Saturday, March 22, 2014 – Our Lady Star of the Sea – Stamford, CT

So after a few days in Key West, I am well rested and ready to move to Key West! Beautiful! Although I did not go to church while I was there, I did stop into a pretty St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Such a quiet space in a bustling tourist town. It was nice to take in a moment of peace before our pub crawl!!

On Saturday I went to Our Lady Star of the Sea. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing, but I figured since I was just coming back from the Gulf and the Ocean, I might as well go to Our Lady Star of the SEA!! I am so glad I did. The priest had such a great speaking voice and sounded so smart. I could have listened to him for a very long time!

The reading was the famous one about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well. He told us it was a vitally important reading for a few reasons:

  1. Men and women could never have spoken un-chaperoned. It was against the law.
  2. A Samaritan would never have been allowed to speak to a Jew. It was against the law.
  3. It is the longest conversation that is captured in the Bible – an important lesson is embedded there.
  4. Jesus asked for Water when he knew the conversation would lead to the fact that she was in need of the Living Water (God) to live.
  5. Politics and Religion have always been intertwined…..even though we like to try to separate them. The politics of the day create policies that either aligns to our religious values or not. This is where he got me hooked! Then he spoke of the Bill that is in legislation right now that would make Physician Assisted Suicide legal in CT.

He talked about this Bill as not being one that is a grassroots effort. He talked about Politics trying to undermine Religion in a most basic and fundamental way to the Catholic (and Christian) life.  Instead, this bill is part of George Soros’ (and his “friends’”) societal engineering efforts. He talked about the fact that it is a bill that would make it legal to have a doctor write a prescription for drugs that would allow an individual to take their own life. He talked about the “pretty words” that make it more acceptable…..dying with dignity, easing the transition, acceptable death, etc……but then flipped to the fact that Jesus KNEW he was dying…and he knew exactly WHEN!! He chose to suffer for us fully knowing eternal life was coming for him and all of us.

He spoke about the fact that often it is when someone is dying in the last few days of life that they come to know Jesus most closely. It is in that paralleled suffering that some people actually see Christ in those who help them through the tough times….and it is those tough times that we, the ones not dying, actually step up and become most CHRIST-like and behave in the most loving ways. He asked what would happen if those experiences of the deepest kind of human love was taken away from the relationship between the one who is doing the dying and the ones who are helping in that transition from this world to the world of eternal life.

His final point is that God is the Author of our life…the creator, the writer, and the Savior. It is His plan, not ours, that needs to be followed for whatever reason He has for us and the ones who love us and stand beside us in the most difficult times. His point was that Physician Assisted Suicide would rob us all of the critical experiences God has for us. His view really made me think.

I couldn’t help but think….WOW…what if Jesus had chosen to have a doctor write a prescription so that he would not have had to suffer on the cross? What if he could have chosen to have a Physician Assisted Suicide and bypass the whole crucifixion thing?  Where would that have left off in the story of the Passion of Christ and then the Resurrection for us all?
Went to NECC this morning, Sunday, March 23rd, but kept thinking of the sermon yesterday…..so interesting. I thought of Grandma Keller and her last few days on earth, and Vinnie’s Dad. Even though it was so hard for them to leave this earth, and so hard for all of us to watch them leave this earth, I can’t imagine if they would have chosen to “do it all in” a few days earlier. I would have felt cheated in some way…robbed of some of the most beautiful moments and memories I have of their lives. In a strange way, it was the final moments where they crossed over into death, that made their lives so magical and beautiful.

Advertisements

Thursday, March 13, 2014 – St. Patrick Church – Redding Ridge, CT

This church was beautiful. Again, like St Agnes in Stamford, there was no stained glass. It was surrounded by clear windows looking out into the woods. The backdrop of the crucifix was a huge clear window facing blue skies and leafless branches of the woods behind. The inside felt like a log cabin with huge wooden beams and hard wood floors. I went there with a heavy heart since my dream of taking 6 months off and hiking the Appalachian Trail was put to rest last night at the Board of Ed meeting. My heart was heavy, yet on a whim, (actually because St. Patty’s Day is Monday, I thought I should hit up a St. Patrick’s Church today) I ended up in a simple church with a simple design set with the woods as a backdrop to it all. It felt like a reminder to me to just breathe and take in the “woods” and “adventures” that surround me.

