Handling the Holidays After Losing a Loved One

The air is getting colder, Halloween is over, and people are starting to flip their calendars to the ever-busy months of November and December. The approaching holiday season is enough to make anyone anxious: the plethora of social and financial obligations can be overwhelming, not to mention the emotional stress that the holidays may bring. This may be especially challenging for those who have lost a loved one. The holidays often are a reminder to people that their loved ones are gone. Therefore, this season can be saddening, or even painful for certain people. While there is no way to reverse or avoid these feelings, there are some things to keep in mind to make the holidays more bearable.

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Take care of yourself
The holiday season can be a time of obligation. It’s easy to get swept up in other people’s schedules. Not only that, but we are also prone to setting certain holiday obligations on ourselves. The holidays are also a time of heightened emotional stress, so it’s important that you take time for yourself and enter the season with realistic expectations of what you can and can’t accomplish. A good way to approach this is to prioritize your tasks and make a list of what you would most like to do. Anything that doesn’t make the list doesn’t need to be done, and you can spend more time to practice self-care.

Modify tradition
After losing a loved one, the idea of maintaining certain traditions or customs may seem too hard to handle. The idea may arouse feelings of sadness or loss that you want to avoid. However, the loss of a loved one should not prevent you from enjoying a holiday or your previous traditions– you may just need to modify them a bit. For example, if the idea of not buying a gift for your loved one this year saddens you, buy a gift that they would have liked and give it to someone who would otherwise not have a gift. If you still celebrate with other family members and opening gifts on Christmas is too hard on you, suggest exchanging gifts a few days after Christmas or on New Year’s. It’s all dependent on what is best for you and your family– don’t be afraid to change things up!

Accept the tears– both happy and sad
Of course, there is nothing you can do to completely erase the sadness that losing a loved one adds to the holidays. You may feel overwhelmed at random times, and tears may come more freely than you think. This is natural and completely okay. However, it’s important to also look past this sadness and remember the happy memories you have of your loved ones. Whether it’s a favorite gift they were given, their favorite holiday movie, or a silly story, try to remember the wonderful moments you shared with them. Instead of becoming downtrodden with grief, celebrate all the joy your loved one brought you during their life!

Focus on the real reason behind the season
Above all this, remember why we celebrate in the first place: Jesus Christ. Focusing on the spiritual element of the holidays can help us put into perspective whatever suffering or hardships we are going through and place them within the context of Christ. Spending some alone time with the Lord and praying for your departed loved one may help you feel more connected during the holiday season. If you’re comfortable, light a candle in honor of your loved one– not as a memorial, but rather as a reminder of the light and joy they brought you while they were on Earth; let that light remind you also of God’s eternal light and the promise of hope he leaves in all our hearts.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Information gathered from: Getting Through the Holidays When You’ve Lost a Loved One by Darcie D. Sims.

All Saints, All Souls, and Cemetery Sunday: What are the differences?

While many of us “cradle Catholics” have grown up with the expectation of attending Mass the day after Halloween in observance of All Saints Day, I’m sure that there are some of us, myself included, that never really stopped to ask why All Saints Day was a holy day of obligation. Even more so, I was never aware that there are two other major Catholic observances in the month of November: All Souls Day and Cemetery Sunday. While all related, these three days are actually quite different, and each offers its own special intention. Keep reading to learn more about these three holy days, how they’re different, and how you can celebrate them.

 

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All Saints Day (November 1st)

As I mentioned, All Saints Day (officially named Solemnity of All Saints) is the most well-known of the three November observances. All Saints Day is meant to be a celebration of the souls that are currently in Heaven. These souls include both known saints recognized by the church, and those that are unknown. Being a Holy Day of Obligation, All Saints Day is celebrated with a special Mass.

All Souls Day (November 2nd)

Not to be confused with All Saints Day, All Souls Day is a day dedicated to souls who are not in Heaven. This day is a chance for those of us here on Earth to offer prayers and intentions for those souls in purgatory– that they may find eternal peace and rest in the Kingdom of Heaven. While not a holy day of obligation, All Souls Day is an opportunity for all Catholics to pray for our departed brothers and sisters.

