Sunday, December 28, 2014 – Notre Dame Nursing Home – Norwalk, CT

Mass this morning was being said for Ed Foley, Aunt Ann’s husband, at the nursing home. Sr. Lucy and Sr. Francis had let us know, so several of us all went. Mom and Dad and Aunt Ann, Lisa, Leslie and Russell, Liz, me and Vinnie, Stephanie, Melissa, Ryan and Chad all were there. Fr. Franz was the priest, which was just an added bonus!!

As I sat and stood there listening to the patients grunt and sneeze, watching them twist in their wheelchairs, or call out “Who put the sticks in the back yard?” at the time when the priest is holding the Eucharist high, I couldn’t help but think of how much love has passed through the cement walls and wooden pews in that little chapel over the years.

The Mass was said for a man who had never spent time in that building and wouldn’t know Fr. Franz if he met him on the street, but that did not diminish the fact that we are all connected in the presence of God. For the forty-five minutes the Mass was being said, it felt like Eddie was clearly in the room.

There is a powerful link that strings through each individual that holds us all together. That string felt tangible this morning in that little chapel.

Sunday, December 28, 2014 – St. Peter Church – Bridgeport, CT

I went to Mass on my own this morning in the pouring rain. What I didn’t know was that it was a SPANISH Mass, which was fine……gave me time to just sit and breathe…for an hour and 20 minutes!!! The church had a very cool Nativity scene complete with running water and (fake) fire!! The fake rocks climbed the wall leaving little landings for the sheep, camel, Wise men and shepherds! Simply gorgeous!

The altar was decorated with the “He is the GIFT!” theme with lots of red, green, and sparkles!!

I think the coolest things about sitting there while everyone listened to the sermon was the fact that if I closed my eyes I could have been in any Spanish speaking country in the world…hundreds of miles away from home. It was very liberating! In my mind I could go from Spain, to Peru, to Chile, to Puerto Rico or any number of other places for the holiday season.

I also realized in that moment how narrow my world view is! I would love to travel more, see more places, go anywhere my heart desired, and yet, I get the sense that I won’t go to everywhere I want to go in this lifetime. This same Mass is being spoken all around the world in languages I had never stopped to listen to, simultaneously, and here I was in Bridgeport, CT on a rainy day three days after Christmas hearing the same story of a Holy Family. I could pick out enough parts to know that the priest was holding the Holy Family up to us all as a model for every family in Bridgeport and around the world!

As I wind down and complete my Church Tour 2014 I am proud to say that I only have 4 more churches in the Diocese to go…and have attended a mass in every language offered: English, Spanish, Haitian, Portuguese, Polish, Italian, Hungarian, Vietnamese. I attended the Lithuanian Mass, but no Lithuanian was spoken! AND…I tried for the Korean Mass….but it is no longer offered. I was inspired to go to Haiti to do service to others…..saw beautiful parts of the Bridgeport Diocese, admired hundreds of statutes and paintings, met some lovely people, heard some awesome and powerful homilies, at times felt like I was in the grandest cathedrals and other times I felt I was in a friend’s living room. I sat alone, sat with friends, sat with strangers and reached out to say “peace be with you” and heard back “Pace”. Simply an amazing little New Years’ Resolution that turned out to be a thought provoking and inspirational year!

Saturday, December 27, 2014 – St. Joseph Parish – Brookfield, CT

Liz, Lisa and I went off for an early Mass in Brookfield this morning. I actually was thinking it was Sunday and was confused when there were only about 3 cars in the parking lot.
As we entered the church, the priest let us know that only a small part of the altar is used for the daily masses. That made sense since there were only about 14 people total for Mass. It was a beautiful one though!

I enjoyed the sermon, which we later found out was Fr. O’Neil who said it. He talked about Faith as being the place where God’s reach meets our need. He went on about how God knows our true needs (not the ones we believe are our needs) and that when the time comes, His reach comes to us to meet us at the right moment of need. Kind of a cool concept. The image is a powerful one for me….makes me think of all those times where I thought I might be “falling” down in something (physically, emotionally, professionally, personally, etc) and yet then felt somehow that I was pulled back up and everything became right again. The image he gave me made sense…God’s hand (either through His actual energy or someone else’s hand physically) met me at the right moment and put me back on course for something else…a new opportunity, a different opportunity, an unknown need that became clearer for me…..just something else.

