Saint Benedict the Moor: Patron Saint of African Americans

One of the greatest elements of the Catholic faith is its ability to reach so many people from so many walks of life. The Catholic faith has been spread throughout the world, with Christ’s message being shared in hundreds of countries both near and far. The Church welcomes everyone no matter their race, ethnicity, or nationality. In fact, the Church celebrates these differences! Saint Benedict the Moor is a perfect example of how the Catholic Church is an all-encompassing family. Born to two African slaves, St. Benedict embraced the Catholic church and became one of the Church’s finest teachers. Keep reading to learn more about this remarkable saint!

 

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St. Benedict was born in 1526 in Italy. His parents, Cristoforo and Diana Manasseri were two African slaves that were brought to Italy (exact location is not known, but most likely near Sicily) and given new Italian names. After arriving in Italy, St. Benedict’s parents both converted to Catholicism and had their son, Benedict. Due to his parents’ “loyal service” St. Benedict was born free from slavery, but this didn’t mean his life was easy. Being a peasant, St. Benedict did not attend school, and instead spent his time working as a shepherd in his youth. Much of what he earned he gave to the poor. As he grew older, St. Benedict began to face some persecution for the color of his skin. Instead of becoming angry or upset, St. Benedict was known for being patient and dignified when these instances occurred. In fact, this humble response led to the leader of Monte Pellegrino, a group of hermits that followed the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, to reach out to St. Benedict to ask if he’d join the order. St. Benedict accepted, leaving behind all of his earthly possessions and joining the order as a cook. When he was only 28 years old, Benedict became the leader of the order, due to his superior knowledge of scripture and his leadership skills.

In 1564 Pope Pius IV decreed that all independent religious groups must be affiliated with a religious order. After this decree, Benedict joined the Order of Friars Minor where he was assigned to the Franciscan Friary of St. Mary Jesus, where he again started as a cook. Over the years St. Benedict increased his rank, advancing to Master of Novices to eventually becoming Guardian of the Community, one of the major leadership roles. This was quite an accomplishment for St. Benedict, who remained to be a layperson due to his inability to read. (At the time, it was required that priests and religious figures be able to read and write). During his time as Guardian, St. Benedict encouraged and developed a more structured and strict Franciscan rule of life. St. Benedict was very well respected due to his very involved understanding of theology and scripture. He was seen as very wise and was often sought after for advice and console, as well as healing the sick and suffering. Later in life, St. Benedict returned to working in the kitchen, as cooking was something he greatly enjoyed.

 

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St. Benedict passed away when he was 65 years old. He passed away on the exact date and time he predicted, further proving his higher connection to Christ. His death drew attention from across the continent, and King Phillip of Spain constructed a tomb to hold St. Benedict’s remains in the friary church. In 1743 St. Benedict was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV, and he was eventually canonized by Pope Pius VII. During the beatification, it was discovered that St. Benedict’s body was incorrupt. Today St. Benedict’s legacy lives on as he is the Patron saint of African Americans, and provides a source of strength for those facing racial prejudice.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Losing a sibling: How to remember and recover

Sibling relationships are seldom simple. There seems to be a natural tendency for these relationships to be simultaneously loving and irksome. All siblings have disagreements and quarrels about silly things, but they are also quick to defend each other and are tied by a very special connection. Having such a close companion your entire life may make the loss of a sibling especially difficult. Even more so, there is a certain stigma surrounding the death of a sibling. Not being a spouse, parent, or child, some may think that the grief is less severe when the opposite might actually be true. You may be expected to take care of others affected by the death instead of taking time to care for yourself. Keep reading for comforting words.

