Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mary Our Queen - July 25, 2010 - Eric

What's Happening:
This past weekend was my birthday, so it was a celebration. In the past I used to try to control every aspect of my birthday, I would remind everyone months in advance, I would let everyone know what I wanted, where I wanted them to be, and how to get there. It got to be no fun in a hurry, worrying about this, that, other stuff, I'm sure I wore my friends out too.

Several years back I really felt moved by God to let go and let the birthday take care of itself. I didn't mention a word to anyone about my birthday, I didn't plan anything, and mostly I didn't worry about it. My birthday turned out to be just fine, better perhaps even, because there was no stress and worry about it. My friends may be surprised now to hear that I actually could let go completely, but I assure it's in me. I continued this for several years, and was rewarded every time.

Eventually, I took back some control over the things that happen on my birthday, but I'll never give back the appreciation for the God who provides for everything. I thank you Lord for the friends that I spent time with me last weekend, the kindness they showed me, the beautiful weather, and the opportunity to worship you with them.

Ben, Frank, Marcus, Matt, Vivian, Me, Amy, Patrick, Jen, and Joe. Many thanks to Amy for blocking the camera's view of the stain on my shirt.

Location and Architecture:
Mary Our Queen, 3535 South 119 Street, Omaha. Mary Our Queen was my home parish for years, I came back to the church there, I sang in the choir there, and I have love the comfort of the church. I have spent many peaceful hours there just sitting in the quiet ... sitting with Joseph, praying with Mary, talking with God. I love the statuary, the candles, and the sense of space. I'm also quite fond of the 11:00am Sunday choir, many of the people there, and they have a fish fry too.

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You can see all my pictures from Mary Our Queen here.

This week we had the pleasure of meeting Amy Brammer (picture in the group above), who will be a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionary this year at Bradley University. We have decided to support Amy and (if you read the Saint Columbkille post) Shannon as they serve on their respective campuses this year. We are excited to help about both prayerfully and monetarily. Watch this space for more about this exciting development!

"He said to them, "When you pray, say:..." Luke 11:2

According to the calendar, last weekend was the 17th week of ordinary time. You know what's not ordinary, God. The entire Gospel this week just rocks from start to finish (Luke 11:1-13). Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray. He tells them to be persistent. He tells us that God is good.

I have heard that word count for the iTunes Store user agreement is over 11,000 words. The word count for the original US Constitution is around 4,500. Jesus teaches how to pray in less than 40 words. What do we really need to say to God? God already knows. We don't pray for God's benefit, we pray for ours. When we pray the Lord's Prayer we are reminded that God is sacred, that His Kingdom is our goal, that he provides for us, that we should treat each other as we hope to be treated, and that God alone can allow us into Heaven. Everything we need, it's that simple.

My friends, pray the Lord's prayer, read about Jesus, and spend time in His presence. Exercise your faith muscle, not only will your faith become stronger, but your prayers can make the world stronger too.

Please pray for:
Tom who is being deployed to Afghanistan, and his wife and two daughters.
Amy and Shannon for protection on their missions.
Brianne who has been ill this week.
My friend R., who does not know how to change her life.
Frank who is looking for meaningful employment.
Kevin as he prepares for his final year of seminary and the priesthood.
Marcus as he has been accepted into seminary and will be discerning the priesthood.
Me for the courage to do what God is putting in front of me.

August 1 @ 1130: Saints Peter and Paul in South Omaha (36th & X)

Peace, Eric

Thursday, July 22, 2010

St. Mary's - West Point

Jesus entered a village where a woman
whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving,
came to him and said,
"Lord, do you not care that my sister
has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me."
The Lord said to her in reply,
"Martha, Martha, you are anxious
and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her."
Luke 10:38-42

I’m currently reading the book called “Jesus in Blue Jeans” by Laurie Beth Jones, and was floored when I heard this week’s gospel reading (above). “Jesus in Blue Jeans” gives practical ways we can emulate Jesus’ life and teachings. The chapter I just finished entitled “He Practiced His Highest Gift” used Luke 10:38-42 to show how we need to be using our time and energy to use what God has gifted us with instead of wasting our time with lesser tasks.

