Sunday, March 30, 2008

Divine Mercy Sunday

So today is Divine Mercy Sunday and my Confirmation class's(I'm the teacher not a student) service project weekend. We had a diaper drive for a local pregnancy recourse center at our parish. I spent most of my day at church and managed to get two homilies today, Fr. Brian and Fr. George. Both homilies have combined into one in my head as they had similar themes.

Fr. Brian started his homily by mentioning the decree that made the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, continuing with love and mercy as his topics of choice. Father spoke about his own life, about how he felt as if he was/is always behind everyone else in many aspects of life. Some of the things he mentioned were repeating first grade, starting college a year later than his friends because he took a year off after high school, and how he was ordained at ago 40 and now 5 years later looks at the other guys his age and sees that they have been ordained for 15 years. I'm sure many of us can tell a similar story, and I know I saw much of my life in Fr. Brian's life, I kept thinking about how most of my friends are married and have kids, and of course I thought about my graduation from SHU. Talk about not being with everyone, long story short I didn't graduate on time, see my faith journey part 3 section for the full story.

Fr. Brian spoke of how Thomas must have felt left out, and that he gets a bad rap. Fr. George had a similar theme. Both priests spoke about how Thomas was out doing stuff whereas the disciples were hiding in the upper room. They both spoke about how we are each like Thomas in our lives. Fr. George spoke about the loss of someone, and how it's often the tragic losses or the losses that we think come to early that make us doubt our faith. I thought at this point of Fiona and Bernadette, my little saints, but their deaths didn't make me doubt my faith, they actually helped me realize that Heaven is our ultimate goal no matter what our age is.

Both Fr. George and Fr. Brian mentioned that Thomas was the only one to leave the room, Fr. Brian told us that he's wants to know what Thomas was doing. Fr. George said Thomas was courageous for actually leaving the room and doing the normal everyday things like taking care of having food. He also mentioned that we are called to do the same, that when things happen in life that we should turn to God's love and mercy and get back out and do the everyday things, and that we should bring peace to one another. Fr. George managed a way to tie all the readings, Divine Mercy Sunday and baptism (there was one at our Mass) into his homily. In his section on the second reading he spoke about gold being tested in the fire, and about how gold has a very specific point of purification. Gold that is taken out a few second too early still have some impurities and gold that is left in the fire one second too long is destroyed. The goldsmith needs to know exactly when to take the gold out, Fr. George of course tied this into God in our lives and mentioned how God knows exactly how much to give us and when to take us out of the fire.

Fr. Brian mentioned "suffering being a whole other ball of wax" I don't remember what was mentioned before it, it might have been about life not going the way we want it too. All I heard was suffering and thought, that's my topic Father. I just finished reading Amazing Grace: Stories of Suffering by Jeff Cavins and Matthew Pinto and in it are 10 stories of different forms of suffering, most of them being the classic losing a child or other family member or both a child and significant other, and being physically disabled, but some were not the normal ones you hear, one was about a man who was falsely accused of something, a person who had terrible migraines. Besides suffering there was a common theme of each person being chosen to more closely be like Jesus. I took a graduate course in suffering and literally suffered through it, I remember picking quietly suffering for my topic and having my professor (a doctor) tell me that no one suffers quietly. The topic of a dark night of the soul was mentioned, but I honestly think that no one in that class knew what a dark night feels like. I can't even say I have, but I can't think of anything else to describe what I feel like, nor can I explain what a dark night entails.

I look to St. Therese, Cardinal Cooke, Cardinal O'Connor and I see examples of quietly suffering, and also in Fr. Eugene Hamilton, whose story of being ordained literally minutes before he died of cancer in his early 20s brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. I look back to this class and on my life and on society in general and notice that there is not a whole lot out there on suffering and that suffering is barely mentioned or looked at in a way where one would want to suffer. I remember a homily given a few years ago on the Feast of Christ the King where the priest said, "without the Cross there is no Glory, there is no King." It's true without the suffering of Good Friday, Easter Sunday never happens. We speak so much on the Risen Christ and on Easter, but we over look Good Friday and the gruesome death of Jesus. Suffering can be beautiful, look at what God did with it. He took tremendous suffering and turned it into the greatest gift ever, Eternal Life.

Maybe it's time for me to actually write my book, Quietly Suffering and use my life as an example. No I have not suffered physically, or through the lose of a child, but I have been trough enough to know that life is not easy, and that you are allowed to question God's actions, you have to accept them, but you can question Him, as Fr. George said, God knows when to take us out of the fire, He only gives us what we need to be purified so we can be with Him.

Faith Journey part deux

So my time in college is when my faith really starts to develop, for my years in grammar and high school, I was really just following the motions of what was done before me and of what was expected of me. So college really was the first place for my faith to be tested, and challenged. All this took place at a "catholic" university no less. More on that later. In case you forgot where I left off, I had just returned from WYD in Paris.

Thus I began my Seton Hall days on a religious high and in a matter of seconds was taken off it. I moved in a week after everyone, classes had already started, and I had missed the first day of most of my classes. The director of campus ministry had sent a letter to me, granted Fr. Jim probably sent a form letter inviting all incoming freshmen to stop by campus ministry. Once again I heard my mom say, "He seems nice, go find that priest." Mom was right, Fr. Jim was nice, but it would not be Fr. Jim that I would connect to; it would be the nutty Irish one that was placed in the corner by the door, the 'young priest', Fr. Sheridan aka Fr. Bill.

I filled out the Campus Ministry survey card given to me during a class one day, and I checked off nearly every box; retreats, meetings, Small Christian Communities, being a lector, greeting at Mass, RCIA and whatnot. I handed in the card and left it at that. I did search out a group called Seton Hall United For Life (SHUFL) the pro-life club/organization on campus. Looking back I realize that I thought it was strange that a Catholic school would need a pro-life organization, shouldn’t the whole campus be pro-life, little did I know that this little organization would help shape my faith and life and how many times I would continue to ask myself the question, “aren’t we Catholic?” This begins the "I need to find my faith section of my life." My first semester at SHU seemed ok; I was home most weekends so I still had my Fr. Geno (FG) Masses. I missed being home; I missed being a part of my St. Anthony's family, but things would soon change there.

