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Easter Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Lynette

I Am Love and Mercy Itself

I Am Love and Mercy Itself

Divine Mercy, Sacred Heart of Jesus | Terezia Sedlakova

“My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy” (Diary, 699)

Mercy.  We’ve heard it proclaimed in Scripture and preached from the pulpit.  Saints have written about it and Saint Pope John Paul II’s pontificate was immersed in its message.  Pope Francis even declared an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. But how many of us truly understand just what God’s mercy is and what its significance is meant to be in our lives?

Like many,  I was familiar with those often heard Scripture passages that spoke of God’s mercy.  I also had heard about Sister Faustina, the Polish nun who had experienced visions of Christ and had written a diary about Divine Mercy, and I had dutifully added the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to my occasional repertoire of recited prayers.  In the years following the institution of Divine Mercy Sunday, I attended our parish’s Divine Mercy Hour on the Feast Day, where we would gather to pray the Chaplet and venerate the Image. And that summed up the extent of my “devotion” – an occasional, somewhat obligatory recitation of the Chaplet and participation in a once-a-year Feast Day.  But God, in His infinite mercy, wasn’t about to leave me there.

When God really wants your attention, He often resorts to using a 2×4.  It was the summer of 2015 and as I headed poolside, I hastily grabbed a book from my “to read” pile, The Second Greatest Story Ever Told by Fr. Michael Gaitley.  I wasn’t sure what I expected, but I certainly didn’t expect to be riveted to its pages.  Far more than just imparting information, Fr. Gaitley distinctly wove together all the bits and pieces I had learned into a compelling story of God’s persistent efforts to woo us back to Him after the fall.  The story spanned the entire history of God’s people, culminating in the pontificate of St. Pope John Paul II which continually proclaimed that “now is the time of mercy.” I couldn’t put the book down, and as the summer sun bore down upon me, there was a spark that was being ignited from within.  By the time I finished, Divine Mercy had started moving from my head to my heart and the book’s call to action, echoed in the words of St. Pope John Paul II, refused to let me rest. “This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world.” So, there it was.  An urgent call, a sudden burning desire, and … absolutely no clue on how to respond. Again, God wasn’t about to leave me there.

In its Spring 2016 edition, the Marian Helper ran an article with an invitation to consecrate to Divine Mercy using Fr. Gaitley’s newest book, 33 Days to Merciful Love.  That Divine Mercy Sunday, I consecrated myself to Divine Mercy along with thousands of other viewers (60,000 copies of the book had been ordered as a result of the invitation) as Fr. Gaitley recited the prayer of Consecration live on EWTN from the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA.  That day was truly a “mountaintop” experience. Not only had I been called to embrace the message, but I had consecrated myself to being a witness to His merciful love to the world. But, once again, God wasn’t about to leave me there.

“Lynette, I have another project for you.”  It was one of the members of our little retreat group.  “Have you seen the trailer for the documentary on the original Image of Divine Mercy?”  My stomach sank. Yes, I had seen it. But no, I wasn’t about to approach our pastor to get the rights to show it at our parish.  “Oh, you need to. I’ll help you.” Long story short, I did and the documentary (The Original Image of Divine Mercy) was shown a few months later at three difference times to full crowds in our parish conference room.  Task done. Or so I thought. Another parish had expressed interest and over the next few months God quite miraculously worked out the details to not only host the documentary there, but for the director of the film to fly in for a “Director’s Cut.”  What transpired that next Palm Sunday as several hundred people gathered to watch this miraculous story, hear the presentation by the Director, and then venerate the life-size replica of the Image, was truly humbling. Then, as if God couldn’t bless me enough, I was humbled once again as I was gifted with a large 3rd class relic of the Image for my home.  In gratitude, I vowed to God that the Image wouldn’t just hang in my home. It would be a “pilgrim” Image that would travel to others as the Holy Spirit would lead. The call to spread the message of Divine Mercy had deepened to include the witness of the Original Image. The mission was now complete. Yet again, God wasn’t about to leave me there.

He didn’t leave me there because I needed Him.  Despite all I had been learning and doing to promote the message of His Mercy, there were parts of my life, past and present, that I was struggling to relinquish.  Sure, I had received absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but deep down I clung to the false security of my pride that said some things would never be forgiven, resolved, healed.  Letting go would mean I had to completely trust the words I had so often repeated to others – “Jesus, I trust in You.” My refusal of His mercy wove a nasty, almost hidden web of distrust into my spiritual life and into every relationship I had, affecting both my mental and my physical health.  It was time for God to do the astonishing.