Cemetery Sunday (First Sunday in November)

Cemetery Sunday, while closely related to All Saints and All Souls Day, is rather unique. Proposed by the National Catholic Cemetery Conference in 1978, the day focuses on the physical location where souls are laid to rest: the cemetery. Catholic cemeteries are sacred ground, as they are blessed upon their founding, and they are treated as an extension of the Church itself. Therefore, Cemetery Sunday is a day dedicated to those buried in a Catholic cemetery. The day is normally celebrated with a special Mass on cemetery grounds. Cemetery Sunday is a spiritual way to honor family members who have passed, and provides families with a special opportunity to visit the graves of their dearly departed loved ones.

The Catholic Cemeteries Association will be celebrating Cemetery Sunday on November 5th, 2017.  Mass will be said at the following locations at 3pm:

Cemetery Mass Location Celebrant
All Saints, Northfield Nativity Mausoleum Rev. Luigi Miola
All Souls, Chardon Service Building Rev. Dave Woost
Calvary, Cleveland Main Office Rev. Thomas O’Donnell
Calvary, Lorain Our Lady of Guadalupe Mausoleum Rev. Robert J. Glepko
Holy Cross, Akron Sacred Heart of Jesus Mausoleum Rev. Thomas McCann
Holy Cross, Brook Park Service Building Rev. Michael Troha
St. Joseph, Avon St. Joseph Mausoleum Rev. Gerald Keller
St. Mary, Cuyahoga Hts. Service Building Rev. Andrew Panek

 

For more information, please email Rhonda Abrams at rabrams@clecem.org

Visit our event page on Facebook here.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Padre Pio: Seeing through the suffering

Saint Padre Pio is one of the world’s most popular and well-loved Saints. His story is one of true dedication and devotion of God, and his spiritual gifts still stun even the most secular of scholars. What’s even more amazing is that Pio is a relatively modern saint, having only passed away in the 1960’s! Padre Pio is proof that Saints still walk among us—keep reading to learn more about his remarkable life and legacy.

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Padre Pio was born on May 25th, 1887 in a small town in southern Italy. His parents were two peasant farmers who worked hard to care for their 5 children. Pio was the second eldest, with one older brother and three younger sisters. With his parents being devote Catholics, the whole family was held to a strict Catholic lifestyle which included attending daily Mass and praying the Rosary each night. While his parents were illiterate, they memorized scripture and would tell Pio and his siblings stories from the Bible by memory. Pio felt a special connection to Jesus and Mary from a young age, and it’s said that he could see and speak to Jesus, Mary, and his guardian angel as a child. He simply thought that all children had this ability—little did he know that he was selected by God to accomplish great things! Because of this upbringing, Pio knew by the time he was five that he wanted to devote his entire life to Christ. He began taking penances in his youth. His most notable penance including sleeping on the stone floor and using a stone as a pillow which his mother, as you can imagine, highly discouraged!

While Pio’s childhood was certainly rich in spiritual connection and growth, it was also one of great physical hardship. As a young boy, Pio contracted several severe illnesses such as typhoid fever and gastroenteritis. These illnesses were only the beginning of what would be a life-long health struggle for Pio, but this didn’t stop him from following God’s will. As he grew older, Pio started to experience prolonged visions and ecstasies where he would spend time with the Lord. This ignited his desire to enter into religious life, and at the young age of 15 he was officially made a member of the Capuchin Order of Friars as a novice. On January 22, 1903, he took the Franciscan habit and the name Friar Pio (his baptized name was Francisco) in honor of Pope St. Pius. As a friar, he took simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

When Pio was 17, he was struck with another bout of bad health and those around him started to notice changes in him. While praying, he seemed to be completely detached from reality and in some instances there were reports of him levitating off the ground. This, again, was only a precursor to what was to come throughout his life. His health continued to decline, and he was sent home to stay with his family to recover. His illness, however, did not prevent him from being ordained a priest in 1910. While normally this would require Pio to enter immediately into community life, due to his poor health he was permitted to stay with his family until 1916, when his health progressed enough and he was able to move to Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary. He would stay at this friary for the rest of his life, aside from his brief time serving in World War I in the Medical Corps (While Pio was enlisted and served for a few months, he was quickly sent home due to his poor health.)

