Friday, April 30, 2010

St. Pius X - Week 3 - Brianne

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Despite having spend the morning in Urgent Care, I made it to week three of Mass Chaos... with steroids, antibiotics, muscle relaxers, and anti-histamines coursing through my system. I am going to use my illness as an excuse not to blog much this week...

Best part of the mass was when I said to Joe during the Our Father, "You don't have to touch me, I understand," and he couldn't stop laughing. Apparently the woman behind me took my advice, too, because no one besides Eric seemed to want to shake my hand during the sign of peace, either.

I did appreciate the fact I got to be with my friend, Barb Connell, as she celebrated her last mass at St. Pius X before heading for sunnier weather and a new job in San Diego.

Thank you to Fr. Pietramale for providing a great homily - one that brought me back to my school days at St. James - where the congregation can really interact with their pastor.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Saint Pius X

I can tell I've been a bit frustrated with things lately. I'm not sleeping well, and I'm doing more stress eating than I'd like. Work has been sort of enabling me in that sense since I've been working absurd hours. I've been sliding around from days to mid-shift to second shift depending on the day, so it's hard to get into a rhythm. It's been busy, and I often work through meals so I don't get to eat whatever I prepared unless I can eat it while I work. Then I end up grabbing something out. I'm not the only one. What brought it to my attention was that one of my co-workers brought us a proper dinner the other night since he was tired of doing the same for himself. Anyway, there's more than just that going on, but you didn't come here to get bored by all the crazy that's inside this head. This upcoming week is going to be a challenging one workload-wise, so I'm hoping I can find some healthier ways to reduce the stress. Suggestions are welcome.

We're on week three of the tour. This week: Saint Pius X (6905 Blondo St.)
Most of my pictures from this week turned out blurry, so you'll just have to deal with the ones that I managed to take correctly.
I asked my brother what he thought of the church and he said it felt "homey." I agree. Father Pietramale does a great job of bringing the Gospel to every person there. He walked amongst the pews and got people involved, but more importantly his message made the Gospel current, which is something I'm always looking for when we look at scripture.

I'm starting to enjoy that my camera goes last in these group pictures, since at that point whatever composure we have seems to be lost.

The Gospel for today is John 10(27-30). It is really one of those...If you haven't been paying attention, here's the deal kind of readings.
"My Sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one." John 10(27-30)
I included the entire reading because it is one that builds the blocks for you. Jesus is explaining how it works to the Jews who don't believe in him, so it is a good opportunity to see the connections that we make as believers. I often try to take my troubles on alone, and this is a reminder to me that greater forces are in play and I should take the time to see where They are leading me.


Saint Pius X - April 25, 2010 - Eric

What's Happening
Overwhelmed. That's me, overwhelmed. I usually have too many pots in the on the fire anyway, but this little project is leaving me feeling inadequate for the scope of it. We are now up to twenty or so people interested in attending with us, I am feeling as though I don't have the skills necessary to accomplish what needs to be done. This is silly of course, I probably have above average organizational skills, and above average 'stick-to-it-ness', but you just can't stop those feelings.

I was prayerfully contemplating this on Wednesday morning, and the thought popped into my head "God equips the called, not the other way around" ... well hey, how about that? Once again, my job in all of this is to put one foot in front of the other and walk, God will put in my hands every tool that is needed to accomplish His plan. Jesus said "Come to me all of you who are heavy burdened ... and I will give you rest. It doesn't matter if those burdens are real, or mostly in my own head, the relief is real. Really, it's amazing, when we trust God to provide every tool that we need to do His will, then we are able to become His instrument and be His presence in the world. Praise be to God!

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Here is the group who came with us this week: Brianne, Me, Frank, Joe, and Jen. You can see all my pictures from this week here. There is probably a good reason Frank's head looks like he has a halo.

Location and Architecture:
Saint Pius X. 6905 Blondo Street in Omaha. The altar area of Saint Pius X features bold shapes and lines, the church is long and narrow, and makes good use of the land it is on. The decorations grabbed my attention, in particular the cross behind the picture we took above. We say Christ was nailed to the cross, however the nails on the cross behind me in the picture above are more like railroad spikes, that will make you take notice and consider the price Jesus paid for our sake.

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A few pictures of the church.