“Come to Vilnius.”  For several weeks this persistent statement came to me.  I wasn’t convinced. I had never been out of the country, let alone entertain the idea of going to some less-traveled to destination.  But in faith, we made plans to join a pilgrimage, and when that didn’t materialize, my husband followed what had to have been the Holy Spirit’s prompting and pronounced simply, “We’re going.”  Less than two months later, off we went, just the two of us. There is much I could write about being in the “City of Mercy,” but being in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Vilnius, kneeling before the Image of Divine Mercy that was painted at St. Faustina’s instruction and knowing its miraculous history, was truly a “transfiguration” experience.  We began and ended almost every day there, basking in the rays of His Mercy, rays that began the process of healing my brokenness and turning my heart back to embrace my vocation as my husband’s wife.

“I am Love and Mercy Itself.”  (Jesus’s words to St. Faustina, Diary, 1074)  If we, as Catholic Christians, are called to become “Christ” to one another, then love and mercy must permeate every aspect of our life. “Divine Mercy is not a secondary devotion, but an integral dimension of Christian faith and prayer.” (St. Benedict)  “How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy.” (Pope Francis) As Mathew N. Schmalz writes in Mercy Matters, “Mercy responds not just to human sin, but also to human need … mercy is love that responds to human need in an unexpected or unmerited way.”  For many of us, “sometimes it’s not that we’re open to mercy as a conscious choice; it’s that we are opened to mercy by circumstances beyond our own power to control or grasp.”  Being able to give and receive mercy is a life-long learning process and a gift of grace, one made easier, I believe, if we truly take Christ’s words to heart. Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus showed us the ultimate act of Love and Mercy.  Why? Because we desperately needed it. As we approach Divine Mercy Sunday, let us strive to love Him and one another by seeking out each other’s needs and meeting them in unique, unexpected ways, trusting Jesus to help us answer, “How can I best love you today?


MORE ON DIVINE MERCY

Praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet

Powerful Miracle Stories

DMC sung by Donna Cori Gibson

DMC spoken  

 

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Allison Gingras Easter Ink Slingers Lent Liturgical Year

The Triduum for the Win

The Triduum for the Win

Easter circa 1977 consisted of a new floral print dress, a cute hat, and lots of candy.  I have vague recollections of frozen fish sticks on Fridays and at least one failed attempts to give up candy for Lent, and the rice bowls collection boxes we brought home, constructed, but never filled.  Super holy, huh! Mom and Dad were not exactly church folk, a real shame, as they missed some glorious opportunities to experience real joy.

While our Easter celebrations get lost in menus, egg hunts, and new floral dresses, our Triduum celebration belongs all to Jesus.  Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and even Holy Saturday, we surrender those days to the traditions of our Catholic faith. The activities of these days have evolved over the years, especially as our children age, but the heart and intent remain focused on growing in holiness and hope.

Holy Thursday kicks off the Triduum fun with the evening Mass. My daughter loves Mass at night, with the darkened stained glass windows portraying the darkness of the days we are about to experience.  Twice, our family has been invited to participate in the “Washing of the Feet” ceremony. Sitting before the peering eyes of the parishioners can be horrifying and humbling, but when you realize what you are being asked to reenact, the horror dissipates, replaced by honor and awe.

Our parish also participates that night in a beautiful tradition of visiting seven churches (no one seems to know why we visit seven). At one time that was easy, living next to a rural city with several churches.  Over the years, as the Church crisis continues, there are fewer and fewer to visit. We can still achieve the seven visits in two hours, but it feels as if the day when we will be lucky to get in 4 or 5 is around the corner.  I guess that will be my prayer intention this year as we adore Jesus in the Eucharist, from church to beautiful church.

Good Friday, we fast. True confession time. In my early re-version days, I would sleep in the afternoon, tired from the fast, looking to find an easy way to pass the time.  It was not until I read Scripture that I realized the significance of the slumber:  “Could you not stay awake one hour?” Now, I head to my parish for three hours of prayer and solitude…well, until the teens arrive to practice the live Passion Play.

In the evening, my family returns to our parish for Good Friday services.  In the past few years, our pastor blessed us with the opportunity to venerate a relic of the “True Cross”—affixed to the large wooden cross presented at the altar during the services. The relic’s authenticity was said to be proven by a miracle of a deaf person hearing once again.  For years, my family has each watched, hopeful and curiously, as my daughter, Faith, who is deaf, approached and kissed the relic.  Inevitably, one of us would lean in and whisper into her ear to see if Faith had received miraculous healing.

This year our pastor and his glorious relic have moved on. Our faith is strong enough, however, to realize if God willed her to hear, with or without the glass-encased sliver of wood, she would.

Holy Saturday is a bit more challenging to keep since it is the awkward day of waiting. The tomb is empty, but we are not yet ready to celebrate it.  We have preparations to make for the following day’s meal and company but we want to remain mindful of all we have seen and heard in the last two days.  

