How Well Are We Doing?

By: Sr. Gloria

Perhaps it is time to return to statements about worship that we made many years ago, and then revisited some years later. We are encouraged. The National Association of Pastoral Musicians has devoted its latest issue to the resurrection of a primary statement that came out of Vatican II.

It’s a good time in which to review this, for we have grown, and continue to grow in our understanding of worship. How does the following statement from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (promulgated in 1963) resonate with you now? As a worshipper who continues to grow in faith?

“Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the Liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ is their right and duty by reason of their baptism. In the restoration and promotion of the Sacred Liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit….”

If you read the above again, you will find more meaning. You will find more of a personal call each time you pause to savor a phrase.

“Full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else….” The role of the assembly is critical. It’s a big switch from personal and private prayer, which is sacred and life-giving in other environments.

Our role as members of the assembly is so important. Our participation must be “internal, in the sense that by it the faithful join their mind to what they pronounce or hear, and cooperate with heavenly grace….by listening they may raise their minds to God.” Participation must also be “external, so that internal participation can be expressed and reinforced by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes, and by the acclamations, responses and singing.” “Participation in the Sacred Liturgy both expresses and strengthens the faith that is in us.”

The formal and ‘academic’ statements take on a deeper life when we see that WE are ALL members of the Body of Christ. We are Christ to one another. When we are at liturgy, we don’t just watch the action. We are part of the action itself….. united as one in the Body of Christ!

March Madness Precedes April Gladness!

March Madness graphiccross and sunset

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments are well underway. Did you make good choices in your brackets? Much drama has already taken place with upset victories by the underdog, and the loss of last-second shots have ushered in the emotion of defeat as seen on the exhausted players’ faces. This is “March Madness” in which a victory propels the winning team forward to the next round, closer to the “Final Four” and the National Championship, while just one loss sends the loser packing to go home.

We may have experienced a bit of “March Madness” in our own spiritual lives; not on the basketball court, but in this season of Lent. To fast on Ash Wednesday perhaps was more difficult than we initially thought. Was it embraced, or was it the case of encountering “spiritual madness” that felt like an absolute grind? Let us now get ready to fast on Good Friday. What about abstaining from meat on Fridays? Maybe it was not only an adjustment over the past few weeks but a case of “spiritual madness” too that, on the positive side, led to growth through self-denial. What type of “madness,” if any, have we experienced this month? With whom?

We may have also encountered the “March Madness” of the time change, of Daylight Savings Time. Have you and I adjusted yet? Are we caught up on our sleep? The good news is that it is getting lighter out later, and spring has now come.

But this “March Madness” is temporary, and it precedes the “April Gladness” of Easter. All of this preparation, especially the spiritual kind, whether it be through prayer, fasting and abstinence, almsgiving, or acts of charity, will make the experience of the “April Gladness” at Easter much more worthwhile. While the “March Madness” of Lent is 40 days long as it bleeds into April, the “April Gladness” of Easter is 50 days long, which means a longer and greater time of celebration as we prepare once again to celebrate Jesus’ eternal victory over suffering, sin, Satan, and death.

May the “March Madness” we encounter inspire us to persevere. St. Paul says, “rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer…We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 12:12, 5:3-5). We know that as we move ever closer to Holy Week, there is not an Easter Sunday without a Good Friday. In the meantime, may this “March Madness” remind us to appreciate the “April Gladness” of the Easter season that awaits us with great joy. Amen.

– Fr. Jeff

Our Prayers Reach To The Other Side Of The World

By: Sr. Gloria

We have previously mentioned the plight of our Dominican Sisters in Iraq. Several of them have studied with us in Adrian, and worked in some of our missions in Detroit and elsewhere. Thus we know them personally and feel an ongoing concern.