At some point during the first few weeks of the semester, Pete, the grad assistant for Campus Ministry would invite my future roommate and I to a Small Christian Communities (SCC) meeting. There we sat all 7 of us around a table, a long rectangle, not a normal square or circle table, but one of those long ass board room tables. Long story short there was a knock on the door and in blew, and I mean blew Fr. Bill. Here was this young priest in regular clothes; you know jeans and a t-shirt. I thought, wow, “another crazy priest”, as Fr. Bill reminded me of Fr. Geno and well SCC aka Small Christian Communities was starting off the way youth group did, small and with 7 people. Thus began my Campus Ministry journey.

Let me add that these two priests would shape my life more than I or them probably realized at the time. Fr. Geno on a retreat before my senior year, "you're going to be the loud one next year." I honestly thought the man was nuts, I still do, but that push was all I needed to get out of my shell somewhat, I'm still working on it, but when people want to know why I am the way I am, I just say "blame Fr. Geno." Seriously, since that comment I have watched myself say and do things to defend the Church that I don't know if I would have been able to without that push to be the "loud one." I only mention FG here, because as you'll see Fr. Bill is mentioned throughout the college years. Back to our regularly scheduled rundown of my faith journey.

Walking into the cafeteria one day I was greeted at the door by “Rocky” asking me, “you ever been on a retreat?” The rest of the conversation when like this: me: “yes, Rocky.” Rocky: “good you're going on one again.” Fr. Bill happened to be standing next to Rocky and after they “twisted my arm” I was going on my first SHU retreat. On the retreat I would see just how similar FG and Fr. Bill were in style, and that Fr. Bill and I have a common background and interests. It was on the retreat that I would meet more friends and other like me. The campus ministry retreats would shape my life in many ways, allowing me to find my gifts and talents for retreat talks and planning retreats and other events, and some of them led to my evil ways, such as the Ron & Mary room from one retreat. Fr. Bill had asked Ron to type up/create the tags for the rooms, and I happened to walk in to Campus Ministry when Ron was doing this, and something inspired us to make a Ron & Mary room. I can still hear Fr. Bill in the hallway of the Ringwood retreat center, “RON! (elongated pause) MARY!” This little room incident would show me that you always need to have a sense of humor and the ability to laugh as things can go crazy in a matter of seconds.

Because of that post card that I filled out for Campus Ministry, I got a call from Renee asking if I wanted to be a part of the RCIA process as a sponsor. I said sure, all that was required of me was to attend an hour long class with my candidate and Mass on Sunday with the RCIA group. The Mass happened to be Fr. Bill's Mass, and I had learned from the Wednesday Masses, that I like Fr. Bill's Masses. I was roped into the Wednesday Masses by SHUFL, a group of about 4 or 5 people who think abortion /is wrong, it’s also where I met most of my friends at SHU. It still amuses me that on a Catholic campus the most we would get for the pro-life organization was 10 people. SHFUL met weekly on Wednesdays, and once a month met after the 12pm Mass to say the Rosary on the Green. This was introduction to Fr. Bill's masses, I liked them, and Adoration followed Mass on Wednesday which becomes more important later on. God works with what we give Him, so He has to hit me upside the head before I get it.

Back to the post card and RCIA; there I was sitting in these classes as a sponsor, which meant I should know how to be Catholic, I was confirmed after all. I sat there and was dumbfounded that I couldn't remember the Corporal works of mercy, shhh, I probably still can't name them all, but that's not the point. The point is that I used to know all of them, all the things used at Mass, all the Vestments that the priest wore, and lots of other things. I did have Catholic grammar school education; I wanted to know where all that knowledge went; why I didn’t remember all of this stuff. Old age hadn't set in yet, I wanted to know how I had forgotten it. I didn’t really forget it, it just got shifted to the back part of my brain as I didn't need religion knowledge anymore, I was from a public high school, no religion class there. Youth group helped me be religious, and reminded me how to live life, but I was floored that I had forgotten all my religion class info. I soon found out that I didn't forget it, so what if I can't name everything, I can for the most part, I was learning to live my life as a Catholic and not just go through the motions and call myself Catholic and not do anything. Youth group had shown me that being 'religious' could be fun and well now I was beginning to see, how being 'religious' would be a part of my life. The rest of my first semester continued on nicely, and soon it was time to come home for Christmas. I was happily back at St. Anthony's; I was back home, but SHU was growing on me little by little, as it does.

The following would be the moment I could describe as my "conversion moment" or my "aha moment" as Oprah calls it. I wouldn't realize just yet what was happening to me or around me until much later, and still today I wonder why it happened. My answer is usually "if it happened to teach my to love my faith and make me love the Catholic Church, then so be it, after all God does know what He is doing."

Over Christmas break I joined the college group at St. Anthony's on a ski trip to the Poconos. On the trip we re-lived some memories of youth group and some of us had to be told how to use a sled by a mother who was sledding with her child, who helped out the group of college students who were standing there trying to figure out what to do, she nicely told us we had the sleds upside down. I can only imagine the conversation she had about us later on. The nights of the trip were spent doing good old youth group stuff: music, prayer, Confession, games and just plain old bs-ing. This trip holds more memories than I realized, the conversations in Burger King about lacrosse being better than rugby, cards games and busting each other’s chops in one of our rooms, and little did I know it would be the last time that particular group would get together. It was soon time to return back to SHU and I was actually happy to be going back. The SHUFL trip to the March for Life was coming up, this would be a first for me, and the RCIA retreat was coming up too. So things were looking good and I was happy.

