This post is not intended to make anyone feel guilty for not attending Mass. Something the pandemic is teaching me repeatedly is that everyone is experiencing it in their own way. So, if you haven’t dragged your kids (or yourself) back to Mass yet – that’s okay. I am not about to lecture you, judge you, or condemn you!
When St. Mary’s announced their first Mass post-quarantine, one of my first thoughts was, “Great! An excuse to get out of the house without the kids!” Honestly, my first thought was not that I can receive Jesus in the Eucharist again; it was that I could get away from my kids.
We tuned in to virtual Mass every Sunday during quarantine and we even watched Easter Mass at the parish Kurt and I met and fell in love at which was super sweet and nostalgic. We semi-forced our kids to sit still on the couch while Mass was on in our living room but inevitably each week broke down and let the kids run around and play while we tried to pay attention.
We started bringing our cups of coffee with us to the couch, a snack, our journals, etc. While we did journal some great thoughts during quarantine and still took something from each homily, our Mass experience was vastly different during quarantine than we are accustomed to.
So when Mass started back up again in person, both Kurt and I were eager to reserve our spots and attend in person. For our first Sunday back, we left the kids with grandma and grandpa and attending Mass turned in to a great opportunity for Kurt and I to “go on a date.” Getting dressed up for Mass felt rejuvenating. Sitting with Kurt in the pew, in silence, before and during Mass was wonderful. When I received communion again after months away, I did almost cry with joy.
The whole Mass experience is so beneficial: a cleansing of my soul after a week of yelling at my kids, arguing with Kurt, worrying about the pandemic, stressing over who to listen to and who not to listen to, swearing under my breath, and so much more. Attending Mass on Sundays and driving to the physical building, sitting in the wooden pews, surrounded by my parish is such a healing experience that I do not do at any other time during the week.
It’s therapeutic, it’s calming, it’s restorative, and it’s always what I need most on Sundays. I almost never walk out of Mass thinking that I should not have gone in the first place. Almost. There have been one or two Sundays when I walk out of St. Mary’s with a crying child wondering why I even came and why do I even bother.
The reasons why I love attending Mass so much are exactly why I am dragging my kids to church on Sundays. I remember growing up and the expectation that I be at Mass with my family with the only excusable absence being sickness. I resented my parents at times for forcing me to go but resentment soon gave way to joy when my church’s youth activities drew me and my friends in. I attended multiple retreats every year during high school and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
Several years later, I am still dedicated to celebrating Mass together with my parish in person. I bring my kids with me to share with them my faith in Jesus Christ; my faith which lights up my life with love, peace, and joy. I want them to soak in the reverence of Mass, the rituals of celebrating our faith together, the inclusivity of our universal church, and the fact that Jesus loves them so much He was willing to die on the cross. Helping them enjoy Mass will supplement their formal Catholic education. Teaching them the profound and unparalleled importance of the Eucharist will give them something concrete on which to build their faith and their relationship with Jesus. And at the very least, they will learn to be okay with sitting in silence and not to interrupt someone when they are speaking.
So, yes, most Masses with my children feel like a physical workout, a tedious whispering battle to get them to be quiet, and a constant negotiation for compliance and reverence. However, I truly believe that if we just keep bringing our kids every Sunday and we show them how we hold our hands and the joy we receive from singing and receiving the Eucharist, they will learn to love their faith as we do.
We greatly appreciate everyone who encourages us each week with a smile or a kind comment. Early on in parenting, I worried about bringing a baby to Mass: will Elizabeth be disruptive, will she annoy someone, will I even get anything out of it? Now, thanks to the kindness of parishioners, strangers, and priests, I don’t mind if my kids make some noise or distract a little bit. If it helps you feel more comfortable at Mass with your kids, it is totally worth it!
If you do see us having a more difficult Mass experience than usual or even if it’s going really well, we love your encouragement, your smiles, and your loving comments. I’m sure other parents with young children feel similarly, so help us all feel more welcomed and supported at Mass.
Thanks so much for your time and attention!
When the economy first shut down in March and everyone was asked to stay home, I was honestly a little excited right along with slightly scared. All of a sudden, I didn’t have to pack up 3 kids in the car to go anywhere, I didn’t have to wrestle with 2 sometimes 3 kids during Mass, and I didn’t have to wear make-up or do my hair.