At the end of Mass, Fr. O’Neil and the participants in the Mass said a prayer of Adoration. It was lovely….with a few changes in the words it becomes hard to know who is “adoring” who….Us adoring God or God adoring each one of us:

An Act of Adoration

O, Jesus, my God and my Creator,
I adore you because from Your hand I came.
With you I am to be happy forever.
Dear Jesus, I love You with all my heart.
You know that I wish to love You more and more each day.
Receive my poor offering You give Yourself to me;
Let me give myself to You.
I give You my body that I may be chaste and pure.
I give You my soul that I may be free from sin.
I give You my heart that I may always love You.
I give You every breath that I shall breathe and especially my Last.
I give You myself in life and in death that I may be Yours forever and ever. Amen.

O, “Debi”, my Child and my Creation,
I adore you because from My hand you came.
With Me, you are to be happy forever.
Dear “Debi” I love you with all My heart.
You know that I wish to love you more and more each day.
Receive my offering and let Me give you myself:
Let Me give myself to you. I gave you My body so that you may be chaste and pure.
I gave you My soul so that you may be free from sin.
I gave you My heart so that you may always love Me.
I gave you My breath so that you shall breathe in Me, and especially in your last.
I gave you Myself in life and in My death so that you will be with Me forever and ever. Amen.

After Mass ending, Fr. O’Neil met the 3 of us in the back, introduced himself to us and gave us each a prayer card with the Adoration Prayer. It was very sweet of him. I felt very welcomed in this church!!

Then, of course, the three of us met Liz’s friend and daughter at Rickyl’s Diner….for corned beef hash!! Delicious!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014 – Christmas Eve – St. Philip Church , Norwalk, CT

We raised our children at St. Philip Church. It is “home base” for me. This year, though, I have not been there since the Famine Mass in February 2014. It was nice to be “home”. My family came with us all since it was the first time Aunt Ann has been with us for the holidays. Life changed for her on November 28th and new traditions will be starting. That is the cycle of life…..things happen, dynamics change, new traditions begin, but, for me, “home base” is always there. It centers me. At this mass, there is a living Nativity Scene and for the first time I can remember, I only knew the angel and one shepherd boy……strange! Santa arrived right after communion, paid homage to the baby “Jesus” and was blessed…all to “Oh Holy Night”. Beautiful touch!

I thought back to the year Stephanie was the angel many years ago. Vinnie’s Dad was there, Leslie and Lisa’s whole families were there. My parents were there and my son-in-law was not. Different from this year……Now my “angel” sat between her sister and her husband, Vinnie’s Dad was not there while his entire family went to St. Jerome’s. Lisa and Rich sat amongst the kids with Scott, and Kelsey and Sean are in Colorado while this year, Aunt Ann joined us. Yes, things have changed, but not necessarily in a bad way….just different.

As I looked around though, I felt blessed to be surrounded by so many families who had been joining my family all those years and yet, their families looked different as well. Their parents may have passed or gotten too old to join our parish celebration, their kids have moved away or just stopped coming, spouses had passed on or just stopped coming to church. Everyone’s family had changed and yet, we all returned to “home base” on Christmas Eve. I think if I am really honest part of me is relieved that things have changed, part of me is saddened by the changes that are yet to come, part of me is sad that they had to change, and part of me is excited about changes that are yet to come. Needless to say, Christmas Eve is like a Dicken’s novel….there are ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future all vying for attention in my head and in my heart as my family assumed it’s place in the front row three rows of St. Philip Church on Christmas Eve.

I do love it when all my kids are with me for mass. It brings me back to a happy and loved place in my heart!

Sunday, December 21, 2014 – St. George Parish – Bridgeport, CT

Twelve o’clock mass was supposed to be a LITHUANIAN Mass…I even confirmed it by phone with the parish office yesterday………well, I went by myself and not a word in Lithuanian was spoken; only English! The nun singing a cappella, however, had a beautiful, soulful voice! Gorgeous!!

This priest added yet another twist to the Nothing is impossible with God idea….He added another layer. His message was………..Nothing is impossible. God gives us what we need, for our salvation!! That is a much bigger kind of commitment…not just a job, or a car, or the type of pizza we want, but rather…..what we need for our salvation! That is a big deal!

And, he added, we lift our petitions to our Lord, humbly, since He is the One who really knows what we NEED for our salvation and the salvation of others. We are a part of His Plan, but it is an ongoing relationship of LOVE.

He reminded us that Christmas is a celebration of receiving Jesus – God in Man Form!! They are the same and when we speak of Christ, we speak of God. They are the same “being”.

The priest seemed so down to earth and pragmatic in the approach to God’s relationship with each of us. He wants the best for each of us…and that being so, HE will always provide what we NEED – whether we know it or not!!

As I sat there, the weekend started coming to me in a few ways.

