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Procession and process

Last year I took part in my parish’s Holy Thursday celebration for the first time. The Eucharistic ministers were asked to sit together. At the conclusion of the mass, we were asked to take part in a procession during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I was moved to tears. I have anticipated that moment all year. There are several moments at Mass when I get teary-eyed and other liturgical feasts that I love and enjoy there are others. I gain something out of every Mass I attend. The procession on Holy Thursday is a special occasion.  29683620_1980737562175453_2343870968512959220_n

I wore all white as Sister suggested and sat with my fellow ministers.  Once Mass came to an end, we walked to the back of the church. Dressed in our various shades of white, we quickly gathered together in the vestibule and formed two lines.  We each got a candle. We filed into the church and knelt. Then, we processed through the entire church as Father displayed the Blessed Sacrament to the congregation. Our entire procession stopped at several points in the church, turned to face the Blessed Sacrament, raised our candles and bowed before continuing. Everyone in the church sang in Latin.  We concluded by kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. It was a beautiful conclusion to the evening.

29597492_1980737552175454_4484460233475374210_nAs I looked around at the faces of my fellow parishioners, I realize some of them were looking at us in awe or as if moved by what they were seeing. I felt grateful to be there in that moment. I made eye contact with many individuals and gave a quiet smile or nod. I felt grateful to have the privilege to serve as a Eucharistic minister. I felt grateful to take part  in something so special despite the challenges of the week. When I looked at my fellow parishioners, I knew they had no idea what I had experienced that week; they saw me as representing their faith.They saw a woman at peace, filled with serenity, joy, and strength in my faith. They saw me.

I am grateful for those moments when I am truly touched by God. I am grateful that my faith allows me to reveal my true self.  Every moment, every day, and yes, every challenge is a gift.  This Lent has been a blessing and I feel closer to God.  I am ready for Easter.

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Musical motivation

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A good soundtrack is everything. Star Wars, the James Bond films, Shaft, Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-O and The Wizard of Oz all have famous soundtracks featuring one or more songs that call to mind certain characters and places, and inspire strong reactions. Those songs stay with us, often for life. For of those who like to work out, a soundtrack can be motivational. I have been at many a half marathon where the announcers played the theme from Rocky or Chariots of Fire.  My gym plays a mix of old school hip hop, top 40 rap, and the always fun trap music. When I run, I stick with my disco playlist. When I lift weights at home, it is usually house music mixes or sometimes New Edition hits.  Occasionally, I try something different. When I was doing a 30-day plank challenge, I started using Rio-style samba or the Game of Thrones theme to motivate me. Today, given that Holy Week is well underway, I decided to work out to instrumental hymns.

When you hear “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Amazing Grace,” you may not be inspired to do multiple sets of squats and push-ups. However, I found the music relaxing which then led me to focus. Usually I’m folding laundry between sets or starting on work email or rearranging clutter on my home desk. Multitasking isn’t good for the brain.  It’s not good for your form or getting into a workout rhythm either. Today it felt good to focus on my breathing. I had a more mindful workout. Plus it was in keeping with my pledge to take in appropriate material this week. I plan to change my soundtrack more consistently. I need more time to truly appreciate my health and the opportunity to improve my fitness.

Last Lent one of the four challenges I took on was to be more prayerful. (4 Challenges in 40 Days) One way I worked towards that was to listen to sacred music or gospel music during my commute. I found it helpful given the stress in my line of work. Combining working out with spiritual music was a welcome new motivation for a Monday.

My wish for this week

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Holy Week 2018 has arrived. It’s amazing how 40 days or 6 weeks initially seems like a long time. For those of you who gave up alcohol, chocolate, or swearing, maybe that amount of  time felt daunting. For those of us who chose to work on virtues like patience, forgiveness, or mindfulness, perhaps we needed more time. This is an important week in my faith life. It is a good week to revisit what I have learned and to spend more time being grateful.

I intend to make this week quieter. Though my reading choices and viewing choices haven’t always made sense given the Lenten season, I want this week to be more focused on the meaning of Lent. I told my daughter yesterday that we would only be watching appropriate films  on TV this week. As for reading, I’m going to shelve certain books until next week.

I would like to resume the Liturgy of the Hours this week. The Divine Office used to be a part of my daily life. I used to do morning prayer every day. My daughter and I used to do night prayer together. I miss the routine and the rhythm of those prayers. I miss the imagery and language of the Psalms. I have missed that time to reflect on my life and all its blessings.

May this week be a blessing to all. Though you may not practice any religious faith, everyone deserves a time of quiet, stillness, and peace. 

Mile 7

141090-185-008hI am more than halfway through Lent. It has been a very different Lent than the last few years.  I embarked on less challenges.One of the dangers of seeing Lent as a time of challenge is that I begin to see it as if it were a fitness challenge or half marathon training. That misses the purpose of Lent. Lent is meant to be a season for growth.  I’ve been trying too hard to make it a goal to attain.

