Tag Archives: Mass

Pilgrimage to Philadelphia

BannerThis weekend I was blessed to be in Philadelphia for the Pope’s visit at the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families. I do not think words can express how amazing the whole experience was, but I am still going to try – even if it gets a bit lengthy! Going into this trip, we fully expected to be back on a side street somewhere watching the proceedings on a screen. While we would have been perfectly content with this, our experience exceeded all expectations and was more than I had hoped for!

The group from our diocese left early Saturday morning on our bus. This truly was a pilgrimage and each bus trip had time spent in wonderful prayer and song. After arriving at  our campground, unloading, and eating a late lunch, we broke into smaller groups and headed into the city. It took about 45 minutes for our bus to get to the main parking lot at the Philadelphia Sports Complex. From there we took the subway into town. Saturday we knew we would not get close to the main stage for the Festival of Families so instead we headed towards City Hall where Pope Francis would be passing by in a Papal parade that evening.

Pope FrancisWe found a spot about five rows back from the gate to the street where he would pass by and waited. The crowd was large but not overwhelming and everyone was so friendly and joyful! You could hear in the distance the immense cheers as Pope Francis’s motorcade got closer to our spot and we all got our cameras ready. He went by pretty quickly and was looking on the other side of the street when he passed but it was still amazing to be so close to the Holy Father! Being a bit shorter, I could see him mostly through my camera which I held up high and succeeded in getting a (slightly blurry) photo as he rode by. Our small group of eight was amazed at how close we had been!   We walked a few blocks to a large jumbotron to watch the Festival from there. We saw him (on the jumbotron screen) speak at the Festival and stayed to watch a few performances before heading back to our bus.

SongThe next morning we woke up, ate, and made lunches for the day. Again we boarded the bus but this time when we arrived at the parking lot we were instantly aware that today the crowds would be much larger. With this in mind, and being fully convinced we would have to find a jumbotron far from the action, we took our time to keep our group together as we journeyed on. The subway station was packed and the lines long but the atmosphere was so filled with joy and excitement that we didn’t even care! We met people from near and far, Quebec, Pennsylvania, Dominican Republic, Chicago, and even some fellow pilgrims from Ohio!

When we got into the city, we headed towards the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. We found a security checkpoint but had to walk along the line to try and find the end of it! As we walked, we came to a block with angry protesters on each side. With their megaphones, yelling, and hateful signs, perhaps they thought they would discourage us. But walking by them only made the experience even richer as we joined together, the whole line of us, in singing the Our Father over and over until we passed their section. It was such a beautiful thing to see people so filled with love and joy in the Lord joining in song and prayer together without even stopping to pay any mind to those who were against us. ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’ Romans 8:31

CrowdThe line was so long and there was no end in sight when we passed one of the many military members helping in the security efforts. As we passed, we heard him say that the checkpoint one block over was just being opened to the general public (it had previously been for ticketed guests only.) Our group cut over a block and got in the (much shorter) security line. We could not believe this blessing! We made it through security and were amazed at how close we were. Since we were so close to the ticketed area that each of us received a mass booklet as well! We had not been anticipating this at all!

Our first spotWe found a spot on the corner right in front of a large jumbotron that was directly behind the ticketed area. We literally were as close as non-ticketed guests were able to get! We set up our blankets and chairs. There was a sewer vent right near our spot and one of the volunteers informed us that since we were “in limbo land” we would not have access to any restrooms. The restrooms were either closer up in the ticketed area, or we would have to go out to the non-ticketed area behind us which would require going through security again. Despite this, we decided to stay at our spot.   We ate our lunches and then decided we would say a rosary together. We had just begun the first three Hail Marys of our group rosary when that same volunteer came up to our group. She told us to quickly gather our things, there was additional room in the ticketed section and they were going to let us in!

Our final spot for MassWe scooped up our blanket and quickly went forward. We ended up setting up a spot right behind the handicapped viewing area. We were close enough that you could see the art museum ahead of us and could make out the crucifix on the altar for mass! We were so thankful and thrilled! We finished eating and finished our rosary. We had plenty of time still until mass so we began to sing. One of the members in our group had put together a booklet of popular hymns that we had been singing earlier on the bus. We took out our booklets and started singing. People around us began to join in. It was beautiful.

