holy ground

Walking On Holy Ground

For the third Sunday of Lent, the first reading proclaims the story of Moses encountering God in the burning bush. At first, Moses can’t make sense of what he’s seeing: a bush on fire but not being consumed by the flames. As he approaches, the voice of God cries out, and tells Moses to remove his sandals, for he is on holy ground.

Holy ground. A sacred place. The place where God is. Have you encountered that?

Every time we walk into a Catholic church, we are on holy ground. It is holy for one reason and one only: God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – resides there.

At every Mass, every day, around the world, Jesus is present in the Eucharist: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He is just as present at Mass as He is in Heaven. (Don’t try to wrap your head around that; it’s a mystery.) And since – in most churches – Jesus’ Body is kept in reserve in the tabernacle, Jesus is always there.

2,000 years ago, Jesus walked among the Jewish people. He taught and preached. He worked alongside his foster father, Joseph. He laughed and wept with his friends. He suffered and died. He conquered death. And every time we enter the doors of a Catholic church, Jesus is just as present there as He was on earth, 2.000 years ago. We truly are on holy ground.

That means we need to take care of how we enter, occupy and take leave of a Catholic church. When we enter, we bless ourselves with holy water and the sign of the cross. This reminds us of our baptism. We approach the altar with reverence, and genuflect towards the tabernacle (that is where Christ’s Body resides.) If the tabernacle is in a separate chapel, then we express our reverence by bowing towards the altar itself. We do the same when we leave. In between, we are reverent, respectful of God’s presence.

As we continue through the season of Lent, let us resolve to be mindful of the sacredness of our parish church, however humble or grand that building might be. It is holy ground.


practical pilgrimage

A Practical Pilgrimage

Let’s face it: most of us are not going to be able to jet off to Lourdes or Fatima this Lent, if ever. While our hearts might yearn for a pilgrimage to a well-known place, our wallets are thinking groceries and car payments. So where does that leave us?

I suggest a practical pilgrimage. What do I mean by that? The main reason for going on a pilgrimage is to seek the holy, to grow closer to Christ by encountering Him in a new way. But a pilgrimage also means a journey – you have to move through time and space. That movement is important: it gives us time to process, to slow down, to notice, to contemplate.

Back to the idea of a practical pilgrimage. This is a great thing to involve the family, but you could also invite a friend or head out on your own. Choose a church near you that you’ve never been to, maybe one that has some historical significance or really great architecture. Try to attend Mass there. This is also a great way to introduce kids to the idea of the universal church. (If Mass isn’t an option, just spend some time in reflection. You might also check on confession times if Mass is not possible.)

Take a few minutes to quietly walk around the church’s interior. Maybe you can pray the Stations of the Cross. If the church is named after a saint, take a few minutes to pray for his or her intercession (and if it’s a saint you are not familiar with, learn about that person. Make a new friend!)

When you’re planning your church visit, look for a nearby park. Pack a picnic lunch and put away your cell phones and tablets. Spend time enjoying God’s creation and the companionship of the people you’re with. Take time to talk about the things, events and people that prompted you to think about “holiness” (maybe it was a particular hymn during Mass or flowers in the park.)

And if getting out of the house isn’t an option for whatever reason, make a Virtual Pilgrimage. Here are some beautiful virtual tours of churches and shrines around the world.

A pilgrimage does not have to be a far-flung journey. If we do a little praying and planning, we can find God quite close to us … and isn’t that the whole point of a pilgrimage?

Go, you are sent

Go, You Are Sent!


In 2015, Pope Francis issued his Lenten message: “make your hearts firm!” One of his insights was that every Christian community is a missionary community. We cannot isolate ourselves; it is our Christian duty to go out and evangelize.

The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people.

Her mission is to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father. Her mission is to bring to all a love which cannot remain silent. The Church follows Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). In each of our neighbours, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.

At the end of every Mass, we are sent forth to carry God’s presence into the world. In fact, the word “Mass” comes from the Latin, ite, missa est: Go, you are sent, which is part of the concluding rite of the Mass.

Does this mean we are supposed to go knock on doors and ask people, “Do you know Jesus?” Are we meant to stand in a public park and proclaim the Gospel? Just what does it mean that we are “sent?” Where are we supposed to go, exactly?

For most of us, we are “sent” to places that are familiar to us: to our families, our everyday chores and errands, our work place and school, into our relationships with others.

This journey that we undertake every week when we are “sent” means that we are to bring Christ into our life – even in the most mundane of ways. How do you treat that cashier with the bad attitude? What do you say and do when you encounter a young mother struggling with an unruly toddler as you push your cart through the grocery store? When that one co-worker gets under your skin again, how do you act charitably when you really want to lash out? At the family dinner table, how do you draw out your sullen teen without being argumentative?

Pope Francis reminds us that we each possess a gift, and we must bring our gift to everyone (yes, EVERYone!) we encounter on our daily journey. Perhaps you are a good listener. Maybe your gift is to teach and explain the faith. It might be that your gift is to bring kindness into a cruel and hurtful situation.

As you journey through your week, ask yourself, “How am I bringing Christ into my world?” And then: go!