Day One: Happy New Year.

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I don’t like odd-numbered years. Something about them makes me feel off-kilter, a little uneasy. Even-numbered years give me a sense of security; I feel grounded. This is probably why my emotions started to get a little out of whack at the close of 2018. Where would this new, odd year take me? How could I feel a sense of purpose and not feel like I was adrift?

One solution might have been to seek some sort of professional help. Who experiences anxiety every other year because of numbers?

Another solution popped into my head as I awoke at 12:02 a.m. on January 1, 2019. (I’d been asleep since 9:45 p.m., the first time in my life I’d slept through the New Year.) The idea seemed promising and yet daunting, perhaps the perfect type of challenge for an odd-numbered year. Why not go to Mass every day this year and blog about my experience?

There are several reasons not to do this. First of all, is anyone really going to care? (Certainly not everyone, but maybe a person here or there.) Second of all, am I really prepared to commit to attending Mass every single day, for 365 days? (I’d like to think so, although I’m already stressing about how to fit it into my weekday schedule.) Finally, isn’t it a little self-serving to write a blog about going to Mass every day; shouldn’t you just go and not tell anyone about it? (Possibly, but the blog part makes it that much more of a commitment.)

So I talked myself out of why not to do this, and now there’s no turning back.

Day one has been easy enough to handle. January 1 is a Holy Day of Obligation according to the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. And for reasons that will be explained throughout the year, I am wavering between following the Latin Rite and Vatican II.

Mass is at 8 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Church in Cleveland. It is a beautiful but austere church, with soaring ceilings and elegant statues that demand reverence. Immaculate Conception is referred to by those in the know as the MAC, which I like because it makes the church seem a lot less austere.

Fr. Bede breezes through Latin in a way that makes you think he can’t wait to head back home to watch today’s football games. Actually, he often moves on from the MAC to other churches as he is in high demand to say the Latin Mass.

Today, I’ve decided to not look at the missal and instead test how much of the Latin Mass I know. Short answer: I don’t know a lot. But I’m able to follow the general outline and understand what’s going on. This has taken me several years to accomplish. (Again, we’ll get to this whole Latin Mass thing later.)

When I do look at the missal, it’s toward the end of the Mass, after communion, and I catch a phrase that’s going to be my theme for 2019: “May this communion, O Lord, cleanse us from guilt.”

Yes! How to escape the Catholic guilt. You’re either not doing enough or doing too much, saying too little or saying the wrong thing. It’s enough to make you crazy, to be honest. Perhaps this Mass-a-day project will help to ease the guilt. Or perhaps it will encourage me to do the things I should do so that I don’t experience the guilt. Or maybe I’ll always have a twinge of guilt. Maybe it just comes with the Catholic territory.

At any rate, here’s to a successful New Year, odd-numbered as it may be.

May 7: Some Quiet Time

Today, I’m sitting in a perfectly empty cathedral. I got here after Mass was over, and I’m actually pretty happy. It’s just me and the saint statues, and so I’m getting in some private reflection.

I clearly have it better than poor Stephen, who in today’s first reading ticks off his opponents enough that they stone him to death. “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit,” he says to them, along with some other choice words.

Back at my computer, it’s time to visit dictionary.com. Stiff-necked: The first definition literally says, “having a stiff neck.” The protesters didn’t all sleep funny the night before; that can’t be what we’re looking for. The second definition hits the nail on the head: “haughty and obstinate.” There was a new way of looking at things, and they didn’t want to see it; they didn’t want to give up the old and try the new. But Stephen was really persistent and many saw him as blasphemous. That didn’t stop him from preaching the Gospel until his death. Feeling like you could use St. Stephen’s courage in your own life? Well, he is the patron saint of deacons, headaches, horses, coffin makers, and masons. If you have a horse or are experiencing a headache, Stephen is your man. But like all the saints, you are permitted to call on him to intervene anytime you want.

May 6: Monday, Sunny Monday

It is a beautiful sunny day in Cleveland, and the perfect time to get back to writing about the Mass. Today, I was at the Cathedral downtown, where there was a nice amount of people on hand. (Does sunshine coax more people out of their homes/offices and into church?)

Things are not so sunny for Stephen in today’s first reading. Stephen is preaching the word of Christ and speaking very eloquently, and the elders don’t like it. They bring their grievances to the Sanhedrin.