From our spot, not only could we see the altar, but we were also right by a huge jumbotron where we Pope Francis in his procession before Masscould see the mass up close. We saw on the screen that Pope Francis was beginning his procession prior to mass. We watched in anticipation for him to pass by our spot as he slowly went through the crowds, stopping to kiss several babies along the way. When he was nearing our spot, I held my camera up above me but did not stop to look through it. I clicked away figuring I will get whatever photo I get. I wanted to watch the Holy Father pass by with my own eyes. He went much slower this time and was facing our direction so that we got a clear view of his joyful self, greeting all of us with love.

After the procession it was time for mass. The mass was more beautiful than I could ever describe. It is said that during mass we are the closest to heaven. All I can say is that you could truly feel that. Celebrating mass with a million people, not to mention the millions who watched from their homes, and with Pope Francis! It was beyond words. The readings were in Spanish, English, and Vietnamese, with some of the prayers in English and the Eucharistic liturgy all in Latin. The Holy Father gave his homily in his native Spanish. The jumbotron had translated captions along the bottom so we could follow along.

When it was time for communion, the priests who were distributing the Eucharist were signified in the crowd by yellow and white umbrellas held high above them. To see over a thousand yellow and white umbrellas as they made their way through the crowd for people from all over the world to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist was so moving. As we began to sing the communion hymns and made our way to the nearest umbrella I felt tears in my eyes. How awesome to celebrate this most Blessed Sacrament with so many others in one place together! Before mass ended, we received our blessing from Pope Francis.

The crowds leaving Philadelphia after Mass were certainly large but it was so well organized and everyone was so joyful that we didn’t mind. People were singing and laughing and celebrating together all the way back to the bus. You could truly feel the Holy Spirit among us all this weekend.

It is hard to describe our pilgrimage to Philadelphia. The photos don’t do it justice and while I pray my words express what we felt, I know they cannot. It was not about just seeing the Pope. It was not about getting as close as possible (although I am incredibly thankful that we were blessed to be as close as we were!) This was about worshiping together with so many people, led in prayer by our dear Pope Francis. It was an experience filled with prayer, love, and the joy of the Lord. It was inspiring and truly life-changing.

Glory to God for watching over us all this weekend! Thanks and praise for the wonderful blessings we received on this trip. And thank you to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for inspiring us all each day by your words and your actions. For helping to draw the Church closer to Christ. And for coming here to America with your message of love and mercy. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel so blessed to have been a part of it.

Altar

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Heal My Soul

rain-316579_640Do you ever find yourself crying during Mass? I know I do. Sometimes it is related to my prayers for a child. Other times it might be from missing my family. Sometimes the tears start to fall without me even really knowing why.   It seems that each time I am overcome with emotion like this, it is during Communion. Sometimes I feel silly or even guilty for crying, especially if I am not entirely sure what brought on the tears. Here we are at the highest point of Mass and I am crying…what is wrong with me?

For a while I thought maybe it was just me. That I was just some crazy person who couldn’t control her emotions. But as I have talked with some family members and friends, I found that they have similar experiences.

Why? Why do the tears begin to fall and emotions take over? And why does it seem to be during or leading up to Communion? Is it just a coincidence?

I don’t think so. You see, when I find myself crying during Mass, it is generally not out of sorrow.   They are not tears of anger or sadness but rather tears of pent up emotions of all sorts.  I have come to realize that perhaps it is not my emotions taking control over me, but rather it is the release of these emotions that causes the tears to flow.

As we prepare to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist we pray:

“Lord I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

We are sinners. Time and time again we fail to do the Lord’s will, to trust Him completely, to love as He loved. But the beauty of the grace and love of Christ is that He looks past all of that and still loves us so much that He gave His life for us. Before receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we take time in prayer to acknowledge our failures, welcome His mercy, and prepare our hearts to receive Him.

To make room for Christ to we need to let go of some of the things that may be taking up unnecessary space. Things like worry, doubt, fear, sadness, confusion, anxiety, jealousy, anger, negativity.   These things try to take over the spaces that should be filled by God and His love, mercy, and peace. And so in order to receive Jesus fully in the Holy Eucharist, we empty out all of these negative feelings. We empty ourselves before the Lord in the full trust that He will fill us with everything that we need and more.

For me, sometimes that emptying of myself comes out in tears. As I empty the negative feelings and emotions from my heart, the tears flow. And when I receive my Lord in the Eucharist, I am filled with peace. The tears fade away and I feel renewed in mind and spirit. I feel the Lord’s presence within.  I feel the Lord healing my soul.

I may not cry every Sunday, but the experience is still there. I believe we all experience it in one way or another, the release of ourselves to be more fully filled with Him. Whether released in tears, in song, or in quiet prayer, it is the healing of our souls as we prepare to receive Christ. For we are not worthy, but by His grace, His love, His word, our souls are healed.