1. On Friday night, two colleagues asked about my next year’s New Year’s Resolution. I told them I did not know, but in truth, there was a seed planted in me two years ago that I have been ignoring, kind of.
2. At the Memorial service, Fr. Gomez talked about our purpose is to bring JOY to everyone all the time!
3. The theme of saying YES ran throughout the other masses this weekend as a means of providing something for ourselves and others without knowing what the outcome will be. Faith and trust are critical.

So …on top of my 2 things I NEED to complete for myself (Finish reading the Bible and Finish the rest of the hikes I have left in a book called “50 Best Hikes in CT”)…..I am thinking about doing something a bit out of my comfort zone. For each of the 52 weeks of the year, I will do something for someone else that corresponds to the actual week….i.e Week 1 – I will do one thing, Week 2 – I will do 2 things or provide 2 things or reach out to 2 people, Week 3 – I will do 3 things or provide 3 things or reach out to 3 people with something they need or might enjoy, etc…..could be interesting!

I will start thinking about the list of possibilities and opportunities!

Could be fun!!! A little bit of the spirit of Christmas, of bringing Joy to others, throughout the year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014 – St. Edward the Confessor Parish – New Fairfield, CT

Liz, Mom and I left Norwalk at 6:30am to get to New Fairfield for 7:30 Mass and I am glad we did!!
The reading was obviously the same as last night, but the priest took a whole different spin on it.
He talked about Mary saying YES without knowing the path or journey she would be on. This whole sermon was about putting our own fears aside, taking the leap of faith and saying YES to whatever God puts in our path…because with God all things are possible!

The priest talked about his own YES to the calling and the unknown path he would be on once he was ordained. And he talked about marriage as a path of the unknown. He talked about an old woman who spoke of a long marriage. She had said, “I didn’t know what we would face together, but I knew I wanted to face it all with him.”

His example made me think of all the opportunities that come up and we have a choice…..stay in a place of fear or unknown and not do something and miss that opportunity OR say YES and see what happens!

I have definitely lived my life of saying YES. I can’t be sure it was God’s voice who has talked to me, but I always have known I am surrounded by angels (I call them “my girls”) who have placed hundreds of very cool opportunities in front of me…..and nudged me to take the path of YES…..

Yes – I will marry Vinnie, YES I will go back to school, YES I will go to that workshop that might lead me to administration, YES I will have 4 children, YES I will be an exchange student (when I was 15), Yes I will go to Haiti on a mission trip, YES I will go to World Youth Day with Steph, YES I will go with Christine to China to get her daughter, YES I will visit every church in the diocese…..the list goes on FOREVER…..I have said YES a lot to the crazy ideas that have come to me either through God, through my angels, and through people who have been put in places along my journey to guide me to the opportunities that are out there to live a full and rich life.

I do believe God opens up opportunities through others….and you have a choice to say NO THANK YOU or YES!! The YES, even when there is no clear path about where it will lead you….is usually the one that provides and experience that helps you grow. I know it has for me….and those experiences seem to come to me, just at the right time when I need to grow.
Funny, they are not always the opportunities or experiences I WANT, but they are what I NEED.
Again, with God, all things are possible.

Today in church I realized that a student gave me a keychain, that I hold all my car and house keys on that says that very scripture!! No coincidence, I guess!!

Of course…..Danny met the three of us at Elmer’s Diner in Danbury!! Delicious! With God…even corned beef in every diner is possible!!

Sat., Dec. 20, 2014 – (St. John, Darien) AND St Margaret Mary Alacoque – Shelton, CT

This morning Leslie and I went to St. John’s for a Memorial Service for Mike FitzMaurice, the husband of one of my teachers at MMS. So sad…a long sad illness. Fr. Frank Gomez did the service which was beautiful. He spoke about the 12 Days of Christmas and the fact that Mike’s family was all together for 12 days leading into the holidays…and the song itself was written as a code to Christianity…..all leading up to the ONE partridge in a pear tree (Christ). Very nice link he made. He made nice comments about the Mike, his wife Ann, and the children. And ended the whole sermon with a powerful statement…..God only has one purpose for each of us as we live our lives on this planet and that is to bring JOY to everyone you meet. God is LOVE and we share his love in the little day to day things we do that bring JOY to others. WOW!!! I loved it!!

Later in the afternoon Lisa and I went to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in Shelton. We were a couple minutes late, but we made it in for the Gospel. We so needed to be there. It felt like the priest was talking directly to us during the homily…almost like he knew we would be there.

His whole sermon focused on the reading about Mary learning of her pregnancy and saying YES. With the phrase, “With God all things are possible” he moved from the word “YES” to a deeper understanding of WANTS vs. NEEDS. Mary did not want to be pregnant, especially in that time she ran many risks being an unwed teenaged woman, but she needed to trust God that this would be in the best interest for all.