“This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law.
For we have heard him claim
that this Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place
and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”

Acts 6:8-15

Can we blame them for being upset? They had years and years of living their faith in a certain way, and then Jesus came along to say it was supposed to be different. And then they feel like they can relax because Jesus is no longer around, but then he’s got disciples coming out of the woodwork, talking about Christ and trying to convert people to Christianity.

Things don’t end well for Stephen. In fact, he is considered to be the first martyr of the Church. But it’s also said that Stephen was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he had to go out and talk about Jesus and Christianity. Can you imagine being that filled with the Holy Spirit? I have to ask myself, if I knew it was dangerous would I stand up and proclaim my faith or run as fast as my feet could carry me? I’d like to think the answer would be the former; luckily, I have yet to be put to the test.

Thursday, April 18: Crazy

We’re about halfway through the Latin Mass on Holy Thursday when it dawns on me: Jesus did some pretty out-there stuff. On Palm Sunday, he tells his disciples to go fetch him a donkey, then he rides it into town. This is to fulfill a prophesy, sure, but was anyone expecting it at that moment?

A few days later, during their Passover meal, Jesus just starts washing his disciples’ feet. Peter is rather appalled. Why in the world is the Lord washing my feet? Then, he does something even more cray-cray: He breaks the bread and calls it his body; he lifts the chalice of wine and calls it his blood.

At this point, the disciples are in a little too deep to just walk away. I wonder if any of them thought of it, though. “You know, Jesus over here is exhibiting some strange tendencies. I may have to cut out of this dinner early.” Everyone stays, though, including that scoundrel Judas, who’s about to turn in Jesus for some silver.

The point is, the disciples have followed Jesus all this time, and they’ve witnessed some unusual activity. Turning a loaf of bread and two fish into enough food to feed thousands of people, for example. By the end of the Passover with Jesus, they must think they’ve seen it all.

That is until days later, after he’s crucified, when he leaves the tomb and walks among them. Hold onto your hats, disciples!

Wed., April 17: Doggone It

On my way out of church today, a woman walked in with her dog. This was not a service dog; it was an every day energetic spaniel mix on a basic leash. The woman had obviously been on a walk with the dog — the blue poop bag in her left hand (which appeared to be empty at the moment) was a good clue — and decided to stop into the cathedral.

At first, I was going to do my sideways, middle-aged glance as a mild form of contempt. Throwing a bit of shade, as it were. Then I thought, so what? Who cares if this woman was out for a stroll with her dog and decided it would be great if they both went inside? Maybe the dog was sick and its owner wanted to say a quick healing prayer. Perhaps she had a sick relative or a pressing concern and this was the only time she could step inside the church to pray. Maybe she just felt like walking in with her dog because, why not?

I’m sure St. Francis had animals wandering in and out of his monastery. If you visited an ancient church in a faraway village, you might see a dog or a goat pad down the aisle. Why not in downtown Cleveland? Instead of looking askance, I gave the woman a smile. Peace be with you, and with your little dog, too.

Wed., March 10th: Good Deeds

There was a time, not all that long ago, when I would have been annoyed about having to put aside my own activity to help someone else. But recently I read a blog post on some Catholic site (unfortunately, I can’t remember which one) that encouraged readers to think of these disturbances as a chance to grow and to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Fast forward to this morning. Someone in the house forgot an important item needed later in the day, and I immediately volunteered to deliver it in the afternoon. As soon as I agreed to this deal, I realized that meant I couldn’t go to church today, and for a second, I was pretty annoyed (mostly with myself since I volunteered to deliver the item). Then, I remembered that blog post I had read, and I realized that delivering this item to a teenager who otherwise would have been stressed out counts as a type of church activity. It’s not just about listening to a homily and receiving communion — as significant as those might be. Using what you learn in the pew is the perfect complement to attending Mass. And so I happily delivered the item to the grateful child and drove back to work. Sounds so simple, but it didn’t feel that way to me.

From today’s Gospel: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Mon., April 8th: Oh, Susanna!

I believe I found the very first recorded instance of #metoo in today’s first reading.

In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim,
who married a very beautiful and God-fearing woman, Susanna,
the daughter of Hilkiah;
her pious parents had trained their daughter
according to the law of Moses.
Joakim was very rich;
he had a garden near his house,
and the Jews had recourse to him often
because he was the most respected of them all.