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Respect your grief

As already mentioned, sometimes the death of a sibling can be swept under the rug. You may be busy taking care of your parents, or your siblings’ spouse and you may forget to take care of yourself in the process. Just as mourning the death of anyone else, the intensity and type of grief depends on the person and situation. Give yourself the time and space to grieve the death of your sibling in a way that suits you, and remember that your feelings are valid. Familiarize yourself with the grieving process and what you can expect following the death of a loved one. (Click here for 3 Common behaviors you may experience while grieving)

Deal with feelings of guilt or anger

It’s natural when a sibling dies to feel guilty or angry. Guilt can take many forms, be it survivor’s guilt, an unsettled argument, and many other possible reasons. The idea of survivor’s guilt is especially common among siblings, as they are normally close in age. Thoughts such as “I’m the oldest, I should have died first” or “He was a kinder person, I’m the one who deserved to die” are common examples of survivor’s guilt. While guilt is normal while grieving, long-term guilt can be very destructive. Try to let go of whatever guilt you may feel and focus on the good times you had with your sibling. Anger can also take many forms. You may be mad at yourself, your sibling for leaving you, or even God for taking your sibling away. This is also normal, but like feelings of guilt, extensive anger is not healthy. If you experience severe and prolonged anger or guilt, seeking help from your pastor or mental health professional may be helpful.

Celebrate through memories

Memorialization is an extremely important part of the grieving process. Memorializing someone ensures that their memory lives on for decades and generations, making sure that their memory never dies. Some good ways to memorialize your sibling include passing down special mementos, creating photo albums, or watching home videos. Some people find it helpful to continue a hobby or tradition that is associated with their sibling. Also, it’s important to talk about your sibling and share memories about them. At first this might be hard, but over time it will get easier. Talking about them often will help you heal while also honoring their memory.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

St. Francis of Assisi: From Sinner to Saint

In case you missed it, this Wednesday was October 4th—St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day! Let’s take a closer look at one of the world’s best known saints. Not only is St. Francis well-known, but he is also an extremely respected saint, and is even represented by Pope Francis, who took the saint’s name upon his installation as Pope in 2013. So what makes St. Francis so notable? Keep reading to find out!

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Born in 1181 in Assisi, Italy, St. Francis was born into a life of luxury. His father was fairly wealthy from dealing in the cloth trade, and his mother was considered extremely beautiful. St. Francis’ family was certainly one of high social standing, which led to St. Francis being spoiled in his younger years. As he grew up, St. Francis lived the life of a sinner, being known as a rebellious teenager who was self-obsessed and prone to drinking and partying. Instead of following into his father’s footsteps as a cloth merchant, St. Francis instead dreamed of becoming a knight and fighting in epic battles. So when the war between Assisi and Perugia began in 1202, Francis immediately enlisted, thinking that his fantasies of becoming a knight would come to fruition. However, due to his complete lack of experience, St. Francis was quickly captured by enemy soldiers. Francis spent nearly a year as a prisoner in the enemy camp. While some might consider this the lowest point in St. Francis’ life, it is actually one of the most profound periods in his life.

While captured, St. Francis began to receive visions from Christ who told St. Francis to change his ways and heal the church, which at the time was rather corrupt. When St. Francis was finally released, he wasn’t the same man he was before. He began to spend most of his time in prayer and eventually he took a complete vow of poverty and devoted his life entirely to Christ. He began to preach around Assisi, and soon had 12 loyal followers. Sounds familiar right?

Now, this drastic change in Francis turned a few heads, especially those of his mother and father. As St. Francis’ fame grew to a global scale, his ties with his family were weakened. This tension grew until one day Francis stole some of his father’s cloth to pay for church expenses. His father was obviously upset, and the local bishop demanded that St. Francis return the money he bartered for the cloth. St. Francis returned the money, along with his clothing to his father and then stated “God is my only true Father.” That instance marked St. Francis’ last communicate with his parents.

After cutting of his connection with his parents, St. Francis left Assisi and began to travel from city to city preaching God’s word. During the height of his preaching, he was visiting over 5 cities a day! He was so passionate about his preaching that he even began spreading the word of God to animals on his travels, which many found extremely odd at the time. Little did he know that this would lead to his eventual patronage! Francis was a very powerful leader, gathering thousands of followers that would later be known as Franciscan Friars.

