Becoming a Sunday Crybaby: How I rediscovered the beauty of Mass

by Valerie Schultz – Valerie Schultz is a freelance writer, a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and the author of Closer: Musings on Intimacy, Marriage, and God. She and her husband Randy have four daughters.


Sunday Mass is in my DNA. This was not always a given. For a brief time, mostly during my high school and undergrad years, I did not go to Mass. I rebelled. I flirted with atheism. What I saw in the church was at worst hypocrisy, at best rote boredom. After I got my driver’s license, I would leave the house with my younger sister on Sunday mornings. My mother thought I was taking her to Mass. We usually went to the park instead, only stopping by the church to snag a bulletin as evidence.

Before I flew to Europe to spend a college semester in Rome, my mother made me go to confession, in case the plane crashed. With the brashness of youth, I told the priest that I was there under duress, and that I could not think of anything I wanted to share with him. He was wise enough to have a conversation with me about the gift of travel rather than try to convert me.

A semester in Europe with a Eurail pass meant that I immersed myself in history. I visited churches and chapels and cathedrals. I walked through the piazza in front of the Vatican almost daily. I marveled at the Sistine Chapel. I took a tour of Chartres. I went to an organ recital in Notre Dame. But I never once, in the midst of all that Catholicism, went to Mass. I regret that now, of course. At the time, I thought it was not for me.

Mass found me in my senior year of college at a Catholic university, and I have been going back ever since. I finally got it: the ritual, the communal celebration, the Eucharist, the palpable presence of God. I have not always been purely concentrated on worship; while my children were growing up, I often was more concerned that they behave in church than I was in tune with the Mass. I was a Director of Religious Education at a parish for eight years and often had to orchestrate the participation of students in children or youth Masses. I loved Mass, but it was part of my job. I was a go-to person in church, always busy, never still.

Now, however, I usually go to Mass alone. I am anonymous in many different parishes, as there is not one I call home. I usually sit in a pew that I think of as “All the Single Ladies,” as we seek each other out and make room for each other without exchanging a word. I think we spot each other by the secret signal of fanning ourselves with the bulletin, even in cold weather.

Each Sunday, I usually find myself in tears at some point before the final blessing. You might say it’s hormonal. Or the deep, satisfying breath that is only taken when one is at rest in a pew, where there is time to think, to reflect, to slow down, to let go. Or the reverence that Mass instills in me. Maybe it is all of the above. But there is something every Sunday that so deeply touches my nomadic Catholic soul that my eyes fill with tears. Sometimes I choke up. It may be a choir that is so full of joy that their music makes me cry. It may be the incense rising in a holy cloud as we in the pews are blessed. It may be an Irish hymn that reminds me of my mother, who died this year. It may be a family of hopeful faces, whose three young children are baptized during the Mass. Or last week: A little boy who had lost his father that very week led us in the “Our Father,” his voice sweet and clear. How could these things not make me cry?

I imagine I look like the odd old bird, sniffling during the homily, blowing her nose at the offertory or turning a tear-stained beak to wish a stranger peace. It’s fine. I am a Sunday crybaby, the lady my own children would have felt sorry for, the crone who must have experienced some terrible sadness to make her weep so openly. But I am not usually sad. I am just moved to witness the Spirit so alive and so well. I am an open heart, so grateful to be so loved by God. I might have come in wounded, but during Mass I am healed and made whole by the risen Jesus, who accepts me as I am and sends me back out there for the week.

And I am not alone in being a Sunday crybaby. A few months ago, I went to Mass with my brother-in-law. The Communion song was “Be Not Afraid,” and as usual, I had to stop singing at the point when the song overwhelmed me and I could no longer get out the words. Then I noticed: he had stopped singing. There was a tear on his cheek, too. “That song gets me,” he said, a bit embarrassed. I just smiled. I know, brother. I know.


Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later the day before Holy Thursday. The purpose of this special time is for the faithful through prayer, doing penance, almsgiving and atonement to be more closely united to Christ Jesus. This time is observed in Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic churches.