That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges,
of whom the Lord said, “Wickedness has come out of Babylon:
from the elders who were to govern the people as judges.”
These men, to whom all brought their cases,
frequented the house of Joakim.
When the people left at noon,
Susanna used to enter her husband’s garden for a walk.
When the old men saw her enter every day for her walk,
they began to lust for her.
They suppressed their consciences;
they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven,
and did not keep in mind just judgments.

One day, while they were waiting for the right moment,
she entered the garden as usual, with two maids only.
She decided to bathe, for the weather was warm.
Nobody else was there except the two elders,
who had hidden themselves and were watching her.
“Bring me oil and soap,” she said to the maids,
“and shut the garden doors while I bathe.”

As soon as the maids had left,
the two old men got up and hurried to her.
“Look,” they said, “the garden doors are shut, and no one can see us;
give in to our desire, and lie with us.
If you refuse, we will testify against you
that you dismissed your maids because a young man was here with you.”

I am completely trapped,” Susanna groaned.
“If I yield, it will be my death;
if I refuse, I cannot escape your power.
Yet it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt
than to sin before the Lord.”
Then Susanna shrieked, and the old men also shouted at her,
as one of them ran to open the garden doors.
When the people in the house heard the cries from the garden,
they rushed in by the side gate to see what had happened to her.
At the accusations by the old men,
the servants felt very much ashamed,
for never had any such thing been said about Susanna.

When the people came to her husband Joakim the next day,
the two wicked elders also came,
fully determined to put Susanna to death.
Before all the people they ordered:
“Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah,
the wife of Joakim.”
When she was sent for,
she came with her parents, children and all her relatives.
All her relatives and the onlookers were weeping.

In the midst of the people the two elders rose up
and laid their hands on her head.
Through tears she looked up to heaven,
for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly.
The elders made this accusation:
“As we were walking in the garden alone,
this woman entered with two girls
and shut the doors of the garden, dismissing the girls.
A young man, who was hidden there, came and lay with her.
When we, in a corner of the garden, saw this crime,
we ran toward them.
We saw them lying together,
but the man we could not hold, because he was stronger than we;
he opened the doors and ran off.
Then we seized her and asked who the young man was,
but she refused to tell us.
We testify to this.”
The assembly believed them,
since they were elders and judges of the people,
and they condemned her to death.

But Susanna cried aloud:
“O eternal God, you know what is hidden
and are aware of all things before they come to be:
you know that they have testified falsely against me. 
Here I am about to die,
though I have done none of the things
with which these wicked men have charged me.”

The Lord heard her prayer.
As she was being led to execution,
God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel,
and he cried aloud:
“I will have no part in the death of this woman.”
All the people turned and asked him, “What is this you are saying?”
He stood in their midst and continued,
“Are you such fools, O children of Israel! 
To condemn a woman of Israel without examination
and without clear evidence?
Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”

Then all the people returned in haste.
To Daniel the elders said,
“Come, sit with us and inform us,
since God has given you the prestige of old age.”
But he replied,
“Separate these two far from each other that I may examine them.”

After they were separated one from the other,
he called one of them and said:
“How you have grown evil with age!
Now have your past sins come to term:
passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent,
and freeing the guilty, although the Lord says,
‘The innocent and the just you shall not put to death.’
Now, then, if you were a witness,
tell me under what tree you saw them together.”
“Under a mastic tree,” he answered.
Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you your head,
for the angel of God shall receive the sentence from him
and split you in two.”
Putting him to one side, he ordered the other one to be brought.
Daniel said to him,
“Offspring of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you,
lust has subverted your conscience.
This is how you acted with the daughters of Israel,
and in their fear they yielded to you;
but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your wickedness.
Now, then, tell
me under what tree you surprised them together.”
“Under an oak,” he said.
Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you also your head,
for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two
so as to make an end of you both.”

The whole assembly cried aloud,
blessing God who saves those who hope in him.
They rose up against the two elders,
for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury.
According to the law of Moses,
they inflicted on them
the penalty they had plotted to impose on their neighbor:
they put them to death.
Thus was innocent blood spared that day.
— Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 

Tuesday, April 2: Name That Saint

Did you know there are nearly 11,000 saints in the Catholic Church? Neither did I. It seems to me that we hear about the same 30 or 40 saints over and over, and the other 10,960 or so go unnoticed.

