Second Sunday of Advent (2018)

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First Scripture Reading: Baruch 5:1-9

Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name,
“Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.”
Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
look toward the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went out from you on foot,
led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you,
carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God’s command.
For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

In this week’s first reading God is readying the arrival of Christ on earth. Instead of reserving this encounter for only the most worthy, wealthy, or remarkable, God is ensuring that all of mankind (Israel) “may walk safely in the glory of God.” God’s path is a joyful one – one of “Righteousness Peace.”
God’s path towards Christ is one we are all invited to embark upon. No matter how lost, alone, or unworthy you may feel, God is inviting each and every one of us to have a personal encounter with Christ. As we near the midway point of Advent, evaluate where you are in regard to your personal relationship or journey with Christ. Are you avoiding His gaze or running toward Him with open arms? Perhaps you don’t know how you feel. That’s okay too. Regardless of how you may be feeling, take some time to reflect on this week’s readings. Reflect on the love, salvation, and peace that God promises all of us.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Emmanuel: God With Us, God For Us, God Within Us

O Come Emmanuel – it’s a song we’ve all heard on the radio, sung at Mass, or recognized in popular movies and television shows. While we may be familiar with this phrase, how many of us have actually paused to contemplate its meaning? A quick Google search of “Emmanuel” will tell you that it means “God is with us.” While this is very true, to truly understand the implications of this word we must look a bit deeper. You see, being “with us” implies that God is also for us and within us. Keep reading to learn more about each aspect of God’s eternal presence.

December Bereavement 2018

With us

The first dimension of God’s presence is the easiest for most people to understand. Just like our friends and family, God is a close companion we have throughout our time here on Earth. He is someone we can go to in times of trial and tribulation. He is someone we can celebrate our joys and successes with. He is someone we can go to when we are confused and don’t know which way to turn. He is always there to help us navigate life. While God may be similar to close friends and family, there is one significant and astounding difference. While friends and family may leave us, God never will. No matter how saddened, desperate, or lonely you feel, God will always be standing right beside you. God will never abandon you. For those who are grieving, this is extremely important to remember. Loneliness can be an awful, aching feeling. If you find yourself slipping into this mindset, simply take a moment to pause and seek out Christ. He is with you always.

For us

The second dimension of God’s presence is His advocacy. God is our greatest ally. He –more than anyone– assures that we are taken care of and that our needs are met. For some, we may feel that our needs are not being met at certain times. Whether it’s the loss of a family member, financial struggles, or health complications, there will be times that we feel God is taking from us instead of providing for us. As tempting as these thoughts might be—remember that God is all-knowing and all-powerful. He alone understands how certain events must occur to give us the greatest chance of salvation. While God may remove obstacles and clear our path, He may also put up caution tape and barriers as well to protect us. Next time you feel forgotten or forsaken, remember that the creator of the universe is actively preparing a path specifically constructed for you. Every road will have ups and downs. What’s important is that you keep moving closer and closer to Christ.

Within us

While God may be walking with us in support and watching over us in preparation, He also resides within us. The God within us (even in our unawareness of His presence) allows the existence of peace which surpasses all understanding, joy in the midst of grief, and love through our brokenness. The belief that God is in the very root of our being can help us understand the pure love God holds for each of us. He created us in His holy image, and we are all called to be faithful sons and daughters of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, we can experience the essence of Christmas despite the trials we face on this earth.  There is always joy to be found in realizing we are deeply and truly loved by the creator of the universe.

If you’re grieving this holiday season, remember that God is with you in so many ways. He is walking beside you, watching over you, and working within your heart to bring you joy and peace even in times of sorrow. Set aside some extra time this holiday season to spend with Christ. Maybe this means attending a daily mass or reading scripture each morning. It can even be as simple as starting your morning with a quick acknowledgment of God’s presence. Whatever the case may be, find a way to strengthen your connection with Christ this Christmas.

 

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. Learn more by visiting https://www.clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

 

The First Sunday of Advent (2018)

First Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

“‘In those days and at that time
    I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
    he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved
    and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
    The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’ (NIV)

First Sunday of Advent

In this week’s first reading, we are reminded of the promise God made to the people of Israel and Judah. God’s promise is one that assures safety and hope. This promise was given during a time of great suffering and despair, a time when salvation and joy didn’t seem possible. However, God always keeps His promises. In this case, God’s promise was kept with the arrival of Jesus Christ—“the righteous branch sprout from David’s line.”

Just as the nations of Israel and Judah looked to God for deliverance, we can also look to God and His promises for comfort and hope. We are Israel and Judah. We are all in need of saving. As we enter into the season of Advent, let us anticipate the coming of Christ with the same zeal and passion as our distant ancestors.

An Act of Service

I’ve only been working at the Catholic Cemeteries Association for a short time, but I can honestly say that I’ve witnessed so many acts of the Holy Spirit. The CCA is not an organization that seeks fanfare and formal recognition, but something happened at our office last week that I found too powerful not to share.

Being a Catholic cemetery, we have the honor of serving a wide variety of people. One of our active ministries includes burials for those individuals whose family have no means to fund burial services. A few months ago, a mother of one of these charitable burials visited our office at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland. She hadn’t seen her child’s grave site yet, and kindly asked one of our Family Service Representatives (FSR) for directions to the site. Being an extremely large cemetery, our FSR offered to drive the woman to her child’s site to save her the extra strain of walking.

