Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 – St. Bridget of Ireland – Stamford, CT

So, like I said at the end of yesterday’s reflection……I do not believe in “accidents” or “coincidences”!

This morning I was going to go to St. Mary’s in Stamford. I had announced it on Facebook and I had about a dozen responses telling me how pretty the church is, who got married there, who was baptized there, and whose parents got married there. I was excited to be going there to feel all the stories and history that surrounded that place. I got there at 7:55am for 8:00 Mass. The sign on the beautiful church doors said that Mass Monday – Saturday was at 8am in the chapel. No other cars were anywhere in the parking lot until one minute of 8:00. Three older people ( again the number 3!!) waited in the car beside me….all of us wondering where mass would be. I went to the door of the chapel. It was locked. The church bell rang announcing that it was 8:00am. Although I am not a genius, I figured out there was likely no Mass today.

I drove across Stamford (I had another all day meeting starting at 9:30) winding my way through the streets and ended up on Strawberry Hill Ave. Up on the left was St. Bridget of Ireland and the sign said there was an 8:00 mass. I turned in since it was only 8:10am. I quickly went into the church and found a spot close to the door. The homily was almost OVER!! However, the church was so pretty. Very sweet and welcoming with a beautiful stained glass window of the crucifix. It was stunning with the morning’s light streaming through it.

It wasn’t until we were half way through the Our Father that I thought of My Mother…….Mary Bridget from Ireland!

It struck me as kind of funny. I don’t think I landed in either place by accident or coincidence. I believe both of these female saints guided me to mass this morning! Thanks MOM –Mary Bridget!!

During the Our Father I also thought about how I translated the prayer to Stephanie one time – a long time ago. I told her that praying was just like talking to someone. The Our Father was really saying something like:

Our Father,

who art in Heaven,

hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,

thy will be done,

on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.



Dear Dad,

I know where you live…in your Heaven, to guide me and I love you.

This is your House that you share with me, and whatever you need or want for me, it will happen,

here in Our place just like in Heaven.

Thanks for today, and please nourish us today and every  day, and please forgive me, just like you want us to forgive others who might hurt us in so many ways.

Please keep us away from the things that can hurt us and take away any harm that can come to us.

Thank you.  I believe. 

Friday, January 24, 2014 – St. Cecelia Church – Stamford, CT

Rita, Carleen and I had a big all day meeting to go to that didn’t start until 9am so we decided to go to church. The meeting we were facing was going to be a tough one full of challenges so we decided to start our day off with some peaceful moments.

St. Cecelia’s was beautiful! It seemed like such a mix of old and new. The priest seemed lovely and the three people in front of us (they seemed like regulars!) were so friendly. At the end of mass they turned around and chatted in order to welcome us, inquired as to where we were from, and invited us back anytime!! This was the first time this has happened since I have begun my journey of visitations. It was very nice.

I never really understood the concept of “daily mass”, but I have to say there is something to be said for starting your day without an onslaught of “Debi, do you have a minute?” type phrases that set a tone for chaos and busy-ness all day long.  I found that the mass centered me for the day…..then…….Rita, Carleen and I actually went out for breakfast!

What a civilized way to follow up a peaceful start to the day!

We talked during breakfast about our nervousness regarding the meeting and all the “what-ifs”. We tried to look at things from different angles and talk ourselves into believing it would all work out for the best. We boosted each other up believing that we would be facing the tough day together and we would all be fine.

When I got into the car to head to the meeting, I had the radio station KLOVE 96.7 playing. It is a Christian based music station that I really enjoy. The woman who was talking quoted from the bible in between two songs….Joshua 1:9 “I command you: be firm and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” Talk about a direct message!!! I could not have timed it better!

I could not wait to get to the meeting room to tell Carleen to look it up on her iPad.…..I think THE BIG GUY was there at the breakfast table with us……he probably also called the three of us to mass that morning at St. Cecelia’s. And then he sent those 3 people to us to give us comfort and strength. Three is an interesting number to me!

I am a believer that NOTHING happens by “accident” or by “coincidence”. I believe “things” are orchestrated by something bigger than all of us. The message across the radio put me at peace and reminded me to let the day unfold…..we were not in it alone!