It may seem strange to have such a secular event in my faith journey, but so much happened in January of 1998, that the ski trip of December 1997 would be ingrained in my memory as a last of sorts. The ski trip is not the conversion moment, but what follows is, and despite how many times I have spoken about it and written about it, it still send a knife through my heart.

The March for Life took place, the RCIA retreat took place, it was a busy weekend for me so I stayed at SHU, there was no reason to come home just for a few hours on Sunday or so I thought. The Sunday after the March and retreat, I received a phone call that would change my life. It was January 25, 1998; the words, "Gary was killed in a car accident last night" still send a shiver down my spine and tears to my eyes. I wanted to be home, I had to be home, I wanted to be back at St. A's with my friends, I wanted to back on that ski trip with Gary and everyone else, because it was normal and not even a month away. I called some friends to make sure they knew, and then I called home from the hallway as to not disturb my roommate. So my dad came to get me and I don't even remember if I made it to Mass, I'm sure I did, I’m pretty sure we had Mass on the retreat. Anyway, I didn't know what to do; all I wanted to do was to be home, at St. Anthony's. Fr. Geno had a prayer service that night at St. A’s, and the first thing that happened was hugs, just hugs and tears on the steps of St. A’s. I remember St. A's that night was packed with people I went to high school with, some faces I had never seen in church. FG managed a way to comfort all of us, and I returned to SHU in a very confused state of mind. I would return home later on during the week to say good-bye at the wake, where the line was wrapped around the parking lot, the whole thing sill vivid in my mind even when I go to another funeral at Browning-Forshay, I still think, man Gary had both rooms and it still wasn't enough to hold us. Now that's a sign of love, the funeral home wasn't big enough to hold everyone.

Here would begin my “what the hell am I doing” stage of my faith. For the first time in my life I would question God, His motives, and wonder why I was Catholic. Gary's death threw me for a loop; I had never been to a funeral of someone my age, let alone a friend before. I had known of friends of a friend who died tragically, but I didn’t know them personally, so it didn’t affect me too much. Now I was away from St. Anthony's where I wanted to be, where I felt safe, and where I knew I wasn't the only one feeling sad. Alas, I had to head back to SHU, even though I didn’t really want to, live for me had to continue on. I hid my thoughts and pain from most of my friends at SHU, because there honestly was nothing they could do for me, and honestly it was only the 2nd semester for most of us, so we were still adjusting to college life. Fr. Bill somehow could see through me, or I was able to be completely open and honest with him. I remember sitting in his office, asking, “where's my faith, how could this happen, why did this happen?” Father's response was, “don't ask why, ask how, what can come from this?” I honestly thought Fr. Bill was crazy, but I trusted him, and I did take his advice. Sounds like what I said about another priest before. That piece of advice comes up to this day when I have to deal with something out of the ordinary. That spring semester, I would do things I never thought I would do; join a sorority and drink but it, drinking, didn't bother me too much. I was a legal adult at 18, and promised myself I’d never get drunk, as it was a drunk driver that killed Gary. To this day I know my limits with alcohol and stick to them. I would find myself at Adoration on Wednesdays, it helped that I signed up to spend an hour at Adoration. There were some weeks where I did more praying than others, and some weeks when I did no praying, there were times where I yelled at God inside my brain, and weeks when I would just write stuff down in a journal. Something was happening here and I didn't know what, yet. Again God works with that you give Him, and I’m as stubborn as they come, slowly He was bringing me to Him and His Son in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

Now I can't leave you with such a down part of my faith journey, so I'll end with my thoughts on what I consider to be a wonderfully Catholic University, Franciscan University of Steubenville. Again I state God works with what we give Him, and Steuvenville would be a light in the darkness for me.

Summer flew past, as I spent most of it working as a member of the custodial staff of a NYC public high school where my dad work as part of the custodial staff, so when they needed people to help clean in the summer, the employees’ children were given preference. Despite working most days from 6am-3pm, cleaning up after some nasty students and teachers I was able find time to venture with Campus Ministry to this place called Franciscan University of Steubenville. My mom at some point during my first year at SHU mentioned this Franciscan College to me, she had probably heard of it from EWTN, after all it’s either EWTN or QVC that she has on. Sure enough I found myself on a bus ride out to Steubenville, and when I returned I said, “MOM, WHY didn't you tell me about Steubenville before, it's awesome!” I didn't transfer to Steubenville though I thought about it for a few minutes; I stayed at SHU, because God had plans for me there. Franciscan University will probably come in later, after God smacks me upside the head a few more times with the idea of going there, or of doing Distance Learning for a class or two to see what it’s like.

The conferences at Steubenville, would find the closest charismatic in me, and also help me find the traditionalist in me. A charismatic traditionalist, there's something you don't hear about every day. Steubenville would be where my love of Catholic t-shirts would come about, and I certainly have a decent collection of them, and when I wear them I always get nice comments on them. I remember sitting at Mass on the first day of the conference seeing all of these shirts that had THE EUCHARIST on the back. I thought what the hell are they wearing? I soon found my Top Ten Reasons to Stay Roman Catholic tee and I still have it and love it. :) I would go on to find Dr. Scott Hahn and his writings there as well. He is one of my favorite Catholic writers because his books aren't these massive theological books, but books the normal person can read, yet are full of theology. I would also find Jeff Cavins there, and from the looks of it, I’ll be using his Bible study at my parish, so I’m sure Jeff will help shape my faith too. Steubenville would show me that being Catholic was cool, and that I wasn't alone in it. Other events helped with this too, but I always looked forward to my trips to Steubenville, they are the only school that I know of when they call for money and even if you say no, I can't afford anything right now; they say "Do you have any prayer requests?" Yeah, I still wonder why I never went there.

