Tag Archives: Mass

Reflections on the Triduum – The Easter Vigil

April 1, 2013

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Easter Lily For the last 7 years or so I have helped with the liturgy for the Easter Vigil at my parish.  I love helping with this liturgy.  Their is so much going on! Baptisms, confirmations, first communions and the history of the the Church all rolled into one.  When I went to my first Vigil some 10 years ago it was the beauty and drama that caught my attention.
The church was filled with flowers and banners and the choir was singing “Horse and chariots are cast into the sea!” and the night starts outside with a fire.    Even to a secular eye their is allot going on – I remember thinking “this is like a Cecil B DeMille movie or an opera!”

The history of the world unfolds in the readings.  Present day new Catholics are welcomed into the church.  The culmination of the last three days is given its context.
But their is such paradox and depth and mystery.  Every year I try to understand it more.

Their is always something that surprises me in this liturgy, this year it is the line from the Exulet.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer! Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Happy fault and necessary sin?

I went on line to read Pope Francis’ homily for Easter Vigil  to look for insight.  He speaks of the surprises  too, but he speaks of the surprise of the  women as they entered to tomb.

“We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf. Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises.”

I understand the fear – the fear of newness.  When I come on the unexpected I become fearful.  I want to control and if I can’t control the situation I usually lash out at those closes to me. When I left the Easter Vigil on Saturday night (well close to Sunday morning) My plans were set for the next day.  Family to church in the morning, Easter brunch at my sister’s house followed by driving my children back to their perspective colleges.

But something unexpected happened.

My husband got a call in the middle of the night.  His father was dying and he left to be at his bedside.  Suddenly, our world turned topsy turvy.

My father in law died on Easter in the afternoon.  Pope Francis words came to me.

“We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises.”

The Easter Vigil, like every Mass is meant to remind us,

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6)

As I tried to find the words to comfort my mother-in-law and my husband, those words of the angels came to mind.

This isn’t the blog post I intended to write.  Things happened and we deal with the unexpected.

A little about my father in law.

Bob was once asked to a tryout for the Yankees baseball team, but declined the invite because of various complications. I think their were times in his life that he regretted that he didn’t try.

In the last few days of my father-in-law’s life he was asked, “Bob, if you get better what are you looking forward to doing?”

In those moments when a person is ill and the life here and our past seems to merge in our minds, Bob replied “Play Ball.”

The days and months ahead will be filled with grieving for Bob.  The thought though comes to mind that if we truly believe the Easter story, we wouldn’t be sad.

If we believe in the resurrection Bob will get to “Play ball.”

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Reflections on the Triduum ~ Holy Thursday

March 29, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the Triduum! It was 10 years ago that I attended my first Holy Thursday Mass.  It was shortly after my “re-conversion” to the faith and I was blown away.
As I watched with wonder at  the beauty of the Mass and tried to understand the depth of the liturgy, I left the church that night in a bit of a stupor. As I stumbled out of the church past the priest, I walked up to him and said “It is like coming home.  It is like being away at college for a long time and then you come back home. It feels like that!” I don’t know if anyone else can understand that sentimentality, but its impact has never left me.
Each year I enter into this sacred week with certain expectations.  What I expect never seems to be what I get, but if I approach it with my eyes and heart open I most certainly hear God’s voice.
This year my personal, family life is in a bit of a disarray.  With two children at college and their needs and schedules changing- regular family traditions are a bit off.  Easter baskets have changed from candy and bunny rabbits to gas cards and cash.  To top it all off – we are remodeling our kitchen so we have no stove, sink or refrigerator. We will not be making Easter eggs, traditional ham dinner or even a pizza!

Trying to enter into a prayerful mood – I left my home an hour early to attend the Holy Thursday Mass. The sounds of saws, screw guns and hammers were interrupting my already distracted mind. I was looking for a little peace!

As I walked into the church – the first thing I noticed was the empty tabernacle.  It immediately brought to mind the thought that Jesus was not “in the house.” Their is something sad about an empty tabernacle.

As I sat in a corner to collect my thoughts and pray when I looked up at the hustle and bustle going on around me.  From a distance I noticed the choir rehearsing – a unified choir with our Latino and English speaking community.  I noticed a young man from our Catholic high school walking the other servers through server training.  I saw the sacristan putting out candles, readers looking over their readings, volunteers arranging flowers and ushers setting out worship aids.  All this action could have put me on edge since I came to the church to get away from the bustle of my home, but then I realized something.

Jesus WAS “in the house!”

Everyone there – a community – had come together to make this happen.  They were joyfully doing their part to bring others to God through the liturgy.

Of course the Holy Thursday Liturgy speaks of service.  Service to each other.  Service to those in need.  The Holy Thursday Liturgy also speaks of the Eucharist – the body of Christ.  And He was present there  in the people and at the great offering of the Sacrament.

