Grieving loved ones — transforming pain into peace

This column, written by Chris Codden, was featured in the St. Cloud Visitor’s October 25th issue:


Observing the upcoming Feast of All Saints and All Souls Day are ways we remember the saints who were close to us, but we have other ways, too

Oct. 25, 2013, edition
By Chris Codden

My parents had a lovely family Bible located in a prominent place on a corner table in our living room.

It was the kind of Bible that had the beautiful pictures of the various Bible stories and, in the very front, contained our family’s genealogy.

I remember sitting down occasionally thumbing through this massive book admiring the striking pictures and reading the names of family members I had only met through the stories my aunt and uncles told around the table.

I also remember my mother explaining the meaning of the cross before several names, the names of her sister and brothers who had died in infancy.

When we were married, we received the same kind of Bible as a wedding present. I remember as a young bride, dutifully entering in the front of the Bible those names of our families and imagining what names I would add as our family began.

What I didn’t expect at that time were the names I would enter in with a cross.

Lives of all valued

It may be meant by design or grand plan that Respect Life Month is October just before we commemorate All Saints and All Souls days, Nov. 1 and 2. Those are the days we remember the saints, those named as saints by the church and those who are saints in our hearts who are now enjoying eternal glory with Christ.

Maybe remembering the gift of life for all God’s children, born and unborn, prepares us to celebrate the life of our loved ones who have passed, on All Souls Day.

Maybe it helps us grasp the precious gift that life truly is at all stages of development, from the moment of conception until a natural death.

And maybe it helps us put our lives in perspective as we meet the turmoil of the world around us and the need to stand up for that ultimate gift that we, by nature of our baptism, are called to defend.

As we meet this challenge, for many of us there is a sense of sorrow.

When our son died 33 years ago, my heart grieved his loss, and still does to this day.

We entered Clayton’s name in our family Bible when he was born, and added a cross before his name when he died. My husband and I go to the cemetery on his birthday and the anniversary of his death to remember him, to honor his life.

Yet, we have another child who never celebrated a birthday and does not have a gravestone. Her short life was only 6 to 7 weeks long and we lost her through an ectopic pregnancy.

Heart-rending hole

While we are not sure of the gender, several years after her passing, we decided to name our baby Emma Rose. I had felt such a hole in my heart, not able to grasp her memory, feeling I was not acknowledging this short beautiful life and that I had somehow turned my back on her.

Naming her helped me to grieve her loss, find peace and thank God for his abundant mercy and grace. Her name was added to our Bible with a blessed cross.

I am grateful to the Knights of Columbus for their contribution to Assumption Cemetery in St. Cloud for the memorial marker for the unborn. While there are no names listed on the gravestone, when Rich and I go out to the cemetery, we spend time there reflecting, and it has become our memorial for Emma Rose.

Today, as I look through our same family Bible, full of beautiful pictures and the names of our wonderful family, I thank God for all his blessings, including the blessing of our family saints.

Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Reach her at

USCCB Conscience Protection Videos

July 10, 2013

Dear Friends,

In the USCCB’s ongoing efforts to protect conscience rights, we’d like to bring to your attention a brand new video resource.

Three women traveled to Washington, D.C. this spring to defend the freedom of conscience, after their own deeply held beliefs were threatened or violated in the field of health care and health coverage.

Listen to their stories and stand with Cathy, Sister Jane Marie and Christine to urge legal protection for religious freedom and conscience rights:

Non-Catholic groups may be especially interested to know that the new 3-minute video can also be accessed directly on YouTube:

We would greatly appreciate your urgent help in getting this video shared broadly. It directs viewers to write to their elected representatives through the NCHLA action center.

Note that while the administration has extended date of implementation of the HHS mandate from the August 1st date mentioned in the video, which will now begin applying to non-exempt religious nonprofit organizations beginning January 1.  This allows us more time to build support for our policy goals inside and outside Congress.  That means there is still plenty of time join the e-mail campaign specifically urging support and co-sponsorship for the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940, S. 1204).

Thank you for your time and kind assistance!

March and pray with us to stand up for freedom June 23

On Sunday, June 23 from noon to 4 p.m., you are invited to join the Fortnight for Freedom Event for Marriage, Life and Religious Liberty. We will begin with a rosary at noon at the Cathedral High School’s football practice field (corner of 6th Ave. N and 4th St. N in St. Cloud). We will then march to St. Mary’s Cathedral (about a six-block walk).

At 1 p.m., exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will begin with eucharistic adoration, hourly speakers, praying the rosary and divine chaplet. Benediction will be at 4 pm. All are welcome for all or any part of the event.

Why do we need to gather for such an occasion?

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, explained, “The need has never been greater. The Fortnight for Freedom exists to meet that need. This year’s Fortnight occurs just weeks before Aug. 1, when the administration’s mandate coercing us to violate our deeply-held beliefs will be enforced against most religious non-profits. During the Fortnight the Supreme Court’s decisions on the definition of marriage will likely be handed down as well. Those decisions could have a profound impact on religious freedom for generations to come.”

Rights targeted

Our freedoms are being whittled away on almost a daily basis and people of faith who speak out against these violations to our First Amendment rights are being targeted. The recent IRS scandal is only one example of this. In our own state, when the impact of the Legislature’s passage of the law redefining marriage takes effect, we will feel more.

While the Minnesota law that is legalizing same-sex “marriage” provided that churches and members of the clergy will not be forced to solemnize these weddings, it did not accommodate for individuals, nonreligious nonprofits, small business owners, religious organizations that receive public funds, and religious associations not directly connected with a church organization or diocese.

We will be seeing in the near future, civil suits — similar to what has happened in other states that have redefined marriage — against business owners forced to provide their services for something that they feel is wrong.

Other laws will need to change, such as we have seen in Iowa, where the birth certificate had to be changed to allow for two persons of the same sex to be listed. And school curriculums will have to be altered to include same-sex marriage as normative.

On the issue of the HHS mandate, Archbishop Charles Chaput shares that while the U.S. Bishop’s have long fought for basic medical care as a matter of social justice and human dignity, the current situation is much different.

Convictions violated

He says, “. . . health care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue provoked entirely — and needlessly — by the current White House. Despite a few small concessions under pressure, the administration refuses to withdraw or reasonably modify a Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate that violates the moral and religious convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously affiliated and inspired organizations. Archbishop Chaput went on to say, “Coupled with the White House’s refusal to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and its astonishing disregard for the unique nature of religious freedom . . . the HHS mandate can only be understood as a form of coercion. Access to inexpensive contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States. The mandate is thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option for infertility. And if millions of Americans disagree with it on principle — too bad.”

As you can see, there is much to pray for. We can make a difference with our prayers and our ability to continue to uphold what is dear and to stand together as a witness of the tenants of our faith.

We can make a difference with keeping our belief in the sacredness of marriage between one man and one woman, the dignity of each human person, from the moment of conception until a natural death.

And we can make a difference by standing up for the freedoms that this country was founded on, and that good men and women fought and died for.

As Archbishop Chaput said, “The day when Americans could take the Founders’ understanding of religious freedom as a given is over. We need to wake up.” Join us June 23.

Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud.