He Knows: Turning to God for Understanding and Peace

The pain we experience on this earth is entirely unique. While situations such as the loss of a loved one affect everyone, each person experiences grief and pain in different ways. It’s common to feel as if no one knows how much pain you’re in, or the confusion and anger you may feel. You may imagine that you are completely alone in this world, with no one to turn to for understanding and peace. While these thoughts may be overwhelming, remember that God always knows. He knows every thought, every desire, and every feeling that flows through your mind. There isn’t a thing that goes unnoticed by God. We may not always feel His strong presence, but God is always working to make sure our lives go according to plan.

March 2019 Bereavement

God reaffirms His love and knowledge of us time and time again in scripture…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” – Romans 8:27-28

“Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” –Psalm 139:4-5

This holy message is also depicted in Jeremy Camp’s song: “He Knows.”

Camp’s moving song proves that everyone feels bogged down and isolated at times. It’s also a powerful reminder that God is not only constantly with us, but is also constantly aware of how we’re feeling and what we need in a given moment. Take a few minutes to listen to the song. Listen or read along to the lyrics. Think about the trials and struggles you are experiencing and remember that God knows you – and He is the only one that can provide you true peace and comfort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsccUg4TDd8

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Saint Jude Thaddeus: Giving Hope to the Hopeless

While the name, prayers, and intentions of Saint Jude are often discussed in pop culture, not much is known about this remarkable follower of Christ. As one of the twelve Apostles, Saint Jude is believed to be the brother of St. James the Less, who was also an Apostle. In fact, their mother Mary was cousins with the Blessed Virgin Mary, making the brothers related to Jesus Christ.

Saint Jude

With so many commonly-used names, it’s easy to confuse key biblical and historical figures. In fact, Saint Jude was often confused with Judas Iscariot, betrayer of our Lord, in the centuries following Christ’s death and resurrection. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that his name was fully distinguished from that of Judas Iscariot. However, Saint Jude’s association with hopeless and impossible causes was actually founded before then in the early 14th century, when both Saint Bridget of Sweden and Saint Bernard received visions from God asking them to appeal to Saint Jude as the patron of lost causes. Since then, Saint Jude is widely known for his patronage, with several hospitals, police forces, and nonprofits adopting his namesake. Most notable of these examples is the Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee.

Again, not much is known about Saint Jude’s life. However, he is mentioned in the Gospels several times in accordance with the other twelve Apostles. In fact, he is the one that voices a question over how Christ will return to His apostles after His death:

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” – John 14:22

After the resurrection of Christ, Jude was sent as a missionary to share the good news of Christ. He’s most well-known for his work in Armenia. While he is not the patron saint of the country, he is credited for first bringing Christianity to the region, along with fellow Apostle Saint Simon. The two apostles are often closely associated as they did much of their missionary work together, and were martyred together in Lebanon in 65CE.

Unlike many other saints, St. Jude doesn’t have many clear and documented miracles. Similarly, nothing we know about his life directly correlates to his patronage. In fact, the origin of Saint Jude’s patronage comes directly from scripture. In one of his letters in the New Testament, Jude encourages his readers to find hope in the most desperate and hopeless cases. He stresses that those who are faithful to God will always find hope and comfort in the most hopeless of situations.

In our own lives, we may often find ourselves in disparaging situations. However, a quick prayer to Saint Jude is sure to lift our spirits and eyes to the Lord for comfort and hope.

 

Prayer to St. Jude in Times of Suffering
Most holy Apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, I place myself into your hands at this difficult time.  Help me to know that I am not alone.  Please pray for me, asking God to send me comfort for my sorrows, bravery for my fears, and healing for my suffering.  Ask our loving God to strengthen my faith and give me the courage to accept His Will for my life. Thank you, St. Jude, for the hope you offer to all who believe in you.  Amen.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Stop and Smell the Roses: Three Simple and Nourishing Activities for the Bereaved

After losing a loved one, it’s common to feel disconnected and unattached to reality. Your life may appear to be blurry, as the sights, smells, and noises that were once so familiar now seem very foreign. Since losing a loved one is a traumatic and life changing experience, this type of emotional reaction is completely normal. Your world has shifted, so it makes sense that the way you interact with the world would also change.

