parishioners by throwing that stuff in their faces all the time. He didn't need to talk about marriage at all. It was pointless, and he upset a lot of people. A LOT of people."
Now, you need to understand the dynamics of the table at this point. I was sitting at the head with our pastor, a great and wonderful priest. He was relatively silent at this point since I think he was genuinely trying to understand the complaint being lodged. On one side of the table, there were a few council members who seemed to agree with the complaint being lodged against Deacon Strong. On the other side of the table were those of us who were confused that there was a complaint at all.
How strange is that? We all ended up sitting in such a way that we actually split ourselves down the middle regarding supporters and not-so-supportive supporters of Deacon Strong ('cause everyone loves Deacon Strong - just not that particular homily).
Anyway, still being completely confused, I pointed out the fact that all of the readings for that weekend were, in fact, about marriage. Of course his homily would reflect that. Of course he would want to talk about the sanctity of marriage in light of those readings. Him speaking the truth in light of the readings is not "throwing it" in anyone's face.
Plus, I've heard enough homilies between he and our pastor... that would've been the first peep I'd've heard from either of them (from the pulpit) regarding homosexuals marrying / divorcees lining up for Communion. So to accuse Deacon Strong of "throwing it" in anyone's face is absolutely LUDICROUS.
I then pointed out that we were in the middle of the 40 days for Life event that's been pushed by the Bishops. Marriage is considered the foundation for life. It is through marriage that the gift of life is supposed to be given to the world. It is through marriage that this gift can be fostered and nurtured into another vessel of love which can continue the cycle of love through marriage and subsequent children. In fact, to hit home that point, many parishes throughout the country were doing special blessings over married couples during the Mass.
So yes... again... MARRIAGE WAS THE POINT OF THE HOMILY THAT WEEKEND.
After pointing that out, the response was "Jesus didn't come to condemn anyone. We need to love everyone as God made them."
I immediately retorted with "Jesus came to DIVIDE. And He did! He said some really hard things that got a whole lot of people angry. In fact, it's why He ended up dying on a cross."
And to her credit, the woman lodging the complaint was simply trying to do her job as a council-member considering there were "lots" of people upset with the homily. I wasn't upset with her so much as the fact that people were getting this up-in-arms over something that EVERYONE KNOWS.
Catholics don't believe in homosexual marriage and we don't believe that divorce is copasetic in the Eyes of God. As this entry so clearly expresses, divorce is a painful, messy business. Homosexual unions very obviously undermine the sanctity of true marriage. These are basic truths of our faith. They shouldn't come as surprises to folks. I mean, do people feel as though the Blessed Mother's virginity is thrown in their faces every week (considering it's part of the creed and all)? So when these issues of homosexual unions or divorced Catholics come up once in a blue moon, why all of the sudden the theatrics with storming out of the church or declaring yourself an Evangelical?
You have no right to act surprised, offended or indignant that no one told you about this part of the faith.
I'm all for walking out the door when you come to terms with the fact that you don't believe in what we preach. But attempting to vilify the person who is telling you what you already know simply because he's saying it out loud and not pretending like the Church teaches something different?
No no, good friend. Methinks you're at the wrong party.
And what finally solicited this particular entry was the fact that one of the women at the meeting took this opportunity to glory in her role as a divorced Catholic.
I've heard jokes in passing on several occasions, but I typically keep my mouth completely shut when it comes to folks talking about their ex-spouses. I, like most people, I'm sure, steer clear of that topic like it is the Plague.
However, the joke was timed to coincide with the bragging of a different woman altogether. This woman is someone I speak to often. She divorced about 10 years ago and was - that very morning - bragging about how she was so glad to be rid of her husband, how much better she was doing without him, wishing him nothing but misery, and touting herself as free and able to be with who she wanted, do what she wanted, and not care one way or the other. Oh, but isn't it so great to be divorced???
She was doing this with a mutual friend of ours, another divorcee. I was in the room, and was by default assumed to be part of the conversation. I simply kept my mouth shut. Both women were gloating about their freedom and how much it sucked to be married to such terrible men. Then they turned their attention to me - silent little Gina - and I got exactly what I'd been dreading.
Fr. Eucharist gave another stellar homily this past weekend. He reiterated some points regarding the True Presence, but I learned something new this time!