Lent is highlighted in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of reconciliation. Many adherents also add a Lenten spiritual discipline, such a reading a daily devotional or praying through a Lenten calendar, to draw themselves closer to the presence of God.

some humor

The Stations of the Cross, a devotional commemoration of Christ’s carrying the cross and of his execution, are often observed. Many Catholic and some other Christian communities remove flowers from their altars and other elaborate symbols are likewise removed.

Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days to mark the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, as recorded in the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, before beginning his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan – the prince of darkness and evil.

San Damiano Cross

Copy now in the original position inside the Church of San Damiano

The San Damiano Cross is the large Romanesque rood cross before which St. Francis of Assisi was praying when he is said to have received the commission from the Lord to rebuild the Church. It now hangs in the Basilica of Saint Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara) in Assisi, Italy, with a replica in its original position in the church of San Damiano nearby. Franciscans cherish this cross as the symbol of their mission from God. The cross is a crucifix of a type sometimes called an icon cross because in addition to the main figure of the Christ, it contains images of other saints and people related to the incident of Christ’s crucifixion. The tradition of such painted crucifixes began in the Eastern Church and possibly reached Italy via Montenegro and Croatia.

The San Damiano Cross was one of a number of crosses painted with similar figures during the 12th century in Umbria. The name of the painter is unknown, but it was made around the year 1100. The purpose of an icon cross was to teach the meaning of the event depicted and thereby strengthen the faith of the people. The Byzantine style was common in Italy before Cimabue and Giotto.

When the Poor Clares moved from San Damiano to the Basilica of Santa Chiara in 1257, they took the original San Damiano Cross with them and still guard it with great solicitude. It now hangs in the Basilica over the altar of the Chapel of the Crucifix – a reconstruction of the Church of Saint George, which was torn down to build the Basilica. The crucifix hanging over the altar of the ancient church of San Damiano is a copy. All Franciscans cherish this cross as the symbol of their mission from God to commit our lives and resources to renew and rebuild the Church through the power of Christ.


The San Damiano Cross

Jesus Christ is represented upright in full stature while the surrounding figures are smaller. The bright white of his body contrasts with the dark red and black around it and accentuates the prominence of Jesus. This representation contrasts with the regal Christ portrayed on the cross in earlier centuries and the suffering, dying, crucified Christ depicted generally throughout the Church since the beginning of the 14th century. Above the head of Christ is the inscription in Latin: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

The next largest figures are five witnesses of the crucifixion. On the left side are the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist. On the right side are Mary Magdalene, Mary, Mother of James, and the centurion who in Matthew’s Gospel account asks Christ to heal his servant, who is also depicted on the cross on the shoulder of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13). Both Mary and Mary Magdalene have their hands placed on their cheeks to reflect extreme grief and anguish. The first four witnesses are saints and are therefore represented with halos. Their names are written beneath their pictures.

Two smaller figures are located in the corners with the witnesses. On the lower left is Longinus the traditional name of the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus with a lance. He is represented here as holding the lance and looking up at Jesus. The blood running down the right arm of Jesus begins at the elbow and drips straight down and will land on the upturned face of Longinus. In the lower right is Stephaton, the traditional name for the soldier who offered Jesus the sponge soaked in vinegar wine.

Peering over the left shoulder of the centurion is a small face. A close look reveals the tops of the heads of three others beside him. This represents the centurion’s son who was healed by Jesus and the rest of his family to show that “he and his whole household believed” (John 4:45-54).

Six angels are represented as marvelling over the event of the crucifixion. They are positioned at both ends of the crossbar. Their hand gestures indicate they are discussing this wondrous event of the death and calling us to marvel with them.

At the foot of the cross there is a damaged picture of six figures, two of whom are represented with halos. In accordance with the traditions of the day, these six are the patrons of Umbria: St. Damian, St. Michael, St. Rufino, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul. On the top of the cross, one sees Jesus now fully clothed in his regal garments and carrying the cross as a triumphant sceptre. He is climbing out of the tomb and into the heavenly courts. Ten angels are crowded around, five of whom have their hands extended in a welcoming gesture to Jesus, who himself has his hand raised in the form of a greeting,

At the very top of the cross is the Hand of God with two fingers extended. This is to be understood as the blessing of God the Father on the sacrifice of his Son. On the right side of the picture next to the left calf of Jesus, there is a small figure of a fowl. Some art historians have interpreted it to be a rooster, representing the sign of Jesus’ denial by Peter, mentioned in all four Gospel accounts. Other commentators see it as a peacock, a frequent symbol of immortality in Early Christian art. Along the lower right side of the shaft, there is a small animal, possibly a cat.

