Last week the liturgical calendar in the Catholic Church returned to Ordinary Time. It is a time when Catholics can grow and mature in their faith, after a period of great rejoicing. However, just a couple of weeks ago during the Advent and Christmas seasons, many who are grieving the loss of a loved one encountered suffering during this time of joy and festivities. Memories of those who hold a special place in our hearts and the constant reminder of not being able to be with them again in this world bring much pain and sorrow. The second Beatitude, “Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4), can help us through this difficult time. A blessing remains on those who mourn because we receive Christ’s love through our suffering, and can find comfort in knowing Him and receiving His love. Perhaps Ordinary Time can be a time for those of us who are grieving to focus on new ways to work through our grief and find meaning in our suffering.
Thankfully, we can look to the lives of the saints to help us process our grief. By reading the lives of the saints, we are reminded of their full humanity, including their struggles with grief. What is apparent about the saints, is that although they experienced grief, they had extraordinary trust in God’s love in wondrous ways. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint and patron saint of grief, lost both her mother and sister at an early age, and later her husband and two daughters. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess who was widowed when her husband was killed in a crusade, also had to endure extreme grief as a young woman. Dealing with their grief required these St. Elizabeths to find new ways to serve God and others. They exemplified it is easier to bear sorrow when focusing on helping others with their needs.
Saints and believers alike heal from grief by putting their trust in God and moving forward one day at a time. Finding our vocation and purpose in life helps give it value and makes us realize that we need to use our time on Earth carefully because it is fleeting. If we put our trust in God throughout our lives – and especially when we are suffering the loss of a loved one – we realize that we do not need to bear our grief alone. God accompanies us through our grief and ceaselessly gifts us with encouragement, love, and compassion. Our heavenly Mother Mary can help us with our sorrow if we pray to her and ask for her intercession. Surrounding ourselves with family and friends, and allowing others to give us support, also lessens our sadness. I find talking to our loved ones and picturing them perfectly happy in God’s presence also brings me comfort. We can trust that our separation from our loved ones is temporary, and through Christ, our love for them will last forever. As we continue in Ordinary Time, I pray that we all follow the saints and look for signs of abundant joy from the other side.
“Our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in Heaven” – St. Aloysius Gonzaga
AUTHOR: Maria Smith, Assistant to the Head for Academics
*Featured image is the author with her beloved grandson, Liam, a saint in heaven.