Speaking of adventures – I seem to be on one lately that I thought a lot about in church this morning. I have been a mother for the past 24 years almost. I know how to be a mother to babies (feed them, hug them, love them, take care of them). I know how to be a mother to elementary school aged kids (Feed them, hug them, love them, go to every teacher conference for every one of them, sign up for field trips). I know how to be a mother to teenagers (Feed them a lot!, Try to hug them, remember to tell them that you love them, keep tabs on where they are, stay focused when you are arguing with them, remember you really do love them!) However, I do not know how to be a mother to my adult children. God knows I am trying, but I am struggling with it…..and I believe my adult children know that, too! The boundaries have blurred. They still want food, but they don’t always want a hug. They should know I love them, but I am not sure they always love me. They don’t want me to keep tabs on them, but they live in my house. They want to move out and I want either them or myself to move out! But I know I will miss them terribly when they stop coming home because they have their own home. Ugh….looking back it was easy to be a mom when I knew how to love them as little ones!

The priest today talked about it being Pope Francis’ one year anniversary of being our Holy Father who is there to guide, be patient, and show love to all of us. It reminded me of a sermon one time (I don’t remember when or where) when the priest said…”God doesn’t move away from us. As Our Father, he stands still waiting patiently and watching as we choose (because we have Free Will) to move closer or farther from Him. He is always there waiting for when we need Him and choose to be with Him.”  I know there have been times when I have moved closer or farther away from God, based on my own needs, wants, desires, goals, or just plain Free Will. Yet, when I have come back to “Home” , He is there.

Maybe that is kind of where I am at right now with my own kids. As “Their Mother”, the mother of these adults,  I need to stand still, be patient, and wait. I need to have my own life, yet let them know I am here, fully knowing they will move (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) away from me at times. But, if they do always know where I am standing, and if I wait patiently, maybe I will be watching when they turn around from time to time and come back to me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

It is harder to be the patient, waiting (trying not to worry), loving kind of mother to adult children than it was to be the tired, overworked, loving kind of mother to little ones!

Thursday, March 13, 2014 – St. Patrick Church – Redding Ridge, CT

This church was beautiful. Again, like St Agnes in Stamford, there was no stained glass. It was surrounded by clear windows looking out into the woods. The backdrop of the crucifix was a huge clear window facing blue skies and leafless branches of the woods behind. The inside felt like a log cabin with huge wooden beams and hard wood floors. I went there with a heavy heart since my dream of taking 6 months off and hiking the Appalachian Trail was put to rest last night at the Board of Ed meeting. My heart was heavy, yet on a whim, (actually because St. Patty’s Day is Monday, I thought I should hit up a St. Patrick’s Church today) I ended up in a simple church with a simple design set with the woods as a backdrop to it all. It felt like a reminder to me to just breathe and take in the “woods” and “adventures” that surround me.

Speaking of adventures – I seem to be on one lately that I thought a lot about in church this morning. I have been a mother for the past 24 years almost. I know how to be a mother to babies (feed them, hug them, love them, take care of them). I know how to be a mother to elementary school aged kids (Feed them, hug them, love them, go to every teacher conference for every one of them, sign up for field trips). I know how to be a mother to teenagers (Feed them a lot!, Try to hug them, remember to tell them that you love them, keep tabs on where they are, stay focused when you are arguing with them, remember you really do love them!) However, I do not know how to be a mother to my adult children. God knows I am trying, but I am struggling with it…..and I believe my adult children know that, too! The boundaries have blurred. They still want food, but they don’t always want a hug. They should know I love them, but I am not sure they always love me. They don’t want me to keep tabs on them, but they live in my house. They want to move out and I want either them or myself to move out! But I know I will miss them terribly when they stop coming home because they have their own home. Ugh….looking back it was easy to be a mom when I knew how to love them as little ones!