Meaning of the Tau cross

What is the meaning of the Tau cross, so loved by St. Francis?

At least once in your life you’ll be asked about the meaning of the cross, usually made of wood, which is shaped like a “T” and is often worn by Franciscan friars. With the help of the portal, St. Francis Patron of Italy, we sought to understand the meaning of the Tau.

Ancient Origin

Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and was used symbolically in the Old Testament. It was already spoken of in the Book of Ezekiel: “The Lord said to him, ‘Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over the abominations… (Ez. 9:4). The Tau is the sign placed upon the foreheads of the poor of Israel, it saves them from extermination.

It was then adopted by the very first Christians, for a twofold reason:

    As the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it prophesied the Last Day and had the same function as the Greek letter Omega as it appears in the Book of Revelation: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water without price from the fountain of the water of life … I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 21:6;22:13).
    The Christians adopted the Tau, because its form reminded them of the Cross on which Christ was immolated for the salvation of the world.

What it is not

The Tau is not a magic amulet.
It is not a fetish, much less a trinket.
Nor is it a charm that is hung only because it “brings good luck.”

What is it a sign of?

It is a concrete sign of Christian devotion, but above all it is a sign of the commitment of one’s life to following the poor and crucified Christ.
It is a sign of the awareness of a Christian, i.e. of a child of God, a child who has escaped danger, of one who has been redeemed and saved. It is a sign of powerful protection against evil (Ez.9,6).
It is a sign willed by God for me, it is a divine privilege (Rev.9:4; Rev.7:1-4; Rev.14:1).
It is the sign of the Lord’s redeemed, of the unblemished, of those who trust Him, of those who see themselves as beloved children and who know that they are precious to God (Ez.9:6).
It is a symbol of the dignity of the children of God, for it is the Cross that held Christ.
It is a sign that reminds me that I too must be strong in time of trial, ready to obey the Father, and docile in submission, as Jesus was docile before the Father’s will.

“Look at the crucifix and it will teach you everything…”

St. Francis and the cross
Because of the Tau’s resemblance to the cross, this sign was very dear to St. Francis of Assisi, so much so that it occupied an important place in his life as well as his gestures. In him the ancient prophetic sign was actualized, regained its saving power and expressed the beatitude of poverty, which is an essential element of the Franciscan way of life.
“Whenever necessity or charity required, St. Francis marked with this seal the letters he sent” (FF 980); “He began all of his actions with it” (FF 1347). The Tau was therefore the sign dearest to Francis, his seal, the telltale sign of a deep spiritual conviction that the salvation of every man is only in the Cross of Christ.
Thus the Tau, which is backed by a solid biblical and Christian tradition, was received by St. Francis for its spiritual value. The Saint of Assisi took hold of this sign in a manner so complete and intense that, at the end of his life and through the stigmata impressed in his flesh he became the living image of the Tau that he had so often contemplated, drawn, and especially loved.

Why wood?

Wood is a very poor and flexible material, and the children of God are called to live simply and in poverty of spirit (Mt.5:3). Wood is a material that is easily crafted, and the baptized Christian too must be shaped in everyday life by the Word of God, in order to be a herald of the Gospel.

Some history of CACINA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Bishop Stephen M. Corradi-Scarella brought the Catholic Apostolic Church to the United States in 1949, establishing the first diocese of what would later become both CACINA and the Western Orthodox Church in America (WOCA) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bishop Corradi-Scarella fell asleep in the Lord November 13, 1979.

During the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s the Church that is today CACINA underwent several adjustments in identity. Communication with the Brazilian Church was lost and the Church variously identified itself with the Old Catholic movement and Independent Orthodoxy. Communication was restored with Brazil in the 1970’s. In the 1980’s a dispute developed within the Catholic Apostolic Church over whether to return to Western Latin Rite theology or retain an Orthodox approach. As a result, two bodies were formed, CACINA, following Latin Rite theology, and the Western Orthodox Church in America (WOCA) following a westernized Orthodox theology. The separation was amicable and cordial relations are retained today. WOCA and CACINA are children of common fathers-in-faith (Duarte-Costa and Corradi-Scarella). The clergy and people of WOCA are our special brothers and sisters in Christ and are held by CACINA in the highest esteem and fraternal affection.