Martha chose the lesser task, while Mary chose to practice her “highest gift” – spending time listening to her Lord. Laurie Beth Jones writes, “Can you imagine what this world would be like if everyone who had the gift of music, sang... if all artists were truly free to paint... if dancers were encouraged to dance, rather than take a desk job? Why do people so often resemble racehorses pulling plows or tigers thinking they have to act like sheep? Surely it must be because we have enslaved ourselves – at some level – to a lesser god.”

WOW! What a revelation this chapter was to me... How much time I spend “enslaved” to a lesser god! Reflection questions from “Jesus in Blue Jeans” are listed below, and I invite you to take some time reflecting on them in perspective with this week’s gospel.

What is your highest gift? Are you practicing it?
Are you allowing and encouraging others to practice theirs?
If you are not, who or what lesser god are you serving?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Saint Columbkille - Brianne

Moses said to the people:
If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God,
and keep his commandments and statutes
that are written in this book of the law,
when you return to the LORD, your God,
with all your heart and all your soul.
For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
'Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out.
Deuteronomy 30:10-14

Though this week's gospel, the story of the Good Samaritan, seemed to be an easy reading to blog on - I found myself drawn to the first reading, from the book of Deuteronomy. What a simple instruction, “... heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes..." God's directions for us are not some intangible thought or an unclear set of expectations, but instead, clearly laid out for us in the Bible (in the Commandments, in the form of parables).
In the reading, Moses knows this, "...it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out." Well, there's the hard part. God has given us a road map to glory in heaven, yet how often do we steer off the path laid before us and divert our course to the paths of sin and denial of Him? Just like the priest and the Levite, who walk past the man who fell victim to robbers and lay half-dead in the road, we choose to not carry out God's will and cross to the other side of the road.
Today, I pray I can be a Good Samaritan and carry the love of Christ in my mouth and in my heart and in my actions.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Saint Mary's, West Point - July 18, 2010 - Eric

What's Happening:
This was an unofficial trip, so I will keep it short. We went out to West Point in support of seminarian Deacon Kevin Vogel, and it was quite rewarding to make the road trip in several ways. I got to spend time talking with Frank and Brianne (no group photo this week) in the car to and from West Point, we got to visit with Kevin over lunch, and the church in West Point was beautiful.

I met Kevin several years ago through a mutual friend at an event. The friend was Micah, the event was Shakespeare on the Green. Micah introduced Kevin, and almost in passing it was mentioned that Kevin was going to go seminary. Kevin seemed quiet and a little hesitant (maybe careful might be a better word) about what he had to say. I wondered to myself how Kevin was going to do as he moved from college student to seminarian to priest ... he's moving very nicely indeed.

Kevin gave the Homily today on the Gospel on Luke 10:38-42, more commonly known as the story of Martha and Mary. It was a wonderful Homily that brought new thoughts on a old favorite. He spoke with energy and authority, and he kept it confined within my attention span. Kevin has a blog he started after his ordination to Transitional Deacon, it is called The Sacrifice of the Mass, you can read his thoughts about the Mass.

A few years ago, I might have been concerned for the future of the church, however these days I have renewed confidence in the future of the church knowing that our leadership will be in the hands of people like Kevin Vogel. Please pray for Kevin as he finishes his transitional year. I also invite you to pray for our friend (and occasional Mass Chaos attendee) Marcus, who has been accepted into seminary and will be discerning whether he is called into the priesthood.

Location and Architecture:
Saint Mary's, 343 N Monitor St, West Point, Nebraska. It was confusing at first to see Mary in the center behind the altar, but it was explained that the full name of the church was the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, hence Mary and the angels. Christ on the cross is directly below Mary. Also quite stunning was the mural depicting the seven deadly sins.


The rest of my pictures of this beautiful parish can be found here.

Please pray for:
Tom who is being deployed to Afghanistan, and his wife and two daughters.
Jenny and Becky as they travel to Cambodia.
My friend B., who is struggling with herself lately.
My friend R., who does not know how to change her life.
Frank, who is looking for meaningful employment.
Kevin, for guidance as he finishes seminary and enters the priesthood.
Marcus, who is entering seminary.
Me, for the courage to do what God is putting in front of me.