The priest today talked about it being Pope Francis’ one year anniversary of being our Holy Father who is there to guide, be patient, and show love to all of us. It reminded me of a sermon one time (I don’t remember when or where) when the priest said…”God doesn’t move away from us. As Our Father, he stands still waiting patiently and watching as we choose (because we have Free Will) to move closer or farther from Him. He is always there waiting for when we need Him and choose to be with Him.”  I know there have been times when I have moved closer or farther away from God, based on my own needs, wants, desires, goals, or just plain Free Will. Yet, when I have come back to “Home” , He is there.

Maybe that is kind of where I am at right now with my own kids. As “Their Mother”, the mother of these adults,  I need to stand still, be patient, and wait. I need to have my own life, yet let them know I am here, fully knowing they will move (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) away from me at times. But, if they do always know where I am standing, and if I wait patiently, maybe I will be watching when they turn around from time to time and come back to me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

It is harder to be the patient, waiting (trying not to worry), loving kind of mother to adult children than it was to be the tired, overworked, loving kind of mother to little ones!

Saturday, March 8, 2014 – St. Mary’s Church – Bethel, CT

Vinnie and I went to the lake house on Friday so when I woke up this morning  – wide awake at 6:22am – I decided to go to Mass. One of the closest towns in the Bridgeport Diocese to Waterbury was Bethel.

Bethel had one church and mass was at 8:00am. I decided to go there. Ironically, St. Mary’s would finish out my Grandmother’s channeling from last week….Theresa, Agnes, Ann, and now St. Mary’s -DONE!!

The church was pretty. Again, being only the next quaint town over from Newtown, the thoughts of the tragedy of Dec. 14, 2012 school shooting struck me as so strange. Such a safe, quaint, pretty little CT town rocked with tragedy and sadness – so strange.

The young looking priest with the buzz-cut did a fast sermon about the disciple Matthew who was a tax collector who followed Jesus. He asked us to put aside the notion of the dreaded tax collectors everyone hated back then and recognize the fact that to be a tax collector he had to be able to read and write. Matthew was probably the most educated disciple Jesus had! He asked us overlook Matthew’s weaknesses and consider his strengths. He wanted us to recognize that God had given Matthew strengths and Jesus recognized and validated them. Matthew ultimately used his strengths to serve God as a follower of Jesus.

Then the priest asked us to look at ourselves and recognize our own strengths God gave us and asked us how do we use these strengths to serve God and others?

Great question! It struck me that most people, including myself, are quick to highlight and point out their weaknesses and flaws. It is hard for people, in general, to identify and freely talk about their strengths comfortably. We’re probably afraid of looking like we are bragging or boasting or being viewed as egotistical. Part of this may be that we are often very quick to judge others when they do point out their own talents or strengths and we don’t want to be judged as we so readily judge others. In reality, by recognizing your strengths we could be thanking God for them in a more public way when we use those strengths to serve others. Something to think about.

Kind of funny the sermon was about talents and God given gifts because after Mass I met my brother for breakfast. Danny is a masterful, talented carpenter. His talents are amazing! BUT…he would NEVER tell you that. He would absolutely see that as bragging! His other amazing God given talent is finding good diners to eat at! I think he knows where the good corned beef hash is in every town in Connecticut.

So we met at Jacqueline’s Diner in Bethel and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast created for us by an obviously talented and gifted chef! Delicious!

Great way to start the day appreciating the talents and gifts of the people around me!

Happy Weekend!!

Sunday, March 2, 2014 – Northeast Community Church – Norwalk, CT

So, as if 3 masses weren’t enough…..I headed to NECC, just because I have been there in a while. The service was nice and the pastor was picking up where he left off last week about “Forward: The call to restoration”. The focus for the next couple of weeks is restoring yourself, relationships, and the community. It was a nice message of the fact that no matter how down on yourself you might be…Christ will restore you! Very uplifting.