In 1224, St. Francis received the stigmata of Christ, making him the first saint to receive the holy wounds. About a year later, as St. Francis’ health declined, he returned to Assisi. By that time, people were already aware of his approaching sainthood, so Francis was guarded by the knights of Assisi to ensure that people did not try to steal relics or disturb him during his final days. St. Francis died the night of October 3, 1226 still bearing the stigmata of Christ. Just two years later, he was canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church. His legacy lives on in countless recorded miracles and his story shows us all how we are all called to leave behind comfort and convenience for a life dedicated to Christ, and how it’s never too late to turn from sin and turn toward Christ.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha: The Church’s first Native American Saint

When one thinks of sainthood and the saints that have gone before us, we often call to mind images of perfect Catholics: baptized at birth, growing up at their local church, becoming missionaries, etc. In some cases, these perceptions are very true. But what’s more interesting is the fact that a majority of saints were actually converts—people who came to discover the faith later in life, or after the intercession of another saint or religious figure. Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was one such saint. Born in 1656, St. Kateri was a member of the Mohawk clan and lived in the village of Ossernenon (northern New York state). At a young age, St. Kateri’s family contracted small pox, resulting in the deaths of both her parents and siblings. St. Kateri herself was not left unscathed, as she would carry smallpox scars with her until her death. This was often a source of embarrassment growing up, and St. Kateri would often hide her face behind a blanket or cloth to cover the numerous scars.

 

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After the death of her family, St. Kateri was adopted by her uncle, who was the chief of the Mohawk clan, and his wife. St. Kateri was described as a very patient and kind person, who was also a very skilled worker who contributed greatly to the clan. When St. Kateri reached the appropriate age, her aunt and uncle arranged marriages with several of the clan’s members, but each time St. Kateri refused. As she approached adulthood, St. Kateri befriended a local priest who instructed her on the Catechism, and at the age of 19 she converted to Catholicism, taking a vow of chastity and pledging to marry Christ alone. She was baptized under the name Catherine, for St. Catherine of Sienna. (Kateri is actually the Mohawk version of Catherine) The conversation upset her clan in several ways– not only was she still refusing to marry, but she was converting to a faith that many of the clan considered to be a product of sorcery. After this negative response from her clan, St. Kateri decided to move to a native Christian community in Montréal, Canada.

 

From there St. Kateri completely devoted her life to Christ. She would often partake in self-mortification, often in the form of fasting or burning herself. It was also rumored that she slept with thorns on her sleeping mat. She prayed often for the conversion of her Mohawk tribe, and prayed to Jesus and Mary consistently. Sadly, St. Kateri’s self-mortification led to her pre-mature death at the age of 24. After her death, it’s said that her facial scars disappeared, and that she appeared to three of her closest friends over the three days following her death. Since her death in 1680, St. Kateri has been credited with several miracles, including healing a boy with small pox in the 18th century, and the healing of a priest and nun shortly after. Once news of St. Kateri’s miracles circulated, people began gathering dirt from around her grave and wearing it in bags around their necks. One woman is known for saying that the relic saved her and her husband from disease. This continued for hundreds of years, but the miracle that would finally solidify St. Kateri’s sainthood took place in 2006 in Washington state. A young boy was suffering from an aggressive strand of flesh-eating bacteria. The boy’s parents had prayed to St. Kateri, and even enlisted the help of their friends and family to offer up intentions. One day, Sister Kateri Mitchell, a Catholic nun, came to visit the young boy and placed a bone fragment of St. Kateri on his skin. The next day the bacteria stopped spreading the boy began to recover.