It's sometimes surprising just how different Mass can be from church to church, and in reality from Mass at one time from another at the same parish. I went to Mary Our Queen's 1100 Sunday Mass for years, then sang at a Saturday night Mass there too ... they were quite different. Still it can vary quite a bit. I figure that between Brianne and I, that we have 15 to 20 years total in Catholic choirs, plus however many more years attending church and liking to sing. We've now been to three churches and we have yet to both know the Mass parts, this week I knew them the first few, but then I was lost and I didn't know one of the songs.

Father Pietramale's homily was wonderful. He tied in the Gospel to real life experiences and got the congregation involved at the same time.

The Gospel:
The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. John 10:27

He knows me, I know His voice, and I follow Him. How beautiful is our Good Shepherd? He knows me, I know His voice, and I follow Him.

Twice today, I have spoken with people about a sign I have on my wall
I used to tell God how big my problems were, now I tell my problems how big my God is.
Who this is attributed to is unknown to me, but the source? Well that's pretty obvious, I know His voice, and I follow Him. God is the source of wisdom like this, we know him by the peace that He gives us when we draw close to Him.

This is not that He makes it easy, it's not that we'll always be comfortable, we may not even like where we are being led, but the peace our Shepherd provides us is so precious that it cannot even be valued against the travails as a cost. My Lord, my Shepherd, He hears the my lame bleatings, and He stops, and comes, and cares for me. My ears pick up many voices, and if I so desired, I could follow different one of them, I have choices ... but really do I? After all He has done, I have but one Master, one Lord ... shepherd me Jesus, you know me, I know Your voice, I will follow You.

Peace, Eric

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Week 2: St. Philip Neri

Party for Eight
So as I entered week two of "Mass Chaos" - I found myself completely and utterly distracted. I find that I frequently have a hard time shutting off my brain, especially when I'm sitting still. So my apologies to St. Philip Neri, as well as my companions at mass, for the way my eyes darted all over the place, the time I spent shifting in my seat, and the fact that I was just generally distracted. The adorable little boy in the pew in front of me can also take some of the blame, as I found I couldn't keep my eyes off the way he was smiling at us, stuffing raisins in his face, and carrying on a conversation with my Nonnie.

What an exciting week, however, for our party of 3 last week turned into a party of 8 this week! My parents are always welcome company, as well as my Nonnie. Eric, Joe and Frank were in attendance, too. But even more spectacular was the addition of Merinda! I'm so very glad I extended an invitation to her - as she has always been one to include me in her group of friends - and that she accepted. I hope our group continues to grow as the weeks progress - and that we have the opportunity to share our faith with other non-Catholics!

Joining us for the Notre Dame Sisters luncheon were Andy, my in-laws - Paul & Faye, and Andy's sister and brother-in-law, Amy & Barry. We had a great time, dancing polka, eating yummy food, and losing at the raffle. It was a great way to end the morning, and I look forward to other eating events we can tie in with our "Mass Chaos."

"Feed My Sheep"
In this week's gospel, from John chapter 21, Jesus asks Simon Peter to "feed my sheep." Whenever I hear this reading I can't help but think of one of my favorite songs sung during Easter Vigil which says, "You shall be my hands, you shall be my feet. You must feed my lambs, pasture my sheep. You are light to the world, form to the clay. And you must be dying with me - dying, and rising with me. You are my flesh and blood today."

I love feeling called to do as Jesus has done for us. What an amazing feeling - to be called to be the very flesh and blood of Christ to those around us. I once heard a homily from Fr. Roger at St. James in which he asked us to reflect on (instead of the 10 Commandments, or what "thou shall not" do) what we've done for those around us - how we've embodied Christ in our daily lives. This week I think I will focus on how I can respond to Jesus' call to "feed my sheep," and I invite you to do the same.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Saint Philip Neri - April 18, 2010 - Eric

What's Happening
Two weeks. This is the second week we have done this, and already I am amazed. Much to my shock and bemusement, when I got up Sunday morning to get ready for church, one of my roommates, Mae, told me that she had been invited (by Frank or Brianne) and that she was coming with us today. There is a reason I didn't ask her, I was pretty sure I knew the answer to that question was going to be a "no", perhaps something stronger. I think I hid my shock fairly well, and when I was ready to go, so was she.