 

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Padre Pio celebrating Mass

 

It wasn’t until 1918 that Pio would receive the spiritual gift that would spark his worldly fame. It was in 1918 while hearing confessions that Padre Pio received the stigmata. The marks on his hands, feet, and sides would stay with him his entire life, and they reportedly smelled of flowers or perfume. The occurrence was painful, and later would be accompanied by transverberation, which is a piercing of the heart that indicates a union with God. While very painful, Pio accepted these graces from God and understood that to be in pain was to be in union with Christ. While he didn’t prefer to make any of this suffering public (Pio even wore mittens to hide the marks on his hands), news of Padre Pio spread throughout the world, and he soon became a sign of hope for those recovering from the first World War. Countless doctors and laypeople like came to examine his marks but no one could offer a logical explanation. It was clear that Padre Pio was a true servant of Christ—and the world was taking notice!

Throughout the rest of his life, Pio was known for possessing several spiritual gifts including healing of the sick, bilocation, levitation, prophesizing, extreme fasting from both sleep and food, the ability to read hearts, the gift of tongues, and the ability to convert people. He became a very famous priest and would later become a spiritual director. His focus always remained in walking in Christ’s footsteps. He even outlined five rules for spiritual growth which were:

1. Weekly confession
2. Daily communion
3. Spiritual Reading
4. Meditation
5. Examination of conscience.

One of his most famous quotes “Pray, hope, and don’t worry” was adopted by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Sadly, Padre Pio died in 1968 at the age of 81 due to health complications. It wasn’t long before he was declared a Saint on June 16, 2002 after several miracles were attributed to him. It was also discovered during his canonization that his body was incorruptible. Saint Padre Pio and his wise teachings are something we should all strive to live by—his ability to see past his suffering and keep his focus on Christ is just one of the many reasons why he is revered around the world today.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

St. Therese Lisieux: A Subtle Road to Sainthood

We often hear stories of Saints performing grandiose miracles, partaking on dramatic journeys and accomplishing impossible tasks.While these stories are inspiring and motivate us to better ourselves, sometimes they can make us feel as if becoming saints ourselves is unachievable. However, some saints such as St. Therese Lisieux prove that sometimes sainthood is gained through simple tasks. Keep reading about this amazing saint and her subtle road to sainthood.

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Born on January 2, 1873 to Marie and Louis Martin, St. Therese was immediately immersed in an extremely devout and faithful environment. Both of her parents were strict Catholics. In fact, when Marie and Louis were first married, they lived as a religious brother and sister, practicing a marriage of celibacy. However, their confessor pressed them to discontinue this practice, and so the couple went on to have nine children. Of these nine, four would pass away before reaching adulthood. The five remaining children would all become nuns. Therese was the youngest.

Growing up St. Therese was held to the same religious standard as her older sisters and parents. This meant attending daily Mass at 5:30am, observing religious fasts, and partaking in daily liturgical prayer. As a family, they would often visit the sick and suffering and often opened their home or table to those who needed nourishment. As a young child, Therese was known for being happy yet fragile. She would cry easily and seemed to feel emotions more intensely than her family members. When Therese’s mother died in 1877, Louis moved the family to Lisieux which is where St. Therese would start schooling and continue her religious journey.

The loss of her mother signified the beginning of what St. Therese would later call the saddest days of her life. Starting school when she was eight years old, Therese was often bullied because she was much younger than her classmates yet received very good grades. Therese also did not enjoy the loud and rowdy nature of the children at school. She would find places to hide when the situation overwhelmed her, and savored her time at home. She was very close to her older sisters and father, so when her sisters eventually began to join the local convent, it was very hard on Therese who felt as if she were losing her mother all over again. The ordeal upset Therese so much that she tried to join the convent. However, due to her young age, the prioress did not allow her to enter, but rather called her a “future daughter” and told her to return later in life.

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In addition to emotional stress, St. Therese also experienced physical ailments, mainly in the form of tremors brought on by her nervousness. It was later discovered that St. Therese also suffered from scruples, which other saints have also experienced. (Scruples is the condition of feeling overwhelming guilt and sorrow for the evils of the world, and the feeling of hopelessness of not being able to cure the world of evil). This time of sorrow and illness continued until Christmas Eve of 1886 when Therese had a revelation.

Therese recounted the night saying “God worked a little miracle to make me grow up in an instant… On that blessed night… Jesus, who saw fit to make Himself a child out of love for me, saw fit to have me come forth from the swaddling clothes and imperfections of childhood.” Therese was given the strength from God to leave behind her sensitivity and made huge steps toward becoming an adult. This sparked a new beginning for Therese, and the following year her father took her on a diocesan pilgrimage to Rome. During this trip, Therese was given the opportunity to have an audience with Pope Leo XIII. Pope Leo blessed Therese, and she remained at his feet until the guards carried her out. After, Therese and her family visited several cities in Italy, giving her a plethora of new experiences and knowledge. This experience only heightened Therese’s desire to serve the Lord and upon her return to Lisieux in 1888 Therese became a Carmelite postulant.