Was that how the women felt preparing for the Sabbath after Jesus’ crucifixion? They had so many details for the day to attend to, yet each was mourning, probably exhausted from the previous day’s events and emotions.  They worked, waiting until they could visit Jesus in the tomb, surrounded by an odd silence and uncertainty.

Before we burst forth with Alleluias and the Gloria, the Triduum holds treasures of its own. We cannot fully appreciate Easter without the garden, His Passion, the Cross, and even the waiting.

 

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Easter Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Maurisa

Running to the Tomb

Running to the Tomb

“The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection” | Eugène Burnand

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.  Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

John 20:1-9

Eugène Burnand

I’m not sure which came first, my love for the beautiful painting by Swiss artist Eugene Burnand, or my love for this particular scene from the resurrection. Both resonate deeply with me. The exhilarating celebration of Easter each year brings me back to meditating upon them as a complementary pair.

Several years ago I was able to see Burnand’s most famous work in person in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris.  The piece is absolutely astonishing and it took my breath away to see it up close.  I stood taking in the wondrousness of the scene and studying the master artist’s brush strokes for an extensive amount of time.  The soft colors of the painting’s setting suggest an early spring morning, close to dawn.  The disciples appear breathless with anxiety and exertion as the movement of the piece indicates they are indeed running. John’s hands are clasped tightly together in a posture of fretful prayer.  Anticipation fills his face.  Peter’s brow is furrowed with worry and his eyes are open wide in suspense.  One wonders what thoughts were running through their distressed minds. Were the two men panicked at Mary Magdalene’s suggestion Jesus’ body had been unexpectedly moved or even worse, possibly stolen? Or was it fretful hope in the Master’s puzzling teachings which filled their souls? 

What we do know from Sacred Scripture is that when they did arrive at the tomb—first John and then Peter—they saw and believed. Believed in the Resurrection which they had not understood until they saw the empty linens lying in the tomb. According to Bible commentaries, the author mentions the linens as proof Jesus’ body had not been stolen by grave robbers. They likely would not have stopped to unwrap the body or would have left the cloths and the tomb in disarray.  Another curious and important aspect much commented upon is the way in which the linens were lying flat, or deflated in appearance, as if His body had just disappeared from beneath or passed right through them.

Wow, right?

Can you even imagine the thrill they must have felt as they began to understand all He had taught them, what had happened within the tomb, and what it would all mean?

We have just recently arrived at the empty tomb. What a marvelous promise He has given us—that we who believe shall not die, but should have eternal life; yes, eternal bliss with the Triune God and all His saints and angels in heaven. This is the root reason I love these first few verses of chapter 20 in Saint John’s gospel and the awe-inspiring painting by Burnand. It is the Eternal Hope and Truth of the Resurrection they both represent.

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Easter Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Liturgical Year Prayer Vocations

Lectio Divina: Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday-Year A)

I have a small group of women that I try to get together with once a month to pray using lectio divina and the Gospel reading for the upcoming Sunday. We have actually not been able to meet for the last few months so I have not been doing this as regularly as I should. They help keep me accountable! So it’s really nice to be able to do it on occasion here on the blog.

I hope you’ll join me today and spend some time in preparation for this coming Sunday. Lectio divina is a perfect way to enter into the Gospels and spend some time in prayer with them, not just reading the passage, but really praying with it and listening to what God wants you to hear.

This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter. The Gospel passage can be found on the USCCB website. Be sure to have it in front of you as you follow along through the rest of this post. For a brief review of the lectio divina steps, I recommend this brief explanation from the Archabbey of St. Meinrad.

READ:

  • By name
  • I am the gate
  • Have life

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

A few months ago I was assisting in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class and the lesson was on this passage from the Gospel of John. The kids we have in the class are between the ages of 3 and 6, but we only have 6 kids total. When I read this passage I was taken back to that lesson and watching the kids playing with the mini sheep, shepherd, and sheepfold that were on the table. The teacher also asked them all to be sheep and picked one person to be the shepherd. The shepherd was asked to call the sheep by name and the kids responded appropriately. They mostly enjoyed the opportunity to run around a little bit and take turns being “in charge.” But one thing I took away from watching these little people quickly respond to the “shepherd” calling their name was how they responded immediately and joyfully. The joy and the quickness of their trust is inspiring for us adults who often are jaded by life and are more cautious with our trust in others. To watch these littles ones respond to hearing their names got me thinking and those thoughts came back when I opened to this passage on Monday night.

The idea that Jesus calls me by name is mind-blowing. I may be one little sheep out of literally billions, but he will still call me by name. How do I or will I respond? Do I follow with the trust and joy of those small children in our CGS class? In John’s Gospel Jesus tells us that the sheep follow “because they recognize his voice.” I want to follow Jesus but the only way to do so is by regular prayer and listening for his will. I won’t recognize his voice unless I’m already used to hearing it.