I like to believe that in the end, God will bring us all to Himself. It's not really for me to say whether God does this or not, only God has the final word ... but there are many words that I can speak in the intervening time ... those words are called prayers. I want everyone there, in Heaven, this life is so fast paced and worrisome, I hardly get to know even my closest friends like I want, I need more time, an eternity worth of it. My best chance to get to spend all the time I want with all the people I want, is for everyone to go to Heaven, this is my prayer.

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Here is the group who came with us this week: Frank, Mae, Nonnie, Brianne, Marla, Paul, me, and Joe. You can see all my pictures from this week here.

Location and History:
Saint Philip Neri. 8200 North 30th Street in Omaha (Florence). The parish was founded in 1904 to serve Catholics in the Florence area who previously had to travel to Blair or to Sacred Heart to attend Mass. The website has a wonderful history section, I read it twice, I recommend it.

St Philip Neri parish has wonderful grounds and facilites. The inside of the church was filled with beautiful details. All of us who went remarked on the simple beauty of the church, the Easter season decorations had us looking around.

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The details on the church were amazing.

Pork Dinner
After Mass we walked up to the parish activity center and enjoyed the Czech style pork dinner to benefit the Notre Dame Sisters retirement fund. We're not shy, whenever we can we are going to try plan our visits around parish festivals and feeds. Dinner was pork and gravy served over dumplings and sauerkraut with applesauce and green beans. I had cherry pie for desert. Despite the presence of old friend Denny spinning the raffle ticket wheel, we won nothing. On the plus side was accordion music played by five nuns. When I think about the years I wasted in my youth trying to be cool ... I should have been learning to polka and have fun.

The Gospel:
...then He said to him a third time, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was hurt that he asked him a third time, 'Do you love me?' and said, 'Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep. John 21:17

Of all the stories in the Bible, nothing can bring me to tears like the story of Peter denying Jesus. I feel for Peter, standing in the courtyard, denying he knows Jesus a third time and hearing the rooster crow. The bitterness of the tears he wept are beyond description. Most of us have wept alone, in the darkness, and thus we can relate. We, like Peter, have had to eventually get up by ourselves, and face the next day too.

I remember my moment of denying the Lord quite clearly. I was at a trade show, and at the time, I wore a large, gaudy cross around my neck. It fell out of my shirt while I was looking at some literature, and the person who was manning the booth asked me "Why do you wear that?" My faith was in the process of being reformed at the time, and I was unsure what to say, instead I turned beet red, and stammered some sort of non-explanation ... epic witnessing fail. Shortly thereafter, I heard a radio skit (I can't find it sorry) that featured a cop and a guy who was standing next to a traffic accident, the funny part of the skit was that the cop couldn't get the guy to give him any information because he didn't want to say anything about it because he didn't know what the driver was doing, or why it happened. Finally the cop says "Look, just tell me what you saw." and it sums up with the words "A witness just says what they have seen."

After denying Jesus three times, Peter is no doubt feeling the weight of the guilt of his (in)action. Jesus comes to Peter and asks him three times if he loves Him. Here is Peter's chance at redemption, and probably unwittingly, he takes it, "Lord you know all, you know that I love you". Since the time of my failure, I've learned, I don't have to save the person in front of me, God already has taken care of that part, I just have to share what I've seen.

Peace, Eric

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saint Philip Neri

Well, the start of the weekend wasn't quite what I was hoping it would be. Friday was fun, but in a different way than normal. I was ill on Saturday and was unable to go out with my friends, and I wasn't quite sure if I'd make it out this week to church. And while I wasn't 100%, I was able to go. We saw an increase in participants this week, and it was great for me since then the group included my closest friends here in Omaha. It reminded me of my high school days when I'd go to church and hope that my best friend was there so we could sit together or just exchange signs of peace. It's always exciting to see your friends at church, especially right now for me when I feel like fellowship is a part I've been lacking with for a while now.

Church number two on our tour is Saint Philip Neri (8200 N. 30th St.)
I feel like a broken record, but the outside seemed a bit plain, but the details inside the church were pretty cool.
What caught my eye the most were the flowers though.
I don't have an uber fancy camera, so it's hard to capture how beautiful it looked, but at least you get the idea.
Our choosing this week to go Saint Philip Neri was due to the food that was served afterwards. I never knew what czech style pork was. I still really don't know what exactly made it czech style, but I did take a picture of Eric eating it:
You are welcome, Eric. :) Actually, I think it may have been because it was served with dumplings and sauerkraut, but I am no expert.
Things got a little silly by the time we finally got around to my camera. Oh well.