Sunday, Jan. 20, 2014 – Our Lady of the Angels – Lakewood Ranch, Florida

Today’s mass was extra special! Four members of our book club joined a fifth one, Kelly, who lives in Bradenton, FL., while seven members met at Lisa’s house and we SKYPED our book club! We read Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. It was perfect to think about this book, in which Ben Carson believes we have an obligation to use our gifts from God to serve others, while I went to mass with Liz and Kelly at Our Lady of the Angels! The pastor was fabulous!! It was like a mini-Bible study!

Fr.  Daniel Smith talked about us coming off the “big season” of some life events for Jesus and now being in “Ordinary Time”. He talked about Ordinary Time being NOT a dull and boring time, but rather a time in the church where all the reading focus on the examples of who Christ was a man. These examples are there for us to reflect on, learn from, and then try to emulate.

The first reading talked about being a “servant of God” and the Gospel spoke about the “Lamb of God”. He pointed out that a lamb back in biblical times was always slaughtered!  I had always thought of a lamb being such a gentle creature –a nice image of Jesus – but now I realize that it is part of the story that foretells of  Jesus being slaughtered for us! The 2nd reading was Paul to the Corinthians reminding the people to not be gossips and foolish judges of others since we are all children of God – A God (Jesus) who SERVES others without judgment and without gossip!  I had to pause for a moment and think about that…..who am I to judge, when I don’t want to be judged by others….and we are all children of God – with our flaws, successes, accomplishments, and failures?

One really important part of his homily that he focused on was a revelation for me – He pointed out the incredible difference between two commonly used phrases in our church and in our lives – “I am here” and “Here I am”.

In the phrase “I am here”….the speaker is the subject who is stating where they are. There is an essence of control. There is almost an arrogance when it is said strongly. In the second phrase “Here I am”, there is an essence of vulnerability….as if the “I” has been lost and is now found.  There is a completely different visual image in my mind as I think about those two statements.

If I were to stand in the presence of God….maybe eye to eye with Jesus asking “where are you? I am calling you by name to serve others”….I am not sure if I would say, “I AM HERE”…..or “HERE I AM”.

Of course, during the Eucharist, the congregation sang………”HERE I AM, LORD. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night.”  Kelly became emotional thinking of her parents’ funerals. I became emotional watching Kelly become emotional. Then Liz became teary eyed as we all started then giggling about our out reaction to the emotions of that song!

As I handed tissues to Kelly, I could not help but think……….”Here We ARE, Lord!  Here in Florida to be with our friends and experience a wonderful weekend of love, friendship, and support……Emotions and all!”

In the words of Liz as we were leaving church, “We came, we saw, and we cried!”  That is what good friends can do with and for each other!

What a wonderful Mass in Florida! I am so blessed!


Sun. Jan 12, 2014 – St. John Church – Darien, CT

Tonight I went to 5pm mass with Carleen’s family. The mass was being said for Carleen’s brother Dominick, who had passed away many years ago. Still very painful for all of them.

Although I had already heard the readings this morning, I heard it with a new spin this evening.

Tonight was Fr. Frank Gomez’s final mass as he begins his new position assisting the bishop. He explained the sacrament of Baptism in such a simple, yet powerful, way.  He said there are two parts to it……a sacrament in the first place is a tangible sign of God in our lives that give us grace (I am paraphrasing!). The first part of Baptism is a tangible sign using water that brings God’s grace to us through the sacrament. It puts an end to Original Sin and starts us anew in God’s love. The second part, however, puts us on the mission to live with that grace to live out the purpose God has for us…whatever that plan might be. He has a purpose for us.

In three different ways I saw endings and new beginnings tonight.

  1. In memory of Dominick is the sad ending of a physical life with the very real spiritual life of eternal life. That is our faith! That is why we do this thing called Faith!
  2. In Baptism for Jesus, his purpose was put into motion! For us, through Baptism, original sin ends and our path that God has for us is laid for us to look forward to and follow.
  3. For Fr. Frank it was a sad end for the people of St. John parish. They, especially the youth in the parish, love him. Yet, it is his new beginning that he is so excited for. His faith that this is a good thing for him was clear.