Special Guest at Mass on Sunday!

This morning on my way to work I heard an advertisement on my local Christian radio station for a guest speaker for Sunday’s service at a local church.  This is not all that unusual of an advertisement.  Many churches use the pull of a special guest such as an author, singer, or notable speaker to attract visitors to their Sunday service and to share their faith. 

There is nothing wrong with hosting a speaker, singer, author, etc. to speak on their faith and inspire others.  But I believe there is a time and a place.  Perhaps the best time to see a local author speak is at a separate function, not during Sunday worship services.  Because as we draw people into the faith, we need to make sure we are drawing them to God…not man.

My Church has a special guest every Sunday and that is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  It doesn’t get any better than that!  In going to Mass and in spreading the faith to others, I don’t feel the need to have a famous person there to speak to them because I know that there is none more wonderful that God Himself!  If our goal is to bring people to Christ, then that is exactly what we need to do!  Bring them to Christ…not to someone else.  Other speakers can certainly be inspiring and influential but perhaps there is a better time.  We cannot forget that church is not about us, it’s about God.   

Going to Mass on Sunday can become a routine.  We can lose sight of why we go.  The truth is that we don’t go to church to be entertained.  We don’t go for a social event.  We go to church to worship God!  We come together as a faith community to give our Lord our undivided attention as we listen to His word, praise Him and all His glory, ask Him for forgiveness, and partake in the Holy Eucharist.  

When our hearts and souls are fully invested in the Mass before us, we don’t need anything more.  We don’t need fancy lights or music when we have the light of Christ within us and when we join our hymns with the angels!  We don’t need to have refreshments available during the service…we have the Body and Blood of our Savior, given to us as the Bread of Life!  We don’t need a famous author or speaker; we have the words of God Himself!

The Mass is a beautiful and reverent celebration with Christ at the center of it all.  Our Lord and Savior makes Himself real to us through the Eucharist and fills up our hearts and souls.  The peace, wonder, and love that is felt during Mass is something that cannot be replaced by any other guest.  Yes there is a special guest at Church every week…Jesus Christ the Son of God!

Only One Thing

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply,“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

This was the Gospel heard in Mass yesterday.  It is a familiar story but one that seems to always resonate with me.  Martha is busy serving, while Mary, at first glance, is doing nothing.  But the reality is, Mary was performing as service even greater.  You see, Mary was so busy serving, she forgot to take time to just be with the Lord. 

Yesterday as I contemplated finances, loans, someday purchasing a house, and as I thought of all those things next to my prayers to have a child, I started to worry.  I began trying to figure it all out myself.  My mind was running a mile a minute.  Calculating monthly costs, factoring in savings, trying to figure out if I would be able to stay home with a baby if we are blessed to have one, what expenses can we cut and by how much, and on and on and on.  By the time I was ready for bed, my brain hurt, and I felt exhausted.  I was so confused.  What should I do?  What should I do to prepare better for a baby, to save more money, to pay off more loans?  I was “anxious and worried about many things.”

And then I remembered the Gospel.  “There is need of only one thing.”  Jesus is all that I need.  I need to take a deep breath and focus on God.  I need to push aside my worries, trust fully in God’s plan, and just be with the Lord.  All these things I am worrying about are in God’s hands.  He can see everything and knows what is best for me.  After thinking on that for awhile, I felt more relaxed.  My worries drifted away and I was left calmly praying to just be with the Lord and for my trust in Him to grow.

+Lord Jesus,  Help me to be like Martha and serve those around me, but to also be like Mary and remember to put you first and take time to just be with You.  When life gets crazy, help me to remember that there is only one thing I need, and that is You.  Amen.+

The Neverending Dilemma of What to Wear

Despite the fact that I lay out what I am going to wear each evening before bed, I cannot tell you how many outfits I go through on many mornings trying to decide what to wear. Sometimes I wake up, put on my chosen outfit and am ready to go! Other mornings it is not so easy. It might be warmer or colder than I anticipated prompting a new outfit better suited for the day’s temperature. Or it could be I decide I don’t want to squash my feet into heels today, and my flats just don’t go well with that particular skirt. Or I’m feeling tired and simply want something more comfortable. Sometimes there isn’t really a reason at all! I just don’t feel like wearing what I had originally intended. This results in the trying on of numerous tops, skirts, pants, dresses, and shoes in a mad-dash attempt to find the perfect outfit for the day (which consequently results in numerous tops, skirts, pants, dresses and shoes being tossed on the closet floor).