 

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Saint Kateri was officially canonized in 2012 by Pope Benedict EVI, after being beatified by Pope John Paul II. She was the first Native American to be recognized as a saint, and she is considered the patron saint of ecology and the environment.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Meaningful Music: COME AS YOU ARE by David Crowder

Waco, Texas seems to be the hub for influential Christians. If you’re a fan of HGTV, you probably are familiar with Chip and Joanna Gains who also hail from the southern state. However, the dynamic design duo aren’t the only people using their talents to spread God’s message. Studying at Baylor University in Waco, David Crowder realized that while Baylor was a Christian university, the majority of students did not attend church. Crowder took several steps to try and reverse the trend, including becoming a worship leader and writing—you guessed it—uplifting Christian songs. Crowder’s dedication to Christ at such a young age launched him into a career in the Christian music industry, where he remains to be a top-charting artist to this day. Let’s take a look at one of his most popular songs “Come as You Are.”

 

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David Crowder during live performance

 

“Come as You Are” is the ultimate anthem for anyone who is hurting emotionally or spiritually. Crowder sings about being at your lowest point and realizing that you need help:
Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
As the first verse ends, Crowder reminds us of our temporary placement on Earth, and how we should focus on heavenly forces saying:

Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

By the time the chorus winds up, Crowder has taken all those who are listening into a complete state of surrender—encouraging everyone to “come home” to Christ:
So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Crowder reminds us all that Christ is the only one who can relieve us from our sadness, our guilt, our shame. When things seem so hopeless and you have nowhere to go or no one else to turn to, God is there waiting with open arms to accept you. Even with your flaws, your mistakes, and your scars– God treasures you. It’s never too late to come back to Christ and let him work in your life. Take some time to listen to the full song—you might learn more about yourself and your relationship with Christ than you think!

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Check out the full song here!

 

Anton Grdina: Faithful Community Leader

Often, change and improvement doesn’t come from a huge organization or powerful political leader, but rather humble and hardworking locals who care enough about their community to recognize an issue and do something about it. The Cleveland area, especially, is known for these modest leaders—one of which is Anton Grdina. Born in a small Yugoslavian village in 1874, Grdina came to the United States in 1897, settling in the Cleveland area. By 1899 Grdina married Antonia Bizeli and the pair had six children (Anthony, Frank, Catherine, James, Mary, and Joseph). He performed a variety of odd jobs in his local neighborhood before opening his own hardware store in 1904. Grdina found this concept of owning a business quite fulfilling, and decided to expand his entrepreneurial reach by becoming an undertaker and opening Grdina and Sons, Home Furnishers and Funeral Directors in 1928. Being a funeral director, Grdina got to know his community very well, and soon found himself in a variety of community-oriented projects.    Anton_Grdina.jpg

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Grdina helped organize two local Slovenian Banks (Slovenian Building and Loan Association which is now called St. Clair Savings Association, and North American Buildings and Savings Co. which was later renamed North American Bank). Grdina would remain president of North American Bank until his death. In addition to the financial sector, Grdina also helped in the reconstruction efforts following the EAST Ohio Co. Explosion and Fire in 1944. Grdina was part of an organization that bought the sites of destroyed homes and built new homes—over 16 in total! Grdina put forth $5000 out of pocket to aid in the restoration, not to mention countless hours of hard work and dedication. Grdina also served as treasurer of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Federation from 1926-1957.

Anton Grdina also made sure to stay true to his Yugoslavic roots by taking on several leadership roles in Yugoslavic groups including being president of the Yugoslav Cultural Garden, organizing the Grand Carnolian Slovenian Catholic Union, founding the National Slovene Catholic Union, and being a member in 16 Slovenian lodges. Grdina made history when he became the first U.S. Slovenian to receive the Third Order of the Yugoslav Crown, awarded to him by King Peter in 1938. However, the most notable achievement of Grdina was his knighthood in the Order of St. Gregory—he was inducted under papal decree and dedicated his life to the Catholic faith.

Grdina passed away on December 1, 1957. His dedication to his faith and heritage provides us all with a wonderful example on how to live our lives through dedication to Christ and others. Grdina’s legacy lives on through the projects he aided, as well as the Anton Grdina Investment School (part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District). Grdina is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH. (Section #9, Lot #4, Grave #4).