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Turning to our Mother in Times of Tragedy

December 17, 2012

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Madonna and Child

In the wake of the school shooting on Friday, I went to find solace in daily Mass on Saturday.
As I entered the church, the first thing I noticed was the Our Lady of Guadalupe picture in the sanctuary. The picture was left there as a remnant of the Wednesday night celebration. It was then that it occurred to me that the tragic killing of the 20 children and 6 adults in Connecticut is not something unique to our culture today. At the time of the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego in 1531, child sacrifice was common place. After her appearance, eight million natives were converted to the Church in the next 7 years – virtually eliminating the Aztec practice of sacrifice. Is our wonton cultural lack of seeing life as precious any different? Is this tragedy any different than the atrocities of child sacrifice?
In the wake of this recent tragedy we are left asking why, but maybe more importantly we should be asking what should we do? Stricter laws concerning guns –yes, more help for the mentally disturbed – of course, but maybe we should be turning to Mary in this year of faith to help bring about the conversion that was seen in Mexico 500 years ago.
In this Year of Faith I have made a personal commitment to get to know our Blessed Mother better. I have always been one of those people who just didn’t “get” Mary. I never had an aversion to praying for Mary’s intersession like some of my Protestant friends, but I just didn’t quite understand why I needed an intercessor – why not go directly to the ‘Big Guy?”
To get to know Mary better, I have started with memorizing some of the Marian prayers that I have never gotten around to knowing by heart.
I have been working on memorizing the “Hail Holy Queen.”
In the wake of this tragedy  it was the first prayer I turned to. Maybe it is something about telling your heart ache to your mother and if anyone knows the heart ache of the loss of a child, it is our Blessed Mother. The words are especially haunting; calling us all the “poor banished children of Eve” and the description of  “mourning and weeping in this vale of tears” is what drew me to first look to Mary in this time of tragedy.
If you read this blog post, maybe you will join with me in asking Mary’s intersession.

 

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! Amen.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ

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Mom and the Mass

August 25, 2012

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My mom on her prom day.

I had a big meeting last Thursday night. About 100 Respect Life representatives from the parishes showed up.
Two women from my home town were present. One woman was a friend of my mothers. My mother passed away last year and this woman’s daughter was a friend of my sister who died of cancer at 18.
She came up to me after the meeting and told me how proud my mom and sister would be of me. She said that they were in heaven smiling.
Being that I was greeting everyone as they left after the meeting,  I hadn’t let it sink into my head what she had said to me.

I thought of it this morning at Mass, it made me cry.

The people we love who have died are especially close to us during the Eucharist.

St. Augustine (354 – 430) said:

Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church, which even now is the Kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ.

It isn’t unusual to feel closer to our loved ones during the Mass.  They are in fact with us.   Right there with us!  We are so lucky as Catholics to believe this.  Even if it is a teaching that is hard to put our heads around.

I will leave the explanation of this teaching to the theologians, but I will faithfully believe that when I take part in the body of Christ, that all those that I love, who love me… are with me as part of the celebration of the Mass.

Listen to the words during the Mass.  We enter into this heavenly banquet with ALL of the saints and angels.

I have to remember this as I attend Mass and remember to say hi to Mom!

Who do you say hi to at Mass?

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“Do Not Be Afraid!”

March 25, 2012

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March 25th marks the date of the Annunciation. It is the day that Gabriel proclaimed the good news to Mary that Christ would be born within her. This year – because the date lands on a Sunday – we are celebrating that feast on March 26th.

I don’t normally see this blog as a place for my personal stories but this day is special  – so bare with me.

It was on March 25th some nine years ago Christ was born within me too.

In 2003 my children were attending a Catholic school.  As part of the Lenten practice, they were offered the sacrament of reconciliation as part of their school day.  Though I was a cradle Catholic and my children attended Catholic School, I had not visited that sacrament since my Confirmation. For me that was when I was in 4th grade!  Prompted by what I now understand as the Holy Spirit, but at the time felt like the guilt of expecting my children to go to confession when I didn’t go myself – I made an appointment to visit the new priest at our church.  The objective of my appointment was to argue with him the teachings of the faith.  Filled with misconceptions and pride,  I descended on this poor priest as if I would be able to convince him to “set the church right.”  At that time I rarely went to Mass, never prayed and and I certainly didn’t know that the date of my appointment fell on the feast day of the Annunciation. I didn’t know what a feast day was and I would have had to look up the word “Annunciation” if I even knew how to spell it.

I would have then called myself a Pro- Choice Catholic! (Who knew that 6 years later I would be working on the Archbishop’s staff as the Respect Life Coordinator.)