I know I am not alone in this dilemma! Many people (especially girls) know exactly what I am talking about. Finding the perfect outfit for any event, or even just an ordinary work day, can be quite the challenge. But why? Most anything in my closet would have been fine to wear. I have enough clothing to choose from. I am only going to work in an office where the dress requirement is business casual and more casual than business). Many times once I come home I end up changing into something more comfortable anyway. So what is the big deal? Who cares what I wear? Who am I dressing for?

When I am spending the day with my husband the answer is obvious. I like to look nice for him. I know he doesn’t really care but I also know that if I take a little extra time or wear his favorite dress he notices and appreciates it. It’s not that I feel I have to dress nicely for him. But I love and respect him and one of the ways I show that is by dressing nicely and respectfully. When I go to work I dress mostly for me. I want to look professional for the people I work with and for people coming into the office. But mainly, I want to dress nice because I feel better when I feel that I look nice. I feel more confident. It just feels right. What we wear can affect the way we feel and behave.

When I performed and taught theatre, costumes and makeup were always such a fun part of the rehearsal process. It was so exciting to get your costume and be able to wear it during rehearsal. Not only was it fun to try on new costumes though, it helps you get into character. You can dance around the stage as much as you want in shorts and a tank top but when you put on that costume, it takes a whole new level. If affects your performance. You might move differently based on what you are wearing. And it helps match your personality to that of your character. Now is it really the costume? No. There are no magical costumes that suddenly make you a better actor or dancer. But sometimes what you wear can help bring out something already inside of you.

Sometimes we dress up for other people. Sometimes we dress just to be comfortable. And sometimes we dress a certain way to play a certain part (like wearing a nice pair of dress pants with a nice blouse and heels to make you feel more professional for the work place rather than say a t-shirt and shorts with flip flops more suited for the beach).

How do we dress for God? Each Sunday we go to worship in God’s house. How do we dress? Some people approach church as a “come as you are” situation. In fact many churches advertise the fact that you don’t need to dress up, just come as you are to worship the Lord. And of course that is the most important thing. Why worry about what we wear?

In 1 Samuel 16:7 “ But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Even Jesus tells us, “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?” Matthew 6:28-30.

In looking at these two passages many people decide that this means it does not matter what you wear to church. And while your outfit is certainly less important than worship, I think it does matter. Not because our outward appearance is important. And as Jesus tells us, we shouldn’t be worrying about what we wear as our main concern. But I do think we should pay attention to how we dress for God’s house.

If you were having lunch with the President or the Queen you would of course dress up. Going on a date…you dress up. Getting married? Going to a wedding? You dress up! We dress up for all of these momentous occasions in our lives with ordinary people. When we go to church we are going to the house of the Lord! Consider the Mass. We listen to the word of God. We praise and worship Him. We lift up our hearts in song, in chant, in spoken prayer. And then we are in the physical presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This is not just a Sunday obligation…this is a time of worship that demands, and more importantly deserves, reverence. We are in the presence of the Lord.

“The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God;
Sinai itself quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel” – Psalm 68:8

If the presence of our God is so mighty and wondrous to make rain fall and mountains move, how can we approach the house of God without giving it a second thought? We are going to the house of the King of Kings! What is the appropriate clothing to worship in the house of God?

I believe that question will be different to each person but it should center around dressing in what you feel is the best you can wear on a Sunday while still feeling comfortable enough to focus on the Mass instead of what you are wearing. I love dresses and so it is fitting for me to wear a dress to Mass. For me, wearing a nice dress or skirt and blouse symbolizes that this is not just any old place we are visiting. This is a momentous occasion and I want to mark it as such! I know I am made in God’s image and do not necessarily need to dress up, but I want to. It reminds me of the importance of Mass, it makes me act in a more reverent manner. And to be honest, I feel that if I spend so much time getting ready for work or a night out, I can certainly put the effort into doing the same for church!

But for some people, dressing up does not hold the same meaning. I have a friend who simply hates dresses. She feels awkward and uncomfortable in any dress or skirt and will avoid them at all costs. For her to wear a dress to church would likely only make her uncomfortable, fidgety, and more worried about her appearance as she would be completely out of her norm. Instead, she opts to wear nice pants and a nice top. The same goes for many people. Other people may not have the same selection of clothing that you do. And some people may want to dress in a more casual outfit not out of lack of respect but as a way to humbly approach God.

There is no right or wrong way to dress for church so long as we remember where it is we are going and why and dress appropriately for the occasion, whatever that may mean to us.