One thought that he shared has stuck with me…….We often learn about the Bible, but it is more important to live the Bible. Going to church, reading the Bible and talking about God is certainly important and I do a lot of that…but the bigger challenge I often face is how do I LIVE what I have learned. It is hard to step out of my comfort zone and do something different for others who I may not know….but that is certainly something I need to think about.

Even more importantly, how do I get my kids to live the lessons of our faith that I have had a part in shaping? I have no idea! They are good kids, but how do I get them to step out of their comfort zone with me and serve others in new and exciting ways……
I will have to think about this!

There sure was a lot to think about this weekend……
Son of God Movie – Friday
St. Theresa and St. Ann – Saturday
St. Agnes and NECC – Sunday

Maybe Pastor Thomas was talking to me!!! Stop learning about all this and start living more of it…..just maybe. Maybe after I finish my New Year’s Resolution for 2014!

Sunday, March 2, 2014 – St. Agnes Church – Stamford, CT

OK, so I think I have been channeling my Grandmother this weekend.

Some people called her Terry (Theresa) while others called her Agnes my whole life. To this day, I have to admit I am not even sure if her true name was Agnes Theresa or Theresa Agnes….or maybe something else. But I do know –she had two daughters, Mary and Ann.

So…Saturday was St. Theresa’s and St. Ann’s (with the story of Mary’s mom) and this morning I picked St. Agnes simply because it had an 8:30 Mass! Kind of Cool!!
St. Agnes church was kind of different. I think it was a converted house in the woods of Greenwich. When I walked in, it felt like I was in someone’s living room. So cozy and comfortable. There were no stained glass windows. The windows were almost ceiling to floor, but plain glass. I could see right out into the woods! It was very different and very calming. I enjoyed it!

Again, the message of the day was “Do what’s right in Christ. Everything else will fall into place.” In some way this message also reminded me of my Grandma Gavin – Terry/Agnes!

I think she lived her life believing that what she had was “enough” and things would work out and fall into place as they should. She never seemed to need or want things beyond what she had. She was never envious of what others had…she had what she needed. Perhaps in her own way she was another role model of being Christ-like in her own way. A couple of years ago I wrote a piece about her just for fun. I thought of that piece while I sat in the Living Room of St. Agnes Church.

