Welcome to WINE’s Summer Book Club! We are reading and discussing Blessed Are You: Finding Inspiration From Our Sisters in Faith by Melanie Rigney. We’re so happy you are joining us! We pray this book club will bless you and give you tangible ways to live the Beatitudes in your daily lives. We look forward to hearing from you in the comments section, throughout our time together.
By Maria Johnson
When I received my assignment to discuss Chapter 2: Mourning from Melanie Rigney’s new book Blessed Are You, I thought, “Hmmm. Either this is a bummer, or somebody really knows me.”
We’ll chalk it up to the serendipity so many of us call God-incidences.
You see, I am in this mid-life season where everything, it seems, is about mourning. I am in that stage where caring for aging parents, and the loss of my father, is coupled with grown children who have left the nest. One is a profound loss, the other is a dull ache that pulls at the heart strings. Then there’s retirement, career changes, down-sizing and moving. Each of these normal events in life comes with emotional lows.
Rigney captures this immediately, as she identifies all the different ways we might mourn—from the obvious mourning over the death of a loved one—to other losses that are meaningful and impactful in our lives.
Rigney connects to the reader as only a girlfriend can do. In identifying these losses, it’s like we’re sitting across from each other talking over a cup of coffee. There’s a consolation that she knows my pain. As she shares stories of four remarkable women, canonized saints, I am left feeling hopeful in my own journey.
Anna Shaeffer mourned a lost dream; Claudine Thevenet mourned the loss of her brothers and mother; Elizabeth Ann Seton mourned her family and a way of life; Louise de Marillac lost her mother when she was a child, and suffered many more deaths of loved ones. Yet, these women recovered from their losses to gain lives of exemplary faith.
I am consoled by Rigney’s words that in mourning we can find comfort:
“When we grieve as community, we also celebrate our ability to love and tend to the broken-hearted.” (p. 18)
I know I’ve been blessed by this tenderness from friends and even friendly acquaintances in my times of need. Rigney’s examples not only call us to share our grief, but to be sources of consolation to others, too.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- Can you recall a time in your life when someone was present to you in your grief?
- Have you taken the step to be present to someone in their grief?
- How has your experience with the one helped you to be open to the other?
YOUR TURN: Below in the comments box, please share your thoughts, inspirations, and reflections on Chapter 2, and/or your responses to any of these questions.
About the Author:
Maria Morera Johnson, author of My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live, is a Catholic speaker, writer, and blogger at mariamjohnson.com.
Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 3: Meekness. For the complete reading schedule and information about our online book club, visit the Read Between the WINEs Summer Book Club page.
Thanks Melanie and Maria! Both the chapter and the reflection are so timely, (funny how God does that) and so encouraging (funny how the Holy Spirit does that through us). Maria, the same quote jumped off the page for me too: “When we grieve as community, we also celebrate our ability to love and tend to the broken-hearted.” (p. 18) In a nutshell, that is mercy—love when it encounters suffering, and coming together to tend to another’s pain couldn’t be more on my mind these days.
We just returned from the first ever WINE & Shrine women’s pilgrimage where we visited the places, memories and hearts of some of the female Italian saints—women who experienced their share of suffering and pain, yet through the mercy of others and their trust in the Lord, they perfected the pilgrimage we are all on back to the heart of the Father. What hit me hard on this pilgrimage was how instantly a women who shared her heartache was surrounded by the love, compassion and prayer of the other pilgrims. These women, by their very nature, without hesitation comforted one another, embracing the sufferings and grief of another and lovingly supported her in her need. It was a beautiful thing to behold and follows so true to the writings in this chapter and in this reflection.
If you’re interested in seeing and hearing how this beautiful concept played out on the first days of our pilgrimage, I invite you to read the story of one of our pilgrims, Julie. You can also hear her talk about how her sisters in Christ—both those in heaven and on earth—tended to her broken heart in a way she never imagined. Julie’s interview is at the 30 minute mark. At the 15 minute mark we talk WINE… just in case you’re interested in learning more. Click here for Julie’s story -> http://www.winepilgrimages.com/journey-with-us/2016/7/1/carrying-the-cross
Thank you Melanie Rigney for your wisdom. Thank you Maria Johnson for your insight. And thank you Sarah Damm for making this summer book club possible and allowing all of us women to come together to tend to the hearts of one another.
Thank you Kelly for sharing Julie’s story of carrying the cross on your Wine and Shrine pilgrimage.
I have read ahead in the book and had to go back and remember this chapter. Mourning can be such a private thing but I found, when my father died, that I needed to be able to talk about it with someone who understood. It helped me heal a little faster, in turn, I have tried to always be available to my two friends who lost sons this past year. I know they are hurting so badly and all I can do is listen, cry and hold them, I pray it is a comfort to them .
