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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.

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Anni Ink Slingers Vocations

Contemplating Eternity: Living for the Here and Now

I am grieving for a man I have never met.

The news of this man’s death came in the middle of the work day, and as I processed through the many swirling emotions from this news, I began to recognize where my own emotional response was coming from – the root of my response, if you will.

This man is the father of a person who is very close with my family. He’s the father of someone I admire for strength, perseverance, bravery, and fidelity to God’s will. This man has many children, all of them still practicing the Catholic Faith faithfully.

I was – and am – shocked at how this man’s loss on the world has impacted me personally, having never met him.

As I sat in daily Mass after hearing the news, I held my sleeping little boy and watched my eldest going through motions of Mass that he had never done unprompted before. I began marveling at the way our lives impact others – those we meet in person, and those we may never meet.

Our society lives in a time where we rush everything. We want instant gratification, and we want to be everywhere, do everything, and see everything. Rarely do we sit down, take a breath, and simply existwith our thoughts, with our prayers, with our families. We live in the “here and now,” trying to be all and do all for everyone. And, we sometimes have a tendency to forget about the larger picture.

I know I have previously quoted Lieutenant General (Retired) Hal Moore in saying, “I’m in the business of eternity, and I hope I am successful in that business.”

Simply put, eternity is our larger picture.

Heaven is our larger picture.

God is our larger picture.

From the day we are born, we desire something more, and we spend most of our childhood and adult lives seeking that “more.” Yet, it shouldn’t be a surprise when it is argued that we will never be fully satisfied and filled on this side of eternity. We exist for but a blink, on this earth. Eternity is vastly greater than our here and now.

However, if we are to set our sights on eternity, as Hal Moore reminded us to do, then we must first recognize how the “here and now” should effect everythingwe do, and everything we are.

God has called each of us to greatness. He has chosen each of us for this time in history, and asked us to trust His judgment by handing over our own desires, to let His plan unfold.

Our lives, as they are today, are preciselyhow He asks us to grow closer to Him.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 states,

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.

How does this guidance manifest in our lives?

For unmarried individuals, it’s by being faithful to God’s call to focusing on your education, your career, your home life, etc.

For married couples, it’s by strengthening your marriage, focusing on the spiritual, emotional, and physical needsof each other, rather than the desires for bigger and greater.

For parents, God’s will manifests by living bravely as you form your children in spiritual matters, just as much as you focus on giving them their own heart’s desires.

Our commitment to God throughout our various roles in our lives is what will set us apart from others; it will also be how we are most tested, and how we ultimately grow closer to God.

As I considered the man I had never had the opportunity to meet, and his surprising impact on my life, I began to recognize each of us have that opportunity to impact countless others we may never meet.

Just like we have the opportunity to pass along our genetic makeup to our children, and our physical traits to the generations that come after, so too do we have the opportunity to pass along the lessons of what we value most in life.

At the end of my life, I don’t want the biggest house, the best car, or, as much as I may joke, all the chocolate in the world.

Rather, I want the values of loyalty, love, faithfulness, and peace to be seen in the ones I leave behind. I want my children’s children to know that their parents learned how to love God, and be faithful to God, through the actions and prayer of their grandparents.

I want my children to have the faith in God as an ever-present, loving Father, when they can no longer pick up the phone to call me.

There is so much pain, anger, and despair in today’s society. Yet, how much of that can be mitigated by a return to the basics? How much of the pain, anger, and despair can be countered with the focus on knowing and loving God, and trying to be faithful to Hiswill, rather than our own? How much can be balanced when we consider the way we want to impact not just our daily lives, but with a focus on the ones we will leave behind at the end?

If we are focusing on what we want our future generations to know about us, how are we letting it guide our actions today?

Please join me in praying for the repose of the soul of the man I have never met. Please join me in lifting up his family and friends in prayer as they grieve their loss.

And, please join me in rejoicing always, praying unceasingly, and giving thanks to God – for He, and His will, is always good. Let us use this faith to turn to the One Who simply desires a relationship with us, to grow closer to Him.

Let us commit to living for eternity, by shaping the actions of our “here and now.”

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Guest Posts Real And Raw Series

What are you willing to do about it?