A “beginning “can’t happen unless there is an “end”, and an “end” implies that there must have been a “beginning”. That is the story of our faith and physical lives.

And by the way…… struck me as odd that there are suddenly 3 important “Franks” in our Diocese…..Pope Francis, Bishop Frank, and now his assistant, Fr. Frank! Kind of interesting!

Sun. Jan. 12, 2014 – Our Lady of Fatima – Wilton, CT

Before mass this morning I was reading my book club book: “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story“ by Ben Carson, MD. The book is his autobiography about growing up poor and becoming the chief neurosurgeon at John Hopkins. It is an amazing story of love, faith, intelligence and passion. Everything wrapped up into one. On Page 98 he says “Somewhere during that period of time I became acutely aware of an unusual ability – a divine gift, I believe – of extraordinary eye and hand coordination. It’s my belief that God gives us all gifts, special abilities that we have the privilege of developing to help us serve Him and humanity.” This  took me right back to the mass yesterday when Fr. Walter talked about using our talents to serve others. I believe nothing happens by accident and there are no such things as coincidences. I think I was meant to read those words this morning as a validation of yesterday’s message. Thanks Dr. Carson!  (Wonderful book, by the way….I highly recommend it!)

Which brings me to today: Jesus’ baptism. Although the readings were focused on Jesus’ baptism, which happened when he was older, to me it reinforces the ‘ol Mother and Chosen Son situation! All of my kids were baptized as babies, each cloaked in white – a new beginning in God’ eyes. With each of my children, Vinnie and I stood  at the altar as proud parents, along side the chosen godparents. Vincent was my son who was the exception. Vinnie and I stood in the NICU at Norwalk Hospital as the priest took water from the water fountain, blessed it, and baptized my baby boy. A nurse, whose name I don’t even know, was our only other witness. Then, we took him to the church, months later, to be “baptized” in the church with his godparents. Regardless of the specific time and place, at the moment of baptism for each of them,  I thought,  “This is my daughter/son, whom I love.”

In Matthew 3:17 this morning, the passage was read: With that, a voice from the heaven’s said, “This is my beloved Son. My favor rests on him.”

It is not that I am less amazed by my daughters, it is just that I relate more to this passage with my sons.

As a mom…..I have my own bias! My favor does rest on my own sons….even when they are a pain in the ass, even when they have disappointed me, even when they have dismissed me or ignored my desires……my sons are still the one I would choose to be my sons any day of the week! I think every mother would agree with me! There are times when someone else’s son might “look” like a better son, we would each still chose our own son!!

As a mom – I fear for my sons.  I fear I might lose them to drugs, or a woman I don’t prefer, or a jail cell, or to death! Yes, my mind goes from 0 to 100 in about 3 seconds……I worry all the time for my sons. It is a huge responsibility to raise a good productive man in this world! It is an important one and a hard one. As moms and dads, we are often competing with so many things. So it is my job to worry for my sons and stand firm in my commitment to God to raise the good men he has blessed me with!

Mrs. Carson, Ben Carson’s mom,  did it in the 60’s as a single black poor uneducated mother of two boys.

Mary did it….knowing her son’s path would lead to his death and to the resurrection of us all.

Millions of moms do it with the deck seemingly stacked against them in so many ways so often.


I guess I can do it, too! I pray my two boys will be successful musicians or sports center employees, good fathers, wonderful husbands, upstanding citizens, and followers of Christ.

These are my sons, whom I love, and my favor rests on them…..always!

Jan. 11, 2014 – Celebration of Life for Jean – St. Matthew’s in Norwalk, CT

This morning I started my day at a Mass at St. Matthew’s for a friend’s mom. This mom has struggled for many years with Alzheimer’. On the surface, her mind and body had betrayed her. But in reality, it was that same mind and body that raised two wonderful women and nurtured 5 grandchildren. The priest spoke about each of us having talents to be used to serve others. And in the end, it is in serving others that we define who we are and what our life has meant to others. That is in fact the purpose of our human condition. At the Celebration of Life for Jean, I thought about a poem I had written years ago in honor of my friend, Claudia, as she struggled on her journey in this life.

My Body Has Never Failed Me

My arms have wrapped around my newborn babies,

                have hugged a friend with joy,

                                and have reached out to a stranger when a kind gesture                                         was needed.