There's more to say about Steubenville, but I don't know where to start. I'm hoping to go to the Bible Conference (maybe I can convince my parish to pay for that one, but that requires me having the courage to admit I don't have enough money, though I probably do, to go on it) and the Defending the Faith Conference. As you will see I am a proponent of Young Adult Ministry, but it needs to be done right. My parish is a wonderful place, but it needs help in some places, again it takes me having the courage to speak up to my Pastor, and the Holy Spirit keeping the two of us open to each others comments. At. Steubenville I would experience what I think is what a Catholic University should be. I understand that you don't need a Perpetual Adoration chapel or a memorial to the unborn on your campus to make you Catholic, but the school should act Catholic and not forget that it is Catholic. Don't get me wrong I loved my time at Seton Hall, but like most Catholic Colleges and University it needs prayers and work, and I believe that SHU is changing, slowly. The conferences at Franciscan would show me a different side of me, a side that I didn't know existed, the "Bible thumpin', pew jumpin', hands in the air Catholic" as a member of the RCIA program would call us. There is no way to actually explain what Fransiscan University has done for me, and that's only through 3 young adult conferences, and I understand that the classroom is completely different, but I have a feeling I'll be there for my graduate studies, since it seems that SHU's grad school and I are not meant to be.

I'll leave you off here, to come back later when I talk about Youth 2000 and CFRs.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Faith Journey

Since this covers 28 years, I guess I should split it into sections. Last night I was going through some of my writings on my computer and found the one titled "My Faith Journey" and decided to read it. It was inspired by our pastoral staff writing about their journeys to their vocations in religious life. I decided to write about my own vocation to "religious life" considering that we are all called to religious. I wrote it some time in 2006, so a fair bit of it is missing, and I'll add it in, I just don't know if I'm ready to talk about all the stuff that happened in 2 years, and trust me, a boat load of stuff has happened. Any way let's begin, at least I can cover the grammar and high school school years, seeing as a whole lot didn't happened then. ;)

It all started 28 years ago on Dec. 11th, when I was born into this wonderful world. On Dec.12th I entered my life as a Catholic. I was an emergency baptism as I only weighed 3lbs. 15 1/2 ozs. Thus my journey to 'religious life' began. I spent the first month of my life in a hospital with all sorts of needles sticking out of me and other such fun stuff; thankfully I don't remember any of it. I can only assume that my life continued as that of any young, Irish, American, Catholic child: Mass on Sunday, Mom and Dad teaching me the basics of life and of being a Catholic. I remember going to Mass as a child, being on my best behavior, being able to stand on the kneeler, and no toys were allowed. There was no children's church, you dealt with whatever priest you got, whether you liked him or not. We had something called a children's Mass, but if I remember correctly that was a Mass in the gym and it was probably more of a teen/young adult Mass than a children's Mass. Maybe I'm combining memories of a few Masses, but the overall point is we weren't taken out of the Church.

My early life was shaped by my family: mom, dad and my brother, and well the aunts, uncles and cousins too. Being a fair bit younger than most of them, I didn't experience as many sacraments as I could have, but there were enough Communions, Confirmations, and weddings that I can remember a good few of them.

It was soon time for me to go to school, I remember mom calling different Catholic schools, looking to get me in. We tired our home parish, but they for some reason didn't want me so I ended up at Sacred Heart Private School, which was run by the ASCJ sisters, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, unfortunately it’s closing at the end of this school year. It would be in these hallowed halls of the "little school with the big heart" that my vocation to "religious life" would begin.

Here the sisters would provide many things for us to do, First Friday Masses, plays, glee club aka the choir, liturgical ministries, prayer services were among the many school activities. While Mom and Dad laid the basics of the faith, the Sisters took what was there and built upon it. I read at Mass, sang in the choir, helped out around the school. These nuns hold a dear spot in my heart, especially after seeing the mother house in Rome, and because there were my first experience with “religious life.”

It would be at Sacred Heart that I would complete my initiation into the Catholic Church by making my First Holy Communion and being confirmed by Bishop Sheridan. I spent 9 years at Sacred Heart getting a great Catholic education which I wouldn't see until much later. Finally that day of freedom came and my class of 22 graduated in June of 1993. Amid tears of joy and happiness I said good bye to friends and to New York as it was time for me to move to New Jersey.

Yeah, I had moved to NJ that other state that my cousins lived in and I was happy until high school began. Those wonderful halls of Hawthorne High weren't friendly at first. See I do not like the fact that most of the kids in Hawthorne have made their friends/groups before they enter high school thanks to that wonderful thing called middle school. So there I was the outsider, the girl with the funny accent, trying to find her way in a school she didn't really like. There was a shining light though, for the first time in my life, I had met a man who had just become a priest. In New York the priests had been at our church since I was born, so they all seemed old to me. Deacon Geno was assigned to our parish and was ordained in Aug. 1993 becoming Fr. Geno or FG as, he was more commonly known. I thought there is no way, he's a priest; he's too young. Little did I know how much this young priest would shape my life.

For a year my mom told me, (Irish accent needed) "You should go to youth group, Fr. Geno seems like such a nice young priest." So finally one Sunday night in September of 1994, I caved, I set foot inside the newly 'ordained' youth room, and much to my surprise I actually liked being there. I met new friends, people I went to high school with, whom I never thought I'd speak to. Here began my 'oh being religious can be fun' stage of life. Through youth group I found myself doing things that I did in grammar school, I was part of our 'teen music ministry', I was a lector in the parish and over all having fun each Sunday night while learning about my faith. I wasn't using books to learn, because I had that book knowledge, I needed what would later be called "heart knowledge" by another priest who has shaped my life.

For 3 years I rarely missed a youth group meeting or outing. Finally, that dreaded day of graduation came, actually it wasn't dreaded; I looked forward to graduating from High school and moving on to college, but I knew I would miss youth group. For 4 years, Fr. Geno showed me that religion wasn't this un-cool thing. I was shown that religion was ok, and a cool teenage thing to do. The one thing I didn't like was that I was leaving youth group and facing down another new school. I didn't want to leave youth group, I had grown accustomed to hanging out on Sunday nights, singing songs, and having fun. I was now leaving all of that behind to go to Seton Hall. I believe Mike put it best on our senior retreat, "what will FG do without us next year?" My comment should have been “what am I going to do without youth group?”