Ya know that 1 hour fast we're supposed to participate in before we receive? I always thought it was to clear our bodies of frivolous food so we could better accept the True Food of the Eucharist.
Fr. Eucharist's explanation was WAY more enlightening.
He gave us a brief history of the Eucharistic fast. I was already aware that there was a time in which you couldn't have even a drop of water past midnight in order to adequately prepare yourself to receive Christ. Then it was lessened to three hours, and now we're sitting at one. What I DIDN'T know, however, was that the fast was actually meant to make the faithful hungry.
Mother Church WANTS us to go to Mass hungry. She wants us to feel a physical emptiness... a physical hunger for sustenance.
Why, Father Eucharist?
To remind us that we should be hungering for Christ, of course!
Being humans, we sometimes need something physical with which to remind ourselves of the spiritual. A fast does this in several key ways.
First, we gain that physical hunger which should remind us to always hunger after Christ. Next, it should remind us of our brothers and sisters who daily face physical hunger on account of poverty, neglect or famine. After all, we are all connected, and sharing in the physical manifestation of hunger is a way to develop empathy (and through that empathy, activism) for our spiritual family (meaning all humans since we are all children of God).
Finally, this fast does serve to clear our bodies (and hopefully, our minds) of the frivolous junk we tend to ingest on a daily basis. Much like we would do a quick clean of the house before a friend arrived, we use the time of fasting to clear ourselves of unnecessary "junk" to make room for God.
I really appreciated that insight as it's something I never really thought much about.
Brace yourselves for one of the nerdiest "fan-girl" type entries ever.
And yes, it's about a homily.
I'm not even sure where to begin as I'm so giddy over the brilliance and no-nonsense approach this retired priest (who is filling in for Fr. Atlas while he's away). It was his mission to defend the Eucharist and educate parishioners on the importance we should place on the Real Presence of Christ - what a gem! If I didn't have Vince on my lap, I would've taken a pen and paper out for notes!
To begin, this weekend's readings were very much Eucharistic in nature. The first reading dealt with the manna from Heaven that nourished the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. The psalm was a reflection of this reading and also foreshadowed the joyful thanksgiving we ought to sing in praise of His gracious institution of the Holy Eucharist.
The second reading reminds us that the bread that nourishes us it not only physical but spiritual. Christ, the Word, is our sustenance. His teachings and example are the gateway to Heaven.
Finally, in the gospel, we hear Jesus, Himself, affirm that He is the Bread of Life. This is not some spiritual manner of speaking. He is affirming His Presence in the Holy Eucharist - the greatest of all Sacraments. He is preparing His followers to understand and accept this unfathomable mercy.
Upon walking out amongst the congregation, Fr. Eucharist (as I'll call him henceforth) spoke of several mystics who lived solely on the Body of Christ in the Eucharist.
He didn't specify a particular mystic, but considering the scientific evidence he spoke of regarding the validity of these miraculous signs, my mind jumped to Blessed Alexandrina who subsisted on nothing but the Holy Eucharist for 13 years (to the astonishment of the many doctors and scientists who examined her).
Fr. Eucharist wanted to highlight that the Blessed Sacrament is not just symbol of Christ. This Sacrament of Love is the fullness of Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. When we say "Amen" in response to the priest's offering, we are saying "Yes, I believe!" that the consecrated Host we receive is, in fact, God. He has chosen to use some of His saints to hit home this point through allowing them the grace of existing solely on His Body. As He said, "My Flesh is true food, and My Blood is true drink." Amen, indeed.
As such, the Eucharist is to be the most important thing in our lives. It is the banquet that supercedes all other banquets.
Upon this reflection, Father Eucharist then went on to describe some key elements that build up our Mass towards this miraculous banquet.
The procession and readings - our Liturgy of the Word - is like a cocktail hour. I loved that comparison! At a wedding cocktail, for example, we gather together with joy to catch up with family and friends we haven't seen in a while. We see how the kids are doing, we find out what so-and-so's been up to, and we bask in the filial love present amongst us all.
During the cocktail hour, we also get tiny samples of the greater meal awaiting us at the main banquet. For us, those morsels are the various readings and responses. As Catholics, we believe that Christ is the Word, so we are blessed to receive Him with our ears before we partake of the "main course" of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
And oh... the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Pardon me as I 'squee' ridiculously for a few moments. He really took off running as he reflected on the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Once again he discussed the spiritual reality of our physical presence at Mass.
