Saint Felicitas of Rome: Patron of Grieving Parents

Saint Felicitas (otherwise known as Felicity) doesn’t have the same wide awareness or acknowledgment as other Catholic saints. Born around 101 AD in Rome, there is no clear documentation on the life of Saint Felicity. However, those who witnessed her death continually recollected the story to others, thereby ensuring that Felicitas’ story can be shared by those of us still alive today.

Saint Felicitas
Photo Credit: Orthochristian.com

As previously stated, Felicitas was born relatively soon after the death of Christ. She was married to a wealthy merchant, and the pair had seven sons together. After the birth of their seventh son, her husband passed away leaving Felicitas to care for seven children on her own. However, through this hardship, she remained incredibly faithful. She lived a life completely dedicated to Christ and could often be found performing acts of charity (such as feeding and clothing the poor). As she continued to minister to the people of her community, she also fostered countless conversions to Christianity—putting her in the spotlight of several pagan leaders of the time.

Her outward display of faith was so troubling to the pagan leaders that they reported her to the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, under the guise of heresy. Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and her sons worship the pagan gods and abandon their devotion to Christ. Felicitas refused them time and time again, her sons following her example. In response, Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and all seven of her sons be executed. Felicitas did not waver in her faith or show signs of weakness– her only request was that she should be the last to die so that she could be with each of her sons during their time of suffering.

After the death of each of her sons, Felicitas was given the opportunity to denounce her faith. Each time she refused and instead looked to God for comfort and strength. She (along with her sons Alexander, Vitalis, Martial, Januarius, Felix, Philip, and Sylvanus) died in 165 as a martyr of the Church. It’s said that she died eight times—once for each of her sons and then for her own final death.

As sorrowing as her story may be, there is some comfort to be found in the life of Saint Felicitas. She, along with Mary our Mother and many other saints, know the personal pain and suffering that comes with losing a child. It is for this reason that she has become one of the patron saints of those parents who have lost a child or struggle with infertility. Her story reminds us that sometimes God’s plan doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair or right. However, Saint Felicitas kept a strong focus on the Lord, even when it meant losing her own children. Felicitas knew that those who are innocent, pure, and devoted to God will be rewarded greatly in Heaven.

If you are a grieving parent, know someone who is grieving a child, or are someone who struggles with infertility, say a quick prayer to Saint Felicitas for strength and comfort. Look to her as an example of remaining true to Christ even in times of great personal sacrifice and hardship. Remember that His plan may not always make sense, but it will always lead you toward greater salvation.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Transformative Love

I’ve spoken to many fathers during my time here at the Catholic Cemeteries Association. I’ve also spoken to countless children who have lost their fathers. While everyone I talk to is unique in their stage of life and grief, I have noticed one commonality– an intense, unwavering love. Whether their relationship was biological or not, whether their earthly relationship was ended on good terms or bad, there is a permanent connection between a father and their child. One that cannot be broken, even in death.

Fatherhood can be a hard thing to define, and I realize that some father/child relationships can be complicated. However, I believe fatherhood in its purest form is the willingness to sacrifice everything for their family. We see this willingness exampled by God the Father, who gave us His only Son so that we might be saved. We also see this in Jesus Christ Himself, who gave His life for the betterment of the world. Our earthly fathers give us just a small glimpse of this heavenly love and sacrifice. For those who may not have found this type of love in their earthly father, there is great comfort to be found in the presence of our Heavenly Father and the moving force He continually plays in our lives.

Whether you are a father missing a dearly departed child, or a child mourning the loss of your father, I encourage you to look to God the Father for hope. The life of Jesus Christ encourages us that we all have the opportunity to be reunited with our loved ones in Heaven one day. Until then, we can rest knowing that God is caring for our loved ones in His all-encompassing embrace. As we celebrate Father’s Day this month, remember that the love between a father and child is not broken in death—it is transformed into something beyond the scope of this world.