July 25th: Mary Our Queen

Peace, Eric

Monday, July 12, 2010

Saint Columbkille - July 11, 2010 - Eric

What's Happening:
Where am I supposed to be? Usually this question is easily answered with a look at the calendar or a clock. Maybe if you are traveling, it might require a map or the latest GPS enabled phone or device. What if you want to know where it is that God thinks you should be? I know from the moment I was born, God has had a path for me to travel, the end destination is to be with Him forever. The path God would like me to be on doesn't exactly appear on any map, there isn't a calendar of events, and although directions are available and plenty, which one is the one I am supposed to choose?

People leave the church because they want to travel their own direction. People come back to the church because they are lost. Twice in the last ten days I have found myself right where I am supposed to be, at church. The first was at 11:25am on July 4 at Mary Our Queen. The second was at 4:55pm on July 11 at Saint Columbkille. It had little to do with me, it had everything to do with the people I was with and what they need.

I pray the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi every day. There is something unique about this prayer from almost every other prayer I do or have prayed regularly, it is the word "make". "Lord make me an instrument of your peace..." Not 'please', not 'if it be your will', not 'when I get around to it', make. What a simple, stunning, and deep way to put your life entirely at God's command. This is the way that I try to eliminate any variance in my travel towards Heaven. I take chance out of the equation and let God make me be his instrument of peace.

It's not easy, and it could mean giving to God every earthly dream you have, but the rewards of serving, knowing, and loving your neighbor, and the peace that accompanies doing so, far exceed the simple pleasures the world offers us. How do I know where I am supposed to be? It is the peace of Jesus which tells me, the peace that can only come from Him.

Jen, Kat, Patrick, Kit, Me, Teri, Brianne, Katie, Frank, Joe, Frank. Brianne's wish came true, more ladies than gentlemen.

Location and Architecture:
Saint Columbkille, 200 East 6th Street, Papillion. I have been to Saint Columbkille on several occasions. It is one of the closest parishes to where I work, so a group of us often attended Holy Day Masses there. I must confess to being a bit perplexed by the design of the church, and what the architect was attempting to do. The interior of the church is dominated by a large brick wall behind the altar with the risen Christ behind it. It always seemed a little too dominating to me, and I wondered why, surely the architect would have understood this. Indeed he did, it seems going to Mass at noon leaves out an important element in the design of the church, the westward facing skylights.

Suddenly, the risen Christ was bathed in the warmth of the sun, and Mass was not dominated by a brick wall, but instead by the image of Christ hovering in the sky above the altar.

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You can see all my pictures from Saint Columbkille here.

Near the end of the Mass there was a guest speaker, Shannon Zurcher, who is doing missionary work for FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Her mission work will be at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Frank went to college ... so we had an instant 'in' with her, but we didn't need one, she was friendly and enthusiastic. Mass Chaos' own Jen was involved with the University of Nebraska - Omaha FOCUS group. FOCUS is the kind of serving organization that helps young people start, restart, and keep their relationship with the church. Frank included her e-mail address and a photo of her in his blog post. If you are looking for a mission or an organization to support, this one is a good one.

"But because he wished to justify himself..." Luke 10:29

This weeks Gospel reading is the story of the Good Samaritan. We all know this one, there is a man in need, the people who should be helping him, ignore him. Along comes someone who is unclean, and he helps him out. Yes. But why are we hearing Jesus tell this story in the first place?

Immediately prior to this (starting at Luke 10:25), a man asks Jesus how to get to heaven. Jesus asks the man what he thinks he should be doing, the man answers. Jesus then tells the man (in Luke 10:28) "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." Why is there any other discussion about anything??? Why? Because the man wanted to justify himself. Really? Seriously? How much effort is wasted on self-justification? It's like an episode of "What not to say to Jesus."

Even if you manage to justify yourself to another human being, literally, you cannot justify yourself to the Father. If it were possible, then there would be no reason for Jesus to have climbed Calvary and have stretched out His arms between heaven and earth. My sisters and brothers, love your God with your whole being, love your neighbor as you love yourself. Period. You can easily run out of excuses, reasons, and self-justifications. You cannot run out of love, for the more that you have for your God and your neighbor, the more love that the Spirit will fill you with.