As St. John Chrysostom once said, "When Mass is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim
immolated on the altar."
Amen, St. John!
Fr. Eucharist reminded of this in such a reverent, direct way that I could have stood up to applaud him. He said, "Yes! There is truth beyond what we can see with our physical eyes. At the words of consecration, Jesus is standing behind the priest! God the Father and Holy Spirit are with Him. Mary, His mother, is there with St. Joseph. And filling the sanctuary are the angels and saints who, together with us, adore and praise Him."
How I managed to stay in my seat and not jump up to hug him is truly beyond me. I felt as if my heart had doubled in size just so it could sprout arms and embrace him.
Yes, Fr. Eucharist, yes! TELL US! TEACH US! REMIND US THAT THE EUCHARIST IS GOD TRULY PRESENT! Shine as an example to all other priests that THIS is the type of truth so desperately needed in the world today. THIS is what Catholics must be reminded of so that we can properly appreciate the gift that is the Eucharist.
Did he stop there? No no, folks. My giddiness erupted as he went on.
Catholics, when they present themselves for the Eucharist, must make a throne with their hands with which to accept the Body of Christ. Not with one hand. Not with two haphazardly placed together. Reverently accept Him as the King He is!
*He then proceeded to show us what that would look like.*
And, bless him, he also gave a nod to acceptance on the tongue (which is how I receive anyway).
And to boot, he called out folks who leave after receiving the Eucharist. He said, "And to those of you who leave after Communion, you're missing a lot of stuff! From Consecration until the Recessional, the Blood of Christ covers the congregation, filling us with untold graces!"
He again didn't mention a specific mystic, but I'm about 99.9% sure he was referring to the revelations made by the Blessed Mother to Catalina Revas of Bolivia. I'd only recently learned of her (I would guess in the last 8 months or so), but the insights and revelations made to her by Christ and Our Lady have forever changed my participation in the Mass. I would encourage all of you to read more about her! But again, use the typical caution regarding private revelations. Though not forbidden / approved by the Church, it us up to the individual to request guidance and discernment from the Holy Spirit.
Back to the wonderful priest, however, he closed his homily with a reminder that after reception of the Eucharist, we would do well to remember that God, Himself, dwells within us. So as we walk back to our seats, it's not the time for saying "Hi" to friends, nor is it the time to get one's self ready to leave. The time after Communion is meant for prayful reflection... a true and intimate conversation between us and God.
And don't you know after Communion, he graciously allowed us time to sit in silent contempation.
Hmmmm... I've got a big old stupid smile on my face, and it's all because of this wonderful representative of Christ. My prayers are with him and with all priests. May they all have such ardent love for Him, and may they all seek to spread that love and understanding to others. Bless him, and bless them!
So I did something ridiculous during the Homily this past weekend. I admit that this was 120% my fault, but the resulting accusation I got was so funny that I needed to share it here.
This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to attend the Mass of an old school priest. He was elderly, but boy did he have spunk!
About five minutes into his homily was when the trouble began.
You see, he began his homily with this summary:
Think about how you'd answer this job posting...
Seven days a week, long nights, no vacation, terrible pay, no respect, high chance of torture, and definite promise of death.
Would you take it?
That's the job of prophet, and that's the job our speakers were tasked with in today's readings. Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus were all prophets, and each of them paid the ultimate price for bearing forth the Light of God's Truth to a hardened people.
After going a little more in-depth with their respective tasks, Father then went on to say that we, too, are called to be prophet-like in our role as Christians. It is our job to bear the Light of God's Truth to a hardened world, and sometimes that includes our actions in the secular world.
He brought up the way our current government is restricting religious freedoms - an underhanded way to stifle the Light of God's Truth. As Christians, it is our duty to battle against this injustice.
As I listened to him, I thought of my wonderful SD who has been lamenting for some time that our priests don't preach from the pulpit regarding this sort of thing. I've been countering that point-of-view. Each week I've been hearing about it in the various churches I've attended (four in the last 2 months). A little light bulb clicked in my head that I could prove to her that I wasn't crazy and that there were, in fact, priests talking about this on a regular basis.