The 14th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq occurred on this last Sunday, March 19. The Iraqi Dominican Sisters were forced to leave their convents, their work and their city. They have been living as refugees in ‘safer’ parts of the country. Sr. Luma Khudler, of those Iraqi sisters, was recently asked to read the following reflection at the Mission Congress in Rome. This reflection first appeared before Christmas.

(We received this, just the other day, from our Motherhouse in Adrian, with the request: “We invite you to ponder this message and what questions and responses we hold with our Iraqi Dominican family.” These questions can also help us think of other refugees that are so much in the news today, in our world. We can’t ignore their plight when we watch and read the news. As we think of these struggles, may our hearts and our prayers expand!)

Christmas Message From Heaven.

“As we approach Christmas day to celebrate the birth of our Lord, many of us join the shepherds with our questions and concerns:

Shall we return to our towns?
Shall we stay where we are? Shall we leave the country?
Shall we stay in this country? Is ISIS still there on the Plain of Nineveh?
Is ISIS out of Iraq? Shall we restore our houses and churches?
If we return, shall we be safe?
If we stay, what will happen to our homes on the Plain of Nineveh?

“With all of these questions, God in His mercy looks upon us and sends His angels to announce the Good News confirming that:

He is Emmanuel… God is with us.
If we return, He will be there for us.
If we stay, He stays with us.
If we leave the country, He will guide our steps.
If we stay, He will open our eyes to see signs of His love amongst all this destruction.
If ISIS is still here, He will send His angels to protect us.
If ISIS is out of here, He will give us courage to start again.
If we start restoring, He will send His messengers to give a hand.
If we worry about safety, He is trustworthy….and He will never let us down.
If we do not find answers to all our questions, He will give us peace in our hearts to sing with the angels: Glory be to God in the highest, and peace be to His people on earth.

Respite From All The News

By: Sr. Gloria

Following are various quotes in random order. Hopefully they can provide moments, here and there, of reflections and prayer for this Lenten season in the year of our Lord, 2017.

St. Augustine said this so very long ago: “We are Christians and strangers on earth. Let none of us be frightened; our native land is not in this world.”

St. Teresa of Avila: “Prayer is not just spending time with God. It is partly that — but if it ends there, it is fruitless. No, prayer is dynamic. Authentic prayer changes us, unmasks us, strips us, indicates where growth is needed. Authentic prayer never leads to complacency, but needles us, makes us uneasy at times. It leads us to true self-knowledge, to true humility.”

St. Teresa of Avila also puts it more simply: “We need no wings to go in search of God but have only to look upon God present within us.”

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) proclaims: “Jesus become one of us, more than this, he became one with us. For this is the marvelous thing about the human race, that we are all one. He came to be one mysterious Body with us: he our head, we his members.”

St. Catherine of Siena prays: “In your nature, eternal Godhead, I shall come to know my nature. And what is my nature? It is fire, because you are a fire of love. Today, eternal God, let our cloud be dissipated so that we may perfectly know and follow your truth, with a free and simple heart. God, come to our assistance! Lord, make haste to help us! Amen.”

Sr. Joan Chittister simply says: “Love is not for our own sakes. Love frees us to see others as God sees them.”

St. Aelred of Rievaulx prayed, “Lord, sometimes I wander away from you, not because I am deliberately turning my back on you, but because of the inconstancy of my mind. I weaken in my intention of giving my whole self to you. I fall back into thinking of myself as my own master. When I wander from you, within me I find nothing but darkness, fear and anxiety. So I come back to you and confess that I have sinned. Forgive me, Lord. Amen.”

Suddenly we turn to Psalm 147: “How good it is to make music to our God; how fitting to sing God’s praise.”

Then we turn to the prophecy in Isaiah 43:19: “I am about to do a new thing; Now it springs forth. Do you not see it?”

“Ashes, Ashes We All Fall…”

Christians with ashesThe conclusion to the nursery rhyme, “Ring Around The Rosie” ends with “Ashes, ashes, we all fall…” What? Finish the sentence… Here are just a few other ways we could finish it:
We all fall…DOWN in humble adoration of our Lord
…short of the glory of God
…into sin and need to reconcile our relationships
with God and others, and we can do that by
showing sorrow for sin by repenting of it.

