Every Sacred Sunday

I have such an exciting project to share today! I absolutely cannot wait to have this little book arrive on my doorstep in November. Yes, November, I know it’s a ways away, but trust me, the wait will be worth it.

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Every Sacred Sunday. Used with Permission

Kassie Manning and Christie Vaughn are launching a brand new journal designed specifically for Catholics called Every Sacred Sunday. This is a Mass journal. It has all the Sunday readings in it (identical to the lectionary, they have gone out of their way to ensure that the readings in their journal are the exact same translation, with proper permissions), plus space to write and reflect on what spoke to you that Sunday, what is a verse or word that stood out to you, any homily or prayer notes, and even a space for how to take the lessons you learned and put them into practice that week.

This journal looks absolutely stunning. Christie, an artist, has drawn some incredibly beautiful illustrations that kick off each liturgical season. I was able to get a sneak peak at Advent’s and I know I am going to spend a good deal of time just praying with that. It is simple, but very profound. I can’t wait to see the others!

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Every Sacred Sunday. Used with Permission

I used this journal for yesterday’s Feast of the Assumption (because these girls have solid Catholic roots and also included all the Holy Days of Obligation). I loved the lectio divina quality it gave to my Mass experience. I was able to read the readings before Mass, then listened to them during Mass, and could reference back to them after as I journaled. After almost 3 complete read throughs, I definitely felt like a specific verse was standing out to me in a way that was new and different. I appreciate that there was a defined space to write. It kept me concise and to the point while still giving me plenty of room to say what I wanted. What might be the most important piece is on the very bottom of the page where Kassie and Christie have included a “Go Forth” section. How will I take what I heard and learned and use it this week? Now I have accountability and frankly, have a thought out, intentional, specific plan instead of a general “I need to try to be nicer/more helpful/etc.”

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EVery Sacred Sunday. Used with Permission

Kassie and Christie are using Kickstarter to get this project off the ground. In their first 24 hours of launching, they met their goal (this means guaranteed printing)! How incredible is that? In my opinion, it speaks to a need,  a hunger people have. We, I, want to be able to carry Mass with us through the week. We want to take the time to reflect on what we heard and how to implement it in our lives. Every Sacred Sunday is taking these desires, adding paper, beauty and creativity, and transforming them into an incredible resource.

In the time since the launch, Kassie and Christie have added (and met, whoot!) a stretch goal so now each journal will also have a ribbon placeholder. There is still time to pre-order your journal(s). It is available through kickstarter until August 31. The journals will start to ship in November and should be in everyone’s hands for the first Sunday of Advent, December 3, 2017.

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Every Sacred Sunday. Used with Permission

Head over to everysacredsunday.com to learn more or pledge your support for your own journal now. Kassie and Christie also put together this great video that talks about them, their journey and how awesome Every Sacred Sunday is.

This is going to change hearts and lives in ways we can’t even imagine.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

The Front Row

Let me begin by saying that we very much like our new parish. We will only be in San Antonio a few months but we felt it was important to find one church and quickly re-establish our Sunday morning/going to Mass routine. After being on the road for 2 months visiting family yes we of course went to Mass every Sunday. However, often it was a different church and time from one week to the next. We wanted to regain the stability of routine for our kids after so much transition in as many ways as possible. Going to Mass at the same time and place is one of those critical weekly routines.

That being said, I witnessed something interesting at our new parish this past week. This is a large parish. Large in both the physical space and number of people. You can easily fit 300 or so people in the pews, maybe 350 or even 400 if everyone actually moved all the way to the middle (#Catholicproblems haha). There is also standing room in the gathering space and along the walls. They actually keep folding chairs permanently set up along the walls knowing people will need them. There is also a Blessed Sacrament Chapel that is in the back and can be used for overflow seating.

This Sunday we arrived approximately 10 minutes early. Typically early enough to find a pew for 5 at most churches. At this parish, however, we were cutting it close (again, if people would only move to the middle….). Ben went to park the car and I walked in with the kids. As we walked in I noticed a large group of families with small children hovering in the back by the Blessed Sacrament Chapel (doors closed). There were still plenty of seats available if you smiled nice and negotiated space. As I walked by with my 3 little ducklings (or elephant sea lions depending on the day) an usher stopped me. She asked me if I wanted to wait with the others, they would be opening the doors (to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel/overflow seating) in just a minute. She questioned whether I would be able to find a seat. I looked around, assured her we would be fine, and moved on. We did find a seat. Front and center (and in the middle no less).

During Mass I sneaked a peek at the back and saw that all those families were in the overflow seating instead of being with the larger community.

Now I know you can argue that they were still sitting with the community, they are just an aisle away. And I do agree, they were still worshipping with all of us. My big issue, especially in light of the Gospel reading, is how they got there.

For as welcoming as this parish is, somewhere there is an undercurrent that pulls families with small children to the back. No matter how or when it happened, there is now a culture that exists which tells families that their place is in the back, away from the larger community (even if it is just separated by an aisle).

Now think about the Gospel. Zacchaeus is a tax collector who happens to be short. Due to his stature, Zacchaeus can’t see Jesus and the crowd isn’t making it any easier for him. So, he climbs a tree to see Jesus better. There are many theological and scriptural lessons that can be pulled from this passage. I would like to think about the most basic point, the height difference. Zacchaeus was short and the tall people wouldn’t let him through to the front. He took matters into his own hands and climbed a tree.

Let’s apply this to our children. They are short. When you stick them in the back, they can’t see. All they experience is a disembodied voice, some music and they get to go for a walk close to the end. Since there aren’t any trees around, they take matters into their own hands in any number of ways.