And thus, the trouble...
I pulled my camera from my purse and discreetly clicked it on. I then hit "record" and placed the camera back into my purse, needing to only capture his voice. I thought I'd been discreet enough to where no one paid me any attention.
Of course, I'd made up my mind about capturing his homily too late, so when I began recording, I'd missed the political stuff, but still, I'd tried, and as a result, I came away with at least part of his homily (which was still worthwhile).
Anyway, at the Sign of Peace, I turned to exchange with an older woman who was sitting behind me. She gave me such a look of anger that I immediately looked down to see if my dress had slipped (it was strapless underneath a bolero, so God-forbid it slipped and I was showing off my bra).
I wasn't, however, so I was so confused as to what I'd done wrong. Did I accidentally kick her while I knelt? Did I steal a spot reserved for her family? Had I really sung so poorly that she now wished me to burn eternally for torturing her ears???
At the end of Mass, my confusion doubled down.
After Father had processed out of the church, she grabbed my arm and said, "I know what you're doing and I'm going to tell Father immediately!"
Color me absolutely stupified.
"I'm sorry?" I asked.
"I saw you recording the Mass. You one of them liberals who wants to make a mockery of our faith?"
I was SO taken-aback I actually stumbled over my words.
"M'am, I'm so sorry, but you're mistaken. I'm a Catholic! I was recording Father's homily!"
"You're not a Catholic. You're just posing as one. Catholics don't even wear veils anymore. Did you think you'd pass for a nun?"
"M'am, I'm REALLY sorry, but you're mistaken. I'm a Catholic, and yes, some of us still wear veils. I was only recording his homily for my spiritual director because I thought she'd like it."
She replied, "I'm telling Father right now, and you should go talk to him too. You're not allowed to do that."
At this point, people were staring at me and I was feeling EXTERMELY embarrassed. If I ran, I'd look like a guilty person and was slightly worried someone might try to tackle me. If I stayed, I'd have to 'fess up to recording his homily, and I felt sorta stupid now for having done so.
However, 'fessing up to a priest regarding how awesome I thought his homily was sounded like a better option than being thought of as a traitor to my faith. So I marched along behind her - shamefaced - to the priest and waited in line until he was finished.
I felt like I was waiting with the teacher for the principal. How do you make a grown woman feel like that??? Thank God I didn't have Vincent with me. I have no idea what I'd've done.
Anyway, the priest turned his attention towards us and the woman immediately started saying that I'd recorded the Mass and that I was probably working with some sort of abortion alliance (?!). Father looked at me and said, "Did you record the Mass?"
I was so beet red at this point that I actually felt like I was going to cry (Heaven forbid I ever get a priest mad at me). I went on a verbal marathon:
"Father, I'm so sorry. I really am Catholic. I did record some of your homily, but I wouldn't think to record the Mass. I was trying to record the bit about politics because I thought it was good and I wanted to share it with my Spiritual Director because she was complaining that nobody does it, but you did it, so I wanted to prove that there were priests out there who were brave enough to take on those issues. I promise that's all it was, do you want to see it?"
I was fumbling for the camera at this point. He sort of laughed and said, "You wanted to record my homily?"
I said, "Yes. I promise that's all it was. I didn't even catch what I was trying to record, but that's all I was doing."
The woman was still standing there smugly, waiting for Father to tear into me for being such a sacrilegious heathen. She was practically salivating.
Thankfully, Father simply glanced at the camera and said, "I trust you. I'm glad someone found my homily worthwhile enough to be immortalized."
He laughed again, and I let out a nervous / relieved chuckle. The woman was completely diffused and gave me a mean look after thanking Father for his time.
How insane is that???
I guess I should be happy, though, that there are folks who are looking out for the interests of the Church. But wow. How crazy!
Here's a clip of what I caught, though. :)
My oldest friend from high school, Theresa, got married last weekend. I can't wait to see the professional pictures of her because none of the ones I snapped do her or her dress justice.
As a married woman who was over the moon for her own wedding dress, I can honestly say that Theresa's out-shone mine by at least 10 light years! Her train was beyond magnificent. The lace, jewels and satin made her look exactly like the princess she's always wanted to be. I was (and am) so happy she and John finally exchanged vows!!!
Vince was her ring-bearer. He escorted a beautiful little girl named Allison down the aisle. They were SO CUTE together!!!