My hands have held my grandmother’s paper-thin hands,

                 have served warm soup to the homeless man on a cold winter night,

                                and have traced the sign of the cross on my children, myself, and my                                                          dying friend.


My legs have paced the hardwood floors with a sick child,

                have supported me while standing on the sidelines to cheer my                                 child on,

                                and have walked miles to raise awareness to rid the                                                  world of a disease.


 My feet have waited at the front door for the prom date to be over,

                have stood firmly planted and strong when the unwanted test                                  results came in,

                                and have mimicked His faithful steps of compassion                                                   and companionship.


My eyes have seen true love reflected in my spouse’s eyes.

                have conveyed sorrowed and secret promises,

                                and have watched with awe a hundred sunrises and a                                               thousand sunsets.


My heart has fluttered with excitement upon hearing, “I do”,

                 has skipped a beat with the first movement in my womb,

                                and has paralleled the pain of my child’s deepest                                                      sadness.


So, understand, that my body has never failed me.

                It has blessed me with the human experience,

                                given me the means to serve others,

                                                and has housed my soul until it’s return Home.

 My body has never failed me.


As Jean rests finally in peace, and in loving memory or Claudia, Kathy, and Big Vin……I will remind myself that it is my purpose, as it was theirs’,  to serve others.

Sun. Jan. 5, 2014 – St. Patrick Church – Bridgeport, CT

I went to 12:10 mass with my wonderful friend, Sharon. What a beautiful church! It looked more like a cathedral in Europe than a church in Bridgeport. It is 100 years old and was newly renovated 12 years ago. Gorgeous! The sad part is that I was in her wedding there 20 years ago and I have NO RECOLLECTION OF EVER BEING THERE! Bizarre!! She and I sat there with her family as we listened to the story of the Three Kings (Yes, today still is the Feast of the Epiphany!).

I began to think about a time when my kids were little. The four of them would “help me” put up the tree that Vinnie had dragged through the snow and propped up into the tree stand. They would argue over who got to put which ornaments on which branch. Melissa’s job was always to plug in the lights to test them before putting them on the tree. She really liked the colors! I should have known then that she would be my artist!

By the end of the day’s events, the lights would be on the tree, the ornaments would be up on the tree, at least two of the kids would have spilled their hot chocolate and someone would be crying. And, there would be lights strung around the living room so that the inside of our house would glow with color!

This one particular day, Stephanie wanted to put the Nativity Scene under the tree. She claimed that it was “her turn”. I explained that Jesus would not go under until Christmas Day since he technically wasn’t born yet. Melissa asked if she could put the three “wise guys” in there. I explained that they were technically called the three wise men or the three kings. She just shrugged and said “OK” as she put them under.

When Vinnie came home that evening the house was glowing. Mickee, our dog, got excited and began wagging her tail. She bumped into the tree knocking several ornaments off. Kevin tried hard to tug her away from the tree. In all the commotion, the Nativity Scene got into the mix and the pieces went flying. One of the Kings broke. His head snapped completely off of his body. Kevin picked up the two parts and with his big brown eyes looked at me. He raised the two parts up in his two hands and said, “Oh well, now we have one un-wise guy and two kings”. It was very funny!

There was such innocence in Kevin’s view of the Three Kings. These “wise guys” were not really the lead players in the Nativity story, yet the story cannot be told without them.

I thought back to what Fr. Dave had said last night. He said the Kings knew what gifts they needed to bring to the New King, but they had no idea how big, how important, and how lasting the gift would be that the New King gave to them, and to all of us.

Sometimes, the gifts we get from others are just what we need and they often come in small packages. Sometimes, they might seem so small that they get mistakenly overlooked. However, it is not the size of the gifts we get in life, it is the value we attach to them and it is the meaningfulness behind them that make them so important in our lives. Other times, it is the gifts we give to each other that mean the most.

I wonder what gifts I have given to others over the last few days or weeks?
Was it the smile I gave to the lady at the store? Was it the hug I gave the man at the funeral who could not stop crying? Was it the gift of silence as I bit my tongue instead of speaking when one of the kids told me their “great idea”? Was it the phone call to Eleanor? Was it the text to my friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while? Was it the card I sent to someone just to say “hello”?

