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Abortion Ink Slingers Michelle Pro-Life Issues Respect Life

The Sanctity of Life and Our Catholic Response

I can remember the day I found out I was pregnant with Leo as clearly as if it happened just yesterday and not 8 ½ years ago. I remember the joy, the pain, the fear, and the worry. I wrote about my journey through a high risk pregnancy here at the website and the outpouring of love and support that our readers showered on me helped to make each day a little easier and less scary to face, especially as many family and friends abandoned us in our time of need.

If you aren’t familiar with my story I will give you a short overview (unless you’d like to read it and then you can find it here, here, and here). During the birth of my 10th child we discovered my son was breech. The doctor, who had delivered more breech babies than any other doctor in our area, was confident in both my ability and his to safely deliver my son. However, try as I might, I simply could not deliver him. Worse yet, while trying I felt an incredible amount of pain (that was a different kind of pain) and my instincts jumped into overdrive. I began to plead with the doctor to take me to the OR to do a cesarean section. I couldn’t get them to understand how vital it was to get us there quickly. They wanted to simply numb my lower half, but I knew we didn’t have that much time. I begged them to put me under and to take the baby. I think they were pacifying me because I was so panicked, but I am forever thankful that they listened to my pleas.

I woke up 3 ½ hours later to find that my uterus and bladder had ruptured and that I had lost so much blood the doctor didn’t feel I would survived a hysterectomy and so he put the “puzzles pieces” of my uterus back together, tried to fix my bladder, and then closed me up. He would tell me that had we not followed my instincts both the baby and I would have died. He also told me that my uterus was so badly damaged it would never hold another pregnancy again; that if I got pregnant that both the baby and I would die.

Fast forward a mere 5 ½ months and after Herculean efforts to not get pregnant, I was sitting in my bathroom with a positive pregnancy test, tears spilling down my cheeks, fear and joy filling my heart simultaneously, and wondering how in the world I was going to tell my husband and children. Never in my thoughts, though, was what would I do about the pregnancy. I knew without a shadow of a doubt I would risk my life to give my child a chance to live.

The events that followed still hurt. We were discharged at my OB office because I refused an abortion, we lost friends as they turned their backs on us and judged us, we felt isolated and alone, and truly felt persecuted for living out our Catholic faith. My heart still reels from the injuries that friends and family inflicted on us during that time. Thankfully my story ended beautifully- a sweet, healthy little boy in my arms, doctors astounded that my uterus was perfectly and “miraculously” healed, and a new gift of life for my son, for myself, and for our family.

I write about my choice for life because today is a dark day in the history of our great United States of America. On this day in 1973 a ruling in the Roe v. Wade case legalized abortion across America. The case denied the rights of the unborn and instead gave women the “right” to decide to end a pregnancy for whatever reasons she may have. The case made it possible that today we have reached over 62.5 million abortions performed in the United States alone. It set a precedence that said a woman’s right to choose is more important than a child’s right to live. It demeaned life in the womb as unworthy in comparison to the mother and it set into motion the false ideology that one human is more important than another. It made a god out of “choice” and placed it on an unholy altar to be worshiped. It has directly affected the importance and sanctity of marriage and family life as well.

As much as I could write about the horrors of abortion and how it has torn at the fabric of our families and our faith, instead I want to touch on what our response is and what it should be towards those faced with the decision to choose life or to choose abortion.

In my own life I faced the condemnation of fellow Catholics who thought I was irresponsible for either “getting pregnant on purpose” or for allowing myself to “fall pregnant again”. Neither scenario was correct as we had done everything within our faith to avoid pregnancy, but that didn’t matter to those who condemned me. I was married, had many other children, and was a faithful church-goer and volunteer. If someone like me, who up to that point had “done it right”, was condemned in such a terrible way, I can only imagine what single young women, poor women, women who made “bad” life choices, drug addicted women, and others feel when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. It’s not hard to understand why they may choose to end a pregnancy instead of face the flames of condemnation.