Hi all. I just wanted to tell you a story that kept coming to my mind when I was writing this chapter. A good friend was just 40 when by a total Godincidence she was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer–NO family history or symptoms. During her treatments, a bunch of us did one of those signup for meals things. I took over a big salad one night and said, “So, are you sick of lasagna?” She didn’t laugh… just smiled and said her husband a few times had said, “Can we please just toss what we got tonight and throw a pork loin on the grill?” Her answer was no, our role is to accept and be grateful. I’m delighted to say that ten years later, she remains totally cancer-free… and is nearing the end of her studies to be a hospice chaplain. But her example I think speaks to how even as we mourn in our own lives, we are ministering to each other.
I was working with Franciscan Hospice at the time my mother died. I had learned about the grieving process. My faith and friends helped me through my loss. I have sat and listened while loved ones have cried about the loss of a loved one(parent, sibling, friend, aunt,….); been by the bedside when a person passes. It still hurts to loss a loved one or see your grieve. St. Elizabeth Seton and the other saints are inspirations to us to have courage and faith in the Lord, which will help us to move with our lives after our loss.
This chapter in the book really hit me hard. In the past I had only thought about this beatitude as mourning for our loved ones or friends which is particularly traumatic. I learned that when my mother died. However, what stopped me in my tracks was to realize that this beatitude covers so many other parts of our lives; the loss of a job, or being in a vocation that maybe we weren’t called to be in, the loss of a life long dream, the loss of a relationship, etc. And to realize that we all probably mourn all the time because when you love someone and life changes there is that feeling of loss. It has made me realize that we never know what someone else is going through in their life and to be more gentle and understanding.
I too always thought about mourning as of a person. When I was forced to retire from my teaching position in 2015, it was a kind of mourning. I loved my job and was not planning to retire anytime soon. It was more than a job, I felt it was my vocation, bringing little ones to Jesus in education. These great saints are an inspiration that I will make it through this period of mourning. I know God has something else for me to do.
I have mourned on and off over the years, the loss of the dream of the “perfect” family-kids all married, living close, coming over for Sunday dinner… This chapter helped me to acknowledge what was “lost” and to stop feeling sorry for myself! God has different, bigger plans for my kids than I ever did!
I too have just come to realize that mourning does not necessarily mean someone close to you has died. I have been upset lately when a family member entered into a relationship that I was not so sure about. It seemed too fast. I felt like I was losing this person and now I see that I am just mourning the fact that things are not turning out as I imagined. It is helpful to hear of these women saints and also to hear the views of each one of you. I pray to God to increase my trust in Him, and to know that his plans are greater than mine. Thank you Jody, Diedra, Kathy, Maria and Melanie!
1. My church family is definitely sharing our grief with us. My husband was recently diagnosed with an incurable illness. It was a shock and we are grateful for their support. Also a man in the community, who also has an incurable illness, has taken over as our guardian angel. He not only found us the yard help we desperately needed, but supervised the man he choose for 3 weeks before letting him work on his own. He has told us to call him at any time when we need him, – and his wife has done the same. I feel very humbled.
2. Several years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, many people in our city came to my aid. After my lumpectomy, I wore a sling for about a week. Folks would ask if I broke my arm and I would say, “No, I have breast cancer”. A few said nothing and walked always, but most replied, “How can I help”? My answer was always, “Pray for me”, but I received much more than that. Anonymous donors provided box seat tickets to the baseball games, a day at the spa, good advice, food; I could go on and on. Again, it was very humbling.
Once I made my first year in recovery, I joined Reach to Recovery. For at least 8 years I spoke with women with breast cancer, listened, and answered questions. It was a great experience. Now my volunteer experience has turned to the local Hospital Auxiliary. There I visit and help with seniors and hopefully make their days brighter.
3. Yes, my experience has helped me know how people in hospital situations feel. I was hospitalized several times as a child, sometimes for months. I was far from home, so I didn’t have visitors. My parents could not be with me when I was 8, but my grandmother stayed. There was a boy my age from South America who had the same condition that I had. His mother had just had a miscarriage, so she could not be with him. His father, who was a physician, stayed with him and also helped with me. I have always appreciated the father’s generosity at what must have been a difficult time for him. And I treasured my grandmother for staying, although I knew it was a great sacrifice.
Thank you for reminding me of the phrase to use when someone gives you terrible news of what they are going through… “How can I help.”
