GRIEVING WITH GREAT HOPE

By: Joan Kruse

I recently attended this DVD based workshop at St. George and I did so with some reluctance.

I must admit, that before I began this six-week series, I had convinced myself that this study would be but a learning tool for me to discern why others grieve so profoundly after the death of a loved one.

There are many reasons for grief… prolonged illness, suicide, separation, divorce, a sudden fatality and the loss of a loved one etc.

Within the last thirty years, six members of my family have died, mother, father, sister, bother, son and husband.

After each individual death, I immediately convinced my inner-being, that being a retired professional nurse, trained to contain ones emotions that I had it all together, that my life was in order that I must accept death, be strong and move on.

Growing up in an environment of suppressing emotions, a culture of big boys don’t cry, so therefore big girls shouldn’t either – didn’t help. How wrong a concept! How unhealthy! Jesus wept readily as a human being.

This grief series highlighted so much for me. I learned about my emotional make-up, my cultural rural upbringing and how it reflected on my grieving. Why did I decide to stay busy and not clutter up my mind in self sorrow? Why did I carry on with life as if nothing happened? Why did I not have some self-compassion?

This workshop was capably facilitated by three St. George disciples of the Bereavement Ministry… Sharon, Barb, and Joan, true professionals, enlightening us in a peaceful setting sharing confidential testimonials.

I recently read an article which drew my attention to these three individuals.
“God gives Godly men and women to help us grow spiritually. May we too by the power of the Holy Spirit invest our lives in others.”

Over six weeks, these were our leaders, our guides, our nurturers, our hope builders, bridging for us a perplexing journey.

It is inevitable, that at some point in our lives, that we must all experience death and the grief process. Faith and hope will sustain us.

I highly recommend this program for men and women. I assure you that you will become a changed and introspective individual.

PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND

By: Joe & Cathy Naus

Pope Benedict XVI once summarized Christian pilgrimage as follows:  “To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where He has revealed Himself, where His grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.”

This past September, we were given the opportunity to join a group of pilgrims from Nova Scotia, travelling to the Holy Land.  The itinerary was thoughtfully planned to cover the significant historical and religious sites from the origins of our Catholic faith.  We set out with few expectations, but with openness to learning and deepening our faith, trusting that this was God’s plan for us.  We’d like to share some of this experience.

Our travels in Israel (on a very comfortable air conditioned bus) began at ancient sites along the Mediterranean, all with significance for the people of the early Christian church (Caesarea, Haifa, Mt. Carmel) and then inland towards the Sea of Galilee.  The journey took us to the locations where Jesus began his ministry, called his disciples, proclaimed His good news, healed the sick and fed the thousands.  We visited the Mount of the Beatitudes, the site of the Transfiguration, Jordan River, Nazareth, Bethlehem and traveled the road to Emmaus.  We became familiar with the homelands of Jesus and his family, and gained a better understanding of the daily lives of the people of this historic time.  We shared prayers, song, daily Mass celebrations and treasured experiences with our fellow pilgrims in this community of believers.

Highlights for many also included: the peaceful crossing on the Sea of Galilee, joyfully singing Immaculate Mary in St. Anne’s Church, renewal of marriage vows at Cana, floating like a cork in the Dead Sea, and watching friends enjoy a bumpy camel ride.

It was enlightening to see how historical facts and the scriptures are intertwined, as we toured the region and learned from our archeologist guide.  The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu is believed to be built on the site of the palace of the Jewish High Priest, Caiaphas.  The courtyard was where Peter denied Jesus and inside was the torture chamber where Jesus was taken for the night.  Peter would have heard Jesus’ suffering and hence he was quick to deny Him. “Could we have done any different?“  ran through our minds. This challenges us to consider where we are bystanders in our own lives.

Early in the morning we walked the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) through the streets of Jerusalem – again, a sobering reminder of Jesus’ suffering.  The last three Stations of the Cross are located in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  We celebrated mass at the Tomb, and then entered the empty Tomb — a powerful, faith filled moment for all of us.

Travelling through the lands of Israel and the West Bank we had the opportunity to learn about the present day struggles and challenges for Christians trying to live here and raise their families.  The battle fields, Holocaust museum, walls and barbed wire fences were reminders of oppression and suffering.

Each evening, with our pilgrim community, we had the opportunity to share thoughts, blessings and the experiences of our day.  We found that this sharing of impressions contributed to our own understanding, shedding more light on our journey story. These experiences contributed to a better understanding of the earthly life of Jesus.

In closing, we recommend travelling with a pilgrimage group as a way to experience the Holy Land and significant religious sites.  It has deepened our faith through a better understanding of the scriptures as they relate to the Holy Land.  We received many blessings from this trip.  It was a transformative experience to be in these significant places – where Jesus walked on this lake, Jesus fed 5,000 in this valley, touched these 2,000 year old olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, walked on these streets in Jerusalem.  Hence, we got a “physical” reminder of Jesus’ life – it was amazing!

This Holy Land Pilgrimage was initiated by Bishop Brian Dunn of the Diocese of Antigonish (NS).  Their communication officer, Jennifer Hatt, a pilgrim herself, shared a daily blog and photos of our journey.  Her blog may be found on www.antigonishdiocese.com