Catechesis of Mercy 2

Continuing from the previous week , we go deeper to the underlying principles of a life steeped in and committed to mercy..

There are four core principles in the Catholic Church’s social teaching: respect and protection of the dignity of the human person, the pursuit of the common good, the value of solidarity, and subsidiarity—that matters are if possible to be handled at the lowest level, by those most affected. With each pope in succession, through  papal encyclicals—and most notably in the Second Vatican Council, there has been a reaffirmation of these teachings..  This is why an essential element of a catechesis of mercy involves service and active works of mercy.

Look around your community, are there service learning projects that are already available in your community that you might participate in with your child or if they are old enough that they can join in themselves? There is no need to reinvent the wheel, if a suitable service activity is already up and running. Yet, if none of these seem fitting, consider developing a new service based project. What are needs in your area that aren’t being met? What are some possible solutions? What are the resources that you might can tap into?

There are several types of service..

Direct (whereby the participate is in direct contact with the person/s they are working with. Examples include volunteering at a nursing home to read or visit, doing yardwork or chores for the elderly, or working at a soup kitchen.

Indirect (Involves fundraising, or drives to assist people in need) An example would be a toy drive for a local children’s hospital, clothing drive for a homeless shelter, or making cards or placemats.

Promotion or advocacy (Getting the word out about a cause, and working to convince the government, or organization to make a change in behavior. ) Maybe you have a gift of telling or motivating others to get involved in a cause. If so then this might be where you feel most helpful.

Whatever you choose to do, reflection is a very essential part of service learning both in deciding what to commit to as well as what was taken from the experience. This is where a trained group leader is very beneficial, both to guide the questions but to show the diversity of the experiences.

What did you expect this experience to be like?
Was there anything different from this expectation?
Did you find anything challenging and/or surprising?
Was there an opportunity to talk with those whom you were helping? If so, did you learn anything new?
What is the relationship between your service and your faith?
How does your participation in this activity affect a situation or create change in the lives of those you are with?
Is it important for you to stay involved with this activity?

Remember that it is never too early to begin a catechesis of mercy, and that your child already has that divine love within and the capacity to show that love to others. We have been given a freedom to choose love and goodness in the world, to avoid what is destructive or harmful, and to make these choices quite early in life. And though not always easy choices, it is these moments that help shape us, form us and continue to define us as we grow in our Christian discipleship.

Reconciliation

As mentioned earlier, reconciliation is indelibly linked to mercy. God is loving and forgiving, God is merciful. God forgives us when we have done wrong, when we come wishing to forgiven, and desire to be in relationship once again. If your child is old enough to have celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation before, take the time to discuss its continued importance in the life of the individual and the church.
1. Discuss how to make a good confession and examination of conscience http://www.thelightisonforyou.org/confession/

2. Set aside a time to go to reconciliation as a family. Allowing your child to glimpse the importance of reconciliation for you is an essential way for him/her to see its importance in their own life as well.

3. Reflect on how God’s love and mercy is always present and calling us into relationship.
Look at the broader understandings of reconciliation within the community and world. For ideas visit St Vincent de Paul.org, Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, and the Childrens’ Missionary Association which is part of the Pontifical Society.
Discuss the importance of and ways to work for peace both locally and global

Mercy is like a small seed that requires our active participation in the planting and growing, allowing God to be the master gardener and harvester of the fruits.[1] To extend this analogy, we cannot plant that which we do not see or understand. Likewise, how could we then tend to the requirements necessary for its growth? Therefore, it is clear that first we must become aware of the poor, and the marginalized and desire to walk with them to understand their journey. Then our hearts and steps are to be guided towards recognizing our own need to take responsibility, and the essential right to a greater voice and participation in society of the least of these. Together, as a people of faith, we can then “water” those seeds planted to witness their rooting within the hearts of individuals, and the communities in which we live. While fully aware of the resistance of many for change, a catechesis of mercy relies not solely on our own efforts. But rather on the power of God for strength, and guidance to accomplish the realization of all efforts. Hope then is what our trust in God provides, it is faith that God’s love and mercy are unfailing, and that we are part of his divine plan for the world.

Peace,

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[1] Brady,Bernard. Essential Catholic Social Thought. Orbis Books, 2008.