What happened at that meeting changed my life.  As Father patiently waited out my arguments on contraception, abortion and the anti- woman establishment that I saw as the Catholic Church, he offered some education, but most of all he offered me compassion.  At one point I remember getting up to leave – I didn’t want to hear what he had to say.
Out of no where he said to me, “Sharon, what are you afraid of?” The words hit me like a ton of bricks.  I sat back down, cried for 5 minutes and entered into a confession – a real confession; a confession of my life, of all my fears and my pain.

When angels appear in the bible – it seems they always start out with the phrase “Do not be afraid. ” Our common idea of angels is  cute little cherubs or gentle looking young men with wings.  But angles – must be awesome – and I don’t mean in the way that we say pizza is awesome.  Fired by the Holy Spirit and carrying the message of God – they appear to us as something we ARE afraid of. Is it the wings of fire, glowing with bright light or with a voice that booms of an orchestra or organ?  What is it that we are afraid of?

Ultimately, I think we are afraid of the message that they bring; the message of knowing ourselves and of seeing ourselves as who we really are.  We are afraid because we cannot comprehend the idea that if anyone knew the real us – the us that only God knows – that we could really be loved in return.  We also are afraid of what God may ask of us if we accept that love and try to return it.

On the day that the angel Gabriel came to Mary and said “Do not be afraid” Mary carried Christ within her for nine months. She carried her love for Him through his death on the cross.

Was she afraid of what God might see in her heart?

Was she afraid of what saying yes to God might mean?
I don’t know, but her  “Fiat” meant that not only would she carry God within her womb, but that God would carry her and would always be with her.

I realize now just how unprepared  I am to carry God within me to anyone. I realize how unqualified I am to work for Life.  I realize how unworthy I am to even receive the Eucharist at Mass. But when I say ‘Yes” I don’t have to be afraid, because like Mary – God carries me too.

So this Lent, I ask – how long has it been since your last confession and “What are you afraid of?”

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Catholics getting ‘consubtantial’ with new Mass language?

December 6, 2011

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There’s material for stand-up comedians in the newly translated Roman Missal, to be sure, but there’s also an opportunity for those humble enough to try to see the chalice as half full.

SiriusXM Radio’s “Catholic Guy,” Lino Rulli joked, “After taking the red eye from LA, I went home and took a nap. I felt consubstantial with my bed. Wow, the new translations are kicking in.”

Personally, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of using terms that aren’t common usage — not if one is striving for understanding — but that’s admittedly from my Bradley University journalism training to strive for clarity and comprehension for the greatest number of readers.

But I ran across Alan Hommerding’s take in his column in AIM, the magazine for music and liturgy planning, and he adds something worthwhile to Catholics’ ongoing conversations/considerations about the new language we’re hearing and saying at Mass now. Here’s an excerpt from “Talking to strangers” in the spring 2012 issue of AIM in which he writes about a talk he gave recently:

“I spoke briefly about the terms ‘consubstantial’ and ‘incarnate’ in the Creed . . . . I observed that it wasn’t at all unreasonable in the context of liturgy — meant to celebrate the mystery of Christ — for folks to learn what those words mean; beyond that, to be catechized about them, and even beyond that, to enter into a mystagogical exploration of these two foundational terms of our Christian faith.

“One attendee raised his hand and shared something from a class . . . . His instructor had been Paul Roche, a translator, classics scholar, and linguist . . . . Roche had told students, ‘For a word to be rich, it must first be strange.’

“For those of us who are followers of Christ, this kind of ‘strangeness’ must intrigue us, leading us to explore the mystery of our salvation in Christ more fully.”

Frankly, the jokes about the new translation are a great release valve allowing venting to happen, and that’s better than explosions, whatever form those might take.

But I’d really be interested in learning deeper, productive thoughts others might have or might have run across that will engage minds and hearts around the new words being prayed at Mass.

The floor is yours.

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A whitetail in honor of Johnny McClure’s passing?

December 5, 2011

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Not even 24 hours after returning from a wonderful trip to Montana with my family, I heard the tragic news about Johnny McClure, a member of my parish, Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, and a sophomore at Trinity School in Eagan, where I have been sending my kids for the last seven years.

Johnny died in his sleep the morning of Nov. 28, with no warning that anything was wrong. I got the news about 9:30 a.m., when someone from the school called with the news and said all students were being dismissed for the day.

Of all things, a deer sighting on Saturday evening, hours after his funeral, gave me some encouragement as I mourned the loss of Johnny and felt just a small portion of the pain his parents, Randall and Mary, and siblings were experiencing.

I had planned to attend the wake on Friday evening, but when I arrived at a little after 7 p.m., a line of greeters stretched outside the funeral home and around the corner. I didn’t think there was much chance I would get to greet the McClures before the scheduled 8 p.m. ending time, so I turned around and drove home. I talked to several people who waited in line more than two hours.