My life with youth group wouldn't end with that retreat as I had one final trip left, Paris/World Youth Day (WYD). It would be on the streets of France that I would see differences between me and other teens on the trip. I had known from day 1 of the meetings, that this would not be an 'easy' trip. I knew it involved crappy food and whatnot; it was called a ‘pilgrimage’ for a reason. It would on this trip that I would thank FG for being whom and what he is. I told him at one point toward the end of the trip, I'm here to see the Pope, and that's it. He laughed, and said thanks. I knew he knew that I truly meant it, and I think it helped him to know that at least one person wasn’t there for Paris, but for something else, JP2.

At a WYD event while looking at JP2 on the big TV screen I wondered why these crazy European ladies next to me were crying like babies looking at him on TV, it was no different than watching it from home. I would later become one of those crazy ladies, many times, but for now it was a strange sight, that I couldn't figure out. Was I moved to see the Pope, aka the little white dot, yes, I was, but not to tears. I didn't cry on that trip until the last night when FG got the St. Anthony's group together and said "we say good-bye to Mary as she heads off to college." It hit me like a bullet that I was leaving youth group. I knew he didn't really mean good-bye, but I was saying good-bye to what I had come accustomed to for the past 3 years on Sunday nights and other events, like the feast, retreats, Masses, and other things where I was with people who shared my attraction to 'religion' and the unknown of college was a scary thought.

I'll end here with college, because it would be at college where my faith would "change", it would be challenged, confused, and all sorts of things. Those 4.5 years shape my life into what it is today, and to add them in here would just make this post super long.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

randomness

It is insanely difficult to type with a wrist brace on. Well not difficult, it just doesn't feel right considering I can't move my wrist or have my wrist angled like it normally would be.

I do find it amusing that the pressure point to stop my middle and ring finger and wrist to stop hurting (I think it's carpal tunnel) is the middle of my palm, exactly where traditional pictures or images of Christ being crucified have His hand being nailed into place. Of course my right shoulder started hurting this morning too, so I could just be falling apart. ;)

Considering I was out with my niece and nephew this evening for a bike ride for them a walk/run for me and I'm still moving and alive it's all good, and I've finally got my motivation to actually start running again. ;)


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A person is a person no matter how small.

So I went to see Horton Hears a Who tonight, and it was one the best movies I've seen recently. The tickets were free thanks to optimum rewards and clearview, so that helped a little.

Horton Hears A Who was hysterical, the comedy was great and well the story itself is just a great story. There's been some debate over the pro-life movement using the line "A person is a person no matter how small." I don't understand why there's a debate over this, the pro-life movement was started because we/they believe that an unborn child has a right to live, just like any human being. I know that you can read what you want into the movie, but it's hard not to say that Horton has a pro-life theme. The line "a person is a person no matter how small" was said three times, and Mrs. Kangaroo goes off on a rant about if you can't hear, see, or feel it, it can't be real. It took some control from me to not shout out "OK Planned Parenthood" at her, but at least in the end she comes around to understand that a person's a person no matter how small, too bad she had to hear the whos to believe that the existed.

Go see the movie it will help you relive your childhood, and it's damn funny. I'm not normally a Jim Carrey fan, but he was great, as were Steve Carell and Carol Burnett. I know I killed the spelling of their names but I don't care.

Monday, March 24, 2008

He is Risen... Indeed He is Risen.

I find it strange that Fr. George's homily that I heard twice has yet to really sit with me compared to Fr. Brian's from Holy Thursday or Bishop Rodimer's from Good Friday. I remember thinking, please let me take one thing from this homily, and I remember "be the light" meaning we are called to be the Light of Christ to others. I also remember Fr. George talking about not being afraid. He spoke of the women in the Gospel being "half joyful and half fearful" and that, that is how most of us go through life. I heard the homily twice and the same points came to mind both times looking back on it.

Fr. George being pastor has full reign of being main celebrant at the Triduum services, he usually splits it with the vicar, currently Fr. Brian. Since Fr. Brian had Holy Thursday and Bishop had Good Friday, Fr. George had Holy Saturday, he also by chance took the "gym Mass" which threw me because I am used to the vicar having that Mass, so I was disappointed to not hear Fr. Brian's homily, but apparently I needed to hear Fr. George's twice. Maybe it needed to sink in so I could take something away from it. The first time I listened to it, it didn't seem to stay with me. The second time however, and me thinking I should try to remember one thing from the homily, might have helped for it to stick a bit more.

Anyway, back to the Easter Vigil. It has been a few years since I have been excited to attend a vigil. I love the Vigil simply for the RCIA sacraments. I love watching people come into the Church. Having been a sponsor in the RCIA process at Seton Hall, it brings back great memories for the most part. Let's just say that last year with RCIA was where my defense of the Catholic faith started to appear. I just couldn't stand up there with my candidate and say she was ready when I didn't think she was. Thankfully, Fr. Bill was there to assure me I was doing the right thing. Oh well back to the Vigil. The Easter Vigil is one of the most beautiful services because so much actually happens at it.

Watching the church go from complete darkness to being full of the Light of Christ is awesome, and Fr. George could have used that in his homily, seeing as the Christ candle is what lights the rest of the candles in the church, the servers light their candles and then pass the Light of Christ along. It's quite awesome considering what's happening, Christ is going to every single person in the Church and setting them on fire, or lighting a fire under their ass. There's lots of signing and music and all that jazz. Surprisingly there were not too many issues with the Mass for me. I would rather have all the readings read, and not have the Genesis reading have signing in the middle of it, and have the congregation realize that Fr. George intones the Gloria and the Alleluia before we join in. It would have been nice to actually get more than the words "Praise to you" out of my mouth before the organ was playing the double Alleluia, and I understand that it was done quickly so that people didn't sit down, but if people actually followed along or paid attention from year to year we always do the double Alleluia at the Vigil.