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A Catechesis of Mercy: Part 1

The Beginnings of Mercy

Mercy begins not when we are old enough to study social justice teaching, but indeed began before we are born. It began with God, fulfilled in Christ and is to be continued with each one of us. Thus, it is not an add-on to our Christian discipleship but inherently intertwined in every aspect of our understanding and living out of the faith. For, the very root of mercy is love.

Without love, as St. Paul reminds us, we are nothing. All of our gifts, and actions are useless if not used or performed out of love. Mercy is an indelible part of love, the love of neighbor and other above ourselves. It is to walk beside, among and through the ins and outs, the ups and downs of all that our lives here have to offer. Simply put it is the gift of ourselves, to ease the suffering or pain of another, when there seems to be no other gift that is worthy enough. It is the work of our hands, our feet and soul that bring joy into everyday realities of our existence. Moreover it is to see Christ in others, and then to accept the invitation to be Christ to others.

Not just to those we know personally, or belong to our parish but to those living outside the doors of our church, in our communities that often go unnoticed. Here on the fringes of society, are our homeless and poor, our elderly, those suffering from addiction and their families, and the victims as well as the perpetrators of violence. As Christ has shown, mercy cannot be earned but is the grace of the great love that our Father has for each and every one of us.

See mercy goes hand in hand with the grace of reconciliation. Mercy is not something conferred upon someone thought of to be most in need of it, but indeed is a shared grace whereby all are reminded of their humanity and the infinite love they share in Christ. It is the opportunity to not only witness the transformation of the life of another, but to be transformed ourselves.

So, what is meant by a Catechesis of Mercy?

As parents, we are our child’s first teacher. And, looking to us for guidance, approval and encouragement we have been given a beautiful gift to model the faith we profess. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:7) Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain Mercy”.

  • The need for mercy: You need not go far to see that there is a tremendous need for mercy right in front of us.  As St. Teresa of Calcutta has said,

“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. … You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.” †
In talking to you child about what mercy means, be sure to provide clear relatable examples.

  • Explain that mercy is more than feeling sorry for someone, it is compassion in action. It is more than a feeling but meeting that person where they are, in their sadness, embarrassment..skinned knees and all. God’s love for us in Christ is to produce love within us moving us toward love, care, and concern for those in need. This love seeks to love and serve our neighbor it gives purpose to all that we are to do.
  • Looking to Christ: Christ’s time here with us serves as an example of His mercy and what we too are to do as his disciples. Discuss with your child different ways that Christ revealed the meaning of mercy in his ministry .1. Jesus didn’t just meet with those from a similar background, but invited all to table..most often those who were on the fringes of Jewish society, the tax collector, the leper, the poor, the lost. He did not discriminate based on gender, race or nationality…his mercy was universal.
    2. Parable of the Good Samaritan, presents a beautiful opportunity to illustrate that in the course of our daily lives that we too may walk past someone in need of mercy though we should be the first to help.
    3. Feeding of the Multitudes – Luke 9:10-17
    4. Opening the Eyes of the Man Born Blind – John 9:1-17
    5. Good thief on the cross- Even on the cross, Jesus offered love, mercy and forgiveness to the one who though living a life earning him death on earth had chosen to believe and gained an eternal life with Christ in heaven.
  • Looking to the Church– Consider ways that we as a church through service help those in need. Here we can look to the corporal works of mercy which entail feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Taking care of our poor, is not just an act of charity but a measure of justice and love. It is returning to them what has been reserved for them by Christ. The Church is not to be a church of the proud and powerful but indeed is as Pope Francis has observed to be a church of the poor. “We need to be evangelized by them.. for there is so much to learn” They are to be our guide in understanding God’s love us.

Tune in next week for Part 2!

Peace,

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Catholic Conference for Moms: Faces of Mercy

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In this year of mercy, there has been much discussion about what this invitation truly means. What has been our experience of mercy and forgiveness, and how do we better extend this to all those we encounter in our daily lives? Without a doubt, each of these experiences are as diverse and intimate as our own relationships to God are. So what have we to learn from others? Quite personally, I can never tire of hearing the love story of God’s mercy as it continually allows me to fall in love with my Beloved all over again. Yet, there is something else at work here- a challenge and a widening of our undoubtedly limited perspective to grow in faith.