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Post written by Katie Karpinski

Ed Delahanty: Cleveland’s “big hit”

Cleveland is home to some of the best athletic teams in the country—in the past year alone Cleveland has broken records and collected new titles. Not only is Cleveland home to these amazing teams, but Cleveland is also home to some famous and notable athletes—such as Ed Delahanty. Delahanty’s story is one of great success– proving how hard work and dedication pay off. Keep reading to learn more about Ed Delahanty and his MLB career.

 

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“Big Ed” Delahanty

 

Born in Cleveland on October 30th, 1867, Delahanty had a rather normal childhood. Attending Central High School in Cleveland, and attending St. Joseph’s college, Delahanty stayed local for the majority of his early years. When he was 20 years old, Delahanty signed on to play with a minor league team in Wheeling, West Virginia. It wasn’t long before Delahanty was traded and by the end of 1887 he was sent to Philadelphia, PA to play with the Phillies.

In the spring of 1888, Delahanty officially began his career in the major leagues, starting on second base. Over the next five years Delahanty would begin to build his batting average, so much so that in 1892 he hit a ball so hard it broke the pitcher’s ankle! By 1893 Delahanty had a listed 19 home runs and 146 runners batted in—and his performance was only getting better.
It wasn’t until 1899 that Delahanty won his first batting title, boasting a .400 batting average for three years. However, this wasn’t the first notable achievement of Delahanty’s. In 1896 he became the second person to hit four home runs in a single game, and that same year Delahanty also hit 10 consecutive times while at bat.
Delahanty began to play for the Washington Senators in 1902, where he won another batting title—making him the only person to hold a batting title in both the National and American leagues. Delahanty would play for the Senators until his untimely death in 1903. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH (Section #10,Lot #135B ,Grave #7)

 

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Edward Delahanty’s Grave at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH.

 

At the time of his death, Delahanty had a recorded 101 home runs, 1464 runners batted in, 522 doubles, 185 triples, and 455 stolen bases. One can only imagine what he could have accomplished had he continued in his career!

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Living alone after the death of a spouse

Marriage is a blessed sacrament for a reason. There is no substitution for standing up and confessing your love for another person, all while being showered in the graces of the Holy Spirit. It’s a very beautiful and spiritual experience to be married, which makes the death of a spouse even harder to experience. Marriage is the act of literally sharing your life with someone, physically and spiritually; so when a spouse passes away, it may feel as if a part of yourself has passed away as well. You may not remember what life was like before your spouse, and may be at a total loss on how to carry out your day to day activities. This is normal. Allowing yourself time to grieve and mourn the loss of your spouse is the healthiest thing you can do to assure a healthy transition to life without them. While no one grieves the same way, there are techniques that can help combat feelings of loneliness or desertion following the death of a spouse…

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1. Change can be good.

Living together, couples form certain systems and routines that they perform together, such as making the bed in the morning, going to church each week, or perhaps watching a show at a certain time each night. Immediately following the death of a loved one, and especially a spouse, you may have the tendency to hold onto certain items or routines that remind you of them. With the tragic change that is death, there is a need for certain levels of consistency and normalcy. There is nothing wrong with keeping certain things the same, but it’s also important to recognize that some new routines can be helpful. Whether it’s your morning or nighttime routine, your dinner routine, or even the way you make you coffee, if the old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore, change it! You might be surprised by how empowered and free you may feel with even the smallest of changes.

2. Supplement, don’t replace.

The loneliness felt after the death of a spouse can be hard. After sharing your life with someone and living with them, going home to an empty house at night may feel overwhelming. A great way to combat this feeling is to meet new people. Whether it’s reaching out to family and friends, joining a book club, or attending a Church group, spending time with other people can make you feel more connected and less isolated. While you can never replace your spouse, it’s important to remember the other people you have in your life as well!

3. Appreciate solitude

While it may seem contradictory, having some time to yourself can actually be very beneficial. It gives you time to learn more about yourself, and can open your heart and mind to hearing what God may be trying to tell you. There’s nothing wrong with spending some alone time to figure out who you are as a person, and find out what makes you happy.