The Vigil was truly a wonderful celebration, the Sacraments were awesome. I did find it amusing that a piece of the Paschal candle fell into the font and Fr. Brian had to fix it, I think very few people actually noticed it, but I always notice the silly stuff, like people not standing when Fr. George was blessing the fire outside and lighting the Paschal candle. Deacon Jerry nailed the chanting he had to do that night, the Christ be our light and the Mass has ended Alleluia Alleluia were done the best I've heard in the past few years.

I think part of me didn't take Fr. George's homily in because I wanted to get to the sacraments and have the new Catholics officially in the Church. I remember thinking to myself during the homily, ok you can end it, I want the Sacraments now. The homily after hearing it twice did have an impact on me, but no different than any other Sunday. I thought during the homily that he did have a great point in telling us that we need to bring the Light of Christ to others. Both times I heard the homily the idea of be not afraid sat with me. Fr. George spoke about being have afraid and have joyful with our lives and that is quite true. I know that I am afraid of hearing no to most of my ideas for the Church and other things so I stay quiet. I'm afraid of what might happen if I say yes to what God places on my heart, though I am joyful and excited to follow God and do what He wants. So I am totally one of the women walking to the tomb. I've bowed before Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, I've been excited to follow Him, I'm still excited to follow Him, but I'm scared and worried about what it might bring.

I have for a while wanted to create a business card marketing myself as a Catholic speaker, I've had a desire to write, but I've never been good at writing papers, though I would assume a book is totally different. I've been told I'm good at giving talks and whatnot, so I'd love to do something with that. Maybe that's why Fr. George's homily didn't sit with me right away, I didn't want to apply it to my life. I could be called to write a Catechism/Bible Study on Mary called "Who's Your Mommy?" or editing a book telling the stories of the local guys who became priests, or who knows what I'm called to do.

Oh well, with the joy of Easter in my heart, maybe I won't be as afraid to do what God wants.

Prayer for Vocations

Something prompted me to type up the prayer for vocations that Bishop Serratelli wrote for the Diocese of Paterson, feel free to change the words "local Church of Paterson" to whatever Diocese you may belong to, or just pay for vocations to my local Church of Paterson.

Father, in the fullness of time,
you sent your Son, born of the Virgin Mary,
to be our Savior.
He preached the good new of our salvation,
healed the sick and cast out evil.
Now as crucified and risen Lord,
he pours out on us the Hoy Spirit of adoption,
making us your sons and daughters.
Through the church,
he calls us to accept the gospel
and to share in your own divine life.
Jesus is the Way, The Truth, an the Life for all people.

In Your mercy, you do not abandon us.
In every age,
you raise up men and women
to ofter their lives for the sake of the gospel
and the work of the Church.
We beg you, therefore,
grant to this local Church of Paterson
an increase of vocations
to the priesthood and religious life.
Give us courageous and faith men
to serve as worthy priests.
Bless us with generous and zealous
men and women willing seek holiness
in consecrated life.
Maye we rejoice in an abundance
of vocations from our families so that we
may yield a rich harvest of good works
for your honor and glory.
We ask this in the mane of Jesus who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever.

+Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, S.T.D.,S.S.L.,D.D
Bishop of Paterson

Conversations from the Sacristy

I must start off with my comments on the use of incense. "Damn Brian... Holy incense" I was walking into the church with the vessels from the Gym Mass. Fr. Brian used incense at the beginning of the 12pm Mass and it was close to 1:15/1:20 when I walked in, and for the incense to be strong enough for me to notice it, it must have been strong.

Yesterday I was privileged to have the "chore" of cleaning the "dishes" aka the holy vessels from Mass, and because I was doing this by myself I was in the sacristy for awhile and got to hear some funny conversations.

The first one being Deacon George walking in and saying "I hate when my wife is right" however all I heard was "I HATE MY WIFE" I turned to him and said all I heard was I hate my wife, and the 3 of us in the sacristy, including Deacon George just burst out laughing. I know George and his wife quite well, as their son and I were in youth group together.

The next conversation I was part of involved Fr. George, myself, Fr. Brian, Deacon George, and Rich. I guess Fr. George just needed to talk/vent about the Mass in the gym. This conversation is definitely funnier if you were there and know the kids from the gym Mass, but I wanted to write it down for my own enjoyment.

Fr. George: "I had two noisy kids in front of me"
Me:"Fr. Brian it was the same one from Christmas, that kept trying to bum rush Baby Jesus"
Fr. George goes on the explain that there are times when he thinks I gave up being a father and there are times when God reminds you why you are what you are
Me:"I like the fact that you picked up the toy for them during your homily"
Fr. George:"Yeah, that was good, all in one fell swoop, picking up the toy that was thrown at me (Fr. quickly added that it wasn't actually thrown at him)"
Yeah I don't like his homily- Me and Fr. George

Friday, March 21, 2008

"does anybody see that... He died upon a tree."

So typical of Good Friday, the day was spent mainly in church with Stations at 12, the Liturgy of the Passion and Death of the Lord at 3pm, and the Tenebrae Service at 7:30pm. I believe that technically the Tenebrae Service is supposed to be on Wednesday, but we have it on Friday with Veneration of the Cross, so that people who can't make the 3pm service have something to go to at night. It's nice of us isn't it.

So Stations went as Stations do, with my mother looking at me as if I am nuts when I say I'm not using the kneeler. I didn't and don't, I feel to constricted when I have to use the kneeler and I am capable of not using it so while I can I will.