His Wondrous Word

All through childhood, into my teens, and even through college, I have been on stage.  I danced for many years before beginning to pursue theatre instead.  I performed in various children’s theatre productions and community theatre productions.  I even studied theatre in college and chose to make that my major.  I performed in musicals, plays, and a few small commercials.  My roles ranged from chorus to leading parts.  I taught theatre classes to children in a wide variety of venues and for varying age groups and experience levels.  Once I met my husband, I decided I wanted to focus on our family and life together rather than pursuing theatre.  Because of this decision, I haven’t been on stage in about two years.  And despite how much I enjoyed it, I have found that I don’t miss it.  Perhaps at some point in my life I will perform again or will again teach theatre, but for right now, I am happy with my decision and truly feel this is where God wants me to be.

When we moved over the summer and joined our new church, I wanted to volunteer in some way.  I decided to help out with the Confirmation classes but still wanted to help out with the Mass in some way.  We are called to use our God given talents to give back to the Lord and so I decided that with my background in theatre, perhaps I could use that gift to give back through proclaiming the readings during Mass.   I signed up to help out, went through the training session with our Priest, and quickly began being assigned to read during Mass. 

It was surprising to me when I found myself so nervous to do my first reading!  I felt so nervous that Sunday morning.  I was nervous even as we got to church and took our seats.  When the time came to do my reading, I went up front and began to proclaim God’s Word.  I felt such peace while I was reading.  I was so relieved!  I sat back down with my husband who whispered that I had done a good job.  After Mass our priest told me I had done nicely and several parishioners expressed similar sentiments.  I thought to myself, now that I have done it once, I won’t be so nervous the next time!

 Wrong.  Since that first time I proclaimed the readings a few months back, I find myself feeling the same nervous-like feeling before each reading.  And I again find myself at peace during the reading itself and afterwards.

 I began thinking about this.  I practiced, prayed, and certainly have been in front of people before.  Why have I been feeling so nervous?  Just because I haven’t been on stage in awhile?  Then I thought of something else.  The peace I felt while proclaiming.  I thought of the people in the congregation watching and listening intently as I proclaimed the Lord of the Lord. 

 Then I thought back to the shows I performed in.  I thought of the people in the audience who were there just for a good time.  I thought of the lines I would rehearse and rehearse until they were memorized.  One of the exercises we would do to memorize lines would be to repeat them so many times that you could recite all your lines without any thought whatsoever.  We could go through our lines at lightning speed with no emotion attached or thinking involved.  The purpose of this was so that during the show, we didn’t have to think about our lines, we could just act and it would come as second nature.  And if we messed up a line here or there, we could fake our way out of it and no one would know the difference.

 And that right there is exactly what makes it different.  Proclaiming the readings in Mass is only similar to acting in that you are in front of a group of people and are speaking.  But it is so much different.  So much more.  When I am doing a reading at Mass, I am not reading the words of a playwright.  I am proclaiming the very Word of God.  I am not simply reciting lines and acting excited as a performance to an audience who has paid money to be entertained.  I am reading the Word of the Lord, carefully, and with His Spirit guiding me.  Any emotion needs to come from Him and through me, to reach out to the congregation.  I may have experience in performing, but this is not a performance.

 God sends His Spirit to us in many ways.  He calls us to many things.  I could have signed up to be a greeter, to sing in the choir where I could blend in with others, or various other ways to participate in Mass.  But I felt that I was called to proclaim the readings during Mass and I think now I know why.  I have been given the gift of performing.  I may not be the best actor around, and I may not pursue it anymore, but nevertheless, I am comfortable in front of people.  I can speak clearly and loud enough for everyone to hear me.  And I believe God was calling me to use these gifts in the Holy Mass.  But more than that, I believe that I was called to begin proclaiming because through the nerves I felt preparing, through the peace I felt while reading, I gained a greater appreciation for His Word.  I realized the reason behind my nerves is perhaps a small realization of how great our God is to speak His Word to us.  Maybe it wasn’t a “stage-fright” type nervousness as I had thought at first, but instead a strong desire to adequately proclaim His Word so that the people may hear His message.  I realized that the peace I felt while reading was truly His Spirit working through me.  It was as if God was saying, “Do not be afraid, I am here.”  It is God through His most Holy Spirit who speaks through me and sends me His peace so that I may share His Word with the church.  His Word is Holy and should be treated as such.  With this new experience, I feel I am truly seeing just how wondrous His Word can be.  Our God truly is awesome and amazing and we are so blessed to have His love, His guidance, and His Word in our lives.