As this year of mercy draws to a close perhaps you might just take this opportunity to rediscover mercy and embrace its transforming potential in each of our lives. From October 20-23

 The Catholic Conference for Moms and all presentations will be available for FREE. No catch- just register and log on anytime during that time period.

 “It will be like a mini-conference, just in time to receive God’s amazing grace at the close of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, all in the convenience of your home!”

Simply sit back and watch the online HD videos or download the MP3s and take it with you wherever you go. With 21 presenters, in English and Spanish, and a variety of topics there is something new and thought provoking for everyone.

So what facet of mercy did I choose to share? What is near and dear to my heart?

“Catholic Social Teaching: A Catechesis at the Heart of Mercy “

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One of Catholicism’s best kept secrets, Catholic social teaching is at the heart of understanding mercy.  So, how do we as parents and catechists of the faith help bridge the gap between practice and faith to our children?

This is quite a big lead in to say that I hope that you are able to join this conference and discover as I have… that we are loved beyond measure by an amazing God! 

Peace,

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Mercy Unwrapped with Kristine Franklin

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Well the on air tables were turned recently, and I was blessed to be interviewed by Kristine Franklin as part of her series Mercy Unwrapped. As a wife, mother, grandma, radio host, a writer, and a speaker herself Kristine brings a lifetime of faith experience. But in her own words she is “most importantly, a child of Jesus Christ, living and loving, growing and becoming who God intends her to be, and happy in her spiritual home, the Catholic Church.”

Thus it was such a pleasure to have this on air conversation about the presence and experience of God’s mercy in our lives. Take time today to discover mercy in your own life and in those you encounter-God’s love is so complete!

 

Peace,

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This is Community

This week, as my friends and colleagues can attest, I have been battling a rather persistent cold which has chosen to seize my vocal cords and keep me up at night. Lack of a solid night’s sleep and my stubborn refusal to call it a day or throw in the towel has not been helpful either. Yet, in waking this morning I had to smile. For in my stubborn courage, or selfless foolishness as some might see it, I realized that I had become the epitome of my own mother.  

My mom, I know, had to have been sick at times, but as the sole provider I cannot ever really remember her taking off work. As a farm girl, she was conditioned to rise before dawn and work until sunset, giving her all to each and every day. Though later an adult, her modis operendi had not changed and if I slept past six, I could look forward to a discussion of  how I had chosen to sleep the better part of the day away. There was, in her mind, much to do, to be done, and discover in the day that could not be done whilst lying in bed.

One time, however, when I was about eleven I can clearly recall my mom getting very sick and my own confusion as to how to proceed next. Since it was just the two of us and our family lived at least an hour away, I knew that my mom was now suddenly depending on me. This particular stomach virus that had beset our community had resulted in the hospitalization of the elderly and the young alike. The first two days, I had cared for my mom and myself cooking and cleaning up, while making sure my mom had enough liquids and cool washcloths.

By the third day, though, I was tired and looking into the fridge and cabinets, I knew I was going to have to ask for help soon. Not to mention, I was getting concerned that my mom might need to see a doctor, as she didn’t seem to be looking or feeling any better. Given that it was summer, and I was not seeing my friends at school, essentially no one else knew of the predicament. My mom, a true introvert by nature, had several close friends but was not one whose sudden disappearance from society would readily be questioned. I knew that the time had come when I would have to break the silence, and my mother’s privacy.

In a well placed phone call to my friend Cathy, who belonged to my church, I found solace.

“Cathy, I’m a bit worried about my mom..

Elizabeth, are you taking care of her by yourself?”, suddenly came her aunt’s voice on the other line.

Yes, ma’am. I’m just not sure what more I can do..

Don’t worry.. have you had dinner yet?

No, I was going to see what I could make”, I replied knowing that it would be a Spartan meal at best.

We were just about to sit down ourselves..I will be by in a few minutes with dinner.”

And, just like that I breathed a sigh of relief,  and knew that God had it all covered.