This week, I will try to pay attention to the smaller gifts that might mean the most to someone or to myself!
Have a great week!


Sun. Jan. 5, 2014 – NorthEast Community Church – Norwalk, CT

TRUE CONFESSION TIME – Although NECC is not a Catholic Church – it is part of “my tour”. I have been attending NECC for about 2 years now on a somewhat regular basis. It is held at West Rocks School, which seemed strange at first, but I have gotten used to it. Everyone is welcome there and for me it is kind of like my “bible study” part of the week.

I think the biggest difference for me is…..The Catholic Church grounds me in my structured faith journey that is comfortable and familiar whereas NECC challenges me to think out of the box a bit and to think about what it really means to be a true Christian. I kind of like the “compare and contrast” thing I have going on…..or maybe it is my true GEMINI self that enjoys both sides of the same coin! I am learning that it is the same God and Jesus hanging out in different places!

Anyhow……..No mention of the Epiphany today at NECC which was interesting…..Instead, the kick off to the new series was “TAKE HEART”. The pastor talked about being in the “storm” of life sometimes and figuring out whether it is “fear” that keeps you there or “faith” that helps to move you through it. Interesting!

The passage he referred to at one point was John 16:33: “I tell you all this that in me you may find peace. You will suffer in this world. But take heart (courage)! I have overcome the world”

I sat there thinking of the fear that keeps me stuck in places. Then that age old question came to mind – “IF YOU HAD NOTHING TO FEAR, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH YOUR LIFE?” I love this question!

I sometimes think I would do nothing different than what I have already done with my life, but then, if I am really honest with myself and really push myself, I might have to admit that I would do everything on my bucket list, if I really had nothing to fear!

Without fear, I would quit my job, travel the world, hike the Appalachian Trail, jump on a plane and go to Iceland, write the next best novel and spend my days at book signings, go to Africa to visit an orphanage, do missionary work in various 3rd world countries, and spend every afternoon with a different friend sipping wine or tea! My list goes on and on, but…….it is:

• Fear of no money that keeps me going back to work each week!
• Fear of losing my job that keeps me from writing a quick good-bye note to my boss and going off to hike the Appalachian Trail!
• Fear of conflict that keeps me from telling people what I really think all the time!
• Fear of going to jail that keeps me honest on the roads or keeps me from the excitement of robbing a bank!
• Fear of missing out on my children’s lives that keeps me from running away and traveling this country.
• Fear of losing time with my family and friends that keeps me from jumping on a plane and getting lost on the train systems of Europe stopping in quaint towns along the way.

We all have these fantasies I think (or maybe I am the only one for some of these!), but a healthy dose of fear also keeps us in check. It helps us face our responsibilities. It helps us all to play by the rules of society. It keeps the trains running and the planes flying. It keeps us in check with our families and friends most of the time.

That being said though, sometimes my “True Self” gets lost in the “fake self” because I fear what I may lose or may not gain if I let my guard down. Fear becomes the great protector against failure in a strange way and ends up holding me back sometimes. I do need to make sure that my fears remain reasonable so that they don’t overpower my rational side and hold me back from fully living life! I don’t want fear to let me forget where I really want to go in life or what I really want to accomplish. As the pastor said today, sometimes you need to truly believe in the bigger plan, the author of your life, and then work with Him to really have faith in the process in order to push through the fear and ultimately really live.


Sat. Jan. 4, 2014 – St. Jerome Church – Norwalk, CT

Four o’clock mass was for Vinnie’s Dad this evening, who passed away 7 months ago. It amazes me that 7 months have gone by. How fast time keeps ticking by.

All of us, except for Vincent who was working, went to mass with Nancy’s family and Vinnie’s mom. We sat in the front row and Wendy DeForge joined us!!

This mass was for the Feast of the Epiphany.  The three kings gave Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  According to Fr. Dave (and I confirmed it with Wikipedia!!), spiritually speaking, gold was a symbol of kingship on earth, frankincense (an incense) was a symbol of priestship, and myrrh (an embalming oil) was a symbol of death. Sometimes this is described more generally as gold symbolizing virtue, frankincense symbolizing prayer, and myrrh symbolizing suffering.

