Sunday, September 21, 2014 – St. Augustine Cathedral Church – Bridgeport, CT

So, after the Stratford church, Liz and I had a lovely Greek salad for lunch on a way to the VIETNAMESE Mass at the Cathedral. Talk about an international day!!!

This Mass was by far, one of the coolest!!!

The cathedral itself is beautiful. But then to see about 225 kids between the ages of 5 and 16 or so file in and so respectfully sit together in their matching uniforms at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon and then be surrounded by about another 150-200 adults was incredible!!

The music was probably the prettiest music I have ever heard in a church. The little Vietnamese nun was the director of the choir who sang from the balcony area. Absolutely gorgeous!! The priest’s words came from the pulpit with a sing-song kind of pattern and the parishioners sang back responses. NO ONE HAD A BOOK for the prayers….only for the songs….which EVERYONE sang with their full hearts!

The good news for Liz and myself was that a priest came out for the homily and spoke ENGLISH!! He spoke about the changes in mass times for this church and they Synod that is going on in our diocese. He reinforced the mantra of the bishop which is “RISE UP! WE ARE ON THE MOVE!” The idea of “moving forward beyond the past” was good for me to hear in a different context since this has been the mantra of the leadership in my district. I guess life in general is all about change and moving forward.

When I went to communion, the Vietnamese priest switched immediately to English and said, “Body of Christ” with no hint of an accent! That was so cool. It reminded me of when I went to China with Christine to get her daughter. Myself and another woman went to a Chinese mass one morning. The entire mass was so familiar, yet I did not understand a word. When I got up to the altar for communion, that priest did the very same thing. He held out the Eucharist and in perfect English said, “The Body of Christ”.

I guess the Eucharist really does speak a universal language!

I am so glad Liz and I went to this Mass today. It left me feeling so uplifted!

Sunday, September 21 – Our Lady of Grace Parish –Stratford, CT

Liz and I were supposed to go to the Lithuanian Mass in Bridgeport, but the mass was cancelled due to a Parish Picnic! So we scurried over to Stratford to get to Our Lady of Grace. I am glad we did! It was a nice family parish that seemed really active.

We entered and there was a televised speaker on a big screen. He was a Catholic speaker/musician from the Youth Conference and will be visiting the youth of the church for a concert next month. He sounded awesome and he spoke of God being present in everyday life of teenagers and all of us.

One of his messages was kind of empowering. He said “Faith doesn’t just happen. It is a decision.” Then he went on to say…”Every one of those decisions moves you either closer to or further away from God.” I thought about so many times I assumed I believed, but when push came to shove, I wasn’t so sure. And on top of that I thought about all the conversations and actions I take in a single day and had to reflect on how many of those words or actions move me closer to what God intends for me….or further away.

I should take a day this week and actually pay attention to the details of my words and actions to see if I truly am “deciding” to live my “faith” or if I just assume every day that my faith will be evident to those around me….just because I assume it will be!

Sunday, Sept. 21. 2014 – St. Benedict – Our Lady of Montserrat Parish – Stamford, CT

Today is going to be my international day. I started off at 8:00am at a SPANISH mass. Liz and I are going to head out later to a Lithuanian mass and maybe a Vietnamese mass. Should be an interesting day!!

I got to St. Benedict’s at 7:45am. The parking lot was full already!!! I entered the church to find fairly full pews and the chant of the Rosary. By the time Mass started at 8:00am, the pews were packed. Ushers were sliding people in one by one. It felt like Easter Sunday or Christmas Midnight Mass!! Holy Cow…had to be over 200 people there. What an amazing community of believers. There were young men, women, families, small children everywhere! Unlike the mass yesterday in Bridgeport, the average age had to be close to 35!!

The moment I loved the most as I sat between a man with an aging face and a young pretty woman (Yes, I was in the middle of the pew!) was when we got to the Sign of the Peace, the young twenty something year old man/boy turned around to me, extended both hands to me and held my hand for just a second longer than usual as he said, “Peace be with you!”. It was so sincere and the only English I heard through the Mass.

I looked around watching an entire “young” parish fully engage with a priest I could not understand. I sure wished in that hour that I had stuck with Spanish through my college years instead of dropping it after middle school and high school. I thought about how fortunate many of the people in the church were to be able to flip flop between two languages and be a part of two cultural communities. Very cool!