He focused on the WANTS vs .Needs and gave lots of great examples…..we WANT a specific car, but we just NEED a way to get somewhere; We WANT a particular item or trip or something, but our want gets pushed away be something we actually really NEED. Then he went to forgiveness….we may not want to forgive, but we need to!! He talked about the rifts that have formed in families and times when people in the family have not spoken, simply because they are focusing on a WANT rather than a NEED. He encouraged us all to take the time during this season and pray for what we need, and take actions to deal with the things we need, rather than stay stuck in the here and now…in the world of WANT.

He assured us…in the scary steps we take to heal the wounds and find the place in our hearts and the words to speak as a way to forgive…..God will be with us….as he was with Mary…..always.

He assured us, that WITH GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE….even when we are not sure of what to do. As we push our own WANTS aside, and trust in HIM, He gives us what we NEED.

BEAUTIFUL!

Following the homily, Lisa turned to me and said, “I think He wanted me here! I think HE was talking to me!! VERY FUNNY!!

Monday, December 15, 2014 – Sacred Heart Parish – Georgetown/Redding, CT

I wasn’t feeling great, so I called in sick. Then Lisa called and we decided to hit a Mass. So off we went to Sacred Heart Parish and I really am glad we did!

It was adorable…quaint, sweet, and tucked on a quiet side road that runs parallel to Rte. 7.When we entered the church the settled spirit in there was obvious. The people were friendly, saying hello, holding the door for us, asking if we were visitors! So nice. One lady was so proud of the new statue outside she wanted us to notice it.

There were about 30 people in that tiny church and they ranged from 13 years old to 85!

On the way out Lisa and I walked out of the big wooden doors with the wreaths with purple streamers and found ourselves along side an older couple. He was helping her navigate the pavement so she wouldn’t fall. They chatted with us and we told them we were just visiting for the day. Without a split second, they both said, “Hope you come back to see us again!”. It felt like such a “hometown, country feeling” yet we were only about 7 miles from home! VERY NICE!!!

What a treat on a Monday morning. The only thing that would have made that scene completely perfect would have been if there was some light New England snow falling!

Sunday, December 14, 2014 – St. Jude Parish – Monroe, CT

So PRETTY!! The church had various angles that allowed light to come through beautiful low square stained glass windows. The altar’s backdrop was stone. Gorgeous to look at! The rounded-ness of the actual pews made you feel welcome and included.
The priest spoke about preparing during this Advent period and highlighted the fact that there was only one more week until Christmas. It came so quickly, or at least felt so quickly, and my tour is almost over!! WOW!

The priest focused on Confession. I am not one to go to confession, but I get his point. We need to clear out and come to a place of peace and openness in order to receive all the blessings God has in store for us. I get it, but I just don’t see the need to tell the priest. My God knows where I am, what I have been doing or not doing, what I have been saying or not saying, etc. I am not sure that I need the “middle man”; however, if I am really honest with myself, often it does feel better to “confess” something to a friend. Things become more real when they are said out loud, and then as a result, it feels more authentic. The reality is, though, when I “confess” to a friend, it is usually over cocktails!!

The priest was very sweet and talked about a service they will be having and offering confession with other local priests coming in. He acknowledged the fact that many people often feel uncomfortable talking to a priest they know. He seemed very humble and honest and real with the people he serves in the parish. He seemed to have a handle on it. Still didn’t make me want to run to confession though….it is just my hang-up about it!

After Mass, Liz shared a story about an author who uses the analogy of going to Confession is like clearing out your car. All those little things pile up and before you know it the car is cluttered and the piles need to be gone through and cleaned out before you can bring the good stuff home in your car! Nothing bad has happened, nothing terrible…just the day to day stuff, not always dealt with, becomes a cluttered space that requires someone to do something to make it right again. I get that analogy. Kind of concrete enough for me.

True Confession time…….I know I should go to Confession, just not convinced to go this year. Maybe next year I will!

Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014 – St. Paul Parish – Greenwich, CT

Lisa and Liz……got lost….who knew there is a Sherwood Rd and Sherwood Ave in Greenwich…no where near each other!

Lisa and I went and met Liz there. Sun was starting to set early!

Boy Scout selling wreaths…some regrets that my boys never did Boy Scouts..not big regrets, but a little. The girls did Girl Scouts but not for long either. It was fun while I did it with Karen. Camping with the 10 girls or so. I was pretty much there for the ride…she did much of the creative work!! It was fun though.

Inside the church was nice…rounded walls, curves, very welcoming. Third week of Advent already!

Did not get much out of the Mass…I think my mind was preoccupied with getting ready for the Christmas season and having 7 more days of school to get through until the break!!

I can’t wait!!
Just being honest!