Even though I was concerned for the health and well-being of my family, and everyone affected by COVID, I was grateful for the break in routine and the change of pace. Incredibly, the shutdown turned out to be an insane blessing for my family because that week we also received the keys to our new house.
As people were binge watching Netflix and wondering what on earth to do with their unexpected downtime, we were happily and distractedly unpacking in a new house, organizing everything, and trying to feed five people semi-balanced meals three times a day.
Elizabeth did not have to be at school at a certain time or be picked up. Suddenly, we had all day to clean and put things away. While my husband worked on the backyard completely transforming it from beautifully landscaped to a more open space for our kids to run around, I was inside breaking down boxes and starting a big donation pile. This sounds so nice and you might be envious at first, but it was still stressful.
It honestly took a couple of months to truly appreciate the blessing that the shutdown was. Instead of going out to eat once or twice a week, we stayed home and saved some money by eating in. Instead of having to work around Elizabeth’s school schedule, we had the flexibility each day to do what we needed to do to settle into our new house. Without distractions from outside the home, we played games together, watched movies together, did the laundry together, and cleaned together. Allowing ourselves to be swept up in the Zoom craze, we chatted with my family in Cleveland more than we ever had before. We video chatted with friends in Chicago, Virginia, and Cleveland. We experimented in baking homemade biscuits and cookies. We played together a lot.
In the moment, everything felt overwhelming and simple at the same time. We felt powerless to the virus but empowered within our own home. As we were
laughing and making special memories, communities were being ravaged by a virus that might show up in our own village. I found myself reflecting on days with a newborn as a new stay at home mom. There was a similar sense of chaos and yet no pressure to do anything except the life-giving necessities of eating and sleeping. Just as I told myself in those early days of motherhood, I reminded myself during quarantine, “One day at a time and when necessary, one hour at a time.”
Those early days of parenting are filled with the sweet moments of learning how to keep an infant alive and less memories of the tumultuous days and nights of panic, doubt, and anxiety. Now with quarantine over and the school routine giving more structure to our daily lives, I’m looking back on those slow days of pajamas, too many boxes, and the backyard changing completely with more gratitude than I experienced in the moment. We will probably never receive this gift of forced family bonding again which is a blessing in terms of the virus, but that does not mean we have to abandon the moments that brought us true joy in uncertain times.
Tell me about your quarantine experience. What pockets of joy did you find amongst the simple chaos of staying home? What blessings are you grateful for now that you did not recognize then? What have you learned? What have you gained and what have you let go of?
As always, thanks so much for your time and attention!
Why I am not talking politics for the next 3 months
I decided that I’m not talking about politics for the next 3 months and I think you should avoid it also. This past weekend, I attended a family gathering (outdoors & 6 ft. apart), and something really unfortunate happened: my joy at being in a loving environment was compromised because adult family members decided to “talk” politics after several alcoholic beverages. Their “discussion” was actually just an argument and neither one of them benefitted from the dialogue nor was anything constructive even said. In consequence, everyone else was forced to endure this negative and spiteful communication or leave the area until it dissolved. I’ve been dwelling on this exchange the last few days and I’ve decided I’m not going to allow politics to ruin my time with family ever again.
This is a culmination of many situations and interactions over the last few months. The pandemic has devolved into a political debate. Our children’s education has devolved into a political debate. It seems that our daily lives have turned in to a political debate. Everyone has an opinion on everything and yet no one is really listening to anyone else, all the while believing they are right. We are all just spewing words at each other without taking the time to engage in meaningful, constructive, and respectful conversation. On social media, twice, friends have reported that a miracle happened: a post talked civilly about politics; people from each side commenting and responding with kind words and respectful attitudes. The unfortunate part of this is that it was described as a miracle because they know as well as you all do, that civil conversation about politics just does not occur anymore.
We are all guilty to some degree. Even if you have not shouted at a teenager making minimum wage about having to wear a mask, you’ve probably shared a post, commented on, or argued for why you are voting for one of the presidential candidates. I am trying to figure out how to use social media to stay in touch with family and friends spread out across the country without having to consume hateful and divisive political messages. If anyone has anything concrete, please share your ideas with me.