Bishop Francis Jerome Joachim Ladd became the second Primate of CACINA, succeeding Bishop Corradi-Scarella to that title. Upon retiring he resigned as primate, and relocated to Mexico. There he worked with our sister Church, the Catholic Apostolic Church of Mexico, until he fell asleep in the Lord November 5, 1997.

Bishops Justo Gonzalez and Donald Buttenbusch both held the office of Primate of CACINA, becoming the third and fourth Primates respectively. Both are still living but have left active ministry within CACINA.

Presiding Bishop Ronald

In a note of some interest, Bishop Salmeo Ferraz, a former Roman Catholic Priest whom Bishop Duarte-Costa consecrated a bishop of ICAB in 1945, eventually returned to Roman Catholic obedience under John PP XXIII. Though married, Bishop Ferraz was made Coadjutor Bishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil for the Roman Catholic Church, attended the Second Vatican Council, and addressed the Council during its sessions. He was never reconsecrated by Rome, even conditionally, and is buried with full honors as a bishop of the Roman Church. By accepting Bishop Ferraz back into the Roman Church without re-consecration, the Roman Catholic Church affirmed, de facto, the Sacramental validity of Catholic Apostolic Orders.

CACINA participates in sub-conditione consecrations of its bishops for only one reason: when there is a doubt as to the validity or regularity of the original consecration of a bishop seeking incardination into CACINA.

CACINA does provide consecration, ad cautelam (as a precaution), so as to pass the Duarte-Costa succession to otherwise validly consecrated bishops being incardinated into CACINA who may not possess it. In this latter case, the purpose is to assure a consistent lineage, for the future of CACINA, through a single source: Duarte-Costa.

Bishop Carlos Duarte

Saint Charles of Brazil (Bishop Carlos Duarte-Costa, 1888-1961) was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest on April 1, 1911. He was consecrated to be the Roman Catholic Diocesan Bishop of Botucatu, Brazil, on December 8, 1924, and served in that office until certain views he expressed about treatment of Brazil’s poor, by both the civil government and the Roman Catholic Church in Brazil, caused his removal from the Diocese of Botucatu. Bishop Duarte-Costa was subsequently named Titular Bishop of Maura by the late Bishop of Rome, Pius PP XII.

duarte costaBishop Duarte-Costa’s criticisms of the fascist regime and oligarchy of Brazil in the 1930’s and 1940’s earned him repeated troubles and prison. In 1944 he was imprisoned by the dictator and remained there until pressure from President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others caused his release. Of interest is the apparent lack of active protest against this unjust imprisonment by either the Vatican or the other bishops of Brazil.

Bishop Duarte-Costa’s criticisms of the Vatican, particularly about Vatican foreign policy during and following World War II toward Nazi Germany, were not well received at the Vatican, and he was eventually separated from the Roman Church by Pius PP XII. This action was taken only after his public denunciations that the Vatican Secretariat of State was issuing Vatican Passports to some high ranking former Nazi officials, who were then fleeing to South America, from the Allies.

Bishop Duarte-Costa was a strong advocate in the 1930’s for reform of the Roman Church; espousing many of the key positions that the Second Vatican Council would, thirty-five years later, enact. His positions included a more pastoral approach to divorce, challenged mandatory celibacy for the clergy, and rejected abuses of papal power, including the concept of Papal Infallibility, which the Bishop considered a misguided and false dogma.

Bishop Duarte-Costa was involuntarily separated from the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church on July 6, 1945. This schism was, it should be noted, an act by the Roman Pontiff and was not initiated by Bishop Duarte-Costa. Duarte-Costa immediately established the independent Igreja Catolica Apostolica Brasileira (ICAB) on that same date which he led until his death in 1961.

