We Are the Easter People

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

– Saint Pope John Paul II

As we journey through this Holy Week, we reflect on the unconditional, unselfish, and overwhelming love poured out to us as Jesus suffered at Calvary so that we might have eternal life. I feel the utter pain and suffering of Christ, during this Lent, especially. We are living through a time where the invasion of Ukraine has brought global despair and uncertainty to a level that threatens to overshadow the promise of hope. It is easy to lose sight of the promises bestowed upon us at Easter when we are witnessing evil in the world every day. We are humans and we have a connection to others by nature.

We are the Easter people, and the world needs us to act on our faith and share the joy of Easter with all those we meet. When we see the suffering of those who have died in a war or those who are suffering from physical pain or disease, mental illnesses, or when we mourn the death of those whom we love deeply, we feel helplessness and despair.  It is at these exact times that our faith gives us strength and allows our hope in humanity to be renewed.

As Easter people, we can live our lives with a stronger sense of purpose and see beyond despair. We learn to see the goodness that overshadows the evil. We see it in the determination of a people defending their country and we see it in a neighbor or friend who does a kind act of service to those who are grieving.

I reflect on these times, and I realize that we have seen despair before.  Often hope seems to be gone when a loved one dies. However, as Catholics or Christians, we journey through the despair of Holy Week each year, and in the Resurrection, we learn that love has conquered death. Let us allow the Lenten journey and the promise of Easter Sunday to enlighten us and allow us to really see and appreciate the deep love that Jesus has for us. When a loved one dies, let us remember Easter’s promise of eternal life and the words of Saint Pope John Paul II: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

May this Easter bring hope and peace to all and let us remember to be the Easter People each day.

In Peace,

Kathleen G. McKiernan

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April Showers……Makes Me Sad

The Easter season is upon us.  It is a time for renewed hope, a time of rebirth, and a time for rejoicing.  The celebration of the Resurrection of Christ gives us great reason to shout a resounding “Alleluia!”. Jesus has conquered sin and death so that we all might have eternal life – pretty awesome.

Then why does our grief continue or even escalate? During the cold, dreary, short days of winter, it is quite understandable that we may feel sad, reclusive and less energetic…non-grieving people experience this as well.  But when the weather becomes warmer, the days longer and the trees and flowers begin to bloom, we think we should feel less sad, more sociable and have increased energy, but we may not. I notice that during this time of year, the number of bereavement calls I receive escalates. More likely than not the phone conversations start out the same, “Nancy, I know I SHOULD be feeling better now that it is springtime, but…..” There are so many “shoulds” we put on ourselves…. “I should go through my husband’s belongings, I should stop crying so much, I should move on, the list can go on forever. As we travel through our grief journey, these “shoulds” can become stumbling blocks and unnecessary obstacles.

Springtime holds many reminders of our loved ones, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, wedding anniversaries and so on.  So this season may evoke sadness and longing and that’s ok.  Allow yourself to freely feel these things, without thinking about how you “SHOULD” feel. Our God has created each of us uniquely, so each of our grief experiences will be different.  But one thing is constant, and that is the love and comfort of our Risen Lord.

The Promise

The Catechism of the Catholic Church at 1026 reads that “By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has “opened” heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ”.  As we begin our Lenten journey and prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord and Savior, it is good to reflect on what was done for each of us on that first Good Friday over 2000 years ago.

I imagine being a witness to what was happening in those final hours of the life of this man who showed only love to all he met.  I knew him only as a healer of both physical and spiritual afflictions.  He was kind to everyone even that tax collector who we all despised.  I heard he had even protected an adulteress from being stoned.  What right did he have to stop the righteous from enforcing God’s law?  I saw a few of His miracles and heard of others.  Some of my friends told me that He even raised someone from the dead.  How could this be true?  Raising someone after four days in a tomb simply could not be true.  Maybe this man was possessed by demons like some said he was, but I felt sorry for this man because it appeared that this He was a good man.  Even though Jesus may have been a good man, He should not have challenged the religious leaders and the Romans.  His words and deeds were going to get him into trouble.

I was in the crowd that morning when He was presented to us and the Roman prefect asked what we wanted done with Him.  I hesitated because I didn’t know what to do but then everyone started screaming to crucify Him.  I thought to myself, what do I do? Jesus didn’t commit any crime, but He claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah.  This claim is blasphemous.  Standing there bloodied and beaten, why didn’t He just free himself if He is the Son of God?  He has blasphemed and has not freed us from Rome.  My friends are looking at me and suddenly they start screaming for the insurrectionist, Barabbas.  I didn’t want to get involved but I knew Barabbas was fighting the Romans to free us from their oppression.  I don’t care if Jesus dies because I want Barabbas to live.  What has this Jesus done for me?  So I started screaming for Barabbas too.