The afternoon service was interesting because we had to do it "old school" meaning since Bishop Rodimer was the main celebrant that we went back to using the "traditional" Good Friday petitions. That was nice, thanks Bishop. I really don't like when we change it and have it sung, having Bishop in attendance also meant that the Passion was actually read in parts, not read by parish staff members and having us stop every so often to sing some stupid ass refrain of "We Remember We celebrate, we believe" Really can we tell I'm a traditionalist. I would love to one day be in Rome for the Triduum, just to see how the Pope does it, or even be insane enough to partake in the Latin Mass version.

Bishop Rodimer can be hit or miss in his homilies with me, and I just prayed to remember one thing. He spoke of the differences in the versions of the Passion that we hear, and that how in John's the version we hear every Good Friday, shows Jesus being in charge, in a pretty much don't mess with me type thing, he spoke of how in Mark's Gospel how the Apostles abandon Jesus, case in point the young man running off naked and away from Jesus, he spoke of I think Luke's Gospel, but I don't remember his point about it, so I will take as being I wasn't meant to remember it. Bishop spoke more about John's Gospel and how the reading for the Triduum don't change from year to year like the rest of the readings, I actually didn't know that, I assumed that, but never really paid attention to it. Bishop mentioned how in John's Passion that the Royalty of Christ is proclaimed in 3 languages (Hebrew, Greek and Latin) and how Jesus was in charge, saying to Pilate that you have no power except what has been given to you from above. Bishop also mentioned how there is no Garden scene in John's Passion. He spoke of how this is really a celebration of the victory over death, hence why it's called Good Friday, as I added instead of crappy or shitty (yeah I know I was sitting in Church, but God will forgive me) Friday.

I've always looked at Good Friday as being the day to do nothing but pray and whatnot, it's what's been ingrained in me, and apparently the Church as well, because according to Bishop Rodimer the early Church did nothing on this day, they didn't celebrate Mass or anything, which is still true today, Mass is not celebrated today, which is ironic considering that Mass is the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary, but the Church realized that it needed to bring it's people together to celebrate the event of the day. Without Good Friday there is no Easter Sunday. Guess I remembered more than one thing from his homily, that's impressive for me.

I am fully aware that Easter is technically the more important holy day, but I have equally enjoyed and celebrated Christmas and Easter, because without Easter there is no Christmas, and well without Christmas there is no Easter. They are tied into each other.

Since we tend to get to Church early for the simple reason of wanting a seat, I tend to watch how people act on Good Friday. It amuses me to no end how many people just genuflect to an obviously empty church. For goodness sake, the sanctuary candle isn't even in Church, the tabernacles are wide open, He's not there. Even last night my mom Blessed herself as we drove past the Church, and I said mom, what did you do that for, Jesus isn't in the Church anymore. "I'm blessing myself in front of my church." Me"Mom, you are aware that by blessing yourself in front of a Catholic church that you are acknowledging the Blessed Sacrament." Mom, "That's not what I was taught." So I made of the point of saying ok if you're just blessing yourself in front of a church, the next time you pass by Pastor Eric's church bless yourself. Her response was I don't want their blessing, and no I won't do that, I said yeah because Jesus isn't physically present in that church. I pointed out that it was she who taught me my faith, and some how the conversation ended.

It really does surprise me how many people forget that what makes us Catholic and a Catholic Church is the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Many people that I would expect to know better genuflected to the empty tabernacle, and I thought ok we need an educational series on the Triduum. Maybe it's just the fact that for 28 years (ok maybe not all of them, but I remember being at the Vigil and other services for a good many of them) I have had the pleasure of partaking in the Sacred Triduum, and take for granted that I know what to do. I don't need a book, or "worship aid", I've been given a grace to know what happens.

I guess this puts a new spin on Good Friday for me, I will still focus on the Death of Christ, considering that it was my sins that put Christ on the Cross. Oh, Bishop Rodimer mentioned that we shouldn't feel guilty for putting Christ on the Cross, because Jesus went willingly, and without regret. I can't remember his exact words, it might have been unreluctantly, but the point was that Jesus knew what He was doing, and there was no way we could stop Him. He did this purely out of love for us. A love we will not fully understand until we are with Him and the angels and saints in Heaven.

Tomorrow night brings one of the best Masses, well ending of the Mass that was started on Thursday, seriously a Mass that's 3 days longs, and you receive Communion 3 times, it's strange. Anyway, the Vigil is one the most beautiful celebrations, and I can't wait for it.

and with that the Holiest of Seasons begins

So tonight begins, well last night technically, as it is past midnight, therefore making it Good Friday, the holiest of seasons, the Easter Triduum. Hearing the Gloria for the first time in 40 days and having happier music made me smile from ear to ear. Fr. Brian gave a wicked homily, and I wish I had a tape recorder so I could listen to it again. He went right with the Rubrics aka the rule book for Mass and spoke about the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the Priesthood/holy orders, and charity/brotherhood of Jesus. Told ya he took it right from the Rubrics, he told us himself.

Fr. Brian spoke of Fr. Cantalamessa aka the preacher to the Papal household, as Fr. Brian said, that's something I want on my business card, not that where I am now isn't important, but really preacher to the Papal household. Having read Fr. Cantalamessa's Mary: Mirror of the Church and used in in my senior thesis, I knew the comment would be good. Alas, the comment I am thinking of didn't come from Fr. Cantalamessa, I can't remember the comment from him and that sucks for me, I think it had something to do with the priesthood, but alas I do not remember. It was a good comment I just don't remember it.

The comment I am thinking of came from some theologian from Notre Dame, I probably remember it because I thought "oh man Notre Dame, hope it's correct." I am fully aware that is the wrong way to think, but I did, so forgive me, it's what Jesus would/will do. Anyway, the comment was about the Sacred Triduum being about mystery not history. Mainly because the historical events of the Triduum can not take place again. Again my brain went to, "ummm yeah it does, every Mass is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary, so therefore it takes place again, albeit the un-bloody version of the sacrifice. It being said makes sense, but I tend to be literal in the Triduum, in the whole idea that Jesus isn't in the Church even though He's just hiding out in a different spot instead of the tabernacle. To me every Good Friday Jesus dies again, He goes down to Hell and on Easter Saturday night at the vigil He rises. I agree that we can never be in the Garden, on the Cross or in the Tomb with Jesus again, we are celebrating the mystery and that is what makes the Sacred Season so awesome.