The gospel was from John chapter 21, where Peter is asked to lead the church. The homily concerning this was really well put together. God knows how he feels about us. It is our own shortfalls that keep us from Him. Peter denied Jesus three times before his death, and Jesus asking him three times if he loved him after rising was an admonishment to that, but even more important a chance for Peter to let go of his past transgressions and accept the leadership role that Jesus was to give him.

I still feel unworthy in a lot of ways, but it is passages like these that remind me that I don't have to be perfect. I make mistakes, I do what I can to fix them, and then I see what's next.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

St. Bridget

Here comes my first post. And by my, I mean Frank. Hello! I can't really tell you what to expect from me, or that my thoughts will be as organized or insightful as the others. I will say that I did pull out my Bible to re-read the word before coming to write this. The result was a bit of coughing from resulting dust from my Bible. I used this opportunity to purchase yet another Bible for myself, this time on my kindle.
I still prefer my paper copies to this digital one, but I think it's the old Bible study leader in me wanting footnotes right in front of me to refer to while I read. Anyway, I seem to be rambling.

Today marked the beginning of a new journey for me and a few of my friends (and possibly some of you reading this). They decided they would try to visit all the churches in Omaha by Easter of next year. Luckily for me, they invited me along.

The first church on the stop was St. Brid
t (4112 S. 26th St)As far as the church itself is concerned, I liked that parking was easy, the singing was excellent, and it was surprisingly beautiful on the inside (contrasting with it's rather plain outside).
The only thing that really bothered me during the mass was that there were times it was difficult to hear whoever was speaking because of the sound system not working right or competing sounds (screaming kids) drowned out whoever was talking. The pews did feel a bit close together as well, but I only really noticed it when I had to get in and out of them.

Today's Gospel (John 20:19-31) was one of those passages that just hits you in the face. BAM! Jesus is awesome. Why? It's just after Easter, and Jesus is back from the dead. Thomas is a disciple, but he doesn't believe. He wants to see that not only is it Jesus, but the one that suffered and died on the cross. Jesus shows up and puts aside any doubts Thomas has, and then Jesus sets us all up with the challenge:
"Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." - John 20:29
How much does it take you to believe? And what does that belief gain you? I think it's a good reminder that God is willing to take that extra step to win you over, but you are blessed whichever path that leads you to Him.

Brianne - St. Bridget

Jesus said to him,
"Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

~John 20:29

Please let me disclaimer my first post here, on my first blog. I have never had a blog, I have never commented on someone else's blog, and I don't know what the expectations are of having a blog. But I'd like the opportunity to share openly my struggles with faith and give you a glimpse into my journey as a Catholic young adult.

A Doubting Thomas
This year has been a year full of change for me... my personal life, my job(s), my friends...
Some days it seems overwhelming - and hard to believe that He is there for me. I'm sure you have all had a time where you've felt utterly alone - like no one understands you, and you have to face your trials and tribulations alone. What a wonderful reminder Jesus gives us in John 20, when he says "...Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."

Though this is only a small part of the larger reading, it resonated with me today, and resonates with me every time I hear the story of "doubting Thomas." Oh, how I am a "doubting Thomas." Some days I isolate myself - not only from my friends and family - but from Jesus. It is easy for us to look at our lives - our shortcomings, our problems, our failures and cannot see how Christ is present for us.

Today, I took this opportunity to close my eyes and believe. I felt the presence of Frank and Eric - great friends - sharing my faith journey on this very day. I felt the presence of a faith community at St. Bridget. And I felt the presence of Him... in the Eucharist, in the Gospel, in the persons around me, and in my heart.

Remember - we can all be a "doubting Thomas" at times. But today I invite you to believe.

St. Bridget
I'd like to give a brief summary of my first experience at St. Bridget. I've never been there before, and I was "underwhelmed" by the plain exterior, but WOW. What a beautiful parish the small brick building holds. I've posted the few (amateur) photos I took above.