Real and Raw

Welcome to this installment in the series REAL AND RAW – SOUL-STIRRING STORIES, a series focused on taking a candid look at life’s struggles as we journey to heaven. Being Catholic doesn’t mean you won’t suffer–in fact, Jesus promises we’re likely to suffer even more for being His disciple. But Catholics often feel self-conscious about admitting to doubt, confusion, sorrow, or anger in their relationship with God. We want the world to be attracted to our beautiful faith, so we minimize the darkness and emphasize the light in our lives, usually at the expense of authenticity. Yet there’s value in sharing our journey in all its shades–in admitting there are gray and black days, too. We offer these stories to let our suffering readers know they’re not alone–we’re in the trenches with you and so is God, who loves us and has a divine purpose for pain, even if it’s hard to see or accept in the moment. Most importantly, we hope these stories give hope to readers…hope that there is help and that they will survive. And one day, they will make it out of the darkness and be stronger for it.


Friendships. Growing up, I heard the phrase ‘friends are like elevators – they’ll take you up or they’ll take you down’. My takeaway was “pick your friends wisely.”

But what do you do when a friendship seemingly takes more and more away from your own vocation?

As kids and young adults, it’s a different ball game. Friends were our all, so giving hours upon hours to that friend in need seemed the right thing to do. Why not? I’d want the same thing done for me and often needed that extra ear.

As I got older, and my family grew, I realized that some friendships were not a two-way street, whereby friends both took and gave equally. They didn’t automatically launch into their own goings-on without any regard for me or my latest. And I get there are seasons in friendships when one friend may lean more or harder than the other due to circumstantial reasons.

In the end, the friendship balance is still there.

What happened to me was very eye opening. What I ultimately took away was I couldn’t fix others’ problems and the cost of that thinking had deeply and negatively affected the relationships within my own family.

So, for that realization, I am grateful. The cost of a friendship put into perspective the deficiencies of my own relationships and helped me reprioritize what was most important…family.

Even to this day, I grieve the loss of that friendship, but I also know that I feel like I can breathe again, knowing I don’t have to be involved in intense conversations where I feel this urge to help, knowing that the hours of listening and giving advice fall on deaf ears. I would often feel like “What are you willing to do about it?” knowing full well, based on past experience, the response would be nothing. I became the shoulder upon which to complain…and nothing more.

Having dealt with our own life’s blows, I was very sympathetic to the situations, as I often am with friends. But, I like to fix problems after a certain point. We should be granted a period of time to grieve, work through, or process problems, for sure. But…at some point, we have to muster up the resolve (through prayer or action) to make changes for the better. Even if they are small steps. Some progress is better than nothing, right? But…doing nothing? Constantly being embroiled and enmeshed in situations that can certainly be avoided and wanting an ear to listen for hours at a time at the cost of that friend’s own personal time with spouse and children? That’s not ok.

And if you happen to be the friend doing all the taking, I must insist that if this speaks to you, please do not view what I’m saying as a negative. What I am saying is that we should cultivate an awareness of how the time we take affects our friends’ lives.

That long conversation on the phone or multiple times to chat about problems? It may well be coming at the cost of the friend not being able to spend some much needed time with her own spouse or children.


REFLECT

Let’s dig deeper. Did this story resonate with you? If so, please continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts. 

  1. What was my spiritual life like before the experience of loss?
  2. How did the experience negatively impact my relationship with God?
  3. How did the experience negatively impact my relationships with my spouse, my children, my coworkers, my relatives, my friends?
  4. Was there anything that helped to alleviate the suffering I was going through? (e.g., counsel from others, professional help, medication/supplements, devotions, lifestyle changes)
  5. How did this experience positively impact my relationships, either during or afterward?
  6. How did this experience positively impact my spiritual life, either during or afterward?
  7. If I could go back and change how I responded to this experience, what would I do differently?
  8. What would I say to someone else in this situation to give her hope?

What are you willing to do about it

Categories
Ink Slingers Loss Martina Respect Life

One Way to Support a Loved One through a Traumatic Loss

 

OneWaytoSupportaLovedOnethroughaTraumaticLoss

Have you been there before?

Have you gotten the call that someone you care for lost a loved one suddenly?

Did you feel helpless or unsure what to do next to support them in the coming hours, days, weeks?

It can be hard, knowing what the right thing to say or do is. You may feel like you say all the wrong things. Or you may feel like you aren’t doing enough. It’s such a tough place to be, friend. But know that what you are doing, big or small, all matters to those who have suffered the loss. They may not be able to communicate it to you directly, but everything from prayers to putting meals in the freezer are all things that are appreciated.

One thing I happened to stumble upon as a way to help, came from a strong urge after the death of a friend’s son. I saw it as a need that could be filled and possibly be a help to the family. 