My decision to not talk about politics anymore comes down to the fact that I truly believe everyone could vote tomorrow. This means that I think everyone knows who they are voting for in November and nothing is going to change their minds over the next three months. I know who I am voting for and nothing is going to change my mind over the next three months. I have seen enough, heard enough, and experienced enough to know which way I am voting. I have thought about it, debated myself about it, and gone back and forth about it. Now, I am sure of who I am voting for. If you are sincerely undecided, then you obviously need to try to educate yourself. However, I think the number of undecided voters in insanely small.
Given this, what is the point of commenting on a post or arguing for your candidate? Why engage in conversation about politics when it will likely devolve into an argument? Why spend any of your time or energy on something that is so negative and draining?
The more people who begin to ignore politics, the less prominent it will be in our daily lives. There is a time and a place for political dialogue, the bishops of the United States have sought to share Catholic teaching on social and political life. In a series of statements issued every four years, they focus on “political responsibility” or “faithful citizenship.” If you are interested in reading more, start with Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship – Part 1 – The U.S. Bishops’ Reflection on Catholic Teaching and Political Life. (Link below.)
Instead of bringing up politics, let’s connect with people about our strengths, our weaknesses, what we love spending time on, and what brings us the most joy. Here are some conversation starters that I would love to talk about instead of politics:
-What have you enjoyed most about this summer?
-What has been a challenge for you this summer?
-Have you read any good books lately or watched any good TV/movies?
-Did you visit any new places this summer or revisit a family favorite?
-How have you grown over the last few months?
-How do you want to grow over the next few months?
Commit today to ignoring the hateful and divisive messages spewing forth on the internet. Redirect the conversation when it turns negative and argumentative and instead choose love, positivity, constructive, respectful, and more enlightening conversation instead. The more love we spread, the more love we will receive. The more respectful we are with others, the more respectful people will be with us.
Maybe the Peace Prayer by St. Francis can help:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
Thanks for reading.
Lovies and prayers,
Hi Parish Family!
Who is the priest who celebrates Mass every week? Where is from? What does he like to do?
I thought, “If I don’t know anything about him after living here for a year, maybe someone else doesn’t know him either.”
From reading his bio on the parish website and sitting down with him, I learned he grew up in southeast Grand Rapids where his mother still resides along with his sister, Cathy and her family.
Fr. Dave volunteered in and around his church growing up including participating in Mass as an altar server, mowing the grass, and lots of volunteering around the parish. His first job was on the maintenance staff of St. Stephen
Growing up in southeast Grand Rapids was a normal, simple, middle-class experience filled with driveway basketball, open field golfing, and playing catch.
Vacations were occasional and included attending the Cherry Festival with family who resided in Traverse City as well as visiting a cottage on Lake Michigan with friends.
Fr. Dave studied education at the University of Michigan and completed his student-teaching in Ann Arbor.
As a teacher, Fr. Dave took advantage of the summer vacations and travelled around to different music concerts and especially to Nashville several years in a row for a summer country music festival.
He always had a vocation to the priesthood in the back of his mind growing up, but it wasn’t until his time serving in campus ministry with his students that he more seriously considered it.
Fr. Dave studied at Mundelein Seminary north of Chicago and absolutely loved his time there. The campus is situated on 900 acres and includes a retreat center, hosts many visitors, and a big lake.
A lake that is supposed to be relaxing and peaceful for most and allows for canoeing and kayaking was only enjoyed once by Fr. Dave.
“Early on in my first year there,” says Fr. Dave, “I took a canoe out on the water and in maneuvering around or trying to get back to dock, I capsized the canoe and because the lake is mostly mud on the bottom, got pretty stuck. It took about an hour to get out of the lake and return the canoe and that was the last time I tried that.”
So, maybe don’t invite Fr. Dave out to canoe with you on Spring Lake.
His other more enjoyable memories from seminary include playing in and coaching for the basketball tournament, winning about half the time.
Now, if sports ever return to normal, he enjoys refereeing basketball games and coaching track and cross country, if he’s available.
Fr. Dave lives alone and is responsible for feeding himself so he gets by with simple meals like cereal and milk every morning for breakfast. He does eat out at our local restaurants like Ted’s and Two Tony’s but he doesn’t drink alcohol so don’t ask to get a drink with him at Stan’s. He said he does enjoy being invited to parishioners’ houses for dinner so if anyone would like to spend time with him, extend the invitation!
