Reflections on Mercy in the City
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Reflections on the Book

I have found that reading this book has focused me more on the things going on around me and my response to them.  It has slowed me down a bit and caused me to be more attentive.  There have been times when my response has missed the mark and I have heard something like "more patience, listen, be quiet".  During those times, I have been reminded the focus is not on me but on what is happening in front of me and who God has put in my path.  I have been shaken a little from my "automatic pilot" that causes me to see without really seeing, hear without really hearing and react without really understanding what might be unfolding right before my eyes.  I have been touched by the compassion, sharing, and love demonstrated by those that are marginalized in our society.  Those who are hanging on by faith have close encounters with Jesus.  They truly get it.
The Beatitudes and Works of Mercy are road maps for our lives.  They help us reach our destination, life with Christ.  "God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son".  What am I willing to give for love?  This book helped focus that in very concrete ways. Things can change and multiply one simple act at a time.  Happy Easter!

In Chapter 25 Kerry states that ”this experience of the Works of Mercy has helped me see that faith is choice”. Upon reflection, I can see this too because choosing to encounter Jesus in the sick, the prisoner or the poor and homeless is an affirmation of my belief in the incarnation, in the redemptive value of suffering and the belief that death will lead to resurrection and eternal life.  My encounter with people at their most vulnerable has made me face my own vulnerability and the fears that come with it.  It has also brought me joy in my faith. And I also agree with her that “it has been so much to process…I’m still discovering what it will mean going forward”.

Kerry's book is such a fresh look at what Jesus' calls us to do. It is fresh because this remarkable woman, who has a very important job as a managing editor of AMERICA magazine, is finding time to be an RCIA sponsor in her parish, and wrestle with these issues of how she is going to relate with the poor and learn from them. These are threatening questions for me. But, the lighthearted and perfectly candid ways Kerry writes about them simply disarms at least some of my resistence and allows me to ask how I use my time and most of all, how I make excuses. Thank you, Kerry.

I was very moved by Kerry's visit to the prison. She encountered these prisoners as people. Last night, driving home, I heard a story on CBC radio about a man who was in prison for 25 years for a murder he was just now shown not to have committed. And, there was a discussion of how the system conspired to supress exhonorating evidence, in order to convict him. I doubt that I will be able to visit a prison and offer comfort to anyone in prison. Driving home, I decided to learn more about the prison reform movement and to explore legislation against the death penalty. I think that is a Work of Mercy I can do.

Kerry’s description of her grandfather’s death brought back memories for me of my mother’s death. She was in and out of hospital and it took a long time for the doctors to discovery what was wrong.  The uncertainty and waiting was agonizing.  She suffered for an entire year before we found out nothing could be done to help her.  I was a mess. At the time I was struggling with my faith and it was difficult to find any comfort there. However, my mother’s faith was strong. She would be so happy in the midst of all of this and I would sing her favorite hymns for her. The day she died I stood by her bedside trying to pray Ps 23.  At her funeral I was heavy with grief until I heard the priest’s homily where he spoke about Jesus’ death and resurrection and that death was the doorway to eternal life with God. Somehow this consoled me and at her burial at the cemetery there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky which made me smile through my tears.  When I had to visit the cemetery on All Souls Day I thought I’d be stricken by grief again but I discovered that ‘she was not here, she was with the Lord’ and I experienced a sense of freedom. After her death, my journey through the grief was also a faith journey for me and to newness of life in Christ and in the Church. So to carry out the work of mercy to bury the dead I’m praying for the souls in purgatory who have no one to pray for them.

“We’re not here. Let the dead bury the dead!” When I visited the cemetery on the first  All Souls Day after my mother died, I thought all the feelings of grief and emptiness I felt at her death would return and overwhelm me. Instead I felt like ‘she’s not here, she’s with the Lord’. I experienced a sense of freedom. So I will not be visiting an cemeteries like Kerry did, but I will continue to pray for the souls in purgatory who have no one to pray for them. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. That’s my new motto for doing the Works of Mercy.

Kerry had the experience of carrying the cross on Good Friday’s Stations of the Cross. I attended the Stations of the Cross today. It was lead by the children from a First Communion class. Needlessly to say there was a ‘sweetness’ overload as I listened to their precious voices. I noted how they naturally slowed down the adults because they speak more slowly than we do. After a tough week where I felt the weigh of my own cross (health issues) I needed to slow down. I left the church with an uplifted heart, a lighter step and with my happy face on!