A dear friend of mine chose differently than me. When faced with an unplanned pregnancy while still very young, her family encouraged her to have an abortion. It was just “what you did” she told me. There was never any thought that she would have the child; it was taken for granted that she would take care of the problem. And she did. We didn’t meet until I was in the middle of my pregnancy with Leo and as I told her my story about choosing life, she shared her story with me. My heart broke for her. The pain caused by her abortion long ago was still present. Her abortion was encouraged and supported and yet the pain she carried was heavy in her heart and on her soul. Even though we chose differently, the pain that lingers in both of us is evident.

The Catholic Response

If we want to convince others of the horrors of abortion, we have to be willing to live what we preach. I found that were many who claimed to be pro-life and yet could not understand that even though I had 10 other children to take care of, I had no other choice but to offer my life for my son so that he had a chance to live. I found that, to some, our Catholic teachings maybe meant one thing on paper and another thing in real life.

Which is it? Do we believe that life is sacred and worth protecting or do we think that there are ifs, ands, and buts that supersede the teachings of our Catholic faith? If we truly believe that every life is sacred and worth saving, how are we working to help those who find themselves in crisis or unplanned pregnancies to choose life and to endure the hardships they are facing? Are we simply quoting Catechism passages and Bible verses or are we truly living out our call to help others understand and respect the life that God has blessed them with and then support them as they bring life into the world, regardless of the circumstance?

So far, this year in the United States alone there have been nearly 50,000 abortions performed. Friends, we are only 22 days into the New Year and nearly 50,000 babies have died because abortion is considered a valuable commodity in our country. How can this be ok? More importantly, what can we do about it?

It seems as if for now, legally, we don’t have much recourse to reverse Roe v. Wade and to make abortions illegal in our country. But we do have the ability to help women choose life. We have the ability to not only teach about the sanctity of life, but to live out those teachings by supporting women who find themselves in unplanned or crisis pregnancies. In order to help others respect life, we must first respect life. Not just the life of the baby, but the life of the mother, the father, and the entire family. We can’t just talk the talk, we must walk the walk.

  • We must teach our children that all life is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. We have to begin teaching them at a young age. Our children innately know and understand the sacredness of life and are horrified at the thought of someone killing another person, especially a baby. We must encourage their understanding and foster their love of all people.
  •  When we encounter someone who is experiencing a crisis or unplanned pregnancy we should meet them with love and hope, not judgment and condemnation. We should encourage them in their choice for life and support them as they go through pregnancy, birth, and family life. It’s easy to tell someone they should choose life and then never show our faces again. It’s more difficult to be an active participant in their lives, willing to help at every turn when possible.
  • Volunteer at a pregnancy center, at your church, at a homeless shelter, at a women’s shelter, a low income day care, or a soup kitchen- anywhere that provides services that a pregnant woman may need. If we don’t have the time to volunteer, we should financially support those programs that help women and families. Don’t worry about why they are in the position they are in, but simply love them enough to help them to better the situation they are in.
  • Be vocal in your support for life. Don’t be obnoxious, but be genuinely loving and kind as you explain why life is so precious and worth saving. There will be those who want to fight you… be strong in your faith and convictions but also in your love for those who think differently from you. The love we extend wins over more hearts and souls than hate ever could.
  •  Pray. Pray for the mothers, pray for the fathers, pray for the babies, and pray for the extended families. Spiritually adopt women who are considering abortions and offer up your hardships, your worries, and your own trials for their well-being and for their choice for life.
  • Offer a healing hug for those who have experienced abortion. Listen to their story, offer prayers, and don’t judge them. Guide them to understand that they are still loved and that they can be forgiven. Point them to resources that will help them through the pain that accompanies abortion- not the just the physical pain but the mental, emotional, and spiritual pains.
  • Work within your legal system to encourage our leaders to make new laws that focus on ending abortion and the need for abortions. Abortion is big business that lines the pockets of many and so it will be difficult to eradicate. But we have to continue our work to bring about those changes.

Today, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I ask that you pray with me for all those women who are facing crisis or unplanned pregnancies, for those who are facing medical emergencies in their pregnancies, for those who feel alone and abandoned in their time of need, and for all those who are facing a decision between life and death. Let God use us as His means to provide help and hope to those who need it most. I pray that God will wrap them in His arms and help them to see their worth, their child’s worth, and the joy that comes from choosing life.

If you or someone you know is facing a crisis pregnancy, please know that we are here for you. Reach out and we will do our best to put you in contact with those who can help you.