I chose to go for a walk that evening and offer prayers for Johnny and his family. I did the same thing the next night, and was greeted by several inches of fresh, powdery snow that made a distinctive crunching sound under my feet as I made my way down Hamline Avenue toward Highland Golf Course. During my 3-mile journey, an almost magical scene unfolded, with flakes falling quietly as I made new tracks in the now-snow-covered links. All of the white lit up the landscape under the soft glow of the city streetlights.

Normally, when I walk in the darkness, I cannot see very far in front of me. But, the fresh, white snow illuminated by the streetlight gave me visibility that stretched more than 100 yards. That made me optimistic that I might see a distant whitetail dining on the course’s lush green carpet. Over the past few years that I have taken walks and runs on the perimeter of the course, the deer have shown an affinity for the smorgasbord of browse contained therein.

Turns out I didn’t need such far-reaching vision to spot a deer. On the edge of the woods just past the police station near the corner of Hamline and Montreal, a doe was grazing in the snow to my left. She was beautiful, plump and completely unconcerned about my presence, even though I strode past her at only about 10 yards. Deer here are used to human presence, but almost always they still will pop their heads up and remain alert as I walk by.

Not this time. The doe looked up briefly and glanced at me, then quickly put her head down to continue feeding. During that brief time when her eyes locked onto mine, she seemed to be saying, “Look at me, see how beautiful I am and know that, in the midst of tragedies like Johnny’s death, God is still radiating his goodness to you and the whole world.”

Perhaps I had that sense because of the way the doe stood so peacefully in the falling snow, it’s beautiful, sleek coat softly glowing under the streetlight. Or, perhaps, it was because the words of Father Michael Keating’s amazing homily still were resounding in my mind. Or, perhaps it was a combination of both.

Whatever the reason, I finished my trek in the peace and comfort of God’s loving presence, which I prayed he also would give to the McClures. As Father Keating emphatically noted at the funeral Mass, “Johnny is fine.” It is the rest of us who are sad.

But, as Father Keating pointed out, such an event like Johnny’s death doesn’t go against the message or the season of Advent. Rather, it is as reminder that we are sojourners on this earth, and that our place is not here. Rather, our ultimate place is with God in heaven, a reality that Johnny McClure now knows.

As for me, I believe I saw a glimpse of Johnny’s heaven on a snowy Saturday evening in St. Paul.

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Plenty of reasons to love Mass

December 3, 2011

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The spirit is alive in today’s Catholic Church. Here’s another great blog of reasons to love  going to Mass. This is just one a a double handful of good bullet points:

  • Beliefs – no mincing words on Sunday. In a 60-second declaration we stand up and tell you what we believe, not what we feel. It’s the Catholic elevator pitch!
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9 Reasons Catholics Go to Mass

November 29, 2011

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According to Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley

Catholics come to Mass because we desire:

1. To respond to God’s love.

2. To encounter Christ in the most profound way possible.

3. To gather and pray with our parish family.

4. To strengthen our particular family.

5. To witness to our faith and provide a living legacy to our children and grandchildren.

6. To be transformed by Christ’s grace.

7. To participate in Jesus’ victory over death and the salvation of the world.

8. A foretaste of heaven.

9. To follow God’s loving guidance and to commit to deepening our relationship with 
God.

Any of these at the top of your personal list? If your reason isn’t listed above, what is it?

 

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New words at Mass: How did it go at your parish?

November 27, 2011

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A woman reads the new words for Mass prayers from a pew card Nov. 26. (Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit)

With the implementation of the new Roman Missal this weekend at parishes across the United States, I was curious how worshippers at my parish’s Saturday evening Mass would adapt to the changes to the words of many prayers.

While no one seemed too flustered, autopilot did kick in for many people, including a gentleman sitting behind me who was having trouble remembering that the response “And also with you” — previously spoken five times during the Mass — had now changed to “And with your spirit.” He ended up being one for five.

My parish, like most others, provided worshippers with pew cards highlighting the changes, and the priest who presided at Mass briefly held up a card each time a new response was coming up.

For the longer prayers, people took the cues and read accurately from the cards, although they noticeably stumbled over still-unfamiliar words like “consubstantial” and “incarnate.” When it came to the quick, brief response, “And with your spirit,” however, people forgot to glance at their cards and there was a noticeable mix of old and new responses. To his credit, our priest didn’t seem to stumble over any of the newly worded prayers he was responsible for speaking.

My parish offered a great deal of catechesis about the changes in bulletin inserts over the last several months. So did The Catholic Spirit, through a six-month series on the changes and a special edition focused on the new Roman Missal (see TheCatholicSpirit.com/newromanmissal).

Still, change is never easy, and no one should expect a perfectly smooth transition to new prayers the first week after 40 years of having different words ingrained in our minds and hearts. People will inevitably acclimate themselves to the new language in the coming weeks and months.

How did the changes go in your parish on this first weekend?

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