Handling Mother’s Day: Comfort and Prayers for the Bereaved

 

handling mothers day prayers and comfort for the bereaved.jpgAs we approach Mother’s Day, many of us will be reminded of our mothers and the place they hold in our hearts. Whether our mother is still with us or has passed from this world, Mother’s Day is a special time to celebrate these women and the immense impact they have on our lives. It goes without saying that those who have lost their mother may experience added grief on this day. However, there are other groups of people who also experience additional pain or grief during this time: those who don’t have (or never had) a relationship with their mother, those who are unable to have children, couples who have suffered from miscarriage or stillborn children and all other special circumstances.

This Mother’s Day, be aware of your own emotions as well as those of others. If you find that Mother’s Day mass is too hard or painful to attend, spend the day worshiping from home. If you know someone is struggling with any of the situations listed above, or an equally difficult situation, make an effort to let them know you’re thinking about and praying for them. Wherever, however, and with whomever you celebrate this Mother’s Day, remember that Christ is with you and that His plan is far greater than the highs and the lows of our lives here on earth.

Take a look at the prayer below and share with others.

Dear God,
Thank you for the gift of motherhood. Thank you for the blessing it is to be called “Mom.” Thank you for the good plans you have in store for those who still wait to be a Mom. Thank you for the numerous spiritual children you have given to so many “spiritual moms” and mentors. We pray that you would fill this day with favor and grace as we honor Moms all around our nation.
We ask for comfort for those who are grieving loss and heartache, especially on this day. We ask for strength for those who wait for children to come back home. We ask for healing for those who have been hurt by relationships that were intended to be loving and nurturing. We ask for faith for those who will someday be Moms, who find themselves on a journey that seems so hard. We ask for great encouragement and grace to cover those who have made a brave and loving choice for adoption. We ask for incredible provision and care over every single parent mom who works so hard on behalf of her children. We ask that you would remind many of those who, though they do not have “physical” children, have the gift of being amazing hope-bringers to many spiritual children they’ve been blessed to nurture through these years.
God, thank you, for the gift of life. Thank you that your heart is for us, and that you are with us, in all our unique journeys and pathways. Thank you that you are Sovereign over every part of our lives.  Thank you that your ways are perfect and you make our footsteps secure.
Today we pray for refreshing, for joy, for grace, for wisdom, for great peace…for all moms, for moms to be, and for women who nurture and lead.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen. (source) 
Post written by Katie Karpinski

Embracing God’s Plan: An Easter Lesson

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Lonely, desperate, sorrowful, confused, hurt, overwhelmed…
One can only imagine what the first disciples of Jesus must have felt following His crucifixion. He was their world, and their source of happiness and hope. They spent years following Him, and devoted their lives to His teaching. He fulfilled them in a way no earthly person could. Then, they were forced to stand and watch as He died in the cruelest of ways. The man who had filled them with such courage and faith was gone.
In many ways, those who have lost a loved one can empathize with the first followers of Christ. When we lose someone, the world around us seems to tilt. Reality is permanently changed. Just as Jesus was a center of hope and security for those who followed Him, the people we hold close to us in our lives also provide us with an element of security and love. The earthly separation of death may feel like an end to that cherished relationship.

However, as the followers of Christ discovered, and as we now know, death is not the end.

On Good Friday when Mary, the Apostles, and the rest of Jesus’ disciples were in their deepest and most sorrowful mourning, God was already executing His master plan. In just three short days they would all realize that Christ was not dead, but alive. Death was not the final destination, but rather a stop along the way to greater salvation. Viewing death as a journey, not an endpoint, can help us who are grieving understand God’s intentions. This doesn’t mean that the separation isn’t painful, but we can all take comfort in knowing that God calls us all to be reunited in His eternal kingdom.
In the meantime, it’s important for those of us here on earth to move forward with our lives. When Christ ascended into Heaven, it would have been easy for the Apostles to simply pack up and go home to their wives and children. It would have been easy for those early followers of Christ to go back to their former ways and push away those memories and teachings of Christ. Luckily for us, they didn’t. Instead, the Apostles and disciples of Christ embraced their new reality. They found new ways to spread God’s good news, and found strength within themselves and the Holy Spirit to continue with their lives.

During this Easter season, reflect on your own grief journey. Are you embracing this new journey?