This can be done by one individual, or several individuals can pitch in and donate the various items. After asking some friends who had also suffered the sudden loss of a loved one, I came up with a rough list of items that would go into this care package.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or perfect. And it can be modified however you think is best.

ITEMS TO PURCHASE

many of the following items can be purchased from stores like Tuesday Morning, Marshall’s, the Dollar Store, or even your local grocery store

  • tote bag or reusable grocery bag – $4-10
  • blanket – $5-10
  • packages of tissue – $1
  • small notebook – $2
  • pens – $1
  • a few bottles of water – $1
  • snacks – $1-3
  • calming essential oils 
  • small toy if the bereaving has children who may accompany them on appointments with the church, funeral home, cemetery, etc.
  • handwritten card from everyone who helped with the bag
  • put all items inside the tote bag

WHEN AND HOW TO GIVE THE BAG

There’s no right or wrong way to deliver the bag, but expecting the bereaving to meet with you so that you can deliver it may come across as strong. Sending a simple text that you’re dropping something off at their door so they don’t feel obligated to answer the door is one good way to leave the bag. 

SUGGESTIONS

Do you have any additional items you’d add to this list? Please share with us in the comments. We’d love to hear of other ways.

 

 

Categories
Fatherhood Ink Slingers Linda Mary Motherhood Parenting Prayer

Beyond the Darkness

I wrote this post last year after a dark season of Lent.  If you entered the Lenten season with a heavy heart, where fears and doubts consume your thoughts, know, sweet friend, that we are called to be a people of hope and light.  God has promised us light and hope in our darkness.  Mother Mary, take our hand and lead us out of any despair that stands in the way of God’s Grace.

It’s 3:00 a.m. Easter morning; another sleepless night.  There’s no use in trying to go back to sleep so I make a cup of coffee.  As I stumble to the couch, hands cupped around the warmth of my favorite mug, I settle in and close my eyes – aware of the silence surrounding me.  The week has been a chaotic one, typical of my holy weeks over the years. However, I’m happy for the distractions this year because the silence reminds me of all the change in our lives.

As I stare out of the window, in the darkness of the evening sky, a star captures my attention.  It fascinates me as it appears, then disappears, then re-appears again a little lower in the sky.  My eyes couldn’t help but follow its movement. This fascination lasts for quite some time and breaks the constant thoughts that want to occupy space in my head. The thoughts win and I’m overcome with the sense of loss that seems to have become the theme song in my life. Permanent loss of those who have passed, loss of a household filled with the chatter of children, loss of family life as we once knew it, and in some sense, a loss of purpose. I know there is much to be thankful for, but in this darkness, I seem to be stuck.

A failed Lent?

This Lent didn’t go as planned.  It was a series of failed attempts to draw closer to God through spiritual reading, prayer, and fasting. It was a whirlwind of activity where my role as wife, mother, and caregiver took center stage.  I couldn’t focus on anything but the task before me and simply asked God for the grace and patience to get through the day ahead (sometimes even the hour ahead).  By Holy Thursday, I was feeling no peace and blaming myself for the endless chaos that surrounded me. I resigned myself to getting up early Friday morning, attending Tenebrae, then simply coming home to begin preparation for our Easter Sunday meal when my parents and children would all be there, surrounding my table.  After Tenebrae, on my way back home, I received a call from my son. His voice was shaking as he shared another round of devastating news – his childhood friend and classmate had taken his life the night before.  Darkness. 

My mind cannot wrap itself around the pain his family now bears.  A pain that on the very night that we commemorate how Mary helplessly endured the ordeal her only Son was about to go through. The pain and anguish as they walk their own Via Dolorosa. It is times like these where words cannot always comfort and we need only to lean into Christ and ask Him to carry us through.  Allowing the overwhelming ache and heaviness of sorrow to fall into the arms of Christ.

I glance back out the window, the morning light begins to break through the darkness and the star’s light begins to disappear.  And so it is with the darkness, God seems to say…it is temporary.  And even when the darkness permeates the moment, He reminds me He’s always there.

This early morning pondering turned my focus back to what today was about – coming out of the darkness of the tomb and into the light.  Asking God to roll away the stones that I’ve allowed to bury me; those of worry and doubt, unforgiveness and hurt, pain and rejection, failed expectations and despair.  Recognizing this deep, dark place where only God meets us. Understanding that He never forgets us, He guides us out of the darkness to a place of hope.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;

I will turn darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth” ~ Isaiah 42:16

However darkness is manifesting itself in your life – there is hope in our Saviour.