If you are in need of post abortion healing, please consider contacting Rachel’s Vineyard. They can help you find hope, healing, and peace.

Categories
Guest Posts Loss Parenting Respect Life Series The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health Vocations

Here I am, Lord…Broken

Here I am Lord Broken

“That next day I sat in Adoration for an hour. Instead of reading or writing, I just sat there staring at the Blessed Sacrament, fixated on it as a life source. I was all out of ideas. I wasout of energy. I was losing hope. Something far stronger than me had its grip on my son.” ~ My 13th Station, memoir

When I was young I naively believed that all I needed in preparation for the big bad world was a college degree, a solid resume, and a little luck. As a poorly catechized Catholic, I was never taught the immense richness and beauty of the faith, nor did I learn about the essential need for forming an intimate bond with Jesus. These concepts were simply foreign to me growing up. I eventually left the Church at age 18 to spend the next twenty-two years flailing about—getting that college education and building my resume while living the cycle of sin.

At age 40 I came limping back to the Church, tail between my legs. Life had humbled me. A powerful hunger for knowledge about the Church of my heritage launched a years-long process of self-teaching. I devoured books as if they might evaporate before I could finish them, such was the sense of urgency. I gobbled up books on the Saints, writings of the Church Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, Scripture, and became pretty well-versed at apologetics. I was on fire.

It was during these early years after returning to the Church, about twenty years ago, that I discovered Eucharistic Adoration. I will never forget entering that dim little chapel and immediately, instinctively, falling to my knees in front of Jesus, present there in the
Blessed Sacrament. Thus began a deep love for spending quiet, special time with Our Lord in Adoration.

Who knew that these weekly visits would become my number one most important survival tool? It was as if Jesus timed my discovery of Adoration just in time for the exceedingly difficult years that would follow, unknown to me of course. I looked forward to my Wednesday evening “dates” with Jesus with such devotion and love in my heart. I began journaling while I sat there immersed in the warmth of His graces. Over the years I filled multiple journals with the details of my faith journey. I jotted down gushing passages about my children, as well as sorrowful entries about my crumbling marriage, while in His loving embrace.

For a few years there I gave up my weekly commitment and just popped in to the chapel at will. Funny, because looking back it is clear that those were the years that I should have committed to several hours per week. The wheels had come off. Spiritual warfare raged in my home, my marriage ended, and my dear son was overcome suddenly with depression at age 19.

Throughout the six years that my boy battled depression and, subsequently, alcoholism, I relied on just about every tool the Church provided. I found sources of strength in a daily rosary, Adoration, intercessory prayers, novenas. Still, my son’s illness worsened and his life began to unravel. I would go to that little Adoration chapel seeking solace from the Source of all graces, relishing those times when I was alone in the room with him so I would just wail and cry with abandon. Jesus was there for me.

Tragically, my beloved son didn’t make it. He lost all hope and took his own life at age 25 on October 23, 2013. I can say with all sincerity that without my deep faith and ironclad bond with Christ and His Mother I would not have survived the grief. Over these last six years since losing my son I have leaned on Jesus even more for the strength to go on. Now each week in Adoration I plead for His Loving Mercy on my son’s soul, to eventually allow him into Heaven.

I am a different person now when I visit Him. I still write in my journal and pray my rosary in the little Adoration chapel, but I am a depleted version of my former self. Even so, I know on some level that getting that dose of time each week with Jesus is helping to sustain me, even propel me. He still has plans for my life, and this time I realize how much I will need Him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Anthony is a freelance writer who specializes in writing within the addiction and mental health space. Her recently published memoir, My 13th Station, offers a transparent journey into her son’s battle with alcoholism and depression, culminating in his suicide, as well as intense spiritual warfare. My 13th Station is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both ebook and print formats.


RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

Categories
Fatherhood Ink Slingers Loss Martina Motherhood Parenting Respect Life Vocations

Your Ultimate 2019 Pregnancy & Infant Loss Resource Guide

Your Ultimate 2019 Pregnancy & Infant Loss Resource Guide

Each year, on October 15 – National Pregnancy & Infant Loss Day, Catholic Sistas has made it a priority to share the vast and varied experiences of our writers (and friends writing guest pieces) on the impact of the loss of our children. This year, we thought we would share past posts (scroll down to the bottom of the post for a link to our archives on this topic), but take a different direction. Oftentimes, moms and dads have no idea what to do after they’ve been told of their baby’s loss. Add to this, many medical establishments (and sadly, even some parishes) are ill-equipped to even answer practical or spiritual questions, leaving the grieving couple (and children, too) to grapple and muddle their way through the trauma feeling isolated and alone.

This guide is intended to be thorough and give parents a place to through according to their needs, be it spiritual, in solidarity by reading through others’ accounts, or simply finding resources to work through the logistics of planning a burial, finding a Catholic cemetery that has a garden specifically for lost littles, and the steps for finding a priest to handle the burial rites. To make this guide simple, the information will be linked by category. If you have any additional resources you feel fit the scope of this post to be considered for next year, please don’t hesitate to email me at Martina@CatholicSistas.com.

 


NAVIGATING GRIEF

How do I break the news to my other children? This book, Loving Baby Louie, was written by grandparent and Catholic apologist and author David Currie and his wife Colleen. This family is close to the hearts of Catholic Sistas because their daughter, Alison, is a friend of Catholic Sistas. She wrote about the loss of Louie a couple of months after his death and before the book was written because she understood how important it was to not just share her story, but to reach other women and families dealing with similar tragedies. I invite you to read her story, and then purchase the book to support this wonderful family. Consider buying several copies to give to others in need.

My spouse and I are grieving differently. How can we best support each other through our loss? Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage, a book written by Laura and Franco Fanucci might be of some comfort.

How can I go about asking friends and family to remember our children through their grief? Though this was written for grief in times of sudden loss, there are some practicals that can be easily implement through the loss – miscarriage and infant loss.

A friend suffered a loss. How can I help both she and her family? Read this to find some good ways to help and read about some things to avoid doing in this time of great loss.

What if I don’t know if the baby was a girl or a boy? Prayerful discernment of a name is really all you need. It’s less important that you know the sex of the baby and more important to name the baby. If it’s something that is really pressing on your heart and mind, you can always pick a name that is gender-neutral. 

Should we name our baby? Ink Slinger Michelle does a beautiful job of sharing her own story of losses and the names they discerned. You can also share the name of your lost littles through the Shrine of the Unborn’s book of life in New York City or the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Remember that this child had an impact on your life, and naming allows you to acknowledge his or her unique identity, as well as your own grief. You can pray for the soul of your child by name, as well as ask them to pray for you. Your child is now an intercessor for you, before God in Heaven, and a part of the communion of saints: according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism” (no. 1261).

A few options for naming your child:

  • If you are concerned that you might name the baby the wrong sex, try to find a gender-neutral name.
  • Look at the day the baby died, the day you found out you were pregnant, or his or her burial date, and choose from the list of Saints who have that as their feast day.

We weren’t able to baptize our baby before the loss. Now what? The CCC states in 1261: As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. The Hope of Salvation for Infants who die without being Baptized is also a good read.

Is it possible to get PTSD from the stress of miscarriage and infant loss? Absolutely, and it’s not something you want to take lightly. If you or someone you know or love is showing signs of PTSD, PLEASE seek help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Read more about the connection between PTSD and miscarriage and infant loss here.

Read a father’s response to the loss of a child herehere, and here.

How do I normalize my loss/es? It’s hard. Grief is a weird thing that, truthfully, will take as long as it will take. You can’t rush it, but you also don’t need to let it drag on. If you are constantly in prayer about it, ask God to place that peace in your heart when the grief comes to a level place. One thing we did as a family was to talk about our babies whom we had named. We ask them at the end of our evening prayers to pray for us. We talk about them as though they are part of the family – because they are! And when referring to how many children we have, I will – depending on the type of conversation and how that is going – share about our losses. I have never felt right keeping that a secret, and it also models to my other children that our small army of saints IS a part of our family, every single day. Here is one of my witnesses about our third loss.