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Easter Traditions Around the World

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Easter is the most important Christian holiday celebrated around the world. With traditions stemming back centuries, it is also one of the oldest. In America, Easter is celebrated through family gatherings, Easter egg hunts, and delicious desserts to just name a few. In other countries, however, traditions include a variety of unique customs all celebrating one common theme; the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Israel
People from all around the world visit the Holy Land during Easter weekend. At sunrise on Holy Saturday people gather around the Garden Tomb, the location believed to be the site of Jesus’ resurrection. Priests and monks in white robes recite the liturgy and burn incense which rises above the tomb. Another tradition is the Twelve Stations of the Cross where locals and travelers alike follow Jesus’ journey to Golgotha where He was crucified. A large crowd is generally in attendance and some people even carry their own cross to pay homage to the pain of Christ. One of the most significant traditions in Israel takes place at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Holy Saturday. All the lights in the city are turned off until the Holy Torch is lit. Everyone in attendance lights their own candle off the Holy Torch and the whole area is illuminated. This custom is often celebrated during Easter Vigil services here in the United States as well.
Australia
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In Australia many traditions are celebrated during Easter weekend and the week anticipating it. One internationally popular theme regarding the Easter holiday is rabbits. In Australia, however, the rabbit is perceived as a pest that damages local crops. Instead, the Australians use the bilby, a marsupial that resembles a mouse-like rabbit. The bilby serves as an Easter mascot much like the rabbit does for Americans. One popular tradition is egg knocking. This game consists of two people holding eggs and tapping on them until one cracks. One of the most popular Australian Easter treats is the hot cross bun. This pastry is a spiced sweet bun filled with raisins and topped with a sugary glaze and white cross. The treat is typically eaten on good Friday. One of the most popular events during Easter time in Australia is the Sydney Royal Easter Show: a two-week event that brings almost a million visitors each year. The festival hosts events such as sheep shearing, wood chopping, and show animal competitions.
France
Easter in France is celebrated through a variety of different activities and events. Unlike most other countries around the world, the Easter bunny is not as prevalent. Rather than the Easter bunny bringing treats to kids, in France it is believed that the cloches volantes or “flying bells” delivers the treats. All the church bells in France are thought to sprout wings and fly to the Vatican where they are blessed by the Pope. The church bells then return on Easter Sunday with treats for children, especially chocolate eggs. One of the oldest French Easter traditions takes place in Bessieres on Easter Monday when a huge omelet is made with over 15,000 eggs and 40 cooks. Another popular tradition is an egg rolling competition where raw eggs are rolled down a slope. The eggs are used to symbolize the stone being rolled away from Jesus’ tomb.
Italy
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The most popular Easter celebration in Italy is a 350-year-old tradition called the Scoppio Del Carro or “explosion of the cart.” An elaborate ancient cart is filled with fireworks in front of the Duomo, Florence’s gothic cathedral. The fireworks are then lit off to celebrate Easter and it is used to symbolize a sign of peace and a good year ahead. Another Italian tradition is called the celebration of the Pasquetta, or “little Easter.” This event takes place the day after Easter and involves many games and activities for families to participate in. One popular event is the Ruzzolone, a competition that involves rolling wheels of ruzzola cheese around the village.
Germany
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Germany shares a lot of the same Easter traditions and symbols that we do in America, though most have adapted into different customs. One of the oldest German traditions is blowing eggs. Rather than dying the eggs, Germans poke a tiny hole and blow the contents of the egg out. After being left out to dry they are carefully painted by children and adults. Once dried these eggs are then hung up on trees outside or on branches brought into homes. Along with egg painting, Easter fires are another German tradition. It is believed to be a tradition of fertility where the ashes from the fire scatter over the fields and fertilize the land.

Post written by Mike Freiberg

St. Patrick: A Story of Conversion and Conviction

Saint Patrick is one of the few saints to have a widely accepted holiday held in their honor. As one of the patron saints of Ireland, this powerful missionary has become a symbol for the nation and the people who hail from it. Known by many names and titles such as the “Apostle of Ireland” and the “Enlightener of Ireland”, Saint Patrick’s influence on Irish culture has spanned centuries. This influence is so strong, that even those who are not ethnically Irish still choose to celebrate his feast day on March 17th. Keep reading to learn more about this notable saint.