That afternoon I went back to my daily activities without even realizing that Jesus died.  His death didn’t affect my life.  I did not know that His death changed my life and He brought forgiveness.  He even forgave me for my betrayal because He knew I didn’t know what I was doing.

Each of must reflect on where we would have stood on that very first Good Friday.  What would we have done if we had been part of that crowd watching as a man wearing a crown of thorns and a makeshift royal cloak was presented to us for sentencing?  Today we know what He did for us without hesitation but where would we have been then?

Today we can reflect on the promise He made and have hope that with our final breath He will be waiting for us along with all those who we loved while traveling along a faith filled path toward paradise.  I see in our Catholic cemeteries only hope that our faith will be fulfilled on the last day when the promise made will finally be kept.

When we kneel at the grave of our loved one, their death causes us to grieve but it is the promise that gives us comfort in the knowledge that this separation is only temporary.

Andrej Lah

“Why Are You Weeping?” John 20: 11-18

The beautiful Easter season is upon us.  The promise of spring is all around us.  We are reminded of Jesus’ Resurrection and our eternal life.  Sooooooo …“Why Are We Weeping?”  Just like Mary Magdalene, who wept at the empty tomb, we weep at the loss of our loved one.  Jesus understood Mary’s grief, as He understands our grief.  The Lord did not tell Mary “Don’t cry. “ or “Tears are a sign of weakness.” or “You should be over it.”  He asked her  “Why are you weeping?” He accepted her sadness, her humanness, and showed concern and compassion.

Let us remind ourselves that the Lord wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus.  John 11:45.  He experienced human emotions, he was sad and a natural response was to cry! He cried tears of compassion for Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters, who were grieving their brother’s death. He also cried tears of sadness for the loss of His friend.  Although Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead, he wept.

In so many cultures, people are encouraged to grieve openly (both women AND men!) There is crying, sobbing, whaling and days of mourning following the death of a loved one.  In our western culture: not so much.  Lack of emotion is looked at as a sign of strength, showing emotions exudes weakness and lack of control.

The Lord created the wonderful gift of tears.  I use that gift frequently!  There is scientific research that supports the healthiness of releasing your sadness and grief through tears.

“At the St Paul Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota, tears caused by simple irritants were compared to those brought on by emotion. Researcher William Frey found that stress-induced tears actually remove toxic ‘substances’ from the body1.  Volunteers were led to cry first from watching sad movies, and then from freshly cut onions. The researchers found that the tears from the movies, called emotional tears, contained far more toxic biological byproducts. Weeping, they concluded, is an excretory process which removes toxic substances that normally build up during emotional stress.”

Use the gift of tears!  Have a good cry!  Don’t apologize for weeping.  Appreciate God’s perfect creation of emotions and emotional releases. May God continue to comfort you and bring you strength during your time of grief.

  1. Tom Kovach, ‘Tear Toxins’, Omni, December 1982. Back

Nancy Romaine, Bereavement Coordinator

Blessed Easter

It is Easter Monday, the sun is trying to peak through the clouds but those final persistent snowflakes continue to fall.  Easter is such a powerful season.  There is such a wide range of emotions we experience throughout Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.  I liken it to the range of emotions we experience during our grief.

The disciples and Jesus’ followers were confused, anxious, angry, afraid, in denial, doubting and withdrawn.  When Jesus was being persecuted, many of the Apostles left Him and withdrew, either because of great fear or sadness.  Following the burial of Jesus, the disciples gathered together in the upper room, where the Last Supper had taken place, a place that was familiar, and a place that brought comfort, a place that was filled with memories of happier times. Together they grieved, cried and tried to comprehend what had transpired.  They were in shock; they did not know what to do next.  I wonder if even their faith was shaken during that time.  Following the death of our loved ones, don’t some of these emotions sound familiar?

Then came Easter Sunday! The Lord had risen from the dead! Jesus’ followers were reunited with Him.  Although the timing is different, (wouldn’t it be nice to be reunited with our deceased in three days?) the outcome is the same.  Because of our Lord’s suffering and death, we will share eternal life with our loved ones.  Your grief will not last forever, but eternal life will.  My prayer for each of you is for our powerful, risen Lord to comfort you, give you strength and carry you through this difficult time.  He has risen!  Alleluia.

 “… and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

Nancy Romaine, Bereavement Coordinator