While there is a need for all of us to repent and do penance, and while that may be the end of a familiar nursery rhyme, we are about to begin a new month on Wednesday with March, which means spring is close, and that means growth in creation and growth in our spiritual lives too. But on this Wednesday we embark on a new season in the church year – in our liturgical calendar. This penitential season of Lent launches this Ash Wednesday, and it’s a season focused on three themes: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. One of the first questions that may come to mind is, “What are we giving up?!” While it is worth a prayerful reflection to come up with a good answer with some form of detachment or sacrifice, we may also want to add, “what are we going to DO?” Think along the lines of making a great investment of your time through a charitable work, for example.

While we may give something up or do something for our neighbor, one thing that helps to remind us of our own call to holiness and others’ needs in Lent is to be marked on our foreheads with ashes. A priest or deacon will mark your forehead saying either one of two things:

  1. “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or
  2. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Back in late November Fr. Sal reminded us of the dust we shall return to at death with the three-day presentation called “Ashes to Ashes: Spiritual and Practical Answers to End of Life Questions.” For further information type in “michigan catholic conference end of life issues” on and a document (PDF) should pop up called, “Guidelines for End-of-Life Decisions: Patient, Physician, and Family & The Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.”

In addition, to receiving your ashes on Wednesday and focusing on the themes of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving over the next 40 days, here are a few other things one could do:

  • Read a book called, Roman Pilgrimage, by George Weigel and Elizabeth Lev. They will take you on a Lenten journey through Rome to visit one of the Station Churches each day during the 40 days of Lent and each day during the first week of Easter. You will not only read about the rich history of these churches, but you will view picturesque photos, all without having to go to Rome. I will put my copy in the library on hold (to stay there 🙂 for those that may want to spend a few minutes to glance through the pages. It may also help you make a decision to purchase a copy for yourself or not.
  • Watch two short films from the Lenten film series provided by Mike McCarthy, one of our parishioners from Pax Christi. For example, this Friday, March 3rd will feature two short films: one on Bl. Franz Jagerstatter called, A Man of Conscience (24 mins), and the other is about a biography on the Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton entitled, Merton: A Film Biography (57 mins). You can view these films with fellow parishioners inside the St. Stephen School in Room 105 at 7pm for FREE!
  • Finally, below are some wonderful, upcoming liturgical events to attend:
    • Holy Thursday morning – Chrism Mass: April 13th, 2017 at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit (off of Woodward). Put this event on your “Catholic Bucket List” not only to visit our cathedral (if you’ve never been there before) but also to attend this special Mass in which all of the holy oils (Chrism, Infirm/Sick, and Catechumen) are blessed, picked up by one representative from each parish in the archdiocese, and then taken back to each parish to use for the all of the sacramental moments for the upcoming year. If you plan to go, get there very early to get a seat. It fills up quickly!
    • Holy Thursday: Mass of the Lord’s Supper – 7pm @ the St. Stephen site
    • Good Friday: 1pm Stations of the Cross, 2pm Sacred Music, and 3pm Celebration of The Passion of the Lord, all @ the St. Joseph site; *Tenebrae Svc. – 9pm @ St. Stephen
      * Tenebrae is a devotional service from the Office of Readings in prep. for Holy Saturday
    • Holy Saturday: Easter Vigil @ the St. Stephen site @ 9pm
    • Easter Sunday: 7:30 & 11am Masses @ St. Joe and 9am @ St. Stephen.

May the ashes we receive this Wednesday inspire us to grow in a deeper relationship with Jesus this Lent through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. May these ashes also better prepare us to celebrate Jesus’ death and Resurrection who willingly did it for his people who have fallen but still maintain their faith, hope, and love to be raised up by Him now and on the last day. Amen.