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Saint Patrick holding a shamrock

While records regarding St. Patrick’s birth and death dates are unclear, it’s widely accepted that he lived during the 5th century. He was born in Roman, Britain. His family was rooted in a deep Catholic faith, with Patrick’s father being a deacon and his grandfather a priest. This trait was not immediately expressed by Patrick, however, as during his youth he denied the Catholic faith. When he was 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates. He was brought to the Irish country side as a slave and worked as a shepherd and animal care taker. He would remain a slave for six years. During this time, Patrick began to reconnect with his Catholic faith. He spent more and more time in prayer, and eventually was able to form a strong relationship with God. One day, Patrick received a message from God saying he would be traveling home soon. Sure enough, Patrick was soon able to escape captivity and made it home to his family in Britain. Now a man in his early 20’s, Patrick had changed. He decided to enter into religious life and pursue a life dedicated to serving Christ.

Patrick became a priest, and a Bishop after that. One day shortly after his ordination, a messenger angel came to him with a letter that read “The Voice of the Irish”. After receiving this message, Patrick knew that he was being called to minister to the people of Ireland. Upon his arrival, Saint Patrick was treated poorly due to his status as a foreigner. He was routinely beaten, robbed, and in some cases even imprisoned. However, this adversity did not prevent him from conducting thousands of baptisms and conversions. Christianity began to spread throughout Ireland, as well as the notoriety and fame of Saint Patrick. It was during this time that many of the legends surrounding Saint Patrick occurred.

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Saint Patrick performing a baptism

First, it’s said that Saint Patrick used a shamrock to explain the holy trinity. As a plant with three connected clovers, the metaphor became quite clear: three parts to one equal body. This metaphor is still one that is used today to explain the trinity. Another legend regarding Saint Patrick is his banishment of the snakes in Ireland. Legend states that during one of his 40 day fasts, St. Patrick was attacked by a group of snakes. As a result, Saint Patrick chased the snakes into the sea and thereby banished them from Ireland altogether. This is widely believed, as Ireland is still known as a country with no native snakes. These are just two examples of the countless legends, landmarks, and artifacts that are connected to the life of Saint Patrick.

As previously mentioned, Saint Patrick’s actual birth and death dates or not known, but many believe that he died at some point during the 5th century on March 17th, which would later become his feast day. By the 7th century, Patrick became known as a Catholic saint and is still celebrated to this day. Saint Patrick’s story is one of true inspiration. Sometimes the situations we find most discouraging or difficult are the ones most beneficial to our spiritual life. By trusting and listening to God, every situation can be made into an opportunity to spread the word of Christ to the world.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Springing Forward: Where are you on your grief journey?

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Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner. While we may still have a few weeks of chilly weather, the grass is getting a little greener and the sun a little brighter. Soon we will be setting our clocks forward, which serves as yet another indicator that we are entering into a new season, a new time. Spring is a time of renewal and fresh starts. The earth itself seems to shake the snow from winter and instead welcome warm breezes and nourishing spring rain. For the bereaved, spring can be a challenging time. The cold weather of winter makes it easy for us to stay inside and ignore the outside world. In a way, winter weather mirrors our own feelings. It’s isolating and cold—it doesn’t allow for new growth or change. It’s stagnant.

It’s common during the grieving process to crave consistency. The death of a loved one is a traumatic change and makes some of us nervous about any type of change. We may hold onto the sadness and loneliness we feel immediately after the loss of loved one in an effort to maintain some sort of constant, no matter how negative or destructive this constant is. Many of us may even feel guilty for trying to move on, as we fall prey to the distorted belief that working past the sadness and grief would mean to forget our loved ones or imply that they are no longer important to us. This simply isn’t the case.

It is possible to remember and love your dearly departed loved ones without being in a state of constant grief. This can be a hard concept to grasp, and even harder to practice. However, it’s important to give yourself a chance for future happiness. Spring is a fitting time to reevaluate where you are on your grief journey and plan steps to make sure you are continually progressing. These steps can be as large or as small as you’d like them to be, as long as you are progressing and growing in the process.

If you’re still struggling in progressing through your grief journey, don’t forget that God calls us all to experience joy and happiness!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”- Romans 15:13

 “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”-Nehemiah 8:10

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”-John 16:22

You see, grief is a part of life. It’s something all of us will journey through. Keep in mind what a journey is—something that is full of change, unpredictability, and growth. This journey may have some setbacks and challenges, but don’t let them discourage you. Instead, focus on what you can learn from these setbacks. Take advantage of this spring season to learn more about yourself, your grief, and what you can do moving forward.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Meaningful Music: JUST BE HELD by Casting Crowns

Casting Crowns is a Grammy-winning contemporary Christian rock group. With dozens of chart-topping singles, the group has become known for their uplifting music powered by scripture, faith, and love.  One of the group’s most popular songs, “Just Be Held” addresses one of the honest facts of life which is that…

Life is stressful.