While driving to the site, our FSR got to know the woman a bit more. In short, she wasn’t happy with her current living and emotional status and was seeking a way to provide for herself. Upon arriving at the grave site, the woman had a very emotional reaction—she was so happy that her child was properly buried in a Catholic cemetery. Her story touched the hearts of our cemetery staff, and she became a regular visitor to the Calvary office. Eventually she was put in touch with Catholic Charities and was given the tools and support she needed to find a fresh start.

A few weeks went by without a visit from the woman, until last week when she entered our office. She was visibly weak and explained that her food stamps had been suspended and she hadn’t eaten in days. In an effort to raise her spirits, the same FSR that took her to visit her child’s grave those months prior offered to drive her out again.

This time, when they approached the grave site, the memorial stone with her child’s name had been installed. (It had previously been in production). Upon seeing her child’s name, the woman overflowed with emotion. She fell to the ground and stroked the stone lovingly. When she stood, however, she lost consciousness—which was soon regained with the help of our FSR.

After driving her back to the Calvary office, the FSR provided her a plate of food from the office fridge. The woman left thankful for the food and happy that her child was provided their memorial stone.

In many ways this story is unique—in other ways it’s universal. This same selfless hospitality and care happens every day at all our cemeteries. I felt a strong calling to tell this story because I believe it perfectly encapsulates what we hope to achieve here at the Catholic Cemeteries Association. You see, these are not “our” cemeteries. They are your cemeteries. As an extension of the church, the sacred grounds that surround us belong to you—the church. The story of this woman illustrates the mission we hope to achieve every day. We are here to serve you. We here to help you. We are honored and extremely humbled that families trust us every day to help them through the most difficult time in their lives.

I say none of this in hopes of self-promotion or recognition. Instead, I hope this serves as an invitation and reminder that your Catholic cemeteries are here for you. Visit your loved ones. Stop by our office. We are here to serve.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

3 Ways You Can Help Children Grieve in a Healthy Way

Children provide an interesting perspective to essentially everything. Their fresh impressions and highly curious minds foster imagination and wonder. They are driven by pure emotion and instinct. These traits are part of what makes childhood such a formative time in our lives. Unfortunately, losing a loved one as a child is a harsh reality many people face. It can be hard to console children through grief, for their way of processing their emotions is much different than it is for adults. However, there are some key things you can do for the children in your life who may be grieving to help them grieve in a healthier way. Keep reading to learn more.

3 Ways You Can Help Children Grieve

Be Honest

The best thing you can do for a child who is grieving is to be honest—in all regards. First, it’s important to be honest about death itself. Describing those who have died as being “gone,” “asleep,” or “taken” do not accurately describe what happened. Children are familiar with these terms and assume that those who are gone can come back, those who are asleep will wake up, and what’s been taken can be returned. Death is a permanent force and one that should be explained and defined to children. It’s also important to be honest about how their loved one died. Telling children how their loved one died can help them form rational conclusions about how death works, and they can have an outlet for any negative feelings they have. Just make sure these negative feelings are aimed toward a thing (such as an illness) and not a person (such as a doctor). Helping them understand the actual concept of death and what it means is the first step to helping them along their grief journey.

Be Yourself

Next, it’s important that you are honest about how you feel. It’s a natural protective instinct to put on a brave face for children. This is okay. You want to be strong for children who are experiencing such a tragic loss. However, there is a way to be strong and brave while also being honest. Telling a child how you truly feel following the loss of a loved one can help them understand their own thoughts and feelings. Chances are you are likely feeling a combination of emotions—you may be sad, confused, or even angry. You can experience all of these emotions simultaneously while grieving, and it’s important that children realize they can experience several conflicting emotions as well. Instead of being a “rock” be a role model. Find ways to connect and communicate with the children in your life.

Be There for Them

Finally, continual conversation is crucial. Losing a loved one and journeying through the grief process is traumatic for anyone—let alone children who may not even fully be aware of what they’re feeling or how to express those feelings. Taking time to check on the children in your life and having conversations about their grief (in an age appropriate manner) can help them progress along their grief journey. Be ready to answer any questions they have and answer them honestly. It’s also important during these conversations to emphasize that you will be with them for help and encouragement. Many children will foster fears of abandonment and separation after losing a loved one. Reassuring children that they will be cared for can help soothe these fears, and will also ensure that their energy and thoughts are more appropriately dedicated toward healing and understanding their grief.

These tenants can be helpful guides to the grieving process, but also remember that grief is unique in every conceivable way. If you find yourself consoling a grieving child, make sure to keep this in mind and help them in whatever way is most appropriate—and don’t forget to take care of yourself as well! You can only help others work through grief if you yourself are also able to work through grief in a healthy way.

Children’s Grief Awareness Day is November 15th. The best way to show awareness on this day is to wear blue. More information can be found at https://www.childrensgriefawarenessday.org/cgad2/index.shtml.

Are you interested in joining a grief support group? Join us at one of our monthly meetings. Visit http://clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx to learn more.

Post written by Katie Karpinski