Peace be with you

Maybe my mood is a bit more somber today because of the rain and gloom compared to the radiant sunshine of the past three days. So, I reflect, Thank you, God, for Divine Mercy Sunday! I don’t know about you but I can be Thomas on many days – I won’t believe unless… I can fill in the blanks with a variety of concerns or issues and then the desired outcome. Even though I have seen countless appearances of God acting in my life and the lives of others, I easily forget and let “dark clouds creep in and cover up the sun” and get discouraged. “We wonder if the sun is still up there. And perhaps we begin to get discouraged as our faith and trust start to waver and change to doubt and distrust.”

This quote is from the book, 33 Days to Merciful Love, by Father Michael Gaitley. I have used this book three different times over the course of seven years and found myself picking it up last night after attending Vigil Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday. I prayed the Divine Mercy Novena this week, beginning on Good Friday, and hope to attend a Divine Mercy Sunday celebration this afternoon in LaSalle at St. Hyacinth’s Church. I have had a few challenges over the past couple of weeks, so I found myself opening to the section, Week Four, Into the Darkness.

The book is a 33-day personal retreat (but often studied together in groups, as I did the first time) in preparation to consecrate our lives to Merciful Love. Through our prayer, study and offering we offer ourselves to Jesus and let his consoling love transform us into saints. The book is focused on the life and spiritual teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux and incorporates some of the teachings of St. Maria Faustina Kowlaska, best known for her writing on Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy image. I have never been the biggest fan of St. Therese and her “little way”, but somehow her teachings shows up when I need them. My mother had a great devotion to her, so I wonder if Mom is tugging her sleeve at those times that I need a reminder of St. Therese’ trust even in dark and difficult times. Early on in the study we consider that sin (I replace with doubt and lack of trust) comes from a lack of faith in God, God’s Word in scripture and God’s goodness. Fr. Gaitley offers the premise that this is the deep root of the darkness in the world, people act as if God does not exist.

Yesterday, in my monthly Benedictine lay Oblate gathering, we studied Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical Letter Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. A few lines have been on my mind since re-reading the assigned sections for our discussion. In #92, Pope Francis says “We have only one heart…” and any act that would mistreat an animal or another creature, creation in general, is “contrary to human dignity.” The darkness in the world feels that we do not live with that one heart of love and compassion for all we have in this world and for each other. So we offer our plea for mercy as we pray and repeat, in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, “have mercy on us and on the whole world”.

Perhaps we need to embrace those days that we are more like Thomas and ask for a sign of God’s presence but then wait in hopeful anticipation for consolation versus living in doubt. We pray and place ourselves in the presence of the fountain of Mercy, over and over again, clinging to the love Jesus offers us, as St. Therese did. As Fr. Gaitley points out in a summary section, it isn’t about getting rid of the difficult and dry times in our faith lives, it’s about finding peace, joy and happiness in the midst of all the challenges and gifts of each and every day.

This Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, is such an important reminder for us to reach out to the extended hand of our Lord as he says to us, “Peace be with you.”

Peace, Deena

Image: Resurrected Jesus, Side Altar Holy Family Church

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A Golden Ribbon of Compassion

I had planned to write about grief, faith and the Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the death of Lazarus and Jesus weeping for his friends. We have been looking at grief and letting go of strength, instead replacing holding on with tenderness and vulnerability in my Lenten Retreat – A Different Kind of Fast. It’s been a hard week for that study so I had been contemplating what to write about. But compassion took hold of me in a different way this weekend. I receive a daily email from Franciscan Media called Pause and Pray. Saturday’s prayer inspired me to take a different direction for this weekend. I will share the prayer at the end of this blog post.

It seems like it has been at least a few years that we have heard of an increasing number of natural disasters and changes in our weather. This week we have continued to see California bombarded with snow, rain, flooding and then a tornado! Just this weekend there were devastating, and fatal, storms in Texas and Mississippi. We can disagree what we call it or the reasons for it, but our weather is changing.

I attended a celebration of life the summer after my cousin died in 2019, and spoke with her husband, a retired geologist, and asked him what he thought of the changes we were all experiencing and if we had time to turn “it” around. He advised that climate change was real, talked about ways he experienced it in his studies and that while there was time, it was more urgent than people supposed. I was already a student of Laudato Si’, the first papal encyclical, written by Pope Francis, to focus on care for creation as a moral obligation. So that conversation renewed my personal passion to stay informed and attempt to make a difference.

This week, on March 22, we celebrated World Water Day to promote awareness about the water crisis in the world. There are approximately 2 billion people (numbers vary by source) living on our planet without access to safe, clean drinking water. The concept of World Water Day was proposed in 1992 by the United Nations and in 1993, the first World Water Day was promoted. It may seem like this is only a problem that impacts countries like Africa or areas impacted by disasters like Turkey during the recent earthquakes, but recent issues with the Flint, Michigan municipal drinking water crisis have shown us that issues can occur even in the U.S. Eight years later they are still dealing with the situation! Eight years in the United States; how can we not have the expertise to resolve this, which occurred as a result of switching the water source from a Detroit source to the Flint River? Unconscionable! I switch out and provide clean drinking water to my cats more than people in this world are able to obtain clean water. Sometimes we have to put things in perspective of our use of the resource to realize how fragile it is.

I know it seems overwhelming. It’s hard to make changes when is easier to do one thing instead of another. Then to rationalize it, we pause and ask how a little change in our daily use of resources, like water, can make a difference. It does and it can!

The environment is a common good according to Pope Francis’ teaching. He says there is an interdependence in our relationships with God, our neighbor and our planet. We have a moral responsibility to have concern for our neighbor and the planet we are passing along to future generations. Picking up a six-pack ring (and cutting them open if we discard them) so that it doesn’t end up as a hazard to fish and seagulls in the ocean can make a difference. Every year countless wildlife die due to water pollution. Reducing single-use plastics and disposable products that will end up in landfills and water sources can make a difference. Reducing our water use at home can make a difference. I was astounded to read that an average shower uses 17 gallons of water and a single toilet flush uses 7 gallons. It’s staggering. Maybe we can’t change all the ways we use water each day but perhaps our awareness can prompt us to make small changes. I paused as I grabbed for a small water bottle at a recent meeting, chastising myself for not being better prepared and bringing water in one of my stainless water bottles. I could have passed from taking the bottle, replacing consumption with sacrifice, as Laudato Si’ calls us to do. Seriously, one little bottle Deena? Yes, one little bottle is one less being used. Lent is certainly a great time to ask ourselves to consider how we consume things.

I am going to challenge myself to be more aware, reignite my involvement in Care for Creation and remind us, occasionally, of our impact on the planet. There is a Lenten action calendar on the Laudato Si’ Lent website and there are great suggestions, and an abundance of information, on the World Water Day link, please check them out and consider how you might make small changes in the use of the resources of our common home.

The prayer from Franciscan Media’s Pause and Pray on March 25:

In meditation,
imagine our threatened,
blue-green planet and its people,
with their hungers, wars, joys.
Then see this globe wrapped 
in the gold of compassion,
brought by you and millions of others like you.
From horizon to horizon, it shimmers.
Humanity heals. 

Peace, Deena

Image from Resources for World Water Day 2023