Life after losing a loved one is even more stressful. We feel hopeless and helpless, completely out of tune and out of sync with what used to be such a familiar world. We feel overwhelmed and can’t imagine how we can keep going with such a heavy load on our shoulders. “Just Be Held” powerfully addresses the need each and every one of us has for Christ. Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics and what they have to say about surrendering our stress and strife to the Lord.

The song starts by describing how so many of us feel each and every day:

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

We often feel as if we are responsible for everyone else’s happiness and well-being. We may be able to tolerate this responsibility most days, but there are some days when it just becomes too much to handle. Whether it’s a major tragedy that you weren’t expecting, or small inconvenience, there are days when we all feel beaten down and simply overwhelmed. The next verse tells us what we can do in these desperate situations:

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

As the song so beautifully describes, when we have times that break us and leave us too tired to carry on, when we have times that being in control is too much to handle—those are the times we must surrender everything to Christ. “Lay it down” in His hands and then “let it go.” This freedom of “letting go” is so powerful. A huge part of journeying through grief, and life in general, is realizing and addressing that you have limited control, as God is the only one to have complete control.

As we enter the chorus, we hear more about God’s peace:

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

You see, God doesn’t expect us to “have it together” all the time. We were built with an inherent need for Christ, and so many of us try to live our lives without addressing that need. God is always waiting for us with open arms when we feel overwhelmed or upset. He will be there to catch us when we fall.

Take some time to listen to the rest of the song. What areas of your life are you holding too tightly to? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be “held” in the presence of Christ?

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Coping with Valentine’s Day: A Guide for the Bereaved

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Valentine’s Day is tough. Even for those who haven’t lost a loved one, the day can be an emotional trigger or stressful obligation. For those who have lost a loved one, the day serves as a solemn reminder that we are missing someone on this earth. Keep reading for some guidance on how to handle this unique holiday.

  1. Set your own expectations
    1. Like all holidays, Valentine’s Day carries with it a certain set of expectations. Especially in the years immediately after the death of a loved one, the loss of tradition and custom can come as a major shock. This is completely normal. However, a great way to deal with this new reality is to set new and realistic expectations for the holidays, including Valentine’s Day. If you don’t want to go out, then don’t go out. If you don’t want to watch a romantic movie, then don’t. The day and how you handle it is entirely up to you and your personal preference.
  2. Celebrate yourself
    1. Valentine’s Day is about love—and this includes self-love. Spend the day doing your favorite things or treating yourself to a new experience. Whether it’s going to the movie theater for a double feature or finally taking that art class you’ve been wanting to start, spending the day to truly love yourself and who you are is a great way to combat feelings of loneliness. Learn to love who you are as an individual child of God. So often, we define ourselves by our relationship with other people, whether we’re a wife, husband, sister, son, etc. Because of this, when we lose the people we are so connected to, we can lose our sense of self. Valentine’s Day can be a great opportunity to discover what makes you happy—so don’t be afraid to explore!
  3. Honor your loved one
    1. Of course, despite celebrating yourself, Valentine’s Day is sure to remind you of dearly departed loved ones. A nice way to remember those who are no longer on this earth is to do something in their honor. If you and your spouse always had a specific meal on Valentine’s Day, prepare a portion of that meal for yourself. If you exchanged gifts, buy something you know you spouse would have enjoyed and donate it to a worthy cause. You can also honor them in other ways—whether it’s writing down your feelings in a letter or going through pictures of them, find what works for you.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Lent and the Gift of Eternal Love

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You might notice something interesting about Valentine’s Day. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. Now, say what you will about calendar cycles, leap years, etc. but this correlation is actually rather significant. While one event may imply a period of fasting, personal sacrifice, and repentance, the other emphasizes love, happiness, and giving. The juxtaposition and complementary nature of these events is worth mentioning, especially through a bereavement perspective.