I am finding this book so inspirational, and would have loved it 20 years ago as a single woman, because I would have had the time to enact so much more.  It is so hard with a husband and a 4 ½ year old and being a mom who works outside of the home as a teacher to try to enact her experiences, but I love her story and would love to hear more from her.

So we are family, Father, the Virgin Mary and all the angels and saints!!! I love how Kerry relates her experience of the men at San Quentin. These men are living their faith so deeply and express it so simply. They're about  compassion,  forgiveness, generosity and putting others before self. These men are in prison, some without the chance of ever getting out, but their spirits are alive and free. Kerry makes the comment that "so much of prison life is about labels and boundaries" but I am not physically locked in a prison, so why does my life  sometimes feel so confined by labels and boundaries? 
Looks like I have a lot to ponder again!

“They’re not murders. They’ve committed murder, maybe several. But they’re still human beings.” This is difficult for most people to see. I’ve never visited anyone in prison. I did ask a go with a Prison Ministry Group but it may not be during Lent.  So today I visited a home for teenager girls who have been ordered to stay there by the courts.  It’s more like a rehabilitation facility with a lot of rules. Whatever they did to end up there I have to remember they are human beings who still have all their life ahead of them and that God promises them a future filled with hope. “You have this human being reaching through a cage, to touch another human being in a bigger cage, within a prison.”  God’s love can transcend prison walls, cages and any other barriers we choose to erect around the human heart.  

In this morning's gospel (Third Sunday of Lent) was the following:  "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work".  We are nourished by food and we can also have everlasting life sustaining food.  I see the works of mercy is addressing both needs.  On the surface are the basic human needs and how we meet these needs can lead to eternal life.  Jesus did not let what he saw on the outside, or knew about the motives or past of a person stop him from offering the opportunity for everlasting life.  Love as God loved.  So simple and so complex.


Thank you for this opportunity to stretch myself with this on line community. Love the fun, upbeat style of the book.

"Sometimes hope comes in the million of faces you are yet to meet." I love this statement. I think of the start of each new school year how I'm so excited to meet my new students. I've asked to go with a Prison Ministry group to visit the prison. This is the only way I can get in other than if you know someone there. And I've been thinking about burying the dead. Well, this I cannot do literally but I can comfort those who grieve and pray and offer a Mass for the souls of my family members and souls in purgatory who have noone to pray for them. Also I can pray for those who die and are not given a burial befitting the dignity of the human person - like aborted babies or people killed in wars around the world. So after having not such a good a yesterday, my hope has been restored. 

Thank you Kerry, your writing is so personal and truthful. I find your ability to admit questions about you and your feelings about your relationship with the church and God are much like mine. I wonder if I am what God wants me to be, and do all that I can. The answer of course is no. But the truth is each time I try to be who God wants me to be I get a little closer, and learn a lot more about why the mercy we show others is a gift to us from God. We get a glimps of how vast His Mercy is. I have been very hard on myself for not being better at "doing lent", but you have shown me that we all question if we are doing the right things and when we pull the covers up and miss doing what we feel we should, God is not disapointed. When we keep coming back trying to do the right thing, we get closer to being what we are ment to be. I am truly learning and enjoying from your journey thrugh lent. this is my 65th lent and it is the best so far.

I re-read Chapter 16 several times to try to truly understand what was being said. To understand what is meant by a particular work of mercy is crucial to  understanding how to live it out in different situations. Also in trying to do the works of mercy  I also need to reflect on how do I need mercy also. Am I thirsty and for what type of water? How am I homeless and what type of shelter do I need? This has profoundly broadened my understanding what the  works of mercy means.  I need to ponder this in my heart for I sense there is so much more.

I appreciate Kerry's honesty about her feelings for the Stations of the Cross. It's been always hard for me to attend, but once I do go I can somehow get into it. I like her suggestion of seeing yourself as an extention of the scene presented. I haven't attended this devotion yet this Lent, but I'll try to do so this Friday.

I enjoy the book and look forward to being challenged by the next chapter but the great grace so far has been the sharing. I am constantly being reminded how one good thing leads to another - one peson writes a book - another publishes it - a third accepts it for their website - a fourth reads it - acts on it -  shares with (how many?) and the ripples spread ... all with such humility and JOY. How Pope Francis would love it!

Did you ever notice how we humans tend to make things complicated?  What should come natural like caring for each other becomes a process rather than an act.  We get caught up in the details and worry about others will think.  But in the end, the one thing that I have learned on this journey through Mercy in the City, is this simple quote: “DO WHAT YOU CAN, WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, WHERE YOU ARE.”  May we all continue to be mindful of each other and to never stop caring no matter what life brings us.   Thank you so much for this experience ! 