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While St. Therese was so happy to be admitted into the convent, soon after entering she experienced another challenging time in her life. After suffering some a series of strokes, her father began to hallucinate and he was soon admitted to an asylum. As a cloistered nun, neither St. Therese nor any of her sisters, who were in the same convent, were permitted to visit their father. This was also followed by a dry period of prayer for St. Therese. This was partially due to her realization that as a cloistered nun she could not be an active missionary or perform the same acts as a priest. She dreamed of being a martyr and found it troubling to realize she would never perform great acts. However, she would soon realize her true vocation.

Until her untimely death on September 30, 1897, St. Therese dedicated her life to acts of love. No act was too small– be it volunteering for extra work, smiling at someone, or simply being cheerful and happy. Following her death, St. Therese’s sister Pauline collected Therese’s writings and compiled them into a book, which she sent to other convents. This made St. Therese quite famous, and by 1925 she was canonized. St. Therese is a wonderful example to all of us, proving how simple, kind acts can make a world of difference.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Meaningful Music: PIECES by Amanda Cook

Winnipeg native Amanda Cook is an award-winning and incredibly popular modern Christian artist. Her rich history as a worship leader and deep devotion to Christ inspire her to write songs that provide her listeners with encouragement, strength, and hope. Her most recent song, “Pieces” has become an instant hit. Let’s take a closer look at the message Cook is trying to convey through her meaningful music.

 

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Photo Credit

 

Cook sings of the passion of God’s love; a love that is genuine, powerful, and proud:

Unreserved, unrestrained
Your love is wild, Your love is wild for me
It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed
Your love is proud to be seen with me

Chorus:
You don’t give Your heart in pieces
You don’t hide Yourself to tease us 

The chorus is another great testimony to the Lord’s love, as Cook reminds us that His love is all encompassing. He does not fraction his love, but rather gives each of his children all of his love and attention. As our heavenly Father and ultimate creator, He has the ability to completely pour all of his love into each and every one of us, which is an amazing thing! Even though we may not be able to see our heavenly Father as we do with the people we love on Earth, Cook reminds us that this inability to see God isn’t meant to taunt us or discourage us—but rather to motivate us to focus on our faith and spiritual connection to Him.

Take some time to listen to the rest of the song. As you listen, be reminded of God’s unfailing love for you. Never forget that no matter what happens in your life, you are unbelievably and undeniably loved.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Preplanning: What it is, Why it’s important, and how you can get started!

No one enjoys thinking about their own death. In fact, many people go to great lengths to avoid the subject entirely, choosing to ignore the matter of death altogether. While this may ease some worry in the short-term, in the long-term avoiding the topic of death, especially your own, can be unhealthy and lead to added stress, emotional turmoil, and financial struggles. As Catholics we realize that death is only the transition into a world that is much greater than we can even imagine. Instead of ignoring death or trying to outsmart it, embracing your mortality and planning ahead will actually bring you more peace of mind. The Catholic Cemeteries Association is here to provide our Catholic community with the knowledge and resources they need to preplan their final arrangements. Keep reading to learn more about preplanning: what it is, why it’s important, and how you can get started.

 

 What is it?

Preplanning is the process of planning your burial arrangements in advance. This process normally includes selecting your place of burial, what type of burial you prefer (traditional or cremation), memorials and monuments, and basic principles and guidelines regarding your burial to leave your loved ones following your death. Preplanning is all done with the help of a knowledgeable and compassionate Family Service Representative, who will assist you through each stage of the process.

 

Why is it important?

Preplanning is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones. Losing someone close to you is a traumatic experience, leaving family members distraught, confused, and unbelievably stressed. By planning your burial arrangements in advance, you save your loved ones the stress of making quick decisions regarding your final resting place. It is also a good way to save your family from the financial stress of burying a loved one. Another major advantage to preplanning is that it assures your final wishes will be carried out according to your own specific preferences. By starting early, you have time to research all of your options and come to the decision that best suits you and your specific situation.

How can you get started? 

Begin preplanning today by calling 855-85-2PLAN, or by visiting https://www.clecem.org/Information/BeginPrePlanning.aspx. One of our Family Service Representatives will be waiting for your call!

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