People keep referring to my lost baby as an angel, or saying “Heaven gained another angel,” but I know this is untrue, as angels are pure spirit and humans are both body and soul. Should I ignore or say something? It’s tough and I know people generally are trying to be supportive and kind in those moments and comments, but you are correct that people in heaven are not angels. All in heaven are called saints, though, which is why we can refer to Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel as saints. But man is not and never will be considered an angel. We humans are unique in creation and have a special dignity. It would seem that we have to change from human to something else in order to enter heaven and that can inadvertently have a lot of negative consequences, philosophically and theologically speaking.


PREGNANCY & INFANT LOSS RESOURCES

I just found out I am miscarrying. What do I do next? First, I am so so sorry for your loss. Whether this is your first loss or not, the grief you are feeling is real and raw. I’ve found the best way to move through the grief in a healthy way is to simply BE in those moments of emotion. It will lessen with time, but if you allow yourself to have those emotional moments, it ultimately helps you to process. As for the practical side of what to expect with your body in terms of pain, how long will it take, how do I collect the baby, this link may help you out.

What do I use to catch the remains of my miscarried baby? Heaven’s Gain sells a miscarriage kit that will help guide you through the process, both spiritually, and physically.

I don’t have anything to bury – I had no idea I was supposed to collect the baby’s remains. You know what? It’s OK. Seriously, it can be disheartening and a huge source of stress to not bury your baby – this happened with one of my lost babies and I was looking. If you need to, grieve as part of healthy coping, but know that you did NOTHING wrong. You can still have a memorial said and a marker made that honors that sweet little soul. If you look at our family marker, notice that the wording for Michael Christopher is different than the other lost babies, Felicity and Sarah. There was nothing I found to collect, so the wording simply reflected that. Ultimate Pregnancy & Infant Loss Resource Guide 2019

BOOKS

Loving Baby Louie: Hope in the Midst of Grief by Colleen and David Currie

Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss by Heidi Indahl

PINTEREST

Miscarriage.Infant Loss board

 


BURYING MY BABY

Should I bury my baby? Yes, although it is not required. “The local ordinary can permit children whom the parents intended to baptize but who died before baptism to be given ecclesiastical funerals.” (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1183.2). The graces and healing that come from the closure of a burial are worth prayerful consideration as well.

Do I need to bury my baby in a cemetery? This varies from state to state, but depending on the gestational age of the baby, you may, in fact, be able to bury your child on your property. As someone who buried in my own backyard, and later came to regret that decision when we moved, please feel free to email me about specifics on why I ultimately found this to not be the best decision. Martina@CatholicSistas.com

Who do I contact to have my child buried? You have a few options, which will be further explained below. You can call your parish priest and leave a message, contact the person in charge of bereavement at your parish (which in some cases may still be the priest depending on the size of your church), or you can contact a local Catholic cemetery and ask for help. 

I’m overcome in my grief and the hospital is telling me I can’t take the remains of my miscarried child home. What are my options? Read this post first, as it will be a good first step in going over your options, from arrival to the hospital, what to pack, and how to treat those who give you both stellar and subpar care in the hospital.

ADDITIONALLY: If you give birth at a hospital, make sure you tell the staff (ahead of time if possible) that you want to take the baby home. Sadly, some hospitals treat younger gestation babies as medical waste and will dispose of them accordingly unless you request otherwise. Older gestation babies (the age will vary, but starting at around 18-20 weeks) are usually kept in the hospital morgue and are easy to request for burial. Even if you requested genetic testing, you should still be able to come back to the hospital to retrieve the baby.

How do I contact a priest to help me with the burial rites? Contact your local church and ask to speak with or leave a message with either the person in charge of bereavement or with your priest directly. If a receptionist tells you that’s not something the priests handle or that they don’t really handle miscarriages, insist on speaking with or leaving a message anyway. You will find plenty of personalities that may not speak to your grieving heart – push through, anyway and leave that message. The person who coordinates funerals or the priest directly will get back in contact with you. Additionally, you can contact the cemetery and they will be able to assist you in locating a priest.

How can my parish best serve grieving families? This article is a MUST READ for all parishes. Many times, Catholic churches do a good job of assisting families in times of death and burial – the pastoral element MUST be present, but when it comes to miscarriage and sometimes even infant loss, it can be a challenge to bring solace and help to the family. 

How can I assist other families in their time of grief? This article by Heidi Indahl provides great insight into the role Catholics play in supporting others through these times.

