Tuesday, June 24, 2014 – Saint Elizabeth Seton Parish – Ridgefield, CT

Since St. Elizabeth Seton was only about 5 miles away from St. Mary…and their Mass was at 8:30am, I decided to go there as well. I am glad I did!!
It is always interesting to hear a different homily based on the same reading. This priest did a whole different spin!

He took the position that at the moment John The Baptist was conceived and then born, his mission was laid out for him. The Author of his life, had predetermined the life he was to have and laid out his mission to prepare the coming of Christ for all. John was destined to do great things! He then parlayed the reading with the Responsorial psalm…. “I praise You, for I am wonderfully made”.

The priest challenged us to think of how often we “disapprove of ourselves” or “don’t like something” about ourselves, yet we are quick to see the beauty of God’s work everywhere else around us. If we can see the beauty in the things God has created, and we believe He has created us, then we have to see the beauty in ourselves since we are “wonderfully made” by Him. AND, if we are wonderfully made by Him, then He has created us with a purpose or a mission…..just as He had done with John The Baptist and Jesus!

It was a nice way to spin it all and it made me think of all the pieces that have been put in place for me to be who I am, do what I do, have the children I have, and for me to have met the spouse that was made for me, grow up with my parents and siblings, and have accumulated the good friends I have, and to be put into environments with people I find more challenging. We all are here and interconnected for a reason! Perhaps that reason is to help us grow to our full potential so that our mission, that God intended for each of us, can be fulfilled or perhaps our purpose becomes clearer as we think about how we might influence others as they are fulfilling their mission or purpose!

The actual Mass was said in the chapel of this church. It felt like we were in a tree house looking out through floor to ceiling windows at the treetops and fields below! Beautiful! It wasn’t lost on me that the view out these windows were also “wonderfully made”!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014 – St Mary Church – Ridgefield, CT

This morning I did a 7:00am Mass in Ridgefield. It would be the first of 2 masses I decided to do today!

The priest began with the announcement that it is the Nativity of John The Baptist…which means……6 months to the day, we will be at Christmas Eve Mass!!! Holy Cow….that woke me up!

He went on to do a beautiful homily about the relationship of John to Jesus. He also said that John is supposed to remind us that everyday is a gift of renewal of Faith, Hope and Love. He said John is the reminder that something even bigger and better is coming! He also went on to say, Everyday is another opportunity to be a free-will offering of our lives to God.

Interesting thought. Made me wonder if I have ever really “given it up to God”. I am too much of a control freak! I will admit it from time to time. As I am getting older, I think I am becoming even more of a control freak! Maybe it is because of the responsibilities I have at work or maybe because I feel less in control of my children’s lives?? I don’t know…but I do know that I don’t often do a “free will offering of my life to God”!!

When I think of that phrase I think of the Mother Theresa kind of women. Although, I envision her as a spunky woman who often had a lot of control, she also radiates true trust in a plan that gets revealed a little at a time. For me….I want to see the whole plan, then judge it, decide if I am going to do it, then I can jump in a little more easily. I think that is the definition of Control Freak!!

The notion of everyday being a gift of renewal of Faith, Hope and Love, I can honestly say…..I am trying!!! I do try to start each day as a new beginning and hope it goes well. I do have faith that there is something bigger than all of us that allows us to grow in our daily experiences, and I try to frame my actions in love. Not always easy, but I try!

SO…If I can do a little less controlling, a little more faith, hope and love, maybe I will eventually be able to trust that God’s plan is a good one for me!! I will try!

Saturday, June 21, 2014 – Saint Lawrence Parish – Shelton, CT

I got up early to go to St. Lawrence, again in Shelton. This time on my way home from the lake.

It was like a sign from God who has been hearing my laments and frustration about not being able to take off and walk the Trail starting this summer!
I walked into a pretty church shaped like a Big T. There was a pretty altar set up and located at the center of the “top line” of the T. However, the entire top line of the T wall was natural stones. So earthy, so grounding, a solid foundation. It was peaceful just to look at; so connected to nature in such a beautiful and understated way. I sat there; quiet and still; thinking of my journey to come on the Appalachian Trail. I made a promise to myself in that stillness of the Mass going on around me as I took in every single rock on that beautiful stone wall.

I will hike the Appalachian Trail someday…..in one way or another!