One other note, Good Shepherd Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Please pray this Sunday (and every day, for that matter) for more vocations in your diocese and the Church overall, specifically vocations to the priesthood and religious life. There are prayers available on the World Day of Prayer for Vocations website and from the USCCB.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Dear Jesus, I pray that I will hear your voice and recognize it so as to properly discern your will for me and my family. May my prayer always be fruitful so as to always recognize your voice. I pray, too, for those sheep who have lost their way that they may open themselves up to hearing your voice so they may once again follow you.

O Lord, I pray that more young men will listen for your voice and recognize and respond to the call to help lead your flocks. May many young men and women also respond to your call to enter religious life.

REST

Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.

YOUR TURN

What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Allison Current Events Easter Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Year of Mercy

Mercy in Our Stories

The word mercy has been falling into my lap a lot lately. One of the books I read during Lent was Pope Francis’ The Name of God is Mercy, from which I was reminded of our Lord’s great love that leads to precious mercy. Several weekends ago I was privileged to sing through the Divine Mercy Chaplet with friends. This is a prayer of repetition: “For the sake of your sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. Holy God, holy mighty one, holy immortal one, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” It felt like John’s revelatory visions of heaven with angels and saints singing “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.”

I asked my kids what they knew of mercy, reading them our catechism’s definition, “The lovingkindness, compassion, and forbearance shown to one who offends (e.g. the mercy of God to sinners)” and parsing it down for them to “Receiving goodness when you do not deserve it.”

Our 14-year-old, a bona fide Potter-head, immediately answered with a passage from a Harry Potter book. She said, “Evil people think mercy is when they have someone under their control, like when Draco told Dumbledore that he was at his mercy. But Dumbledore said quietly (Yes, she has practically memorized some portions.), ‘No Draco, it is not your mercy that matters now; it is mine’.” Draco deserved death or imprisonment but Dumbledore’s love for the boy’s soul washed him in mercy and gave him another chance to turn his life around, as he did indeed.

“How about Aslan?” piped up my nine-year-old, who is working through the Narnia books, “He had mercy on Edmund and it made him become a good man. He was called Edmund the Just when he grew up.” Edmund knew more of Aslan’s love than the others. Love and mercy go hand in hand.

“Star Wars,” hollered my 11-year-old from the kitchen (he seems to be there often, making sandwiches). “Darth Vader deserved to die but Luke had mercy on him.” And that mercy, borne from love, led to forgiveness and more love.

My 21-year-old popped in before work, looking for leftovers, and jumped into the conversation. “Tolkien’s hobbits are the best examples of mercy,” he said, “Because it didn’t always end up with a perfect love-fest but you knew that Frodo’s mercy was right.”

“Oh yeah,” interjected the 14-year-old again, “Like Redwall’s Veil. They had mercy on him but he was rotten. Well, not at the very end when he saved his mother. The mercy was definitely right.”

Yes, good point, Honey. We are called to be merciful without any thought of conclusion. Jesus said it straight up in Luke 6:36, the final verse in a passage about loving our enemies, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” He also gave us a wincing account of a man who received mercy for an unpaid debt but did not show mercy to someone owing a debt to him. This is called the Parable of the Ungrateful Servant, found in Matthew 18. It ends with the man being thrown into prison and this shocking statement from Jesus: “So also my heavenly Father will do to you if you do not forgive your brother from the heart.”

We then talked about the powerful evil in all our literary and movie examples, from Harry Potter’s death eaters, to Narnia’s White Witch, to Star Wars’ Empire, to Middle Earth’s Sauron, to Mossflower’s ferrets, to the very real Roman Empire at the time of Christ. My 18-year-old, who has never once gotten lost in a novel, shrugged. “You guys keep telling the same story over and over again. It’s history. Physical power rises and falls everywhere and for all times. Love and mercy run through it all, but quietly.” He grinned and grabbed his helmet as he headed out to ride his dirt bike.

Love and mercy run through it all, but quietly. Love and mercy change lives one at a time. It certainly did for Antonio, from Shakespears’s “The Merchant of Venice.” Portia argued before the court hoping to change Antonio’s life. “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes… it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown … And earthly power doth then show likest God’s when mercy seasons justice.” There is always room for mercy. It is not strained. It falls ever fresh.

As we come to end of this Easter season, may we look for mercy in our stories, may we give mercy to people in our lives, and may our hearts be filled with joy to think of the perfect mercy that comes to us from our loving Jesus. He is risen and our lives are changed by love and mercy!
Mercy in Our StoriesMercy in Our StoriesMercy in Our Stories