Please pray for:
Tom who is being deployed to Afghanistan, and his wife and two daughters.
Jenny and Becky as they travel to Cambodia.
My friend B., who is struggling with herself lately.
My friend R., who does not know how to change her life.
Frank who is looking for meaningful employment.
Marcus who is discerning where to take his life next.
Me for the courage to do what God is putting in front of me.

July 18th: (unofficial) Saint Mary's in West Point.
July 25th: Mary Our Queen

Peace, Eric

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saint Columbkille

Lately I have to admit I'm starting to get a bit stressed out. I currently have a temporary job that's winding down, which means I'm on the hunt for a new position. Part of what I was hoping to gain by taking part in this endeavour is a some discernment on what to do next. I am the kind of person that likes to have a plan in place so I can focus myself towards that goal. This position has been challenging in a lot of different ways, so in that sense I've been focused on solving those issues. Though, it doesn't help much for planning for the future. I try to put together the talents I've seen myself show in these past months, and I wonder where God wants me to put them to use. If you're the praying kind, I wouldn't mind a little shoutout for this. If you're the more practical kind, I wouldn't mind a little advice either. :)

Today we went to Saint Columbkille (200 East Sixth Street, Papillion). It has been a church of note for us, since both myself and Brianne managed to go there on different weeks thinking it was the church we were supposed to go to. It is also of note since I also forgot to take a picture outside.
I thought the statue at the altar was really eye-catching.

Group shot!
Left to Right: Top: Patrick, Eric, Brianne, Frank, Frank
Bottom: Jen, Kat, Kit, Teri, Katie, and Joe

The Gospel for this week was from Luke (10:25-37). It was the parable of the good Samaritan. It is one of those passages from the Bible that even if you never really read the Bible, you're at least familiar with it. I won't beat you over the head with that aspect. What I like about Jesus is he answers a question with a story. If you know me at all, I am much the same way. It's not always the most efficient way to do things, but it gives you something just being told an answer doesn't: context and a frame to wrap that in. If Jesus just said, "Hey buddy, just love everybody...duh!" I think we would scratch our head over it a little more, or at the very least feel like it is an impossible task. Within the frame of the story, loving our neighbors comes down one moment, one decision. And it's up to us to see that we have that opportunity when we interact with others.

Also of note was the speaker at the end of the mass, Shannon Zurcher. She is serving as a missionary for FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, my alma mater.
I enjoyed my time spiritually while I was there. I took a break from the regular campus groups, since I had just finished out my second year as a Bible study leader for InterVarsity and needed a bit of a recharge when I transferred in. The Newman Center was a great place for me: I arranged my schedule so I could attend daily mass there, and it was a great place to study too (not during mass, of course).

When I think back on those days, it amazes me how much of my faith was solidified. It was my choice to be confirmed, but it wasn't until I was out there on my own and I found myself still drawn back to the church that I knew this was for me. I had help along the way from people like Shannon, knowledgeable yet still not so far from the people she reaches out to. She didn't ask me to write any of this, but I'm sure she'd love your support. You can contact her at szurcher@focusonline.org to find out how you can help her out. She did mention she'd be out of the country for a few weeks, so she might not get back to you right away, but I'm sure she'll get back to you.


Up next week: July 18 - "Unofficial" Mass Chaos at Saint Mary's Parish (West Point, NE) @ 10am
If you'd like more information on what we're doing, there's the related information on the left side, or you can find us on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Though there was no "official" Mass Chaos this week, Eric and I decided to head to Mary Our Queen for 11:00am mass on the 4th.

Talk about being at the right place at the right time...

Fr. Robert English's homily was about finding peace - something I desperately need at this point in my life. He spoke about finding silence and solitude (which, if you know me, is not something I possess) as a means to peace with yourself. He stressed the importance of not bogging yourself down with negative thoughts or replaying bad situations over in your head - but instead to keep your mind open to God's peace. Friends, please pray that I can be open to finding silence and solitude, and thus peace, at a really difficult time in my life.

I hadn't intended to blog this week, but I needed to share what was a very "God moment" in my life, and ask for as many prayers as possible. Thank you, and I hope you all had a blessed Independence Day weekend.