Burying Mom: Grief, Temptation, Grace

Shocked, cheeks wet with tears, thoroughly pierced with grief, I drove in the late night to my parent’s home. I tried to imagine that my younger brother’s words spoken on the phone, “Mom is gone”, did not necessarily mean that she had died. Two hours prior, mom and I spoke by phone to plan the next day. We had a good plan. I’d pick her up and we’d go to the hospital to visit my father who was awaiting admission for a serious infection (in 84 years of life, he’d never been in a hospital). For the past few years, he was my mother’s caregiver. My attention went to the rosary hanging from my rear-view mirror. I grabbed it and began to pray. The Holy Spirit descended upon me with understanding: m

'I Leave It in His Hands'

"The sun could have not risen that day and it would have been less surprising than what actually happened." Sammie Wood, a mother of three, homemaker, and cattle rancher from Clayton, New Mexico, spoke through tears as she recalled the events of Aug. 10, 2014. The night before, a Saturday, Sammie, her husband, and her daughter Clare, 17, went to Mass. Afterwards Clare, her youngest, went to a dance before the start of her senior year of high school. Tall, slender, beautiful, and fun-loving, Clare valued laughter, friendship, and faith. She often would dance and sing around the kitchen with her mom and two siblings. She played volleyball, and was a cheerleader and National Honor Society me

Grieving with Great Hope: Catholic Ministry for the Bereaved

"Let us become bearers of HOPE." The Holy Father - Pope Francis In the video below, Fr. John Riccardo joins Ralph Martin to reflect on grieving with hope and praying for those who have gone before us. Fr. John Riccardo's Parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, Michigan, created a Catholic Grief Ministry. There are three videos below about this program. This first one is the Intro video to the program: This second one is a 10-minute excerpt from the program: This third video is from the opening session of Grieving With Great Hope. (see www.GoodMourningMinistry.net) Here is some information from the webpage of this ministry: Welcome to Good Mourning Ministry. We are delighted you

“He Ain’t Heavy…”: Reflecting on the Death of My Brother

“I don’t believe in hell. If there is a hell, it can’t be any worse than my life here.” These were the most striking words from my 55-year-old-same-sex-attracted brother Mark in the last two-plus weeks of his life. He died February 27, 2017, from throat cancer. I wanted to remember him here and witness to the abyss of God’s mercy. This is from Catholic Exxchange It started in May 2016 with a diagnosis, then treatment in August, and two hospitalizations in January 2017 which included a heart attack and a lack of response to treatment. When my wife and I saw him on February 10th, he was exploring hospice. This began the whirlwind of two and a half weeks of reconnecting and parting with m

Corpus Christi and the Mystical Body of Christ

Christ promised to be with us always, even unto “the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20) Each time we walk into a Catholic Church and see a flickering red light we are reminded of how he continues to keep this promise, through his Eucharistic presence. Growing up Catholic, attending a Catholic school, and very much immersed in Catholic culture, I didn’t have much opportunity to visit non-Catholic churches. I remember one of my first ecumenical experiences, visiting an Assembly of God church as an eleven year old. The diocese of Gary (the diocese I grew up in) was participating in ecumenical outreach and activities that year, and part of the program consisted in different denominations coming tog

'I Knew God Was Reaching Out to Me'

Brendan Pearl believes the manner in which he received Dominik Pettey's memorial card was an act of God. It was Nov. 1, 2014, at 2 a.m. A disabled car filled with teenagers was parked by the side of a highway in Bethesda, Maryland, when it was rammed by an SUV that had drifted onto the shoulder. One of the teens, Dominik "Dom" Pettey, was killed instantly. Dom, 17, was a high school senior, star hockey player, and all-around "great guy," according to those who knew him. As a child, his family visited the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Poland, where he played with the sisters and ran up to the tomb of St. Faustina to kiss and lay upon it. As a teenager, Dom didn't preach his love for Jesus from a

Meaning of Suffering

Q: I’ve been hurting a lot lately. Not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. It seems like no matter what I do, nothing changes. If God has been trying to teach me a lesson, I think I’ve learned it by this point. A: Thank you so much for writing. Before anything else, I need to make one brief note: when a person is in the midst of pain, there are virtually no arguments or formulae or explanations. There is often just the hurt. Because of this, I know that my words might sound hollow. Nothing I write here is meant to be trite or dismissive; there is no simple answer to the problem of human suffering. In fact, the Catechism states that there is no element of the Christ

Cremation? Is it OK?

Q: “I heard that Catholics aren’t allowed to be cremated, but I kind of think that I would like to be cremated rather than just buried when I die. Can I be a faithful Catholic and be cremated?” A: Really interesting question. Your question reflects the thoughts of many Catholics I run into these days. So what’s the story? The Church used to forbid people from begin cremated. Currently, the Church permits cremation. Now, the question could come up: Isn’t this just an example of the Church changing a teaching? Nope. The Church hasn’t changed any of Her teachings (the Church is often referred to as “She”…you know, She is the “Bride of Christ” and all). But the Church has changed this particular

The Focus of Funerals

Q: We recently had a funeral for a family member. I was a bit annoyed by how much the priest talked about Jesus and how little he talked about the person who had died. Isn’t the funeral supposed to be more of a celebration of the person’s life? A: You bring up a phenomenal point. Most funerals are exactly what you were expecting. They are either crafted to be a “celebration of life” or as a way to “formalize” one’s goodbye…but this isn’t what a funeral is primarily about. Don’t get me wrong. A family that wants to celebrate the life of their deceased relative is doing something right in wanting to remember the one they love. And of course it is very important to have the opportunity to s

Dealing with an Untimely Death

Q: There is a teacher at my Catholic school who just died. He was so young and all of us students loved him so much. We all miss him so much. I am beginning to doubt my faith in all of this. What can I do? A: Thank you so much for writing and asking this question. There are times when “an answer” is not necessarily “the answer” that we need. This might be that time. I know that you asked the question of what you can do to keep your faith in the face of death and loss, but there are real wounds in your heart and in the hearts of the people around you. I think that wounds first need healing, not lecturing. I am going to talk about the what faith is and the role of faith. I am also goin

There Are Angels Among Us

What Helped You in a Time of Grief? Now that I’m getting to a more-healed place in my grief journey, I can look back on this year (the anniversary of my husband’s death is this Saturday) with a wider scope and see things clearer than I did at the time. I share this part of the journey with joy and appreciation in my heart. Grieving people are a tough crowd. We get upset easily, we seem to hate almost everything people say to us, we see the world so differently than those around us that it sometimes leaves little room for shared experience. I have written here and on my blog about mistakes people make and ill-advised things that people say but what about the good stuff? What about the totally

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