Can I even buy a casket small enough for my child from an early miscarriage? Heaven’s Gain is a good place to start – they carry caskets for first trimester through third trimester losses as well as infant urns. Trappist Caskets will also send you a FREE casket and an engraved cross when the parents speak directly with the Monks.

Resources and help burying your baby in TexasMary Claire Project

Resources from the Arlington Diocese (Virginia)

 


ARCHIVES

General collection of articles of Ink Slingers and friends of Catholic Sistas of both pregnancy loss and infant loss.

 


A BIG THANK YOU

Heidi Indahl of Work and Play, Day by Day

Catholic Miscarriage Support

Mary Claire Project

Heaven’s Gain

David Currie

 

Categories
Feast Days Loss Mary Victoria K

A Space for Grief: A Reflection on Our Lady of Sorrows

our lady of sorrows

A Confusing Feast

On first look, Our Lady of Sorrows is confusing. It’s a whole day, a whole “Feast” Day, devoted to sorrow. How does one celebrate and commemorate sorrow? What’s more, Mary’s the Queen of Heaven, and Heaven’s a place of eternal happiness. How does that fit with this Lady of Sorrows? She’s a woman, draped in dark clothing, a tear falling down her cheek, a sword of sorrow piercing her heart. What do we, on our journey towards Heaven, have to learn from this woman, filled with grief?

Our Lady of Sorrows made no sense to me for a long time. But there was a lot for me to learn from our mother Mary in her time of grief. What’s more, I found that I need her in my own sorrows.

 

A Self-Realization

For me, Our Lady of Sorrows was particularly confusing because I’m really bad at experiencing sorrow. Even now I’m trying to find a joke I can attach to that statement. Like, “I know, I know, how can someone be ‘bad,’ at being ‘sad?’” Or, “I’m the life of the party at funerals.” But I’m working to not gloss over this self-realization with humor.

This realization came to me at a very specific moment. A little over a year ago, my grandfather passed away. He was joyful, intelligent, and quick with a sly smile. You never saw him without a book in hand, reading on topics ranging from ancient Greece to films from the jazz age to the intricacies of ocean sailing. As I grew older, I would listen to him explain the books he was reading at great detail, forming my budding ability at critical thought.

On the day of my grandfather’s heart attack, my father called me while I was working, overseeing about a dozen middle school students working on their homework. I ignored the first call, and then he called again, and again. On the forth call I picked up. I remember distinctly not understanding what my father was saying, I knew the words but I couldn’t piece together the meaning.

After a time, his meaning finally clicked. My grandfather, while shoveling the Minnesota snow, collapsed from a heart attack. I acknowledged that I understood what my father was saying, and little tears fell down my cheeks. After hanging up, I wiped those tears away, and got back to work.

It was like nothing had even happened.

 

No Space for Sorrow

I ignored the event, and went on with my life. So, that on its own would not have been such a big deal. Sometimes it’s important to compartmentalize, to be able to get the job done, to not fall apart.

But I never gave my sorrow any space. At all. I went home. When I told my husband, it was like I was sharing another piece of news. I prayed for my grandpa, but it was mechanical, something I did because I was supposed to. The next day I went to work, never mentioning it to anyone.

I buried it and moved on.

Everyone experiences sorrow in their own way. There’s no right or wrong way for grief to appear. But the way I had buried it inside myself was not healthy for me. I loved my grandpa immensely. I still love him, and at times I miss him with a sharp pain (A sword of sorrow pierced her heart). To go on, pretending nothing had happened, was a lie. It cheated the love I felt and owed my grandfather.

 

All the Grief Came Gushing Forth

At my grandpa’s wake, I didn’t want to approach the open casket. I had so successfully buried my grief, and I knew, I just knew, that if I saw him it would all fall apart.

But I loved him. Like Mary, longing to be close to her son, I longed to be close to my grandfather. Therefore, just as Mary stood at the foot of the Cross, I approached my grandpa’s casket.

As I did, all the sorrow, all the pain, all the hurt, all the grief, came gushing forth. I wept. After burying everything for so long, I wept in front of everyone.

Shortly thereafter, we prayed a rosary in the funeral home. My attention was caught by a particularly beautiful image of Our Lady of Sorrows on a prayer card. I felt very strongly our Mother’s compassionate presence beside me, praying for my grandpa with me.

Our Lady of Sorrows, who had confused me for so long, started to make a lot more sense.

 

A Necessary Part of Love

Now when I see Our Lady of Sorrows, I understand. In our fallen world, where death and sin are our realities, grief is a necessary part of love. If we love, we will experience loss and hurt. For our hearts to be pure, sometimes, they will be broken.

Our Lady of Sorrows gives us a place for our sadness, our distress. She sits with us in the moments that can’t be fixed, that can’t be made better by ignoring them. Like a loving friend, she empathizes with our grief. She doesn’t judge or chastise, or tell us to “cheer up” or “get over it.” She listens, all the while pointing back to the hope that only her Son can provide.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.

 

Looking for more reflections on this beautiful devotion?  Check out two reflections on The Seven Sorrows of Mary, Remembering Our Lady’s Sorrows and Seven Quick Takes: The Seven Sorrows of Mary.

You can also find a beautiful prayer and reflection here.

Categories
Devon Wattam End of life Faith Formation Ink Slingers Last Rites/Anointing of the Sick Prayer

Funerals, Their Charm, & Praying for the Dead

 

When I was a little girl, I loved funerals. Not just because they meant that we got to eat fried chicken, casseroles, and endless desserts or listen to stories of our beloved on the back-porch swing into the hours of night. It was what came with all that glorious togetherness that gripped my heart: participating with the transcendent. 

Family rosaries huddled together in a living room too small for the forty plus members of our clan, incense rising over the casket that my uncles would carry into the back of the church, names being added to every intention list known to God and man. It was captivating.

Death meant family time, good food, and prayer. What more was there?

Catholics have a unique relationship with death because we get to show our love for people in a special way after they die. We recognize that we are not God, who determines where our loved ones will spend eternity, and so in faith and charity, we pray that despite their imperfections, the Lord will have mercy on them and welcome them into heaven.

While some might find them somber, Catholic funerals are really nothing more than testaments of gratitude and love. They’re opportunities for family and friends to thank the Lord for the deceased’s life, but also to intercede for them, asking that they attain eternal life. They’re beautiful.

At my husband’s previous duty station, my family would occasionally attend the base chapel that did something during Mass that I found extraordinary. Every Sunday, before the general intentions were read, someone would read the names of US military members who had died serving our country that week. I was astounded that nearly every week there was at least one name read; there are still men and women dying for our freedom on a regular basis. 

After the name was read, a solemn bell rang. It was touching, yet chilling, and I could tell, was not lost on the hundred or so people who listened to those names each week. Names that the rest of the country might not ever hear, but were remembered in grateful prayer in that tiny chapel nonetheless.

Any death in the military is a tremendous loss for its members and our nation as a whole, but when a plane crashes it leaves a particular sting in the hearts of aviators and their families. Once the news breaks that a jet has gone down, wives and mothers hold their breath until they hear the voice of their loved one on the other end of the line, saying, “I’m ok.” 

But it’s little consolation, knowing that some other wife and mother won’t receive that moment of relief. Their anguish resonates throughout the entire naval aviation community, knowing that it could have been anyone. A loss for one is a loss for all, or as John Donne wrote, “don’t ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” 

Yet in the midst of the sorrow and confusion of a life cut short, we do not have to be paralyzed in our mourning. We can still act in love by cherishing the people we care about who are still alive, supporting the grieving loved ones left behind, and, of course, praying for the dead.

The things that drew me to funerals when I was small are still alluring to me today. Now that I’m older, though, I mourn those losses more deeply than before, imagining what could have been if the Lord gave them just a little more time here. But more than anything, I recognize and appreciate how special our prayers for our friends truly are once they’re gone. 

The quality time that comes with a funeral is special, the food is nice, but the prayers we pray are what sustain our hope. Hope that the story doesn’t end when we lose someone, and our love for and friendship with that person doesn’t stop, it’s made new. Hope for eternal life.

I pray that death doesn’t touch your life any time soon, but when it undoubtedly does, I hope that you are surrounded by people who love you, good food to comfort you, and that you remember your beloved in prayer. 

They will need it. We all will.

“Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. 

May they rest in peace.”