I have focused too much on being successful at Lent. Lent is my time to be thankful, prayerful, and mindful.  Lent has been fruitful. I may not be writing or exercising everyday but I am praying every day. I’m even praying for those that I’ve written about. That is growth.

I am done competing with others. I have pulled away from activities in which I felt that others wanted to compare themselves with me or in which I felt a spirit of competition and tension arose. I know that I am competing with my old self. I will resume that and soon. But I’m done competing with the rest of the world. I will keep living my life the way I want and in keeping with my values.

My social media break always reminds me of what really matters. I remain close to those who are truly loving, sincere, and supportive. I continue to enjoy doing what I love. While I miss the social connections, I don’t miss the drama or the annoyance I sometimes feel at what people may say or do. I feel like social media sometimes brings out the worst in me. I prefer being the best version of myself. I have spent the last 25 years or more trying to be the best version of myself. I’m old enough to know what that takes.

There are 2 weeks left in Lent. I am going to enjoy this time. I will make the 40 blog challenge. But I don’t owe anyone any updates about bags of clothes that were filled or books that were read or even rosaries that were prayed. Now is my time to catch up with God.

A very Good Friday

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I had the privilege of serving as a Eucharistic minister at Holy Thursday Mass. Ministry has been a gift. I have difficulty forgiving myself for the sinful choices I make and I wonder if I will collapse on the altar someday. It is a blessing to be able to offer Eucharist to my fellow parishioners. Those intimate moments when we look at one another and sometimes share smiles are beautiful. I feel small and humble. I am reminded of my call to service.

All the Eucharistic ministers were asked to take part in a procession during the transfer of the Eucharist. It was a simple procession around the church. We walked in lines of two. I was so proud to show reverence. As we approached the Blessed Sacrament, I sensed my loved ones who have died: Brett, Don, Charlene, David, both of my grandfathers. They were there as all the candles were gathered around the Blessed Sacrament. As we knelt, I felt the love of everyone around me including those who have crossed over. It was a perfect way to end Lent.

I am truly grateful for these last 40 days. Despite my struggles, I gained so much. I recognize the blessing of being M’s mother and to model love the way God loves me. Listening to music that promotes spiritual reflection and speaking and speaking daily about my faith and experiences has been transformative. Writing for 40 days has changed me. I will soon be announcing a major change in my life. That would not have been possible if I hadn’t been in the middle of my Lenten journey. I’m more aware of who I am and of who God intends me to be. I am grateful to God.  This is a very Good Friday.

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First step

 

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This week, I was blessed to take part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as part of the Lenten journey. I always come away humbled and motivated by the sacrament. My confessor was a priest I’m familiar with from one of the other parishes I frequent; he’s a great speaker so therefore he had great wisdom to share with me. I appreciated his kindness. Not all priests are warm when they give their advice or take on what you share.

No one is perfect. We all have sins and struggles. It’s important to not be complacent and to express and exercise a willingness to change. That helps in making positive changes in life. I know that I have areas in which I am lacking. I have reflected often this season. I want to see changes. It’s a day by day, moment by moment journey.

One example from real life and in real time is my problem with running late. While this isn’t directly one of the four challenges I took on this Lent or not necessarily something I discussed in confession, time management is related to my struggle with patient parenting. I want to do things differently. As an adult set in my ways, it’s difficult to be proactive. I have a desire for my days to begin differently. I desire to change my attitude. I am willing to change and that is a great first step.

With any negative action or attitude, we have the capacity to change.  We can choose to desire and do so.

 

Love as key to holiness

For Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday), my parish priest gave a homily about Christ’s Passion in the Gospel of Matthew. It was one of the shortest homilies he has ever given, approximately two minutes. He explained that Holy Week is not made holy by Jesus’s suffering but by his love and by the love we have for one another. It was poignant and important.

This Lent for me has involved my struggle with forgiveness, loving my enemies, loving myself, and fully expressing love for my child in the way she deserves. So often, dealing with other people or my own demons or as a parent, I get focused on all the sacrifices I make.  Given my self-righteous streak, I’m quick to say, “Look at all I’ve endured and done for myself, my child, and all these people.” I focus on the sacrifices.  Sacrificing for self and others is hard work; it is much more giving to sacrifice rather than be apathetic and walk away or to be angry and attack. Yet I lose sight of what motivates me to give of myself.

My best friend recently had her second child.  We were discussing how traumatic and horrific the birth experience can be. I know many women and families who were fortunate enough to have a positive birth; for the two of us, birth was painful, tiring, overwhelming, long, and difficult.  Because as mothers we love our children, we somewhat block out those bad memories.  Despite the 34 hours of labor and the two years she never slept through the night, M is my greatest love. The sacrifices involved in being her mother I would gladly do over again.

I have reflected often on the hard work it has taken to love and appreciate myself. It took years, effort, pain, and sacrifice. I want to love others in that same way.  I’m praying for more love in my heart so I can forgive my enemies. It’s easy to forgive my loved ones. I have to forgive those who have injured me. During Holy Week, I’m praying on and for love.

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