For instance, today is the feast day of St. Francis of Paola. He lived in Italy in the 1400s, preferring the life of a hermit. By the time he was 20, he had followers who wanted to emulate his way of life. In the late 1400s, Francis founded a hermetic community that he called the Minims, or the least, because he wanted to be seen as the least among God’s people. Now there’s a guy with no ego.

Even though he liked solitude, Francis knew that God wanted him to help other people. He became an advocate for the poor, and he traveled to France to help Louis XI prepare for his death. Francis himself died while he was in France. Although Francis of Paola is not as well known as other saints, he seems to have lived a notable religious life.

While I was searching for information about the life of today’s saint, I read about the large number of saints recognized by the Church throughout the centuries. Some of their stories are something of a legend. Christopher and Valentine, for example, have a bit of fantasy around their life stories.

Then there are the saints who were more of local heroes. The most bizarre one I found was St. Guinefort, who apparently earned his sainthood because he saved his master’s child from a deadly snakebite. Guinefort was a dog living in rural France in the 13th century. I happen to believe that dogs were created to bring happiness to humans, but I’m not so sure they should reach the level of sainthood.

Modern-day saints have a relatable story, even if their faith seems light years beyond our own. One of the most intriguing saints of this century, in my opinion, is Gianna Molla. She was an Italian physician and mother who seemed to live a routine life based on faith. During her sixth pregnancy, Gianna was diagnosed with a tumor. She had the tumor removed, but she refused to lose the child. A week after giving birth to a healthy baby, Gianna died. Talk about putting the life of another above your own.

We can always learn something from a saint, even if it’s a dog. Be kind to others, put yourself last, take out a snake when you have to.

Monday, April 1: Who you callin’ fool, fool?

The first of April is one of those days that you either love or hate. When I was a kid, I loved it. I remember one time I woke up very early to spread bright blue toothpaste on the inside of our bathroom sink. Now that was funny. As I got older, I realized that some of the stuff I thought was hilarious was actually kind of dumb and immature. And then I was horrified to find that some adults still thought they were funny.

The truth is, I am terrified of looking like a fool, so I am especially careful not to try to fool anyone else. In other words, I am no fun when it comes to practical jokes.

The patron saint for today doesn’t seem like he messed around either. St. Hugh of Grenoble lived in the late 1000s and early 1100s. He served as a bishop in France for just two years before he got fed up and tried fading into a monastery. But the pope had other plans for him.

At the time, the Church was a bit of a mess. As Franciscan Media tells it, “Corruption seemed to loom in every direction: the buying and selling of Church offices, violations of clerical celibacy, lay control of Church property, religious indifference and/or ignorance.” Does any of this sound familiar?

The pope entrusted Hugh to fix up some of the problems. “Hugh was reasonably effective in the role of reformer—surely because of his devotion to the Church but also because of his strong character,” Franciscan Media notes. For his work, Hugh was canonized a saint just two years after his death in 1132.

Reading about St. Hugh, a couple of things come to mind. First of all, why aren’t we praying 24/7 to this guy? He appears to have lived through a time that, morally, was similar to ours, and he remained steadfast in his commitment to God. Second of all, why does the Church seem to get out of whack every so often? I know what you may be thinking: If a woman was running this outfit, we wouldn’t have so much trouble. That may very well be true. But the fact of the matter is that anyone who is running Christ’s church should be doing it honorably.

So what’s the answer? I don’t know. But maybe St. Hugh does.

March 29: That was fast.

Weeks go by slowly if you’re bored or doing something you don’t like. That’s why weeks go by slowly when you’re in school, unless you’re one of those overbearing kids who gleefully ran to school every morning.

Conversely, when you’re really enjoying something, time typically flies. I’m finding that the time I spend in church, especially during the week, goes by really fast. That’s noteworthy, since not all that long ago I spent a lot of my time in church thinking about what I was going to make for dinner that night or having a partial anxiety attack over all the things I hadn’t accomplished over the weekend.

My newfound joy in attending Mass may have something to do with going more often, or it could just be coincidence. Whatever the reason, I’m happy about it.

Here’s a good quote from today’s gospel reading to keep in mind heading into the weekend:

The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Mark 12:31

This is the second greatest commandment, according to Jesus, and it’s a good one to keep in mind, even if you’re not a believer. There’s nothing wrong with loving people, right? Happy Fri-yay!