Starting with the season of Lent, we are reminded of the intense and painful journey that Christ underwent. The 40 days He spent in the desert were ones of pure temptation and a harsh reminder of His humanity. Christ’s journey was one that turned away from the sin and death of the world and instead walked toward the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. Of course, we honor this journey still today, as many people choose to enter into a personal spiritual journey for the 40 days of Lent by fasting and otherwise making a sacrifice to Christ. This Lenten journey is similar to the journey that is grief. When a loved one dies, so does a part of our heart. Similar to Christ’s journey, grief is the process of turning away from suffering and pain and growing closer to new life. For those who have lost a loved one, this new life is their new reality: life without their loved one. This journey is not an easy one. Just as Jesus was tempted in the desert, those who grieve will have set backs and will struggle at times. But, by looking to Christ as an example, and by remembering the promise of life that lies at the end of the journey, you may find the extra strength you need to carry on.

It’s also important to mention that just as Christ was strengthened by God’s love, so are we strengthened by both God’s love and by the love of our dearly departed loved ones. Love is something that extends beyond death. It cannot be broken by realms. No matter where you are on your grief journey, no matter what you might be feeling on Valentine’s Day, the love you feel for your loved one, and them for you, still exists. We know this because of God’s own eternal love for us, which we hear in scripture time and time again:

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

Grief is a journey. There are highs and lows. But an important thing to keep in mind as we enter into the season of Lent is that love is on our side. And that is something to celebrate.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Frank J Petrarca: A Story of Sacrifice and Bravery

The Catholic Cemeteries Association is very proud to have buried several Medal of Honor recipients. These brave men and women signify and illustrate someone of true heroic and self-sacrificing integrity. Frank Petrarca is no exception. This Cleveland native is now the namesake of Navy ships, National Guard training areas, and more. Keep reading to learn more about this remarkable man and his sacrifice to help others.

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Petrarca was born on July 31, 1918 to Dominic and Bettina Petrarca in Cleveland, OH. Their family was very large, as Frank was one of the couple’s ten children. Growing up in Cleveland, Frank Petrarca attended St. Marian’s parochial school and would later go on to graduate from East High School in 1938. Following a brief period of doing carpentry work for his father, Frank decided to join the 145th Ohio National Guard Regiment in 1939, and a year later in 1940 he enlisted in the United States Army.

In 1943 Petrarca was serving in the Medical Detachment, 145th Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Division. His unit was on active duty at Horseshoe Hill on New Georgia (part of the Solomon Islands). His first act of heroism occurred on July 27th of that year, when he aided three wounded soldiers, despite the imminent threat of enemy fire. Again, on July 29th, he braved enemy fire to assist a fallen sergeant. Petrarca would repeat this pattern until July 31st, 1943, his 25th birthday. It was on this day that Petrarca, venturing to aid a wounded solider, would be struck and killed by mortar fire.

On December 23, 1943 Frank Petrarca was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was buried in his hometown of Cleveland, OH at Calvary Cemetery (Section 110, Lot 2168, Grave 3). Petrarca’s story is one of true sacrifice and bravery, and is someone we should all strive to emulate and honor.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Information gathered from http://case.edu/ech/articles/p/petrarca-frank-j/

A Prayer for Inner Strength

Losing a loved one leaves you emotionally and physically exhausted. Your body and soul are weakened, making what used to be routine tasks hard to accomplish. The small things that you used to laugh at now become major obstacles to overcome, leaving you incredibly overwhelmed. The important thing to remember is that feelings like this are normal, and their intensity will pass with time. However, whether you’ve lost someone five days ago or fifteen years ago, you are bound to have days when you need a little extra encouragement and strength. These are the days when you must rely on God. We are told in scripture that “God is our refuge and our strength” (Psalm 46:1). When you find yourself in need of extra strength or support call on God to assist you throughout your day. Use the prayer below to start an ongoing dialogue with the Lord. He is always there waiting to be called upon.

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PRAYER FOR INNER STRENGTH

Lord Jesus Christ,
I’m upset and disturbed,
and I pray that You will grant me
the grace of inner Peace.
As You commanded the storm winds at sea to be calm,
command the storms in my life to be calmed.
Give me the patience I need
to cope with the burdens and anxieties of my life.
Grant me the strength to better deal with my problems,
and the understanding to be more tolerant
and kind to others.
Teach me to seek after Your will
which alone brings peace of mind
and peace of heart.

Amen.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski
Prayer Source: Catholicdoors.com