He takes off from official duties as Pastor on Mondays so he can grocery shop, clean his residence, or go visit his family in Grand Rapids.
The hardest thing about being pastor?
“Balancing all the responsibilities without shortchanging anyone,” he says. “I would love to celebrate more with parishioners and the school,
but the business part of it requires making sure the nitty gritty details are taken care also.”
I look forward to inviting Fr. Dave over for dinner soon, knowing my wild and chaotic children will be thoroughly entertaining for him.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share with me and I hope some of you learned something about the priest that you see every week at Mass.
Love and prayers to you all,
Greetings to my new parish family!
My name is Megan Tobin and we are still relatively new to West Michigan. Kurt is my husband and together we have 3 adorable and chaotic young children – Elizabeth (4.5), Patrick (3), and Margaret (19 months). We also have a dog named Tucker who goes with us any time dogs are allowed (and sometimes even when we are not sure dogs are allowed). For example, I called ahead to The Village Baker to make sure he could sit with me on the patio while I work on this post.
We moved to Spring Lake in February 2019 at the tail-end of the week the polar vortex hit with12 inches of snow, from Indianapolis where we had to shovel six inches of snow off the driveway for the moving truck. Four months ago, we moved out of the house we were renting and five houses down the street, all during the beginning of the mandatory stay home order. Yes, all with three young kids and a dog. No, I am never moving again.
When Dave Heinert discovered that I majored in Journalism along with Anthropology at Miami University, he mistakenly thought that I’m a terrific writer with lots of thoughts to share. Yes, I did study those subjects and yes I learned a lot during classes, my summer internship at the Catholic Telegraph in Cincinnati and during my free lancing opportunities in Indianapolis but I’m so rusty at writing that I hope you have low expectations for me. I intend on growing as a writer and exceeding your expectations but for the first few blog posts, take it easy on me, will ya?
I graduated from Miami University in December of 2013, married my college sweetheart (Miami Mergers!) in June of 2014 and gave birth to my first child in October 2015. I really did look for writing jobs in Indianapolis, but the best fit I found was at The Celtic Cross Catholic Giftshop in Indianapolis. If I had had free childcare, I would have gone back part-time after giving birth. It was a blessed and joyful experience.
We lived in an idyllic and comfortable house and neighborhood on the northeast side of Indy with two growing suburbs all around us. It was a tough decision to leave our lives there but it has been a beautiful opportunity for growth in all areas of our lives. The biggest blessing of the move – Kurt’s parents literally down the street from us and able to be in our kids’ lives ten-fold.
My husband and I both are in a place in our lives now that we can begin immersing ourselves more fully in the Catholic community here in Spring Lake.
We decided to move our oldest from West Michigan Academy of Art and Academics to St. Mary’s not because there was anything “wrong” with WMAA but because we want to be more connected with our parish family and the Catholic community. Elizabeth will be in the Pre-K afternoon program Monday through Thursday and Patrick will be in the 3’s program Tuesday and Thursday.
Having only Maggie with me 2 days of the week is going to feel so weird and I am trying to fully enjoy the time we are all together now, I know we will never have this time again.
With all of this in mind, to say I am excited to work on the blog for St. Mary’s is an understatement. I hope a few people read along with me. I look forward to serving in this capacity and I hope I get the opportunity to meet you in person soon.
Prayers and blessings,
It’s better to take all our emotions to God than others, for He fully understands us.
The Bible says, "Rend your heart to God, not your garments." To "rend" means to rip open. The Israelites, when morning, used to rip open their robes and put ashes on themselves. But, this verse is telling us to do something else. This verse means, to open up all of our hearts, all of our emotions to God. He wants all of who we are.
The Psalms of Lament, a third of the Psalms, show us that we can be angry at God. YOU can be mad at God. God made you who you are and gives you the emotions you have. He wants us to give fully of ourselves to Him. As a spiritual exercise. Sneak into the chapel, reverently take off your shoes, and let God have all your emotions. OUT LOUD! …...YELL, if you must, at GOD in the tabernacle.
Doubt is not opposed to faith; despair is. We see this in the case of the father who brought his son to Jesus for healing. When Jesus encouraged the father to have faith, he replied, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). Pray for an increase in Faith and Hope in Jesus!
Even Saint Paul tells us he was “perplexed, but not driven to despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8). In despair we give up on our relationship with God. Pray for an increase in Faith and Hope.