God Bless.

-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association

A Place to Remember and Reconnect

During my walks through our cemeteries, I like to pay special attention to the headstones and monuments along my path.

Some headstones have one name, others have several. Some are big, some are small. Some are worn after years of exposure to the elements, others are new and freshly engraved. Despite these differences, I know that no matter how a headstone may appear, each and every one I see represents a unique person– a person whose existence undoubtedly left (or still leaves) a lasting impact on their family. Sometimes a name will stick with me as I walk and I wonder what they were like. What type of life did they lead? How would their family describe them? What was the world like during their time?

Headstones and monuments are a way for us to permanently acknowledge lives once lived and ensure that dearly departed loved ones will always be remembered. Our loved ones deserve a proper memorial and we (their ancestors) deserve a sacred place to visit our parents, grandparents, great grandparents and beyond. A memorial is more than a slab of granite—it’s a permanent record of a life that gives future generations a special place to touch a name, place a flower, shed a tear, and even smile in thankfulness for their loved one.

Your Catholic cemeteries are places of peace. They are places where families can visit their loved ones who have passed from this Earth. As we approach the warm-weather holidays of Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Father’s Day, it’s common to see more and more people walking the cemetery grounds. The reason is simple. The emotion and connection that defies the fact of death is best experienced in a sacred place. A place void of every day activity and worry. A place set aside specifically for our beloved dead. A place with the singular goal of bringing people closer together through a mutual faith in Christ.

I encourage you to reconnect with your family over the next couple months. You may be surprised by what you experience.

God Bless.

-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association
May 2019

Easter Message

On the wall in my office is an old style Catholic sick call box, a treasure given to me by my grandfather. Inside is a statue similar to the Pieta. I keep it where I can see it when I am on the telephone helping a family or when someone is in my office and we are discussing a particular situation involving a family. As I look upon this depiction of our Blessed Mother and the Crucified Christ, I am reminded of my Catholic faith. The depiction of the Pieta is a reminder that each of us encounters death, including our Blessed Mother. The Sorrowful Mother weeps with us when we suffer the loss of someone we love. While each of us mourns in our own way, our Blessed Mother embraces us and tells us that we do not suffer alone. Even more so, she reminds us that there is hope and even joy to be found beyond death.

We know that, in our faith, death is not “goodbye” but rather, “until we meet again.” If you walk through any of our cemeteries, you are easily reminded of this Godly promise. We bury our dead in a sacred place not because they are gone from our lives, but because they are still members of our family and of the Holy Catholic Church. While there is no doubt that death can be sorrowful, we must also find joy in the fact that we will be reunited with our loved ones someday.

If you find yourself struggling in this Easter season, I encourage you to look to our Holy Mother for strength and comfort. She is always there to guide you along your life’s journey and point you toward the everlasting love of Christ.

God Bless.

-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association
April 2019

Your Catholic Cemeteries Are Self-Sustaining

After speaking with many families during my time here as Director, I’ve learned that some families are not aware that their cemetery is self-sustaining. Though the Diocese recognizes the needs of our Catholic cemeteries and oversees our operations, it does not release us from being responsible for our own financial obligations.

When a family chooses a Catholic cemetery, they have an expectation that their loved one is entrusted to an institution whose mission is the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead. This expectation and trust extends to the level of care and maintenance of their cemetery.

Each year, we use resources provided by our families to make necessary infrastructure repairs and to preserve and beautify each cemetery. Income generated through the sale of graves, crypts, niches, memorials, and vaults are continually invested back into your cemeteries. We’ve planted trees, created streams and ponds, improved facilities, developed new sections and paved roads. Our employees maintain 19 cemeteries with over 1900 acres of land, 35 miles of roads, and 60 buildings.

We understand that while much has been accomplished, much remains to be done. We look forward to continuing to serve the needs of our Catholic community and ensuring the future of your sacred places.

God Bless.

-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association
March 2019