Virtue, Prayer, and Suffering….must be some of the keys to life!!

During the homily, Fr. Dave challenged us to think about the “best gift we ever received or gave”.

My mind hurried back to Christmas day when I gave Stephanie and Anthony handmade needlepoint stockings, I gave Melissa plenty of  art canvasses, to  Kevin I gave a new quilt and pillows and Vincent received the Hungry, Hungry Hippo game he had requested for his dorm suite! The kings’ gifts obviously had a deeper meaning than the gifts I gave to my children for Christmas. My gifts were nowhere near as fancy as gold, frankincense and myrrh, but, nevertheless, each of those gifts were wrapped in a whole lot of love and big dreams for my children. The deeper meaning of my gifts will hopefully bring true joy to each of them. For Steph and Anthony, the stockings will hopefully lay a foundation of love as the newlyweds enjoyed their first Christmas in their own home, the art canvasses will hopefully inspire Melissa to push herself to the Art World she dreams of, Kevin hopefully knows that he is blessed with many “comforts of home”, yet realizes he must fly this coop soon!!, and my hope for Vincent is that he will enjoy hours of fun with his friends as they all cross over from childhood to manhood in a college dorm room together with laughter and support!

As far as the best gifts I have ever received? It has to be my family – in the largest sense of the word! From my own kids, to Vinnie, to my siblings and parents, to Vinnie’s siblings and parents, to Wendy (as she sat beside me during Mass) and her family, who have become my sisters and brother, to friends who are welcome in my home and those who welcome me into theirs! This extended family – one with limitless boundaries – truly is the best gift I could have ever received in this life.

To me this gift of family is more precious than gold, frankincense, and myrrh!


Sat. Jan. 4, 2014 – The Church of the Assumption – Westport, CT

So, this morning, in 7 degree weather, after going to bed at 1am following a wonderful night with my Book Club friends, I went to the 9am Mass at the Church of the Assumption. I assumed people would be there……wrong assumption!!  Three ladies, two priests, and myself were the only ones there in that big, beautiful church! Although this could be the start of a bad joke….3 “regulars”, 2 “priests”, and 1 “visitor” walk into a church……it was actually quite nice. 

The last time I was in that church was for my Aunt Rose’s funeral mass. I recall the place being packed. I stood among family and friends wiping my tears and thinking of so many moments in my life with her.  I remember feeling very alone in my thoughts and sadness on that day, even though I stood in a building full of love and support. Looking back on it, I felt anonymous in that crowded church. Sure my friends and family knew me, but the people across the aisle did not, the priests did not, the older woman standing behind me did not. I would not let my words reveal my emotions, so I participated in the Mass quietly while wiping my tears. I was “just somebody who must have known Rose” from the perspective of others.

But this morning was different. In a big, beautiful church filled with statues, and wall hangings, burning candles, and all the Christmas decorations, we, the four attendees stood, sat, and kneeled beneath the crucifix while the priests went through the predictable routine of Mass. Each one of us could see the actions and hear the words of each other. I realized quickly that you can’t be anonymous or hide yourself when there are so few people there. The prayers you mumble through when others are there, are said more hesitantly when you can only hear your own voice. The message sounds more personal when the priest looks out to the pews and makes direct eye contact with you because there is nobody between you and him. The back and forth cadence of the prayers to prepare for Eucharist seem more intimate when the priest pauses and waits for your voice to be heard in response to his statements. It was hard to be my anonymous-self when there were only the 3 ladies, the 2 priests, and myself in that church this morning.

As I looked up at the crucifix hanging above the altar, I did have an “aha” moment.  I realized that the same crucifix had, in fact, been there back in July. Unlike today, when I thought I was anonymous in the crowd back in July, I really wasn’t anonymous to that crucifix then!  After being there this morning, I have to believe that He knew where I sat on that day in July. He knew who stood next to me, who stood across the aisle from me, and who the older woman was behind me. It dawned on me that no matter how crowded or how sparse the pews are, you can’t be anonymous in God’s house. He already knows each one of His guests!

Although I went to mass assuming I could be anonymous in a church I was visiting this morning alone, I actually shared a nice quiet start to the day with 2 priests and 3 lovely ladies!