Unfortunately, Vince was a bit of a terror during the service. During rehearsal, the priest allowed Vince to run around the sanctuary. I had specifically corrected Vince three times, but the priest told me not to bother each time. He said, "Don't worry - it'll make for a cute photo op."
I knew, as any parent of a toddler would, that allowing that behavior during rehearsal was just about the worst idea ever. Vincent doesn't understand the difference between a rehearsal and the "real thing." Thus, if it's okay to run amok in a church Thursday night, it should be perfectly fine to do the same on a Saturday.
As predicted, that's exactly what happened.
I wonder how long it's going to take me to re-teach him that we don't act that way in a church. *Sigh*
Luckily he didn't knock the candles over or rip Theresa's dress. He basically ran up and down the sanctuary steps a few times during the exchange of vows and climbed into Father's seat, evading the attempts of groomsmen to wrangle him in.
Ah well... at least he was attempting to mimic a priest. I can't be entirely upset about that prospect. Ha ha ha!
Speaking of priests, the one presiding at Theresa's wedding Mass was the president of our now defunct Cardinal Dougherty High. It was fabulous to see him. He looks wonderful and his personality is still gentle and welcoming. As I watching him go through the rehearsal, I couldn't help but think that his handling of people was the primary reason God chose him to be a priest.
He is so incredibly genuine when he's in priest mode. He goes out of his way to make sure everyone feels welcomed and cared about. It's rare to be able to pull that off with a huge group of people so effortlessly, but he's incredibly consistent (which is probably why they made him President of Dougherty).
Anyway, his homily was great. He should make it available to other priests as a general "go-to" wedding homily. He gave a lot of good advice - chief among them to remember that God blessed them with one another. In order to make it to Heaven, they NEED each other. They need to rely on one another precisely because God brought them together for the purpose of reaching Heaven. The unique challenges they each bring will compliment the unique strengths they have, and together, they will live a life which aims for Heaven.
Married couples would do well to understand this. Our spouses are NECESSARY. They are the ones we are given precisely because they will challenge us to grow in love. They will challenge us to sacrifice... to hope... to trust.
It was a wonderful reminder to me, and it made my heart sing a hymn of thanks for such a beautiful reminder that I've been truly blessed with John. He has challenged me to trust... to hope and to sacrifice. All of that has deepened my capacity to love and has very much led me down the road towards my rekindling of faith. I am a better Catholic today because of John (something he'd probably be loathe to acknowledge - ha).
So yes... your husband or wife is a blessing sent directly from God, Himself, for the express purpose of ensuring your soul gets into Heaven. How wonderful is that? :)
I was all set to hear our pastor expound upon Our Lady's "fiat" this weekend. Imagine my surprise when he instead focused on the first two readings instead! Ha ha ha.
It's okay, though, because he made some great points that I simply hadn't thought about and tied it nicely into Our Lady's "fiat."
He started by explaining that while David wanted to build a great temple to house God because he was ashamed of his own opulence while the Ark rested beneath a tent, David missed a huge lesson - God wills everything.
God handed victory to the Israelites. God gave David the wealth he enjoyed. God gave David the talent, wisdom and patience necessary to lead His people. God also provided David with the home he found himself in - a far cry from the fields of his youth.
So while David's gesture was from the heart, he missed out on the fact that God was already fully present in EVERYTHING. Sure the Ark was an extremely prominent sign of God's presence, but that didn't mean He wasn't everywhere else as well. A temple (or in our case, a Church) cannot contain the infinite. Sure, God is present with us in a wholly unique way through the Eucharist, but He is also present within each one of us.
In fact, the Blessed Mother was, in truth, THE Temple of God. When the angel came down and greeted her with "Hail Mary, full of grace" he was acknowledging that her soul was a complete refuge for God's love. Upon her "fiat" Gabriel no doubt knelt down in adoration as the Incarnation of Christ illuminated her soul.
We each contain the light of Christ within us. It's up to us to acknowledge it and share it with others - which our pastor smartly tied into the "Merry Christmas" message. He chided us for using "Happy Holidays" and reminded us of our duty to SHARE Christ with others... not hide Him away for use only in Church or when we think we need Him. God is with us always because He WANTS to be with us. So let's not do Him the dishonor of ignoring Him during the time of His greatest gift to us... His Birth into Humanity - the trumpeting call for Salvation.