– Fr. Jeff

A Contemplative Oasis

By: Sr. Gloria

These contemporary times are offering us much too much by way of conflict. One is reluctant to follow the news, but one wants to know what is going on. So we conclude that we must deepen our faith and pray more sincerely, and find a positive way…..

When we calm down, we know that our inner awareness is always evolving. Let’s consider some various wisdom sharings by other spiritual seekers.

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

“The interior experience of God’s presence (through prayer) activates one’s capacity to experience God in everything else – in people, in events, in nature.” Thomas Keating

“By reason of His immensity, God is present everywhere; but there are two places where He dwells in a particular manner. One is the highest heavens, where He is present by that glory which He communicates to the blessed; the other is on earth – within the humble soul that loves Him.” St. Alphonsus Liguori

“One of the most important —– and most neglected —– elements in the beginnings of the interior life is the ability to respond to reality, to see the value and the beauty in ordinary things, to come alive to the splendor that is all around us in the creatures of God. We do not see these things because we have withdrawn from them. Thomas Merton in “No Man is an Island.”

“God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“If you become Christ’s you will stumble upon wonder upon wonder, and every one of them is true.” St. Brendan of Birr

“Throughout salvation history God calls people to play a part in the story of God’s love.” Sr. Kathryn Hermes, FSP

“……offering our lives to the work of the Holy Spirit in this world…..” Dominican Praise

What shall we do?

Solitude vs. Loneliness

In 2005 a documentary was released called, Into Great Silence. The documentary was about the Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse Monastery. (Yes. They are the same monks who make the liquor, “Chartreuse.” 🙂 These monks, who were founded by St. Bruno in the 11th century, live high in the French Alps and dedicate their simple lives to God in the form of “prayer and work,” a phrase translated in Latin as ora et labora, revolutionized by the founder of Western Monasticism, St. Benedict who lived in the fifth and six centuries. While the documentary could be perceived as boring, it’s fairly long at a clip of about two hours and 40 minutes. (You can watch the whole thing for FREE on Also, the documentary has received anywhere from 3.5 – 4.5 stars out of 5 from major movie critics. But what was unique about the documentary was that it was done almost in complete silence with virtually no conversation. While some disliked it, I found it quite refreshing, particularly because of the solitude it presented in a positive way. Monks were often shown working in solitude. But they also prayed in community and in solitude and seemed to enjoy God’s creation in solitude too. I am not advocating to do everything by yourself in solitude or live by yourself in solitude 🙂 We are social beings by design. But the solitude these monks enjoyed was far different than the loneliness people often experience being by themselves. While the monks are called to a communal life of prayer as well as solitude, they seemed to experience the solitude in a joyful and welcoming way, far different than becoming angry, uncomfortable, or sad that one could experience living by oneself and feeling lonely.

First, what is the difference between solitude and loneliness? Let’s try to define both words and then try to make some distinctions.
Loneliness: Being by oneself in an unhappy state and wanting to fill it with someone or something

  • Uncomfortable being by oneself
  • Uncomfortable in silence… For some who struggle to be by themselves, silence can be deafening, especially from all of the noise already in their lives.
  • Struggle to find something to do… One may feel he/she always has to do something or feels the need to be constantly busy, efficient, and productive. Instead, just be…Just be a beloved son or daughter of the Father in Jesus Christ, and receive the love of the Father!
  • Feels the need for someone or something to always be with him/her.

Solitude: The state of being alone in an uninhabited place

  • Comfortable being by oneself in silence in the peace and quiet of the moment.
  • Great appreciation for nature and the surroundings
  • Being comfortable with not doing anything at all
  • Recognize that while one is by oneself physically, one is truly not by oneself spiritually. Faith tells us that one is actually in the presence of God (in his omnipresence), one’s Guardian Angel, and in the presence of other angels and saints if called upon through prayer.

What other ways would you describe loneliness and solitude? Similarities? Differences?