Friday, June 20, 2014 – St. Joseph Parish – Shelton, CT

Today was the first day of vacation! Eleven years as principal…over! Twenty-eight years in education…done! I headed off to a 7:30 am mass so that I could get to the lake! It was on the way!

St. Joseph was a pretty church. Although it was set on the side of the road, it was also set higher up with stone steps leading to the massive doors. When I entered, the first thing I noticed was the very pretty, ornate saints that that were painted on the wooden ceiling above the altar.

About 20 members from a family were gathered in several pews. They were there for the man who the mass was being said for. Four nuns also entered to join the other 25 people or so in the pews. The church is attached to a school. I am sure the nuns work in that school.

The priest opened up with a scripture. In that scripture was a quote that spoke to me….”Without Him, our bodies can not move.” The ironic part that spoke to me was that had the Board of Education accepted and approved my Sabbatical request, I would have been starting my six month journey to hike the Appalachian Trail. My body would have been seriously moving! In my case the quote should have been “WITHOUT BOARD APPROVAL, My Body Can NOT move!”
Sitting there I felt frustration that my desires are so contingent upon someone else’s approval. Maybe God had put the BOE in between my desired request and my actions for some reason….maybe to protect me from my crazy ideas?? I’m just not willing to accept that though!

I will have to let my fantasy go for a couple of years till I can own my own desires an actions without the approval of 9 non-risk taking people who don’t even really know the true me!

On the other hand, had the Board accepted my request, I would not have been in church this morning. I would have been home packing and mapquesting the shortest route to Mount Katahdin in Maine!!

I also would not be doing my church tour blog for 2014, instead all Spring I would have been blogging about my training hikes on trailjournal.com.

I would not be going to Haiti in July and then Guatemala two weeks later. Instead, I would have been doing that next summer in 2015 and November 2014, respectively!

I would not be whining about not going for a 6 month hike. Instead, I would have been getting a bit nervous about packing and repacking all Spring!

I will have to take a deep breath and stop whining for now and instead continue to look for options of how and when I will find myself on the Trail!

Sunday, June 15, 2014 – St. Jerome Parish – Norwalk, CT

Today, the 11:00am Mass was being said for my father-in –law, “Big Vin”. My children came with me (except Vincent –who had to work) and Vinnie and our family joined Nancy, Jen, and Michael. My mother-in-law did not come.

At the end of mass, we learned it was the priest’s 87th birthday yesterday!! He and I share Flag Day! He said a nice homily which focused on how it is possible to have the Holy Trinity.

He used the analogy of a guitar player. I was happy Kevin was there!
He spoke about the mind of the musician, the hand of the musician, and the string of the guitar. Separately, none of the 3 can make any sound, but together, all three can make all sounds possible!

It was a cool way of thinking of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

I am glad we were all together. As a mother learning to “let go”…..it brings me peace to have all my children with me at church…….my nurse, my artist, my MUSICIAN, and my techy!!

Sunday, June 15, 2014 – Holy Family Church – Fairfield, CT

Happy Father’s Day to all the great men in my life!!! Dad, Vinnie, “Big Vin”, Danny, Russell, Rich, Joe!

I got up and quickly debated about which mass to go to. I decided I had 15 minutes to get to 7:30am mass in Fairfield, so off I went to Holy Family! It sounded like a good name for a church on Father’s Day! I didn’t know it was the Celebration of the Holy Trinity (made sense now…..3 “big guys” – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – all wrapped up in one – on Father’s Day!!!).

I slipped in at 7:30, right behind the priest who had just started his journey to the altar, and found a place in a pew towards the back on the church.

About 5 minutes into the Mass, I realized I knew the man across the aisle and up one row. It was Al Svelnys from my school who had retired years ago. A man, I had hosted a retirement party for. A man who had been beside me all the way along my professional career path! I love this guy!

During Mass, I thought about how I was meant to see Al at church today; a day where we celebrate the men in our lives. I thought about my two lives: personal and professional. I thought about how I am who I am because of so many men! In fact, many of the men in my personal life played a secondary role to the female mentors I had, but, in my professional life, it is the men who have been my biggest mentors.

Personally – there is my father, my Uncle John, Jesse, my Uncle Bobby and Uncle Donnie, Pop Sauer, Leighton Roberts, Mr. Gray, and so many others. All of them helped shape me.