In speaking of Dorothy Day's community, Kerry reflects on their ability to always be open to take in people who needed shelter. In reflecting on Dorothy's words "somehow the walls expanded", she saw "not only the willingness of the community to take on and take in new guests, but also of the walls of the heart growing in kind". "Just when you think your heart is full to the breaking point , it adapts and grows & learns to love more". My prayer is that God will teach me how to love more.

My prayer community feeds the homeless breakfast in the morning but this will conflict with the time I have to be at work. I was disheartened over this and trying to figure out a way to serve there anyway and I just concentrated on the homeless man on my way to work.  Kerry’s words in Chapter 12, that “the important thing about mercy, is to respond the best you can right where you are” comforted me.  I’ll pay more attention to (be more present) my students and colleagues at school and wherever else I encounter people for the opportunities God presents for me to be merciful. I’ll still however, try to work out a time when I can go feed breakfast to the homeless or visit the sick, I haven’t done that one yet either. 

In Chapter 11, Kerry really challenges me.  She introduces herself to a homeless man and strikes up a conversation with him.  This is going way further that handing him a sandwich.  Pope Francis also asked that we ’look into the face of the poor’ in his Lenten message. Today at the supermarket, the lady in line behind me stuck up a conversation with the cashier.  She asked if she (the cashier) had been away because she hadn’t seen her for so long.  I shop at that supermarket every week and I hadn’t notice her absence or even her name on her name tag. Shame on me! The people that we meet everyday at the gas station, bank, dry cleaner, drug store or supermarket will also reveal the face of Jesus, but I need to begin LOOKING and talking!

Sometimes we can get so involved in our routines, we not only miss what is in front of us but what is all around us.  What is familiar blocks our ability to see and recognize changes.  I can find several examples of this.  When I drive in the wrong direction to do something because I am so use to going in that one way or when I recognize a change in the neighborhood long after it has occurred.  Some of this is working on automatic pilot, some of it is being mindless to the surroundings.  As I am reading Kerry's book, I am thinking, what happens when it isn't a direction or something I am not paying attention to but is a person or a need?   What I may be missing in that case is much more critical.

Kerry describes entering into a conversation with a homeless person who she encounters on a frequent basis outside a store which is located close to where she works.  This is the first time she really talks to him.  What she learned stopped me in my tracks.  She found out, from his perch sitting on top of a crate, he knew where she worked.  He also inquired about someone else who worked in the same building.  He knew more about her through his observation than she did about him. He had taken the time to observe his surroundings and take an interest in them.  She became accustomed to her surroundings, acted in a repetitive manner without actually being engaged.  Words of Pope Francis came to mind.  He asked, "When you give alms, do you look the person in the eye?" or when "when you give food to someone, do you touch them?"  His point being that we must have an encounter with the poor not simply dutifully take an action.  It is the encounter that produces change.  It is the heart to heart exchange that produces transformation.  I'm thinking there are two steps here, pay attention and act.

One of the gifts of this book is the faith sharing that I experience. 

I can relate to Kerry's school uniform issues and so can my present students!  I've been meaning to go through my closet to donate items to the underpriviledged and this will definitely get done today.  Kerry's statement that the "uniform of the Christian is love" gave me a new perspective on the Scripture passage and our identity. How am I wearing my uniform? Am I wearing it well? I think it's time for Confession.

Should Lent be different from any other time of year?
It seems to me that it is relatively easy to get geared up for a new season. We are enthusiastic about a new beginning and all that we will do to become better people and to be one who tries to serve others.  But as this season of Lent continues on, I have to ask myself, why can’t we minister to those who are in need all day everyday?  I think sometimes the routine and the monotony of everyday life becomes too much for us and we quickly lose that enthusiasm that we started out with. Maybe that’s the best time to do what is the hardest: to feed, to clothe, to listen, to share, to encourage and to comfort. I pray that each of us can find a little Lent in every day of the year.

Chapter 8 - “Even though I am busier than ever, my days feel more deliberate.” I can relate to this. When I have lots of meaningful things to do, I’m more focused and engaged and present. Also I can empathize with Kerry’s dating struggles and I admire her determination not to squander her freedom as a single woman.  How do I challenge the young women I know not to squander their youth? It’s all part of the new evangelization we are called to as Church but sometimes it seems impossible to connect with young women who have chosen more “worldly” lifestyles. This is most frustrating. So as Kerry did with her doubt and anxiety, I’ll get on my knees and take my sense of helplessness and frustration and give it up to the Lord. 

