Being Still

It has been a wonderful experience writing weekly reflections on mercy over the past nine months.  Thank you for sharing your stories with me!   I am taking a break for Advent to enjoy a little quiet time in reflective anticipation of the birth of our LORD.  May God bless you and yours on Thanksgiving Day and during the Season of Advent!

Kris Skinner                             

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Mercy. Live it!

Earlier in 2017, I began writing a weekly blog with the goal of highlighting some “merciful moments” experienced in everyday life.  It started as a Lenten spiritual exercise prompted by Pope Francis’ declaration of December 8, 2015 through November 20, 2016 as the Year of Mercy.  Over thirty weeks later, as we come to the close of this Year of Mercy, I can honestly say my understanding of what mercy IS and what mercy ISN’T has grown.  Through these weekly writings along with the re-reading of the Church of Mercy by Pope Francis, I hope my own heart has softened a little in the process, making me more open to love and acceptance of others and less rigid and intolerant.

I also admit, though, that as an imperfect human by design, I have a long way to go.  I’m not really sure where you are on this merciful spectrum, dear readers, but I’m happy we have journeyed together since February. In the words of the song Here I Go Again by the band Whitesnake, “I don’t know where I’m goin’ but I sure know where I’ve been.”

During this Year of Mercy, I learned a beautiful quote that Fr. James Martin, SJ attributes to Fr. James Keenan, SJ of Boston College about mercy.  We shared this definition with our teens during summer faith formation:  “Mercy is entering into the chaos of another person’s life.”  Doesn’t this definition sync very well with Jesus’ take on eating with sinners and curing lepers?  Mercy is so much more than a service project or an item on a Catholic “to do list.” Love of God and neighbor compels us to “enter into the chaos” daily.

I leave you today with a list of what mercy IS and what mercy IS NOT.  Mercy IS benevolence and blessing, NOT disapproval and disdain.  Mercy IS charity, clemency and forgiveness, NOT ill will, malevolence and meanness.  Mercy IS generosity and good will, NOT selfishness and unkindness.  Mercy IS leniency, pity, sympathy and tolerance, NOT disfavor, cruelty, intolerance and uncompassion.  Mercy might not be easy but mercy IS possible.  Mercy brings grace and healing.

May you experience grace, mercy and healing today and please practice mercy toward others.  Let’s scatter mercy and watch each other grow in God’s love!

Chairs

If you have ever accompanied a loved one to the hospital for surgery, you are probably familiar with the waiting area.  In many health facilities, this means some chairs lined up against a wall and, if you’re lucky, some recent magazines.  I think it’s safe to say that nobody enjoys waiting in the chairs because it’s a time when we have no control over what our loved one is going through at that particular moment.  We sit and we wait and we hope that a doctor or nurse will come and find us and bring some good news.

My head in all its wisdom tells me that during chair time, when anxious, I should turn to God in prayer.  In my daily life outside of hospitals, that is exactly what I do. On most days, my prayer time with God is like a running dialogue, in the car, in the kitchen, in the shower, in the office, I pretty much can pray without ceasing!   But in the chairs, I feel so helpless.  For a “Martha,” a “doer,” there is nothing worse than sitting and waiting.  I cannot concentrate on the book I brought to read and I can’t text anyone because there’s nothing new to report.  What happens, dear readers, when the words simply won’t come?  Have you ever experienced a moment where either fatigue or discouragement or loneliness takes over and other than the familiar Hail Mary prayer, your mind is blank?

At times like these, I turn to simple one-line prayers or even the lyrics to familiar church hymns we sing in our parish.  A verse that I currently am walking with is from Psalm 56:3 and it goes like this:  “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

When everything in life is going well, it’s easy to become complacent and to forget how much we rely on God.  During the good times, try to notice those prayers or Scripture passages that lift you up.  Jot them down and put them in your wallet or purse so that the next time you are sent to “the chairs,” you will be equipped for the wait.

What are some of your favorite Scripture verses?  I’d love to hear!

 

Saints and Angels

United-Economy-Plus1.jpgMake friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you. Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs.  Saint Francis de Sales

Did I ever mention to you that I’ve been Catholic for my entire life?  That means one of the first prayers ever learned at home went something like this:  Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.  Amen 

There was a Guardian Angel picture that hung in the upstairs hallway of the family home, right outside our bedroom doors.  We said the Angel of God prayer every morning and at bedtime every evening with our mother.    I taught it to our own three children when they were little. I’ve watched countless television shows and movies with angels as major characters:  Touched by An Angel, It’s a Wonderful Life, Highway to Heaven, City of Angels, etc. 

Up until last Thursday morning, I’ve managed to keep all my angel encounters at a safe distance, not really seeking to get too up close and personal with anyone of the supernatural realm.  So imagine my surprise when I encountered an angel at 36,000 feet in Seat 10C.  An ordinary angel who was already seated on a very full plane when I had to climb over him to get to my seat, 10D.  I am not proud of the fact that my first thoughts were pretty much, “Great!  I’m wedged in between these two gentlemen and I’m going to have to keep my elbows tucked in for the next few hours and not make any small talk.”  I even thought about pulling out the Bose headphones I’d intentionally packed for just this purpose and cueing up the 50 Great Songs from the Last 10 Years playlist recently installed on the phone.  But for some reason, I didn’t.

What I thought was going to be an unpleasant flying experience became a lesson to me in humility and presence.  The man in 10C wanted to tell me about his wife of forty years, their son, daughter-in-law and five-year old granddaughter.  He talked about the early years of their marriage, the challenges of parenting, the joys and struggles of families then and now.  He talked about believing in God and the power of faith.   I don’t really know why this gentleman chose to share his story with me, a complete stranger, but hearing him talk about his wife and son reminded me of the amazing love story my husband and I and our three children share.  It was a reminder to me of the ups and downs we’ve encountered before and how together, with one another and God’s help, we can get through anything.  I think that was a message I needed to hear and that gentleman was chosen to deliver it that day at that time.  I’m glad I was there to listen to the man in 10C because he had much to share.

So, keep your eyes open for the ordinary angels and saints in your life today, dear readers.   You just never know when a divine encounter may occur!