I also thought about my own kids again (I tend to do that a lot!!). What made all these young people come to this church at 8am on a Saturday when none of my kids will come to Mass at any time of any day?? Was it something I failed to do or say in their upbringing? Or…was it something I did do or say in their upbringing that turned them off from church? Ultimately, I guess I have to let it go and hope and pray that I gave them enough of a foundation that when the chips are down in their life they will realize that God does really “provide graciously and generously because He knows what they need.” AND maybe they will also recognize that when things are going really well for them it might be because God does really “provide graciously and generously because He knows what they need.” But I so wish they had a sense of community, a place to meet and be with people, like all of the young men and women have who were standing all around me in St. Benedict’s.

As the priest spoke the homily, I reread the gospel in English. I wished I could understand him because he was so animated and spoke from his heart. The people in church nodded, twisted their hands a bit, relaxed back in their seats, and laughed from time to time as he spoke about the reading. The reading was from Matthew – and obviously was the same one I heard last evening at St. Andrew’s. It is the one where the owner of the vineyard pays the help the same amount of money for work regardless of how long they worked…and it ends with “the first shall be last and the last shall be first”.

I had never really understood that gospel, even though I have heard it many times, but today I reread it through the lens of “feeling screwed” and realized you only feel screwed over when you overlay the concepts of FAIRNESS and JEALOUSLY. The message from the priest last night was highlighted for me again this morning in this reading: GOD KNOWS WHAT YOU NEED AND GIVES GENEROUSLY AND GRACIOUSLY regardless of what you think you deserve or want!!!! The reading relates to something tangible, money and fair pay, but when I think about my kids in the context of going to church and seeing the value of church, it applies to that as well. I have to think that I, who needs to find quiet peace on a regular basis, can find it in a church, but I may not be any better off than my kids (or anyone else) who may find God’s peace in other places or later in life.

Just because you believe and are a follower of Christ your whole life (or at least plays the game of church and goes to church regularly) does not mean that the “last minute believer” should get anything less. In the end, we all have God’s love and the ticket to Heaven. The first believer – who has believed his/her whole life, may be the last one into the gates, while the newly believing individual, moves to the front of the line. That’s God’s grace and generosity…..it is not the same thing we know as “fair” and it may lead us to being “jealous”.

I don’t know how it will all play out in the end…but I do know it is not about FAIR, it is about the fact that God knows what we all need and he will generously take care of us.

Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 – St. Andrew Parish – Bridgeport, CT

It is not until now that I am typing this that I realized…I picked St. Andrew’s because it had a 4:00pm Mass. I had to pick this time for Mass because I was going to a BBQ at my friend ANDREW’S house……kind of funny, ironic, or coincidental….It never is!!

Anyhow, I went to Mass in Bridgeport…..but on the way up I had a “discussion” on the phone with my daughter. I have decided we do much better texting than we do talking!!! When I got to the church, I felt the tension in my back, that the chiropractor just cracked out of me earlier in the morning, tighten its way from my neck to my hips. He had asked me earlier, “Do you have much stress in your life right now since the kids are all grown?” I have known him for 30 years….so I laughed and said, “Are you kidding me??”

I sat in the middle of the pew (Nobody ever does…they all sit on the ends of the pew, if you have ever noticed.) The church was fairly modern looking with a beautiful stone backdrop to the altar. Two older deacons and the Haitian priest came down the aisle. Although it was an English mass, I wasn’t quite sure of that when the priest started the homily. I had to adjust my listening skills to move past his island accent. And then the message came through…..”God graciously gives us all we need. He knows our needs and generously gives us what we need.”

I was sure in that moment God had been listening to my conversation with my girl in the car!!!

I started running through my head…….I need patience, I need the grace to let go of my growing children as they become adults, I need to recognize that I do not have control over the things in their lives that I used to control, I need a skill set that matches my parenting role for the here and now not the same skill set I have always used. Does HE really know that?? I wish HE would graciously and generously bring to me what I need right now.

I looked around the church. The average age of the attendees was probably 65 or 70 years old. I tossed a lot of thoughts around in my head and guessed that about three quarters of these people had already received the gracious and generous gift from above with regards to letting go of what you know and control with your kids to accepting the new role of this phase in parenting. I have to admit it was a lot easier when they listened to EVERYTHING I said……
I left St. Andrew’s a little more settled than when I had walked in. As I pulled out of the driveway I had 3 thoughts….

1. Be patient. He knows what I need and I will just have to be ready for when the shift happens.
2. Stick to texting with my girl……we always do better that way!! Someday, maybe we will communicate better…but I have always believed she and I are more similar than we are different…so hopefully we will figure it out.
3. Remember to pick up the lemons and limes for the vodka clubs at Andrew’s!!