Memorial To The Unborn

St. Germaine, Prescott Valley, AZ

What is a Memorial to the Unborn?  They have been popping up all over in the last number of years.  Ranging from a simple headstone in a flower bed, to small parks at the side of a church, to Facebook pages, these memorials all have one thing in common – to honor babies who died before birth.  Whether the loss was by abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth, memorials also serve as part of the healing process for parents and loved ones of these babies.

St. Germaine, Prescott Valley, AZ

The National Memorial to the Unborn stands on the site of a former abortion clinic and now houses a pregnancy care center as well, where women can receive counseling, learn about alternatives to abortion and get real, practical help.

St. Germaine, Prescott Valley, AZ

Some memorials offer private services and placement of name plates,  small headstones or brick pavers to honor the child.  Others such as offer a place online for people to post memorials to their own or other’s unborn babies.  The Knights of Columbus are very pro-active in building memorials at Catholic parishes, such as the one where I took these pictures, St. Germaine in Prescott Valley, AZ.

As tragic as Roe vs. Wade (the US Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion on demand) was, and as important as it is to continue to fight to overturn it, there will continue to be a deep-seated need to provide healing and resources to parents of aborted, miscarried and stillborn children.  Memorials to the unborn, support groups and other resources can help.

St. Germaine, Prescott Valley, AZ

To locate a memorial to visit or for further information on memorials to the unborn try these sites in addition to the links above:


Were You There When the Sun Refused to Shine?

Sometimes a line in a song cuts straight to the heart.  I feel it with the National Anthem (and the rockets’ red glare…), The Celtic Farewell (may holy angels be there at your welcoming, and all the saints who go before you there), and Were You There?  For me it’s verse 4, “were you there when the sun refused to shine?”  What event could be so profoundly tragic that the earth itself, even the sun, would go into mourning?  Only the death of God, its beloved Creator.

According to the gospel of Palm Sunday, Luke 22:14-23:56, “It was about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun.  Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.  Jesus…breathed his last.”(NAB)

Both the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and the pagan Roman historian Tacitus confirm the crucifixion of Jesus in their writings, but historians disagree about the truth of the other phenomena during and after Jesus’ death.  Several apocryphal gospels agree with the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), attesting to the eclipse, earthquakes and the resurrection and appearance of dead saints in Jerusalem.  Dionysius the Areopagite, witnessing the eclipse from Heliopolis writes, “Either the Creator of all the world now suffers, or this visible world is coming to an end.” Historian Sextus Julius Africanus denies the possibility of an eclipse at Passover, which is held during the full moon, because a solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon. Though he goes on to quote the records of Phlegon, chronicalling a solar eclipse at full moon during the reign of Tiberius. Eusebius also quotes Phlegon connecting an earthquake with the same eclipse. Tertullian and Lucian of Antioch both imply that evidence of this darkness still existed in Roman records during their time. 

Paulus Orosius, historian and student of St. Augustine of Hippo, writes in his “The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans”, ” that Jesus “voluntarily gave himself over to the Passion but through the impiety of the Jews, was apprehended and nailed to the cross, as a very great earthquake took place throughout the world, rocks upon mountains were split, and a great many parts of the largest cities fell by this extraordinary violence. On the same day also, at the sixth hour of the day, the Sun was entirely obscured and a loathsome night suddenly overshadowed the land, as it was said, ‘an impious age feared eternal night.’ Moreover, it was quite clear that neither the Moon nor the clouds stood in the way of the light of the Sun, so that it is reported that on that day the Moon, being fourteen days old, with the entire region of the heavens thrown in between, was farthest from the sight of the Sun, and the stars throughout the entire sky shone, then in the hours of the day or rather in that terrible night. To this, not only the authority of the Holy Gospels attest, but even some books of the Greeks.”

So what do all these interesting writings have to do with faith? Just that I find it utterly sad, when meditating on the Crucifixion, that even creation mourned the death of Christ.

Were you there?


The Many Details of Death

So here I am in sunny Southern California, where the temperatures are rising, the smog is settling in and the humidity is finally down to 59% (from 72% a few days ago).  I am just grateful that I can still breathe and haven’t had to use the inhaler yet.  Ah, for the clear, blue skies and dry air of my Northern Arizona home.  I do love my morning walks to and from daily Mass, here.  That’s something I do not get to do at home.  There, church is seven miles away and we only have “daily” Mass on Thursdays (and,of course, Sunday Mass).

Grief is an odd creature.  Mom and I finally came to accept and even respect many of our differences in the last few years.  We had begun a new direction in our relationship, I am sad that is over.  I find myself flooded with some of my happiest memories of her and am comforted.