This was a very thought provoking chapter again! Something our culture has “buried” is the respect for death and mourning, yet it was an everyday part of life for our ancestors, which is perhaps why they seemed to have a greater (more devote?) respect for all life. You never knew if a pregnancy would end in the live birth of a child, or if your child would live to be an adult, or if your husband would die before you… more likely, the wife died first. I grew up in a large family and my mother’s side of the family were Catholics from eastern Europe. Mourning with it’s sister, celebration of life, were what I grew up with. When my mother remarried to a more modern (nuclear?) man, I couldn’t understand why my new step-siblings never had attended a funeral except of their mother’s. Their father had “protected” them from funerals, as if it were a disease. Funerals are respectful and sad, yes, because we mourn the earthly loss of someone near and dear to us. But after the funeral, we gathered in a family member’s house and celebrated life… those who were gone and those of us of all ages who were still “doing time” for God on earth. We cried sometimes, but mostly I remember hugs, smiles, sometimes laughter, pictures of the loved ones, good stories and funny stories about him/her – things we learned about the person that we never knew before. We knew, just as a matter of fact, that that person was in a far better place than we were. No one needed to say it. I learned a lot about life through death. After everyone went home, that was the time to readjust life with the void that the love one left. We learned to pick up your mat and continue with the life that God had planned for you. We know that our loved ones continue to walk with us and pray for us, as we continue to pray for them. – Pax et bonum!
Pax et bonum! Peace and salvation!
I didn’t know the translation before.
Awesome! Love the Latin!
For the last 34 years I have secreted away the loss of a child…I never confronted the loss nor allowed myself to grieve…but, recently, on a retreat, I realized I had never thought of the loss, I had neatly tucked it away in a safe, inside a safe, inside a safe…. But, during this retreat, with the help of the community around me, I came face to face with this loss and allowed myself to grieve…the women on this retreat helped me to accept my loss and return to life…I now have a better understanding of grief and its process…but, moreover, I have a new respect for community and the power community gives us to love each other.
I’m sorry for your loss… That had to be very painful for you, at the time and again in dealing with the loss more recently. Did you name your baby? Dear Jesus please give Stephanie comfort.
Stephanie, I am so sorry for the loss of your child. I also am so grateful for the experience you had on retreat. Those women truly ministered to you and shared Jesus with you! Your experience of grieving and healing among your sisters in Christ is an amazing gift. May God continue to heal your heart, give you comfort and peace, and bless you with faith-filled friends. I am glad you are reading with us this summer. Thank you so much for sharing from the depths of your heart.
I am getting caught up in my reading of this great book, and this chapter of mourning I feel is such a personal experience with God. My Dad had his first stroke when he was 52. Diabetes and heart problems had us many times telling him our goodbyes for 30 years. During that time I cried and mourned his death (while sporadically in my mind) openly over and over again. I believed in heaven, and now know it was in my selflessness of thinking about me living without him that caused this. But before Dad actually passed, God had shown me that death is a miracle… it is one of our most precious and intimate times with God, when He can carried His creation home. It’s not a miracle we can share like the birth of a baby or near death accident, but is one just for them. This left me at such peace. I often tell this to others mourning a death and have been told they never thought of that like that before and feel better. Thank you Lord for giving me this realization and something I can pass onto other to help those mourning death. Great chapter!
My dad retired at age 64 from the International Harvester dealership that his father had founded. Daddy took over when his father died unexpectedly when I was 6. He lived in Charleston, MS. My family and I lived in Great Falls, MT. He and Mother had made short visits over the years and the year before had stayed for longer than usual. We had a great time and took them to many places that he enjoyed seeing; so much so that he had planned a 2 week visit the summer of 1983.
He had new false teeth made in honor of the visit, but was having trouble with the fit. He had been going back and forth to the dentist who was reputed to be the best in fitting them. The dentist finally pointed at to him that he had been losing weight rapidly and suggested that he see his doctor. The doctor quickly got him to an expert and the diagnosis, after an exploratory surgery, was pancreatic cancer, at that time, no treatment. He was given a month to live, later revised to 6 months after the doctor got to know him better.
I want to fly down immediately, but Daddy insisted that the kids go to the horse camp they were schedule for first. So, 2 weeks later, we flew down. My brother picked us up at the airport and explained that we would not recognize Daddy. When we arrived at the house, the piano tuner was just leaving. He was an older, slim man and almost hugged him thinking he was Daddy. My big, tall Father looked like an Auschwitz victim. He was skin and bones, sunken eyes; the only thing that was the same was his voice.