                     Grandma’s House
 With our mother’s warning to be polite and use our manners, my siblings and I burst through the metal door of Foley’s Lounge on Memorial Highway in New Rochelle. It always looked the same; a dark narrow hallway where someone long ago had put a bar complete with a lighted glass wall holding a myriad of colored bottles to the left and a 1970’s jukebox to the right. The musty smell of drying dish towels greeted us as the brilliant daylight collided with the dreary smoke-filled darkness inside the lounge. Straight ahead was the bowed pool table with a slightly torn felt surface. Beyond the pool table, the familiar Pabst Blue Ribbon clock welcomed us from the wall four feet above the edge of the pool rack with its warm yellowed glow. The pool rack always held the same two sticks, the wooden triangle, and two blue squares of chalk. Waiting for us with open arms stood “Wee Terry”. Jesse, her five foot nine Mexican boyfriend had affectionately nicknamed our tiny Irish Grandmother; it was a title that perfectly fit her four foot eleven frame.
            Wee Terry stood with outstretched arms behind the dimly lit bar ready to serve the two customers sitting there on that particular Saturday afternoon. It was 2pm and they were already three drinks into their evening routine. These two customers swiveled in their bar stools to watch the welcome. Her warm “Hello” rose above the beat of Tony Orlando’s “Knock Three Times on the Ceiling If You Want Me” from the flashing jukebox.
             After coming around to the front of the bar and following a fond embrace for each of us, including my parents, Grandma quickly returned to her barmaid position to pour our drinks. Serving her grandchildren Diet Cokes while they shot pool would be a highlight of her day; only second to catching up on any news from her daughter and favorite son-in-law.
           Just as Leslie started racking up the pool balls as the others of us picked out our cue sticks, two African American men walked in. “Hello Terry”, the tall man said to my grandmother.
          “I knew you’d be here soon,” she responded and without asking, she grabbed too short glasses and ran them through the ice box scooping them full of ice chips. Her fragile hands, cruelly bent with arthritis, reached for a bottle. Without missing a beat in the conversation with her daughter, she poured two drinks for the regulars; one scotch on the rocks and a vodka and orange. Our four Diet Cokes sat in front of the four empty barstools, next to the two new men, lined up on the edge of the dark wooden bar, each rimmed with a slice of lime. I reached up to the bar to grab my soda.
          “Hey Lenny” my grandmother said to the gentleman with the scotch. “This is my granddaughter, Debi, and those are her sisters, Leslie and Lisa, and her brother, Danny.” Then pointing to my parents, “And my daughter, Mary, and my son-in-law, Charlie.” Grandma smiled as she rubbed her sore hands.
          “How do you do, all?” Larry answered and tipped his head as he reached over and waved at my parents. “They are beautiful kids, Terry. They take after you.”
          Grandma smiled as she moved to wipe down the bar with a rag. “Thanks Lenny” and she turned her attention back to my parents. Replacing my glass on the bar, I went back to the pool table. It was Lisa’s turn to shoot.
          Not five minutes later a young woman pulling a rolling shopping cart behind her entered with two men. The same flash of daylight shot across the dark space of the narrow lounge lighting the pool table for just a small moment. “Hola Terry,” one of the men called to Grandma as he reached around the divider in the bar to give her tiny frame a tight hug.
          “Oh, hello, Juan. The usual?” she asked as he released the hug.
           “Absolutely. Gracias. Same for my friends here.” He turned to his two guests and within minutes we were all being introduced to Juan, Luis, and Maria. The two beers and an orange soda being passed between the span of a one foot wide bar told the story that after one visit to Foley’s Lounge no one was a stranger. It was clear that everyone was a regular at Foley’s Lounge. In fact, it was a place where the hospitality of a bartending grandmother of four would never allow anyone to ever feel like a stranger. Terry, Wee Terry, or Grandma, was known and loved by all, but even more obvious was that she knew and had grown fond of each of the stories of her customers. These were her people; her extended family.
            Leaving Foley’s Lounge that Saturday afternoon following several games of pool and too many glasses of Diet Coke, it struck me that something special lived within the walls of a dark and musty 30 x 20 bar tucked along a side street in New Rochelle. Every day, a tiny four foot eleven Irish Immigrant knew how to show love to others and bring a little bit of world peace to the people she served.

I believe Grandma Gavin knew what it meant to be Christ-like to every person she met. She served others in so many unexpected ways! Thanks Grandma!

 

 

Saturday, March 1, 2014 – St. Ann Church – Bridgeport, CT

What a beautiful church!! It was so peaceful. Lisa and I went kind of on the spur of the moment and it was so worth it. After Mass, the new pastor approached us as we were leaving. He had only been there two weeks. I believe his name is Fr. Lynch. He was genuinely excited when I told him of my New Year’s Resolution and invited me and Lisa the story of St. Ann that was embedded in the stained glass windows! He told us that the story of St. Ann does not appear in the Bible. St. Ann and her husband could not bear children, they went through many trials and sad times, then God gave them one daughter…….Mary Mother of Jesus! Honestly I had not really thought about Mary’s family. She has always just been “Mary and Joseph” or the “Blessed Virgin Mother”. I never thought of her as a young girl who had parents and who were those parents! Not sure how I would handle being told by my only daughter, a teenager at that, that she was pregnant….AND it was going to be the Son of God! Weird to think about.  The last panel of glass on the right side of the church is St. Ann, Mary, and Jesus…….three generations! Very special image.