However, as normal as these emotions may be, allowing yourself to sink fully into numbness can prevent you from having a healthy grief journey. It’s very important that you reconnect with your senses. Don’t just wander through each day, but embrace every part of it. Use your senses to ground yourself in reality. You’ll find that doing so can bring you great peace and comfort.

This type of lifestyle is easier said than done; however, there are some things you can do to help encourage the full appreciation and acknowledgement of your senses. Keep reading to learn more.

Stop to Smell the Roses - blog

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing has long been known as a soothing exercise. Something about feeling the air enter and escape your body in controlled breaths is a reminder that God is always surrounding you—literally giving you what you need to survive. Feeling your chest move up and down reconnects you with your body and proves how complex and intricate God designed you to be. Breathing also engages your sense of smell. Whether you’re breathing in the familiar scent of your home living room or taking in the fresh outdoor air, taking time to stop and actually notice the smells around you can help place you in a given location and envelope you in comfort and familiarity.

 

Finding Color

While grieving, the world can seem like it’s painted in black and white, both literally and figuratively. When you have a quiet moment, look around you and try to find five different colors. Doing so can remind you of the variety and excitement God has granted you here on earth. Maybe it’s the green leaves on the tree in your front yard, or the deep brown oak of the door in your bedroom. Whatever the case, finding different and exciting colors around you is not only a fun and interesting exercise, but a nurturing way to tap into your sense of sight.

 

Taking Pauses

The best way to truly connect with your senses and reconnect with Christ is to simply take time to pause. When you see something beautiful, stop what you’re doing and really experience it. God gives us precious moments—don’t ignore them! It might be a beautiful morning sunset, the smell of your favorite homemade meal, or the sound of rain against your bedroom window at night. These moments will vary person to person, day to day. It’s up to each and every one of us to find these soft and gentle messages from God and spend time in His presence.

While these are just three simple activities, there are countless ways to fully experience life and live through your senses. Find something that works for you. Find something that can serve as a reminder of God’s presence and love. While there may be trials and times of sorrow in our lives, God is always asking us to stop for a moment, acknowledge His presence, and smell the roses.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Saint Josephine Bakhita: Trusting in God’s Unpredictable Path

Many saints are known for their harrowing and unbelievable stories. For many, converting to Christianity and finding Christ was not a straight and narrow path. Rather, the road to sainthood and Christ is often paved with complexity, ambiguity, and challenges. For Josephine Bakhita, this path was also paved with great personal suffering. While not often discussed, St. Josephine’s story is truly inspiring. When one learns about her life prior to Christ and the atrocities committed against her, it would be understandable to assume she never would put faith in God. However, just the opposite is true. Keep reading to learn more about this holy woman and her unconventional path to Christ.

saint josephine

Josephine was born in 1869 in Sudan. Her uncle was the chief of the Daju tribe, placing Josephine and her family in a very comfortable position. That being said, Josephine had a very happy childhood at the start. However, at the young age of eight, Josephine was kidnapped by local slave traders. Taken from the comfort and love of her family, Josephine was forced to walk hundreds of miles to various slave trade markets. This marked the beginning of the 12 year period she would be a slave.

During this time, she was traded to dozens of families. Because of her rapid transfers, it’s been said that Josephine forgot her actual name. While some of her owners were kinder than others, Josephine suffered through several awful households.

One owner was especially cruel. He was a Turkish general who bought Josephine to be a maid for his wife. This mistress made it her intention to hurt Josephine in as many ways as possible. The mistress would trace patterns on Josephine’s back, then carve into these patterns with a knife, rubbing in salt soon after to ensure the carvings scarred. In her writings, Josephine states that as soon as one wound healed, they would open another one. In the end, Josephine accumulated over 113 scars from this household. Just when Josephine believed she couldn’t bear any more suffering, she was traded to a kinder owner. The year was now 1883, and Josephine traveled with her new owner across the Red Sea to Italy. This owner did not beat her. In fact, when the owner (an Italian consulate) had business in Sudan, instead of bringing Josephine with him for the rough journey, he placed her in the care of the Canossian Sisters of Venice.

During her time with the sisters, Josephine learned more about God. While she had heard of God and His creation of the Universe before, she had no personal or intimate relationship with Him. As she began to learn more and more, she developed a deep love for Christ. This led to her ultimate discernment of religious life. There was, however, a problem. When Josephine’s master returned, he still claimed ownership of her, and demanded that she leave the convent and return home to work. She resisted these demands, and with the help of the sisters was able to file a formal case against him. As it turned out, slavery was illegal in Sudan at the time of Josephine’s kidnapping. Therefore, Josephine was a free woman.