I feel sluggish, sorting through her things.  Having to decide what to dispose of and what to keep is a burdensome task.  Many of her things, mom allocated while she was still alive.  But there are the clothes and shoes and books.  Miscellaneous and sundry.  Helping dad carry on and get back into a routine.  Helping him to take over those dozens of little things that mom always took care of.  And always just wanting to run away and sit on top of a mountain, with my back against a tree, eyes closed, listening to a stream of snow melt trickle softly down to a roaring river in a valley below.  Letting all my grief, frustration, anger and fear melt away with it.  Letting God refill me.  Sigh.  The meditation on it will have to do for now.  Back to work.


To Mourn or To Rejoice?

My mom died on April 12th.  We’d had over a year to prepare, as she’d been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia just after Thanksgiving in 2010.  As a final indignity, we will not be able to bury her until April 30th.  This could also be looked upon as a measure of her importance, as we have striven to coordinate church services, with availability in the military cemetery where she and my dad are entitled to be buried.  One might even compare our trials to arranging for the burial of a great dignitary.  No three days of mourning and then rest in peace, here.  In truth, it is just another case of hurry up and wait on the government.  The mortuary sent the wrong paperwork to Army Records.  When we finally got a date from the cemetery, the church was booked.  The next available date at the church was the day of my oldest son’s confirmation.  So we took the following two days for the Rosary and Funeral.  The day of the funeral, Friday, which is also my youngest son’s birthday, was not available at the cemetery, so we will have to wait out the weekend until Monday to bury mom.  This has made for absolute chaos.
My daughter-in-law was baptized and confirmed at the Easter vigil on the 7th.  Her husband is receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation next Wednesday.  Mom’s Rosary and Funeral are the following two days.  My youngest son’s birthday, the same day as the funeral.  Mom’s interment the following Monday.  In trying to make sense of all this, we could easily choose to let mom’s death overshadow all the joyful celebrations which have surrounded it this month.  I think mom would want it otherwise.  She gave us plenty of time to prepare.  I have grieved much over the past year.  Now her suffering is done.
As I meditated upon the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary the other day, I was struck by how Jesus, after his night of Agony in the Garden, went willingly to His death.  I was indeed questioning “what if this is it”?  I think He knew we needed assurance that “this” is NOT “it”.  That He has truly gone to prepare a place for us, so that we may live this life fearlessly and fully.  That we will, indeed, rise with Him to enjoy eternal life.  Mom is already there.
Our celebrations this month, are an answer to years of fierce and determined prayer by her.  I think she would want us to celebrate and not let the agony and frustration of the burial preparations get us down.
I love you, Mom.  You are always in my heart.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Every year on my birthday I look at the parish calendar and see it there. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. How apropos, I used to think, with an ungrateful heart. Let’s have a pity party. I felt sorry for myself and what I perceived as my sorrowful life.

I feel blessed and honored now, instead. To share my special day with Our Lady in all her Blessed Motherhood. I received a little pamphlet in the mail once, that explained the seven sorrows.

Simeon’s Prophecy

– imagine bringing your baby to be baptized and some old coot comes up and says “oh, what a cute baby – a sword of sorrow will pierce your heart”. And Mary pondered this.

The Flight into Egypt

– just at the most vulnerable time in both their lives, Jesus and Mary, with Joseph, have to flee the country to save Jesus’ life. To have to leave all their friends, family, home and jobs and live in a foreign country, with a different language, for an indeterminate period of time.

The Loss in the Temple

– what parent would not panic and be consumed with anxiety over the loss of their child for even a few hours, much less several days?

The Carrying of the Cross

– to watch her son, of whom she must have been so proud, undergo such shame and humiliation; the precious life she had protected for so long, bleeding out of him. And she was powerless to do anything but stay near him and watch.

The Crucifixion

– as far as we know, Mary was not privy to God’s plan. What faith, what trust, to watch her son die a criminal’s death, yet to stay near him, trusting that there WAS a plan and that it would be eventually revealed.

The Taking Down from the Cross

– what paralyzing grief she must have felt as she held her son for what she may have thought was the last time. What questions plagued her? What struggle did she overcome to stay strong and faithful?

The Burial of Jesus

– in what must have been a moment of great despair for her, Mary had only her trust in God and her Son to cling to. Mercifully, we have Mary, Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and all the angels and saints to comfort and strengthen us to go on.

Her trust, her faith, her strength in all her uncertainty, trials, sufferings, and misunderstandings. And her joy! The glory of her risen Son, and her special mission to lead us closer to Him. What a woman to look up to and emulate! What an honor to share my birthday with her feast!