Though the music was beautifully done (kudos to the two young ladies singing - they had amazing voices), it was a little traditional for my taste in music. Though it was a small congregation, I had the pleasure of running into Jo Kusek (an employee of St. James) celebrating mass in what is her "home" parish.

My only major gripe about St. Bridget would be the amazingly uncomfortable kneelers...

All in all - it was a nice way to kick off week one of the "Mass Chaos."

Saint Bridget - April 11, 2010 - Eric

Peace be with you and welcome. What started as a laugh and an idea is now in motion, visit all of the Metro Omaha Parishes in a year. Brianne is excited, I am nervous. Projects are big in their undertaking, and this one requires an odd sort of commitment. It's a commitment that I've already made, go to church every week, but it's different. This isn't like my 'project' to learn Italian, or my 'project' to keep in shape, this project is public, and intentionally so. Add the visible aspect into my habit of 'eating the whole elephant at one sitting', and it makes for apprehension. Experience, and faith tell me that everything will work out, regardless of the nervousness of my steps, and so I'm going to put one foot in front of the other, and eventually, when I look up again, we'll have traveled some distance down the road, together.

What I'll be talking about here is my thoughts my visits, I'll probably almost always talk about the architecture of the church, some tidbit about the history, maybe something about the music. My intention though, is to talk about the Mass, the Gospel, and how it relates to myself, my life, and the world. The mission is simple, 57 churches, 52 weeks ... but I know God, this won't be anything like I expect, I won't be the same man at the end of this path, this is going to be growth on an amazing scale. Thanks be to God!

Location and History:
Saint Bridget. 26th and F Streets in South Omaha. According to the little information I could gather about the Parish, it was formed in 1895 to serve Irish immigrants who were working as packers.

Wow! This is going to be the fun part of this project to me, and also one that will stretch my ability to write. Although plain and smallish on the outside, on the inside, the church is amazing. The design of the space and the art and sculpture work together to make a much larger appearing church than you might think. Very nice lighting and a great touch when the lights were lowered during the Eucharistic Prayer, I got goose bumps.

Divine Mercy Sunday:
"Teacher, we caught this woman in the very act of committing adultery." We threw her to the ground at his feet and we waited to see what he would do to with this piece of trash. He barely moved, looking first at woman, then at us. I stood there with a stone in my hand ready to help him send her to her death. He bent down to the ground, and grabbed a stick, and began to doodle. He spoke quietly "Whichever one of you is without sin, go ahead, cast your stones at her." Several seconds went by, and he looked at the ground and what he was drawing. Suddenly, he looked up and made eye contact with the man next to me, who gasped, and then turned and walked away. I was so lost in my rage, I barely even noticed, surely justice would be served. After several minutes, I noticed the crowd was thinning, where was everyone going? This woman deserved to be stoned. There were few of us left, when suddenly, my eyes were drawn to his. We made eye contact, and with most subtle of gestures, he directed me to glance at the ground where he had been writing, and there I saw my name, not just my name, my nickname ... he could not have known it, could not. I looked in his eyes again, the stone slid from my hand, and I turned away. As I walked away, I heard him speak again, "Since there is no one left to condemn you, neither shall I, go and do not sin again." Although I swear he had to be talking to the woman, the words still burn inside of me.

The Gospel:
"..."unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.'" John 20:25
Thomas does not believe unless he sees it with his own eyes. I can relate to being just like this, I really want to see the facts of any situation before proceeding. This is not to say I always make the logical choice, but I like to know exactly what is what. My faith is like this too, I spent years away from the church and God. Why? Because I could not see Him, I could not see His works, church and religion seemed to me, as Shakespeare might say "...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

When Jesus appears again to the disciples and Thomas is there, Jesus has Thomas do what it is he said he would need to do to believe. I said "Jesus has Thomas do what it is he said he would need to do to believe." God knows what it is that you need to be full of faith. When I had my life together, everything was working, and I didn't believe, God had a tough time getting through to me, not because He couldn't, but because I wasn't listening. In order for me to be with God, I had to lose everything I had. God knows what I needed to believe, to have nothing, no where to turn. That day in early July 1996 when I walked out of the meeting with the marriage counselor ready to kill myself, I had nothing left. I walked out thinking I had no other options, but I did. When I realized I could turn to God instead of death, I was able to see that I had another path, then I could, like Thomas, declare "My Lord, and my God!"

Peace, Eric