I’m not saying that children are angels in the front row and demons in the back row (mine proved this very well in our front row experience for All Saints’ Day). However, I do notice an overall improvement in behavior and most importantly, interest, when we sit up front. John asks me more questions and participates in the songs he knows much more when we sit up front compared to when we are in the back. Clare, only 2 years old remember, is much more likely to go into the aisle and try to run away when we sit in the back than when we sit in the front. Again, it’s not perfect and we have had some very hard Masses in the front row. But they are fewer and farther between than when we sit in the back.

Jesus told his disciples “let the children come to me, do not prevent them” (Matthew 19:14). This means, to me at least, let the children come all the way to me, not just to the cry room or the designated overflow seating that is in the back and out of the way. Tall people, stand aside! Let the children come all the way up!

So what to do about this? I have a proposition that I would love to have opinions on.

The Front Row by Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
CC Public Domain

Many churches reserve one of the front rows for a handicap row. This way, persons in wheelchairs and their families will have a place to sit where they can see and feel comfortable. Why don’t we take the first 3 rows of one section of the church to reserve for families with small children? What if we went even farther and created a new ministry for high schoolers and adults with older children or grown children? These individuals could sit in the middle (yes, the middle!) of the pew to be helpers for these families.

Well, what do you think? Let’s make a new culture. If we insist on designating a space for families, let’s at least offer them what should be the prime place where their children can see and engage in the drama of the liturgy. And, let’s offer them the help that they need so that when their youngest unloads in their diaper or someone needs some extra space to calm down on the day that their spouse had to work, is sick or is deployed, they have an extra set of hands who is willing and wanting to be of service.

It’s not rocket science folks. After all, how many times have you taken a group photo and heard the photographer call out “Short people in the front. Tall people in the back!”

****Don’t forget about The Mass Box coupon opportunity and GIVEAWAY! Raffle for the giveaway is open until November 11, 2016.Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

 

Seeing Myself in an Unexpected but Expected Place

We had a rather rough Mass this week. John was having a difficult time listening and had to be quarantined next to Ben away from the girls. Rosie had a tough morning before Mass and some of her sluggish obedience came with us to church. Clare. Well, let’s just say the whole parish community gathered (roughly 300-400 people) knew exactly where Clare was, knew which book she wanted read and knew I was wearing a new necklace.

As you can imagine, I can’t tell you a whole lot about the homily. I did manage to hear some of the Gospel but I have no recollection of the first reading. I only know the second reading was one of Paul’s letters to Timothy because when the reader said it John shouted “Mommy! It’s St. Paul! He’s talking to his brother Timothy!” Very exciting stuff going on here folks, very exciting.

As we approached Communion I wasn’t exactly feeling prepared. I tried as best I could to focus on what I was doing and more importantly, Who I was receiving.

“The Body of Christ”I vaguely heard. I was making sure Clare and Rosie didn’t end up with a different family after receiving their blessing. I don’t think I even managed to make eye contact with the Eucharistic Minister, something which I make a point of doing.

Eucharist: Seeing my reflection in an expectedly unexpected place. Daily Graces at dailygraces.net
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“The Blood of Christ” I was told, but thoughtfully and directly. The minister had waited for me to look at her after making sure to point Clare in Ben’s direction. This briefest pause made all the difference.

I connected with her over the chalice she was extending to me. We were of similar height and when she offered me the cup which was holding Jesus’ most precious Blood, I looked inside. Many parishes choose to use red wine, for obvious reasons. However, there are some parishes, ours included, that opt for white wine.The lighting was just right. The cup was still rather full and golden in color which enhanced the clarity of the wine.

As I looked into that cup, I saw my reflection.

For that moment, the whole world stopped.

St. Augustine, in one of his sermons on the Eucharist tells us

Be what you see; receive what you are

It was a profound moment. Here in front of me is the Blood of Christ, the most precious gift Jesus gave us. He offers His Body and Blood as true food and drink which transform us more completely into Himself. Lumen Gentium (paragraph 7), one of the encyclicals that is from the 2nd Vatican Council, explains this mystery:

Really partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. “Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread”.(1 Cor 10:17) In this way all of us are made members of His Body, (cf 1 Cor 12:27) “but severally members one of another”.(Rom 12:5)

When we receive the Eucharist, which is Jesus fully present in both the Body and the Blood, we are no longer solely ourselves. We are at that moment fully communed with Jesus and with the whole Church, the Body of Christ.

In a way, seeing my reflection in that cup was a physical representation of what was spiritually happening to me. To see my reflection in the Blood of Christ was to see myself in Jesus and Jesus in me. Anyone else getting flashbacks to Simba in The Lion King when he looks in the pond and sees a reflection of his father while hearing the phrase “Remember who you are.”?

This was a moment of clarity, of realizing who I truly am and who I am called to be. I am a child of God, made in His own image. I am called to be Christ, to reflect His love, mercy and forgiveness to each person I encounter. We are all called in our own unique ways to the same mission. So in a way, I should expect to see my face reflected in the Body and Blood of Christ. Not because I am the important one in this image, but rather because Jesus shines through me when I allow myself to be fully united to Him.

It’s a little confusing and convoluted I know, I  rewrote that last paragraph a bunch of times trying to get it right. The main point is this: Jesus. And how our union with Him became clear to me for just a moment when I saw my reflection in His precious Blood. I think if I try to say more I’ll just end up getting you and myself more confused. Often spiritual things like this are beyond our words to describe them, try as we might to fully understand what happened. What matters is that we reflect, we try to understand and we share our experience with others, even if we can’t grasp it all.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com