The life of Pope St. John Paul II is well documented in photos and video, and I always enjoy seeing the many faces of this great and multifaceted man. I often am captivated by the images that portray him as an ordinary guy – on snow skis before a run down the slope, or in his youth acting on a stage, or endearingly, cutting into his favorite dessert, the kremowka.
Mercy. It is lovely and precious when we receive it. It can be arduous and challenging when we are called upon to show it to others.
Challenging it may be, but I don’t have to look very far to find examples of those who selflessly give their time doing works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal. Often, I am overwhelmed by what others do in the name of Christ and his unending forgiveness. One such person stands out in my mind, since he has a gift of reaching out to those who have the most hardened of hearts; those who are arguably most in need of God’s mercy.
A year before I met my husband, I had hit a low point in my life. I was feeling anxiety and distress from calling off a wedding. Work was busier than ever, with much travel back and forth between the East and West Coasts. It was the perfect storm of emotional anxiety mixed with intense work stress. And if that wasn’t enough, there was a frightening incident with one of my flights.
To harbor the harborless is a corporal work of mercy that simply means to provide shelter or refuge to the homeless, but there are other facets to it as well. It can be showing hospitality to or welcoming a stranger, a lonely person or the weary traveler.
Laundry is at the top of my list of most daunting household chores. But there are times when I feel guilty for complaining about the washing, drying and folding of all our clothes, when there are folks out there who don’t even have a shirt on their back. So when I find myself whining about the piles of clothing and bedding to wash, I grab a donations bin and start filling it up.
When it comes to feeding the hungry, I think of our neighboring soup kitchens and the caring volunteers who work there, selflessly bringing simple but critical nourishment to those in need. Not too far from where I live, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, a ministry of the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph, tends to the needs of Detroit’s homeless. But in the area of food, it’s not your typical soup kitchen. It’s managed by a culinary expert who brings to Detroit’s most needy what is normally reserved for the most sophisticated of palates.
This last year, we were blessed with a new addition to our family. It was very unexpected and exciting for my husband and me, since we thought we wouldn’t be able to have more children. But along with the many joys of having a new baby, I am at times reminded of the huge and daunting responsibility of raising another child in today’s world. We parents face many challenges in a society that is ever more secular and materialistic. It’s hard to navigate and compete with the latest toys, fashion and electronics that our older children are told they “need” to have.
The impulse to share can start at a young age. I’ll never forget the one day my daughter came to my rescue when I realized, and then mentioned, I had no vegetables to serve with dinner. My eyes grew really big when I saw my then-4-year-old come inside the house holding a bunch of carrots she had just pulled from the garden.
"…Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
The release of the musical Les Miserables on the silver screen brought a renewed popularity to the acclaimed Broadway production of Victor Hugo’s classic novel. The story, which deals with forgiveness and the power of redemption, is a tapestry of subplots featuring diverse characters that stir my emotions. To me, one of the most poignant messages of Les Miserables is found in the symbolism of two specific items: a loaf of bread and fine silverware.