I know, I know - kind of strange to have a picture of the Passion up during Advent, but my experience this week brought me to meet this painting for the first time (well, a reproduction, anyway). I'd never seen it before. It's called Señor de los Milagros de Nazarenas (or its English title Lord of Miracles).
Anyway, the reason I came across it was my cold. I was miserably sick this weekend, and Sunday morning seemed to be the worst of it. I knew there was no way I'd be able to get to Mass feeling like a ton of bricks was repeatedly smashing down over me. So I stayed in bed, offering the gross feelings for whatever intentions God deemed necessary.
By mid-afternoon, I was feeling substantially better, so I mentioned to John that I might attempt going to Mass in the evening. St. Williams, about 45 minutes from me, had an 8pm Mass on Sunday night. So I hopped into my car and made my way into NE Philadelphia. I arrived early enough to say my Divine Mercy chaplet and take a gander at the changes that've been made since my last visit. The church, itself, is still the same, but I noted their new collection of artwork. The above picture was among those new items.
In addition to seeing beautiful artwork, I was privileged to hear a wonderful homily from their new pastor. Apparently he'd locked himself out of the rectory on Saturday (after hearing the 1st Penances of children at another parish!). Being home alone with no access to a phone or spare key, he was forced to take refuge from the cold in the church. He spent the next 2+ hours meditating on the meaning of advent, his own preparedness for Christ, and quite probably how to ensure he'd never get locked out of the rectory again. Ha.
He made a good point, though. In being locked out of the rectory, he wondered what he'd do if he were to be locked out of Heaven. He acknowledged his lack of perfection, and thus acknowledged his need for advent matches everyone else. Advent, though a time of anticipation, is not JUST about waiting. It's also about preparing for Christ as John the Baptist so eloquently exemplified. Preparing through repentance and a dedication to changing one's life is our surest bet to making our souls ready to accept the gift that is Christ.
Also, the fact that he surmised that his 2 hour stint in the church was really a gift that seemed, at first, like an annoyance lifted my heart. This priest obviously strove to see Christ in everything... "annoyances" included. :) It made me happy to again realize that we've been blessed with an abundance of graces through our priests. It didn't hurt that he would stop Mass at each "change" to remind us of the new language, having us repeat those prayers that we'd stumble over patiently... like a conscientious teacher. :)
All in all, me missing Mass at my own parish enabled me to attend this Mass in Philly and I am eternally grateful for such a blessing. :) I hope everyone else had such a wonderful Sunday!
Warning - this is going to be another one of those "My Pastor is better than your Pastor" entries. Ha ha ha.
In all seriousness, though, my pastor is incredible. It's like every week, my heart has to grow bigger just to fit more appreciation and love in there for him. I sometimes wonder if that's what's going to happen in Heaven when I finally meet Jesus face-to-face. Am I going to have to explode repeatedly from the love that keeps springing forth from my heart? Ha ha. Our wonderful priests really are precursors to what we can expect when we meet the man they vowed to serve. I've been so blessed to have so many amazing priests in my life.
Anyway, the homily. I'm going to paraphrase and summarize, but here's the idea:
He said, “Ya know, Halloween is a great time for kids to pretend, for a day, to be anyone they want to be. It sparks their creativity, and creativity is a blessing from God. Sometimes, though, us adults forget that Halloween is for kids. We dress ourselves up in Catholic movements, we speak a good Catholic game, but when it comes down to brass tacks, we don’t always act with true Christian love in our hearts. We put on the mask of Christianity, and tell ourselves that we’re better than we are. We lack humility, just as the Pharisees did. We exalt ourselves in public, we look for praise and respect.
But God sees through those masks to the heart of who we are. He sees what is in our hearts. There’s no tricking God. The best we can do is lay bare our souls to Him and strive to live by His Gospel every day.”
I really, REALLY liked that analogy. We really do tend to ignore (or make excuses for) our sins while picking apart those of others. Instead, may we open our eyes to the truth, and own up to our faults so we can better correct them. Let’s leave the pretending to the children… if we’re claiming to be Catholic, let’s TRULY be Catholic (that means YOU, Cafeteria Catholics!!!).
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