After its founding, ICAB attracted inquiries from other Catholic communities who, while wishing to retain the Catholic faith, felt that the governance of the Roman Catholic Church had failed to address the modern world and was not meeting their needs. Bishop Duarte-Costa worked to establish groups in various countries. According to the ancient practice of the early Church, and still in practice today by Eastern Orthodox communions, such Catholic Apostolic Churches exist in their countries as autonomous and independent Particular Churches. In addition to ICAB in Brazil, there are sister apostolic branches in several other countries in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, the Pacific and in Asia. While bound by common origin from Bishop Duarte-Costa’s apostolic line, each National Catholic Apostolic Church is completely independent and self governing. Each revealing a unique national identity or charism.

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA) has been, since its founding, and remains today, such an independent National Catholic Apostolic Church in the United States and Canada. CACINA is honored to share this heritage with this family of Christians. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ whom we love and honor as children of a common Father in heaven and father on earth: St. Charles of Brazil.

From such a history one could reasonably believe that there was/is great animosity toward the Roman Catholic Church felt by both Bishop Duarte-Costa and his spiritual children. Nothing could be further from the truth. The events recorded here are history. They happened and they caused much suffering. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church, ancient of days, is one of the foundation stones of the Christian Faith. To hold animosity toward her, her leaders, or her people would be to hold such feelings for Christ, for we are all one in Him.

The Bishop of Rome (i.e., the Pope) occupies a unique position in the Christian world. He can be a voice for peace among peoples, a teacher, a defender of the right and promoter of justice, and a leader. It is to this role that Christ called St. Peter. He did not call Peter to be a monarch, or a head of state, but, like Jesus Himself, to be a servant. That the Church of Rome contributed to the persecution of St. Charles, and later ICAB, is reprehensible and, yet cannot be forever a source of discord.

As with all our Christian brothers and sisters, CACINA, holds the Bishop of Rome, currently Franciscus, and all the People of God of the Roman Catholic Church in deep fraternal affection and respect. In this we obey our Master who taught us, “By this shall all people know you are my disciples, when you love one another as I have loved you…”

Meet our bishop

Meet our bishop

Bishop Ronald Stephens visited our Parish on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th of January

Bishop Ronald

Bishop Ronald Stephens

Bishop Ron Stephens was ordained late in life after a busy career of raising a family, teaching, administrating schools, directing plays and being involved in parish work. Originally from Windsor, Ontario, he has been a United States since 2000. He belongs to the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America with active parishes predominately on the east coast of the United States. After ordination he was appointed pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Warrenton, VA. In the United States he has taught and administered at all levels from Grade 1 to University, and continues to teach on a modified schedule. Since none of these clergy are paid, they all need to have incomes from some other source - an idea of Bishop Carlos Duarte-Costa, the founder, who felt that his priests should be closer to the people and leading lives similar to theirs - meaning that they have day jobs to support themselves. Other differences can be found on the CACINA website.


Bishop Stephens

In 2013 Fr. Ron became Bishop Ron and is now the auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese. His love of teaching inspires what he tries to do in his weekly homilies, many of which he has shared with other priests and lay persons around the globe, and has received excellent feedback. The idea for a series of books - one for each of the Cycles of the Church Year - has become a reality with the first volume of Teaching the Sundays, Year A. He is presently at work on the other two volumes.

Books by Bishop Ron

RONALD WILBERT STEPHENS was consecrated Bishop in the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America on September 14, 2013 at the Saviour Lutheran Church in Warrenton, Virginia by Anthony Francis Santore, Diocesan Bishop, Diocese of the Holy Trinity and Presiding Bishop of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America assisted by Carl Gregory Purvensas-Smith, Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of the Holy Trinity of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America and Willard Earl Schultz, Presiding Bishop Emeritus of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America.

Link to the web site of CACINA

Pot luck

We had again a very nice and very good pot luck. We also celebrated our Magician Rob's birthday
The hall was filled to the last seat and it was very nice that a parishioner came down from Clearwater.

Interfaith Service

"United in Prayer, Faith and Love"

Thank you to the United Church of Christ Fort Lauderdale for hosting this Service 

The Theme was this year "Love can build Bridges"















Saturday service

Every Saturday at Parish of Sts. Francis and Clare there is a service at five pm. Today there were two occasions to celebrate - seven years at the location and Father Joe's ordination 35 years ago.
















Franciscans at Humane Society

We had a great day blessing the animals at the Humane Society of Broward County !