The very next morning, my pastor would bring my mom to the doctor for tests and anti nausea medications. Over the days to follow, the women from the church had prepared each meal that we would need, even bringing fresh well water to eliminate the chance that our water might be a contributing factor. It would be a week before my mom was up on her feet fully, and another two weeks before she could eat normally. As I look back on this moment I cannot help but wonder what I would have done for this length of time without my community, my brothers and sisters in Christ?

This is what it means to truly be a community, to be the body of Christ. We were not ever meant to be alone in our faith, or in the care of others. The reading this Sunday spoke of giving generously, like Christ himself, who gave up his very life so that we could have life eternal.  We are asked to give of our excess, to be content with enough, and to share with those in need. There is, of course, a flip side to this. We have to be able to take help too when we are in need. Maybe you are the one that everyone goes to for assistance, the first on the scene. Allowing others to be of help is an invitation for them to give generously of themselves. It is also an exercise of humility on our part, a suppression of pride, and an opportunity in this moment to experience grace and mercy. How can we give what we do not fully recognize a need for in our own lives?

This week’s challenge..How have I experienced mercy in my own life? Where can I give more fully of myself to my community? Where can I show mercy as a member of the body of Christ?

Peace,

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Review: Mercy in the City by Kerry Weber

If you find yourself wanting to grow spiritually, and to understand the connection in our shared journey as a people of faith, this is a sincerely beautiful witness! Available through Loyola Press.

Mercy in the City is a witty and truly authentic grappling with the living out of our faith and call to do more for others, in a society that often seems to run counter to these. As a single “millennial” in the heart of NYC, Kerry decides to embark on a self-imposed Lenten challenge to engage the Corporal Works of Mercy.  While many of us might consider attempting one of these in 40 days…Kerry goes for all seven.  She does this not from an “overly pious” approach, but from an honest encounter with love and mercy.

Feed the Hungry: From the sharing of her tuna sandwich to the continued time spent passing out many more in the city Kerry recognizes the move from good intentions to action needs to be a “deliberate” one. Rather than waiting for the perfect time to start, there must be that important first step and a resolve to see it through.

Give Drink to the Thirsty: Having volunteered to pass out water to runners in the NYC half marathon, there is a realization that helping others isn’t a matter of “forcefully thrusting” our gifts upon them. Instead, it is to be a humble offer, a supportive nudging at most, to draw nearer to the life giving water of Christ that we are all so in desperate need of.

Clothe the Naked: Starting with a short list of items that she can part with, Kerry discovers the freeing joy of shedding no longer worn clothing and memories to impart newness for others. In the Clothing Room of the Catholic Worker house, a program begun by Dorothy Day, she sees firsthand what these gifts mean to so many.

Harbor the Harborless: Hesitantly agreeing to stay the night in a shelter, Kerry finds camaraderie with those who have banded together under less than desirable circumstances. With humor and hospitality she is welcomed, encountering their diversity and the situations that have brought them there.

Visit the Sick: In a Holy Thursday visit to the retired Sisters of Mercy, Kerry gains experienced insight from these incredible women of faith who have devoted countless years of love and service to the sick and dying. Many whom are recuperating themselves from illness or surgery, they share what it is to be present to these holy moments of mercy, and to care for others fully.

Ransom the Captive: (Imprisoned) As a reporter and managing editor of America magazine, Kerry was hopeful of obtaining an interview with inmates taking religion classes at San Quentin in California.  When the day came, she left her blue jean jacket and later preconceived notions of the imprisoned behind. As hands reached through the bars for communion, and inmates gathered to grow in faith she found her vision challenged once again.

Bury the Dead: After many, pardon the pun, “dead ends” with cemetery officials, Kerry decided her closest opportunity to this corporal work of mercy would be to jog through a nearby cemetery.  Surprised by the cheery blossoming trees, and the simplistic acceptance of the gravedigger, she found herself thinking more about her life and those buried there than their death.

 Finally, throughout this book Kerry speaks of the joyous privilege of being asked to be an RCIA sponsor for a soon-to-be member of the faith.  Listening to the Litany of Saints prayed at Easter Vigil, Kerry writes that she felt  it was “less like a list of people dead and gone and more like a roll call of people who are here alive” with her that night.  All of this seemed to say, welcome to the church, to this “shared journey on the path of mercy, to places we’d never been and to the works ahead- works for which none of us is ever quite prepared, but to which all of us are called.”