Above all else, God is always there for you to listen and comfort. Just as he was present during your marriage ceremony, he is present with you always to offer his grace.

Information gathered from “Living Alone After the Death of a Spouse” by Karen Katafiasz

Post written by Katie Karpinski

What you should know about grave settling

School supplies are on sale, the air is getting cooler, and grocery stores are already selling Halloween candy. That’s right—Autumn is fast approaching! With any change in the seasons, we here at the Catholic Cemeteries Association are placed with the very important task of maintaining our graves, both old and new. Some common questions we hear involve how long it takes for a grave to settle, what the process entails, and the procedure surrounding new burials. You might be surprised by some of the answers! Keep reading to learn what you should know about grave settling.

1. What is grave settling?

Grave settling is the process of the earth (soil, clay, etc.) surrounding the burial readjusting.

2. How long does is take a grave to settle?

The duration of time it takes for a grave to settle varies greatly on the season, type of burial, and other external factors. However, on average its takes about a year for a grave to fully settle.

3. What is the process of leveling a grave?

Directly after the burial, the vault is surrounded by filler. While many cemeteries use only soil, we at the Catholic Cemeteries Association use fill sand to the top of the vault and then soil from the vault to the top of the grave. Sand is much more durable against water and therefore speeds and assists in the settling process. As the grave settles throughout the year, additional soil is added.

4. When will grass be planted?

Grass will be planted on a grave before the grave has settled completely. Typically, the first seed application will occur within a few months of the burial, depending on the season. As the grave continues to settle throughout the year, more soil and seed are applied until the grave is level and the grass has grown in fully. Please keep in mind that grass seed cannot be planted during summer and winter months as the seeds will not germinate. We understand that leveling and seeding can cause distress to a family and we ask for your patience during the process.

5. When can a memorial or monument be placed?

This answer varies depending on the individual situation. Many memorials can be set soon after the burial, weather permitting. The type of memorial (flush or above ground) will also affect how quickly it can be placed on a grave. It is also important to consider the production time of the memorial and if a poured cement foundation is required. Generally, memorials are not able to be set during late fall through early spring.

 

Meaningful Music: NEED YOU NOW by Plumb

Debuting her first album “Plumb” in 1997, Tiffany Lee is no stranger to the Christian music scene. Having sold over 500,000 albums, and touring across the country, her music is well known by anyone who tunes into Christian radio. Her single “Need you now” is her most popular song to date, and for obvious reasons. The intensity and pure desperation portrayed in the song is an audible mirror—causing listeners to acknowledge their own reliance and dependence on God. Let’s take a closer look at this song that has remained at the top of the charts for over 5 years!

 

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Here’s a peak at the first verse:
Well, everybody’s got a story to tell
And everybody’s got a wound to be healed
I want to believe there’s beauty here
‘Cause oh, I get so tired of holding on
I can’t let go, I can’t move on
I want to believe there’s meaning here

This first verse does a great job of highlighting how unique each person is; we each have “a story to tell.” Even more so, we all have unique struggles, or problems that we must learn to bring to the Lord. Only he can “heal our wounds” as the song suggests. Lee sings about the hardship of finding the goodness in the struggle, meaning in the suffering. She talks about being too tired to hold on, but how she can’t let go—something that is all too relatable. Often when we find ourselves in stressful situations, we try desperately to find the solutions ourselves instead of passing our worries onto the Lord. Imagine how much time and worry we would save if we immediately cast our cares to God? As the chorus winds up, Lee reminds us how reliant we are on God, who is the ONLY one who can solve our problems.

How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this?”
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now 

This very raw and emotional chorus conveys so much—fear, anger, sadness, reliance, and even hope. Lee strips down her pride, and shows us all what it’s like to completely surrender to God’s will. “I need you” is repeated over and over again, not just in the chorus, but throughout the whole song, reinforcing the idea of God’s supreme yet merciful control. Take some time today to listen to the complete song, and after take some time reflect on what you can offer up to God.

Check out the full song here!

Post written by Katie Karpinski