John 9: 1-3 “Who sinned this man or his parent.” Jesus replied, “Neither.” It’s not your fault. How our sinfulness has an effect on our children is through the passing on of Original Sin, not on the loss of a child.
I repeat, "IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT."
Diocese of Baton Rouge: www.mfldiobr.org/miscarriageearly-infant-death
I beseech you, O Lord Jesus Christ, that the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose most holy soul was pierced in the hour of your Passion by the sword of sorrow, may intercede for us with Your mercy now and at the hour of our death.
O most holy Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by the overwhelming grief you experienced
when you witnessed the martyrdom,
the crucifixion, and the death of your divine Son,
look upon me with eyes of compassion,
and awaken in my heart a tender. Amen
Pieta Prayer: (Would be good to pray in front of our Pieta with your spouse.)
Mother of Sorrows, You who held Jesus in your Arms, Please intercede with your Divine Son in our behalf. Ask Him to help us to know, one another better, To forgive one another more readily, To love one another more deeply, Mother of all mankind inspire us to travel without falter along the road at the end of which, Under the Fatherhood of God, there is true peace. Amen
We are called to be a communion of Saints. I know that often times it is very difficult for we in our society to tell others that we are suffering. We like to suffer alone for some reason. I think it's something the devil really likes because it's a way to cut us off and can lead to despair. Maybe the initial feelings are from God, He calls us to withdraw into our room, alone; so that we can lean on those Saints that are part of our Community that sometimes we who haven't passed on don't always notice. The trick is to not get stuck in our room. When we recognize that the Saints are praying with us and for us then we are called back out into the community, different from the experience but not despaired.
Here are some
Saints to pray with:
The focus of these Sessions was on Miscarriages and those who lost children early in the child's life.
"Why?" is a big question we ask God.
The answer is different for all of us, but let me share this answer that my wife and I got during prayer as to "why" we've had miscarriages. It's a way to spiritually bond to Mary, specifically her sorrowful heart as "Our Lady of sorrows." Even though she never had the pains of a miscarriage, she knows the sadness of having an innocent child die. Therefore, of all the help or assistance we as a Church can offer, nothing compares to what, or rather WHO, Jesus offers to you, His mother!
If He provides for the birds in the air and the fish in the sea, How much more will He provide to you who mean so much more?
We hope that in sharing this pearl we received during our hard times that you are able to have some more consolation. Please, if you are willing, share some of the pearls you have noticed during your difficult times. We are called to a community to help lift each other up. May God bless us in all we do.
On February 8 our Parish will be hosting a film night. The film is the cartoon "God is with Us" that is found on formed.org. It is meant primarily for those ages 7+, but I enjoyed seeing the Gospel come alive in ways I haven't seen before. One can do more with cartoon films than non-cartoon films sometimes.
If you don't want to watch the film, then you have two other options. First, you could join those under 7 in playing or second, you could join other adults downstairs in fellowship. This event is not just for families. You can head on down to room D to share in fellowship with your Church family. Let's get to know each other a little better, go outside our bubbles and clicks to share the joy of Christ.
Welp friends Christmas is officially over and we are in Ordinary time for the next 8 weeks. We kick off this weekend with the Wedding Feast of Cana found in the Gospel according to John. This reading is very loaded, but I want to just touch on a couple things. One, that Mary is present at the wedding. And two, that Jesus probably doesn't have all of his disciples yet.
First, since Mary is present we can deduce that those getting married were relatives of Jesus. How can we reach to this conclusion? Well, not everyone would have known that they had run out of wine. Those in the inner circle would have had this knowledge. Mary was in the inner circle, and Jesus wasn't. This is very interesting to me. It points to some spiritual insights. If we let Mary into our lives, then she will bring our concerns to Jesus. There are religions out there, like Islam, that accept more Marian truth than they do Christology.
The second point that Jesus does not have all of his disciples yet can be seen by looking at the previous verses. He has at least six so far. One can then imagine Jesus showing up with a plus six to a wedding and since these guys have not been taught that they may have had a little to much to drink. Maybe Mary saw this and it's one of the reasons she went to Jesus. One thing we do know for sure is that the disciples saw the exchange between Mary and Jesus and that John wrote about it because it was Gospel worthy.
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