If my children saw him the way that I did, they never showed it. Bevan (13) was a rock; we could not have managed without him. Annie (9) simply went over and plopped in his lap as if nothing had changed. I managed to hold it together most of the time, and when I could not, I would go out and work in the yard until I was too tired to cry anymore and reflect on Paul’s Roman 8:26 “sighs too deep for words”.
The doctor was correct with his first time frame. Daddy died exactly a month after his surgery. Although Daddy was in terrible pain at the end, morphine did nothing for him, and the doctor was even in tears. He would cry out to the Lord, but he always ended his pleas with, “not my will, but yours Lord”. There was never any reason to doubt that Daddy is in heaven.
But, I felt very alone the day of the funeral. In my worst moment, just when they were beginning to lower the rose covered casket, a beautiful swallowtail butterfly landed on top. I knew that was God’s sign for me that all was well.
“But before Dad actually passed, God had shown me that death is a miracle… it is one of our most precious and intimate times with God, when He can carried His creation home.”
This chapter touched me on so many levels. Not only have I mourned the death of a parent, but also deal with the disability of a child and the fracturing of my family by divorce. I would like to encourage everyone to reach out to those who are going through a marital separation or divorce, even if it seems like things are going well. I have accepted that I will always mourn the loss of my marriage to the father of my children, even though I am now in a loving marriage with a wonderful man. My faith got me through the worst of it, and have friends who reached out to me during the worst of times. My faith has carried me through the difficulties, and I am encouraged by the stories of the saints who have persevered in faith and gone on to be at peace and accomplish wonderful things that have endured over the centuries. I continue to pray for my child to be healed, and continue to move in faith toward the new ministry God has called me into.
You have reminded me that I need to reach our more. Thank you!
I am writing this on the eve of the 2nd anniversary of my father’s death, and pulled the book off the shelf to reread the chapter, but more so, have read through and prayed about all the shared experiences here. It is, in the words of St Augustine, a “severe mercy” to revisit this pain again and again, and yet, it brings me closer to the Lord, and closer to others as well. Thank you all for sharing here, and I look forward to the continuing conversation!
I found this Chapter also very fitting. I am mourning the loss of a child (I was only 5 weeks when I lost the baby). I am now struggling to conceive a child. I am worried it may never happen for me. A quote that hit me was: God is merciful and has a plan, even though it may not be readily apparent. I found it a powerful statement to the struggles I have been facing for almost two years now. Mourning is something I am very good at, but I need to find an outlet for my mourning like all the saints in this chapter.
I am sorry about the loss of your child and also for all that you have been going through. I pray for you in your hopes of conceiving.
“God is merciful and has a plan, even though it may not be readily apparent.” Thank you for bringing this quote to my attention. It is something I need to constantly be reminded of!
On page 17 Rigney says ” there’s a diminishment in our lives, and it seems so unfair that the rest of the world keeps on turning as we walk out of the……rehab center.” Last summer my son was diagnosed with the disease of alcoholism. My grief was intense and painful. I wanted to shout to the world that I was hurting and ashamed and confused and simply…suffering immensely.
Most of those dark days were spent in prayer and adoration. I tried to remain faithful in my faith and allow the Master Healer give me relief, as only He can do.
I am so sorry that you are hurting. I’ve been there with two of my five sons. I felt the searing pain, the feelings of helplessness, shame and fear. It was suffocating. I gathered all my inner strength and leaned into the darkness by leaning on the Lord. I never missed a day of adoration, daily Mass or the rosary. I placed my trust in the risen Lord and invited him into my life in a powerful act of total surrender and trust. His guiding hand began to remold Me as he maneuvered me straight into his Sacred Heart where I found rest, reconciliation and restoration. He taught me patience, perseverance and prudence. By my example I passed on God’s peace and love to my sons. Eventually…..my sons ascended from the darkness into the light that always prevails if we place our power in His powerful embrace. I clung to hope and God did not let me down. Every ounce of excruciating pain has dissolved into the most liberating, illuminating light of joy. Anything is possible with God because he is always faithful!
Mary Lou McCall,
Substance Abuse Specialist
I have really thought a lot about St. Claudine and her response on mourning: “There is no greater tragedy than to live and die without knowing God” (page 24). I have suffered periods of mourning in my life but the death of my mother at age 18 and a miscarriage 5 years ago were the most painful. I never would have been able to get through them without the love of God. I have a friend/former co-worker who is agnostic and is battling an inoperable brain tumor. I frequently think about how scary that must be for him, battling such a scary health issue and not having God to turn to. I am so glad I have a wonderful God to turn to for hope.
Dear Jesus please help Dennia in her mourning. Please help her friend in dealing with her brain tumor and also for her friend to feel God’s loving embrace around him.