With the exception of my father, though, the other men were only in my life because of the WOMEN they were attached to in many ways. It was the woman, my mother and her friends, who organized events to pull us together, or put dates on the calendar that would create time for us all to be together. They were the ones I think of often as a wife and mother, sister and friend.
Professionally, however, I can list many men who cheered me on, supported me, and tapped my talents in ways I didn’t know were possible….Phil Nelson, Bob Laber, Don Saltus, Don Fiftal, Al Svelnys, Steve Falcone….so many guys who have created opportunities for me to grow professionally.

Seeing Al today at Mass made me feel at peace knowing there are many men, who have believed in me both personally and professionally. All of them deserve my praise, my recognition, and my thanks!!

I pray every day that the sons I have brought into this world will have an impact on others that rival the impact that all of these various men have made on my life!

Happy Father’s Day to all the men who have touched my life in one way or another.

Thanks guys!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014 – St Mary Church – Greenwich, CT

Liz came with me today because it is my 51st birthday!!!!

We met on “The Avenue” in Greenwich right in front of the church. I had never been there, but she had been there and had some connections to it. We entered and it felt old. There were murals in circles high on the walls. I am not sure if they were saints or popes! The church was pretty with so many details to look at. The crucifix above the altar struck me. There was a stained glass window of the death of Christ above the altar, yet hanging directly above the altar was a full blown Jesus, dressed, and pointing to the ceiling with his left hand. He appeared to be rising right off of the cross. Very cool! It was the images of the stained glass “story” with the Risen Christ in front that made it so interesting!!

About 10 minutes into the Mass, Liz told me she and her sister had gone to high school with the priest saying Mass. And then I thought…..not too shabby – give your life to Christ and land in a church right in the heart of “The Avenue” in Greenwich, while other priests in the graduating Seminarian class may have landed in the heart of a multi-ethnic neighborhood in inner city Bridgeport!

So there is at least one priest who is a product of Brien McMahon High School!!! Who knew??

I know there have been doctors, lawyers, teachers, me – a principal, nurses, bus drivers, business owners, etc who have graduated from McMahon, but I guess I never gave any thought to the question as to whether or not a priest had! I wonder when he got his “calling”? Was it before graduation or after? Was it during math class or during a Homecoming Football game? I don’t know.

I do know I got MY “calling” to be a teacher in 2nd grade. Miss Ianelli was so pretty and had a beautiful Boston accent. I wanted to be JUST LIKE HER when I grew up! I knew I wanted to make spelling tests and grade them. I wanted to drill math facts into other people’s heads. I wanted to have the power of a RED PEN! Just like Miss Ianelli.

It is interesting to me that some people know right away at a young age what they want to do in life and with others it takes more time. Some people bury their true professional desires until a time comes where they can’t deny it anymore…these are the “career changers”. Some are pulled in so many directions with various interests that they seem to just not be able to commit. Yet, others remain steadfast in their desire (or passion) to do whatever it takes to get there. These are the ones who seem to always have known what they were supposed to do with their life.

So, today I left mass wondering, what if I had taken a different career path? What if I chose to be an author, or writer, or nurse, or restaurant owner….a long time ago? How would I have been different or would I have eventually been a teacher in the end…..a “career changer” back into what I may have always supposed to have been.

I also wonder who would I have met along the way had a chosen a different career….and who would I have never met (in my world of education) who have obviously helped shaped me into who I am today? Is it our choice to choose our path or is it somehow pre-ordained that we would enter a certain career path being that we are born with some “God given talents” and skills?

Interesting to think about what our true purpose (or “calling”) is and how we came to realize it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014 – Sacred Heart Church – Stamford, CT

Today marks the one year anniversary of the passing of Vinnie’s dad, “Big Vin”. What an incredibly fast year! Time is so evasive. What seemed like a day we would all never make it through is suddenly a year ago!

Liz came with me once I decided to go to Sacred Heart in Stamford. As we walked inside, the first thing we had to notice was the crucifix in the front vestibule. It was huge, however, what I did not expect when we opened the church doors into the actual church, was the breathtaking mosaic portrait of the LIVING CHRIST that was the backdrop to the altar. It was such a conscious reminder that Christ is not dead. In fact, He is very alive and in the center of His Church. It was beautiful. I can’t image how long it took to create.