Anyhow, the stained glass in that church is worth the visit! Spectacular. The thing that makes the glass so cool is each panel is an image of the life of St. Ann, Mary or Jesus, with a Bible verse printed into the glass below each image……so cool! After Mass I told Lisa that maybe I felt so peaceful there because I love being surrounded by words…papers, books, libraries, book stores…and there in this place, I was completely surrounded by words, literally! There was so much to look at and take in.

During Fr. Lynch’s sermon, he asked us to think about two questions at the end of the day:

  1. How was I Christ-like today?
  2. Did I invite God into my everyday interactions today?

Great questions to think about!

I know I can sometimes come up with the examples for the first one on most days, but not so sure I can answer YES to the second one on most days.  Good thoughts to think about.

I left that church thinking about how excited Fr. Lynch was to share St. Ann’s story with us. It was a blessing to go there this evening. And…really nice to have Lisa with me to experience it.

I will definitely be going back to St. Ann’s….and I really wish Fr. Lynch well as the new pastor there!

Saturday, March 01, 2014 – St. Theresa Church –Trumbull, CT

After seeing the movie, SON OF GOD, last night, I went to 8:00 am Mass with a more open view in my heart and mind. The movie was powerful and emotional. I realized how “cleaned up” our version of Christ is as I looked at the beautiful crucifix at St. Theresa’s. The priest even mentioned the tender face Christ has on their crucifix. The movie last night really brought home the brutal murder, the acceptance of God’s will, and a mother’s pain watching it all unfold……our Savior’s story is pretty darn brutal! (I always knew that, but when you sit in a pretty church that part can get pushed to the side! Besides…maybe it was that handsome actor playing Christ who caught my attention a little more!?) The movie captured the essence of Jesus, the man, nicely. On the way home, Liz, Leslie, Sr. Lucy and Sr. Francis and I spoke about the movie. Sr. Francis made the point that she was happy that the producers included the resurrection and ascension into heaven. Without that part, we wouldn’t have our faith! Our Christianity is based on the rising of the dead man….not in the dying…….powerful movie!

SO…St. Theresa’s is beautiful. I have been past it so many times, but this was a first time for going in. It did strike me that the glamour, marble, stained glass, flowers, candles, and ”cleaned up” tender-faced Christ in the middle (He was made in Italy!!) made the church surroundings so peaceful and lovely, yet our story, that links us all, is such is such a brutal and ugly path that creates the underlying foundation of our faith! Interesting.

The priest did a beautiful homily. He had a nice speaking voice and was easy to listen to. Until this morning, I have totally lost track of time and he reminded me (along with the other 100 people there!!) that Lent starts next week!! WOW! I guess I had my eye on Easter, but Ash Wednesday snuck up on me.

He spoke about “giving something up for Lent” or “Doing something special for Lent” as the usual routine. But, then he posed a thought to everyone. He said something along the lines of, “What if everyone gave up UNFORGIVENESS AND BITTERNESS for Lent?” He went on to talk about how Unforgiveness blocks us in so many ways….we hold little grudges that just hurt us, we keep the seeds of bitterness for wrongdoings long ago somewhere in our hearts, we “can’t forgive” because the other person did something to us…..and he put it out there that other person has moved on most likely and we stand there holding the burdens of Unforgiveness and Bitterness. Then he brought Christ into the picture….and the movie came right back to my mind visually.

Christ watched his murderers nail him to a cross of wood in front of his friends and mother.

Then he prayed for them. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

And in that prayer, he even tried to excuse their behavior as he spoke to His Father! WOW!!

I don’t think I could ever be that forgiving and yet, we are asked to follow Christ’s example. We are asked to forgive each other for the day to day little stuff and even this kind of big stuff sometimes that puts walls up between us!

The priest left us with the thought of….if the entire world gave up Unforgiveness and Bitterness for Lent…what a peaceful, CHIRST-FILLED, world we would all live in!  It is a beautiful thought for the day……and for Lent…and for always!