Josephine stayed with the sisters. She was baptized on January 9, 1890 with the name Josephine Margaret Fortunata. Fortunata is the Latin version of her birth name Bakhita. She became a Novice with the Canossian Daughters of Charity in 1893 and she took her final vows in 1896. She stayed with the sisters throughout the rest of her life, helping as a cook and doorkeeper within the convent. She also traveled and prepared other convents for missionary work in Africa.

Josephine was known for her very kind and gentle nature. Even after enduring a life filled with such hardship and great physical and emotional anguish, she found the courage to publicly thank her kidnappers for ultimately bringing her to Christ. While there are few documented miracles attributed to Josephine, the Italian village of Schio claims to have been under her protection during World War II. While the village was severely bombed, not a single person died.

Toward the end of her life, Josephine was confined to a wheel chair. Despite this hindrance, she still maintained her joyful demeanor, simply saying her life was “as the heavenly Master desires.” She would pass away on February 8, 1947. In 1992 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II and she was canonized in 2000, also by Pope John Paul II.

Josephine’s story truly highlights that the road to Christ is often filled with trials and sorrows. Sometimes in order to grow closer to Him, we must understand to some extent the pain and suffering He endured on the cross. It is also by living through this pain and finding Christ in spite of it that we can truly appreciate the gifts and blessings He bestows on us all. If you find yourself struggling with sorrow in your life, say a quick prayer to Saint Josephine. As someone who endured such suffering, she may offer help, guidance, and comfort during our most difficult times here on earth.

Information gathered from: https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=7339 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Grief’s Gentle Journey: One Foot in Front of the Other

After losing a loved one, grief may feel like something that needs to be conquered or overcome. However, grief is not an obstacle– it’s a journey that we embark on with the company of our Heavenly Father. Just like any journey, while grieving you will experience ups and downs, trials and successes. God offers us all the strength and guidance to continue moving forward—especially in times when it seems most difficult.

While grief is specific to everyone, here are some suggestions to progress forward in a healthy way. Keep reading to learn more.

Griefs Gentle Journey (Jan 19 Bereavement)

Have a growth-mindset

Losing a loved one can make the whole world seem finite and fixed. You may feel like your fate is set and that you will never feel truly happy again. Instead of diving deeper into this fixed perception—try to have a growth mindset. Grief is an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. You will not always feel hopeless and downtrodden. Rather, if you focus on small improvements and constant progress, you will find yourself more accepting and open to what God has planned for you in your life. God has lessons in store for us in each step of our grief. Try to learn as much as you can, and don’t rush through your feelings. Rushing means you are missing valuable lessons. Pace is not important for grief.

Celebrate small successes

Grief is an experience completely specialized to the individual and the situation. The way you and other members of your family mourn the loss of a loved one will be different. Similarly, the way you grieve will depend on your relationship with your departed loved one. The way you mourn for a parent will be different than how you mourn for a spouse or sibling. Therefore, you should never measure your grief progress to that of others or even your past self. Instead, you should focus on small successes and steps toward improvement for you personally. For some people, these steps can be as small as going outside for a few extra minutes each day. For others, steps can be as large as visiting your loved one’s grave for the first time. Whatever the case, find some steps you can personally take and celebrate yourself for these small improvements.

Spend time in prayer

The best step anyone can take in progressing along their grief journey is spending extra time in prayer. This prayer doesn’t need to be traditional prayer either. It can be starting a prayer journal or reading a devotional book. While these are just a couple of examples, find a form of prayer that works for you. Keeping close to God during your most difficult times will help you stay on track. Communicating with Him and listening to His gentle voice during prayer can help direct you to your next step and offer you comfort and peace throughout the journey. By truly listening to God and communicating with Him on a daily basis, you may come to better understand how your grief can lead you closer to Him and His eternal salvation. While hard to comprehend at times, death is part of God’s master plan.

Are you interested in joining a grief support group? Available at a variety of cemetery locations, our support groups meet once a month. Please come and join a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences, helping each other through prayer, shared stories, and grief recovery discussions. Click here to learn more.

Post written by Katie Karpinski