Mercy, or how to be like God the Father

Dear Hubby and I spent Friday night with our beloved Franciscan Sisters, who are hosting monthly discussions on the Year of Mercy.

The speaker this past Friday was a philosophy professor who is a student of St. John Paul II. He reminded us that one of St. JP II's encyclical's was DIVES IN MISERICORDIA, or God, who is rich in mercy.

I had read this encyclical once upon a time, but I think it will be my study for this Lent. JP II's writing can be tough going - he is a philosopher, and usually packs about 16 significant thoughts in a sentence or two. However, given that this is the Year of Mercy, what better study could there be?

We read in the Constitution Gaudium et spes: "Christ the new Adam...fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his lofty calling," and does it "in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love."6 The words that I have quoted are clear testimony to the fact that man cannot be manifested in the full dignity of his nature without reference - not only on the level of concepts but also in an integrally existential way - to God. Man and man's lofty calling are revealed in Christ through the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love.

For this reason it is now fitting to reflect on this mystery. It is called for by the varied experiences of the Church and of contemporary man. It is also demanded by the pleas of many human hearts, their sufferings and hopes, their anxieties and expectations. While it is true that every individual human being is, as I said in my encyclical Redemptor hominis, the way for the Church, at the same time the Gospel and the whole of Tradition constantly show us that we must travel this day with every individual just as Christ traced it out by revealing in Himself the Father and His love.7 In Jesus Christ, every path to man, as it has been assigned once and for all to the Church in the changing context of the times, is simultaneously an approach to the Father and His love.

Grief: The Ache In My Heart

Pere' Lachaise Cemetery
Grief is weird thing. It likes to sneak up on you for no particular reason. It wears out its welcome quickly, leaving you empty. Sometimes, it just follows you around for days, stuck to you like a piece of lint you don't even know is on the back of your pants.

Yesterday, I was just stabbed with the grief of missing my dad. No reason. It wasn't an anniversary of any kind. I just ... was grieved.

My dad has been gone for years. A lot of things have happened in that time. Sometimes I just wish he could sit in the back of the room one time when I am speaking. I'd like to see his face there, in the audience.

He was my go-to when trying to figure out finances or insurance or cars. He just knew stuff - what tool did what, how to tear a kitchen sink apart to fix a clog, how much life insurance you needed. Stuff I don't know.

When I was little, Dad would occasionally have a Pepsi. (This was long before the days when everyone bought soda by the truck loads. We kids got Tang. Clearly, our parents were preparing us for a life of Catholic penance.)

When Dad had a Pepsi, I would pester that he save me some. I would climb up on his lap - usually he was watching golf. He'd point out the finer points of the game to me, and then - FINALLY! - give me that can of soda, with a mouthful or two left.

Nothing special.

What I wouldn't give to have that not special moment back for just a few minutes.

Don't ever let anyone tell you to "get over it" or "you shouldn't be so sad." Your grief is your grief. There is no timetable, no end zone, no chart. There is however, balm.


There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.
Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

Lent ... Again

Sigh. There is nothing more dreary than February in Michigan. While this winter has not seen much snow, we got pounded last night with icy slush, rain, thunder and lightening. Clumps of dirty snow pile up near driveways and ditches, reminding us that it is still winter, despite the fact that the grass is visible. Michigan in February can drive the hardiest soul to hibernate with a stack of books and steaming tea.

To top it off, we begin Lent in a week! Lent, that penitential season when we studiously examine our consciences, earnestly pray and study the our Faith, and seek to shore up our souls by making daily sacrifices.

February + Lent = grimness.

Or does it? Must Lent be grim? It shouldn't be. Just because it is a somber time in the Church calendar, it should not be sad or depressing or (I daresay!) ugly. No, Lent must have an element of joy to it.

Remember, dear readers, that happiness and joy are not the same. Happiness depends upon circumstances, and is fleeting ("I'm happy work is going well" or "I'm happy that we're having macaroni & cheese for dinner instead of tuna melts!") Joy is from God. It says, "All is well with my soul," regardless of what life throws at us. Joy is not fleeting; it is a state of the soul that must be nurtured, but a mature soul is always joyful in the Lord.

And so it must be in Lent. We bow our heads in prayer, we fast from treats (whether that is our favorite coffee brew, a television show we enjoy, or a habit that does us no good), we give alms. We rejoice that God is so good that He gave us His Son, and that the Son allows us to journey into the desert with him for 40 days. We are joyful that we have the entire Church as companions on this journey. Joy fills us, with the Eucharist, our food for this journey.

While winter may drag us down, Lent is here: Rejoice!

Honesty, Pain, Redemption and Teens

Youngest son is still a teen (for another 11 months), but is out of the house. He's also huge - 6' 7".

He's also in a lot of pain, emotionally. For years, he made horrendous choices, and those choices had consequences not just for him but for people he loved.

He is home for a couple of days, to take care of some of those horrendous choices. Last night,  he sat and talked with me for hours, pouring out his heart. It's probably the most honest conversation we've had ... maybe ever.

This huge kid is hurting so badly. The bad choices and their consequences play like a movie reel in his head, he told. How can he turn them off? How can he make up for the things he's done? When will he feel forgiven?

Confession, he said, helps - sort of. He still feels a burden for what he's done.

I told him that our feelings are far too often unreliable. If I acted on my feelings, I would have walked out on my family years ago - it was just too  hard. I felt like I couldn't handle it. But, we act on what is right, making wise choices by God's grace, not by our feelings.

I talked to him about saints who made truly terrible choices - the Apostles and St. Paul. Yet they are men we look to as powerful examples of faith.

In my office, where we were talking, I have a crucifix. I kept pointing it out to my son, reassuring him the Christ had already taken on his sins and that he was forgiven - so long as he was truly sorry and confessed those sins. He might still have a heavy heart, but the reality (not his feelings) is that Christ loved him - and all of us - so much that He was willing to die a horrid death, a most painful death, a death He did not deserve. The reality is that death saves us.

My son is still so young, and these are such massive burdens and issues for a young man to struggle with. I told him that I covered him (and his siblings) in prayer every day. My prayerful desire is that this honest conversation is just the beginning of a new path for him - one where he can discover a deeper faith, redemption and hope.

Into the Foggy Dew

If you've ever driven through a thick fog, you know what fear is. You can't see anything. You're not sure if you're stil...