Second, Jesus experienced both loneliness and solitude. He felt lonely and abandoned as he experienced the Agony in the Garden (Mt. 26:36-46, Mk 14:32-42, Lk. 22:39-46 KJV). In his loneliness as he hung upon the cross, Jesus cried out to the Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46). There have been moments I have felt lonely. Some of you may have experienced loneliness being single or lonely after losing a spouse to death. You may have experienced loneliness in your own marriage. Think about an infant or a young child. What happens when mom or dad leaves the room? Left unattended, the child instinctively cries out. We all experience feelings of loneliness. When we experience these moments, it’s a signal for us to reach out to God with trust and bold faith through a simple, prayerful conversation with the Lord, for example.

But Jesus also experienced solitude too. Mk 1: 35 states: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Another good question to ask is what did he do with the solitude as well as the loneliness he experienced? He prayed. Mt. 14:23 states: “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.”

Third, how can we experience healthy solitude in our own lives? We can experience healthy solitude like Jesus experienced, and it doesn’t have to be anything you need to create. It can already be created for you. What do I mean? Recently, I had the experience of solitude at an eight-day silent retreat with over 20 people in Ontario. The majority of the retreat was silent with the exception of daily spiritual direction and participation at Mass. You may respond, “Father, I can’t take eight days off, let alone try to be silent for that length of time!” I’m not asking you to do that. Instead, I recommend to take SOME time for solitude. You decide how long that will be. It doesn’t have to be an eight-day silent retreat. It could be just a weekend retreat away from distractions (e.g. technology). How else could one experience solitude? Through a walk or a hike, an evening in the convenience of your own house if the circumstances allow with either a cup of hot chocolate, tea, or coffee, or even for five minutes in the convenience of your bedroom with a Bible and a journal.

Fourth, why would one want solitude? To deepen one’s relationship with God and to spend time with God in prayer and reflection, but also to get recharged for the responsibilities that lie ahead.

May we understand that God doesn’t call us to loneliness. Rather he calls us to spend time with him in solitude. This is not wasteful time but a good investment of it. Jesus often went away to spend time with His Father in solitude. May we take time to do the same to deepen our relationship with Him and be ready for what God calls us to do next.

In the Solitude of Spending Time with the Lord,
Fr. Jeff

“I’m Bored”

bored man“I’m bored.” Being in the midst of this cold and oftentimes cloudy, Michigan, winter weather, we can find ourselves cooped up in our house and encounter periods of boredom. Whether it be in the dead of winter or during hot summers, as kids, we may have told our parents at one point or another, “I’m bored.” Sound familiar? Their response? “Go read a book, or “go play outside,” or simply, “go DO something!”

But to say one is bored at Mass? Matthew Kelly in his recent book, Resisting Happiness, (the book that our parish handed out to each family at Christmas), said, “to say we are bored at any moment in our lives is a massive insult to God, but to say we are bored at Mass takes the insult to a whole other level (p. 98). Kelly says that the remedy to boredom is that “if you are ever bored, look for a way to get outside yourself and serve others (p. 100). One could do this by serving at Mass as a lector, choir member, usher, Eucharistic minister, altar server, etc.

What is boredom? Kelly defines it as a “manifestation of selfishness. It can only occur when we are overly focused on ourselves. It always means that we have set God and neighbor aside to focus exclusively on ourselves, and that is never a recipe for happiness,” he says (p. 100).

What if you are unable to serve in those capacities I just mentioned or are still bored at Mass? Kelly goes on to say that “the key to transforming our Sunday Mass experience and improving our relationship with God is shifting from a passive to an active disposition and really listening” (p. 104). He also cites that we can participate at Mass through the use of writing in a Mass journal which can be very effective. The purpose would be to write down one thing – one idea that captured your attention at Mass (e.g. from the readings or homily).

If I may add, one could also remedy boredom at Mass by attending a Mass-in-Slow-Motion, reading about the Mass in the Catechism (#s 571, 654, 1067, 1076,1088, 1322, 1332, 1362-1372, 1382, 2177, 2192), or attend an RCIA class (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults…becoming Catholic). May we never be bored in life with all of the opportunities that God has blessed us with today. But may we especially not be bored at Mass where God is truly active with us as he makes himself present in Word, in the priest, in the people, and in the Eucharist.

Resisting Happiness book coverOne day St. Teresa of Avila heard someone say: “If only I had lived at the time of Jesus… If only I had seen Jesus… If only I had talked with Jesus…” To this she responded: “But do we not have in the Eucharist the living, true and real Jesus present before us? Why look for more?” Look no further than encountering Jesus deeply at Mass in multiple ways. How could one be bored with that?

– Fr. Jeff

Religious Formation News – January 15, 2017

My dear Mom passed to her eternal rest on Monday January 2, 2017. Mom gets all the credit for my love of Jesus and the Catholic Church! Rest in peace sweet, faithful servant!!

A Tribute to Connie Weber
(Our Mom)

+Because ALL that she did was for love of God and love of family!!

Mother, Mom, “Hey Ma”!
Whatever the term,
These were her sweetest words
We came to learn!

Feeding us, bathing us, teaching us our prayers.
(and even patiently combing out
long tangled hair)……
Were jobs that she did
With great love and care!

Being a good Mom
was her #1 task.
If we felt a bit down in a compliment
we’d bask.
For she had a kind way of making each
one of us feel loved.
And not only by her
but by God above.

She’d dress us up nice
and then off to church…
a responsibility she never would shirk!
To Mass or devotion…..whatever was new.
Helping us to learn…. that Jesus loved us too!

are virtues she bestowed.
Hard work for a family of ten
don’t you know!

Keeping up with her kids and grandkids,
For her never seemed hard.
Acknowledging each special event
with a card.

A good visit…. game of cards….
Ice cream…. and a long country drive,
Gave special meaning to her stating
“It’s great to be ALIVE”! 🙂

So Mom, while your leaving us
makes us distraught.
Please know that you’ll live on in
the lessons you taught!

For the Faith, Hope and Love
You gave as we grew,
Was the message your Savior
taught you to do!

So go faithful servant
to your heavenly rest.

We Love you Mom!!
DRE/Holy Trinity Parish – 810-985-9069 or moc.o1524719834ohay@1524719834erneh1524719834petst1524719834s1524719834

We Move Into The ‘Ordinary Time’ Sundays

By: Sr. Gloria

Last weekend we celebrated the great feast of Epiphany… a climax to the Christmas season, with scriptures having so many layers of rich meaning. One considers going back to those readings, feeling open to the discovery of more riches and insights. We are, after all, dealing with eternal truths that impact our very lives. “Rise up in splendor; your light has come!”

Now we are at the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. We remember that the term ‘ordinary time’ can be misleading, for the scriptures are far from being ordinary. The term comes from the word ‘ordinal,’ which is a way of counting the progressive Sundays. We experience the progression of scriptures that are not in the major seasons of Advent, Christmastime, Lent, and the Easter season. We are also treated to the rich collection of scriptures that are covered in the three-year Church cycle of readings.

So in Ordinary Time, we welcome the chance to be enriched each weekend (and even during each week day). As we go through the years, we find that our understanding has deepened and matured. As we hear the scripture this year, as contrasted to hearing it three years ago, we realize that we have grown spiritually since then.

However, right now, let’s retain and savor a message from Christmas time:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

Dr. Howard Thurman

Now that the church colors have turned to the green of ordinary time, we wish to thank all of the people who decorated our St. Stephens and St. Joseph worship sites for Christmastime. The trees… the lights… the draperies… the poinsettias, all were indeed beautiful and elegant. It obviously took a lot of time and effort on the part of a good number of people. They must know their artistry is greatly appreciated. Thank you!