I needed to see that on this anniversary. I loved my father-in-law. That is no secret. But today I was so clearly reminded that Big Vin is alive and in Christ’s presence (and our presence) today and every day.

I closed my eyes for a minute during that Mass and could feel the presence of the living God and Big Vin. There is no doubt in my mind they are together!
After Mass, Liz and I went out to breakfast! Such a treat to spend an early Saturday morning with a good friend. I am truly blessed!

And……….Happy Birthday to my sister, Leslie!! Love you!

Sunday, June 1, 2014 – St. Emery Church – Fairfield, CT

So today, at an initial moment, was the dead opposite of yesterday!  However, during Mass I realized how similar today was to yesterday.

This morning, I walked up the steep steps leading to the church of St. Emery, opened the doors, and my breath was taken away!

WOW!!! It was painted with giant murals above the altar and across the ceiling! The stained glass stood tall from almost floor to ceiling with depictions of a monk-like man in different scenes…I am assuming that this man was St. Emery! It was a beautiful and bright welcoming church set high on a hill on a busy street.

I had chosen this 11am Mass on purpose. The Mass was being said in HUNGARIAN! There are about 13 different languages for masses in the diocese and this was the start of the ones I am going to visit!

I arrived 20 minutes early and found a seat. There were about 4 or 5 groups of women speaking rapidly in a language I would have never recognized. I knew I was less than a mile from BJ’s Wholesale in Bridgeport, yet I felt like I had stepped into a church in the middle of Europe somewhere!

During the Mass I listened without understanding a word of what was being said. It didn’t matter to me because by doing this I was able to sit and think and observe the church, the people, and the ornate surroundings I was in. It really was beautiful.

As strange as it was to compare this Mass to Saturday morning’s Mass, there wasn’t that much difference. There was something soothing about being at peace, alone with some strangers who were speaking a foreign language, saying prayers that had unfamiliar words attached to very familiar patters, in a big, painted church on the morning of June 1st. In the similar way to the day before, it felt “stripped down” in a strange way. It felt peaceful even with the beautiful paintings and distractions around me. And it felt very soothing to hear and know the rhythm of the Mass, the cadence of its parts – all chanted in a foreign language, that would flow into the familiar and comfortable patterns we all know as “church”.

After Mass, a friendly woman approached me and welcomed me to their church. She was excited to hear I was just visiting and wanted me to return. When asked, I told her I lived in Norwalk and went to St. Philip, but I added that I had been to St. Ladislaus and how beautiful that Hungarian church was. She introduced me to the priest and told him what I had said. He had been the priest there for years!!! And…he remembered the Miller family who I have been friends with forever.

Ah….sometimes things seem a lot more unfamiliar than they actually are.

It was a beautiful church!!

Saturday, May 31, 2014 – Holy Name of Jesus Parish – Stratford, CT

As I drove up to this church on a busy corner at 8:00am on Saturday, I noticed the doors first; big, wooden ones with metal bumps on them. Kind of bold, but something about them was comforting, in a church kind of way.

Upon entering I noticed the barren walls except for the stations of the cross, the wood panels to either side of the alter, and the stained glass windows placed high up on the walls. The walls below were white, cinder block-like, without decorations. It was a traditional and conservative looking parish. Somehow it was different from so many of the other churches, yet all of them are familiar in some ways.

One woman kind of snapped at another because “her flowers were taken away from the altar”. Another woman walked by me with a quick smile, probably wondering why she had never seen me at church before, and headed to the altar to rearrange the readings or fix the candle or something. I sat there, watching, without recognizing anyone and wondered if these people came just every Saturday at 8:00 am or every weekday as well at 7:30am. The big sign outside had posted the hours for all.

During the Mass, it felt like I was just going through the motions. It felt like that for everyone by the look on their faces. No one looked very connected, in fact, everyone looked very individual.

It struck me that the name of the church seemed kind of serious “HOLY NAME OF JESUS”….and so did everyone in it!

On the other hand, though, there was something soothing about being at peace, alone with some strangers, in a big, non-glitzy church on a Saturday morning. It felt “stripped down” in a way. It felt peaceful without the distractions. It felt soothing knowing the rhythm of the Mass, the cadence of its parts, that would flow into the familiar and comfortable patterns we all know as “church”.