Fr. Brian spoke about the institution of the Eucharist, and how we as Catholics are taught to believe that it is Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. He mentioned that is also a mystery and that we can receive Communion until we are "blue in the face" but until we accept the mystery into our lives and try to live it out, it's almost pointless. He of course went right in the the institution of the Priesthood/holy orders. Fr. Brian mention that behind him the ordained ministers of Deacons and Priest had over 90 years combined of service to the church. He spoke about each man, Deacon Jerry with his 9 years, Deacons George and Tony with their 13 years and our "Archdeacon" Dick with 22 years of service and of Msgr. George with is 27 years of service. Each man does a different ministry, each an important ministry, feeding the poor via the social services ministry, hospility and burying the dead, and comforting the sorrowfull, teaching CCD and pre-cana, Baptismal prep, and well just about everything under the sun that a priest could do, Msgr. has done it. Fr. Brian decided that his not even 5 years of service couldn't compare to his fellow priest and deacons.

I beg to differ in the 6 months that I have known Fr. Brian, I keep thinking, as much I loved Fr. Kevin, I love Fr. Brian and he reminds me of well me, and to some that is strange, but I know that Fr. Brian will not mess with the Rubrics, is very pro-life and very much wants to get something started. He's also a fan of youth and young adult ministry. Like I said he reminds me of me, and it does me good to have a man like him at my parish. Fr. Brian mentioned that through charity we are all called to partake in Christ's priesthood, we are all called to the things these men and their wives have been doing for the past 20 years.

Very rarely do I remember more than one aspect of the homily, so I took the opportunity to blog about it.

Mass itself was beautiful as usually, I would expect no less from a man who won't veer from the Rubrics. There are nit-picky issues that I have, which would be women having their feet washed, I've never agreed with that, as the Gospel reading once you get past Judas being the betrayer being read for at least the third time this week, speaks of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles, and last time I checked those were 12 guys. I think if Jesus washed His mother's feet that one of the Gospel writers would have written that down. Alas I can really overlook that and move on until next year.

This year as in the past when the priest is processing around the Church with the Blessed Sacrament to move Jesus to the "garden" liturgical ministers are invited to partake in the procession. I never partake because I'd just rather kneel as Jesus passes me by instead of walking around church, the focus is supposed to be on Jesus not those of us behind Him. I partook this year, mainly because our Pastoral Associate, was sitting next to my parents and wouldn't let me sit or kneel. The whole time we walked around the Church, I kept thinking I want to do this on my knees, and for some reason my right knee, the knee on which my ACL was repaired, was sore as hell throughout the walk, I couldn't wait to get back to my seat. As I made my way back to my seat, the usual screwing up of the verses happened. Without fail the choir and the cantor sing a different verse of Pange Lingua/Tantum Ergo. My understanding is that as soon as the Blessed Sacrament hits the altar steps, which means the altar servers, that we start Tantum Ergo, which is what our cantor did. I laughed because I thought, every year this happens, have you not figured it out yet. Again something I eventually get over until the next time it happens.

What bugged me this year was the forcing me to partake in the procession around Church, it's just not me. In the long run it's not that big of a deal, but it just erks me that some people force on you what they think should be done.

What I love about Holy Thursday night is our version of Adoration, Jesus is hanging out in the "garden" put simply He is moved to a tabernacle that is surrounded by flowers thereby making it the Garden in which Jesus has asked his Apostles to pray and where He is betrayed. Normally I stay from the end of Mass say 9pm until the end at 11:45pm, this year I helped out with the decorating of the gym for our overflow Mass at 12:15pm for Easter Sunday, which was funny because this will be my 6th Mass in the gym so you would think I know where things go, but alas I don't always know everything, it worked out in the long run.

So I came home for about 10 mintues just long enough to eat some toaster strudels so I wasn't starving on my day of fast on Good Friday. I tend to not eat, expect for one big meal, much to the disliking of my mother. I went back to Church for some time with Jesus. Fr. aka Msgr. George had a new cd for Adoration, but it must have stopped at some point because it wasn't on when I went into church. I took that as the ok to turn my iPod on in one ear (the ear away from my mother) so I could listen to some of Matt Maher's songs like his Litany, I Love You Lord, and Adoration, all quite appropriate for Adoration. Once those were over I put the iPod away and proceeded to try and meditate or least get myself into a one on one conversation with God. It's hard to do with all the different noises around, but it works for the most part.

While sitting at Adoration, I kept thinking of a book I just read about how 12 guys became priests, and I thought, how cool would it be to know the stories of 12 priests who have touched my life and how they became priests. I thought at first oh 12's a lot, well I had 7 within seconds. Fr. Brian, Fr. George, Fr. Kevin, Fr. Geno, Fr. Bill, my other Fr. Brian, then I added Bishop Serratelli, Fr. Devin (a priest from my youth), Fr. Jim from SHU's campus ministry, Fr. Deneheny, (I totally got the spelling wrong, but oh well), that's 10 right there, Fr. Brando makes 11, and I can't think of whom I thought of in church, but Fr. Jim from Montclair's campus ministry is coming to mind since I just read his homily blog. So that's 12 right there, I'm thinking that would a great vocations tool, to have the story of 12 ordinary guys and their vocations. I don't care if they are just men, really anyone's story of a vocation will influence one discerning a vocation. St. A's tried something like that before, but I don't know if it worked to well, might be worth looking into.

The idea of writing/editing a book has long been on my mind, but I never really didn't anything about it. Maybe now is the time to do so. Maybe that's my vocation, to foster vocations. I've always said, I'd gladly give all of my sons to the priesthood, should God grace me with marriage and children.