Chapter 7 is so beautiful!!! Two things struck my heart. 1) The fact that Kerry says “she still sets her clock after sleeping in a few days in a row”.  It’s  comforting to know others struggle too.  Also she says “faith means to ‘fail better’”. The important here for me is to remember not to give up when I get weary of the journey. And 2) At the cathedral she sees “in every face no one but Jesus”.  This happens when she is around the altar with the RCIA groups and she recognizes that all of them “loving, questioning, shining and transforming, turn the crowd into a community”.  I experience this when attending Mass with my school community when all the problems and differences recede in the presence of the Lord and the struggles we experienced with and for each other transforms us more and more into face of Jesus himself. I am so grateful for  my school community and for this book. 

As I continue to read this book, I am reminded of so many things "Catholic" but that have similarities in other religions. We are all on a journey, some just take different paths. That is the Grace we have, a rich faith to draw our strength.

I see some passages in scripture that say to free prisoners. I thought helping those unjustly imprisoned might be another avenue to take.

As I read the chapters concerning weeding clothes from closets, I had to chuckle.  I think a lot of us have been there and have been amazed at how, initially, we are looking at a small number of items to give away.   I think, if I go through my closets and devoid the items of memories, what ifs, and the past, more clothing would be relegated to the "give" pile.  The same would be true for any de-cluttering I attempt to do.  What am I hanging on to? If it is the past, there is no future there.  Someone once said, "We go through life as if we are riding on a horse backwards.  All we have to do is turn around and the view is much different."  If I am hanging on for some future event or need, there is no guarantee of that.  What I have in front of me is today.

In Chapter 6 Kerry realises how difficult it can to serve. I'm beginning to feel the stress of getting up an hour earlier than normal to spend time in prayer. I'm trying to open the door to the Lord but I'm wondering where is He? It's a tough journey, Lord give me the grace of perseverence.

Starting the book I am inspired by the aspiration and the challenge.  On Ash Wednesday the part that captured my attention was how others related to the mark on my forehead.  I’m not sure what exactly made this year different for me.  Maybe it was because I went to early Mass.  Maybe it was because I was near the front of the Church and so when it was my turn the priest was still really focussing on a perfect cross which he marked on my forehead because that indeed was what I carried for the whole day.  Maybe it was also because I was teaching first thing.  It was interesting listening to some MBA students explain to other students from  non-Christian backgrounds what Lent meant.  Lots of staff also told me how they had been raised Catholic but had lapsed or that they were going later or that they felt guilty not going.  A student stopped me in the corridor and asked me where the nearest Catholic Church was.  So this was a precious mark to encourage me to bring Jesus into my workplace every day.

I relate to Kerry’s drive.  I also see trying to replicate doing all the works of corporal mercy here this Lent as an interesting challenge.  But I was brought up a little short today at a 1-day retreat I went to.  Our leader, Father Gerry, pointed out in a discussion that the Good Thief is accepted by Jesus into His Kingdom with no evidence of having done the works of corporal mercy.  In fact, there is more than a possibility that his thieving had caused some hunger or thirst or even homelessness by his actions.  So I immediately need to rethink:  why am I doing this?  Is it because I want to please God and I think that I will get his attention by doing this?  Or am I doing this out of gratitude for all He has given me and so my actions are an offering of thanks?  I want my desires so much to be the latter but I feel I also need to work a lot more on my gratitude as well.  So today, as I clear my closet of unused clothes (mindful of the message from St. Basil) I say a prayer of gratitude … one per shirt! 

In Chapter 5 Kerry found a place to serve on the breadline. I now realise that God provided me with a place to serve right at my job. I am a teacher. From Ash Wednesday a colleague for whom I have been praying for conversion found herself in deep conflict with the school board. We teach at a Catholic school. It is a very serious issue brought on by poor choices she has made both in and out of school. She has been invited to meet with the board early next week. The entire situation is very disturbing for all the staff and I am constantly lifting her, the principal and the board and everyone else involved in prayer. Kerry's praying in front of St. Anthony for everyone including "the ones who are lost" touched my heart. I always ask  St. Anthony to help me find things I have lost, but now I'll ask him to intercede on behalf of my 'lost' friend and colleague.

"How do I make Lent work for me?" And "How do I let God work through me?"  These are the two questions for which I'm  praying for guidance. This Lent jist 4days in is already proving to me extremely different from the past. Reading, reflecting and sharing on this book has made a significant difference to me thus far.

My "practice" of Lent as I have matured over the years, is to use Lent as a focused time to "practice" something that I could then make a part of my life for the rest of my life.  It started with saving my spare change for Lent. I then sent the total I'd saved to a guy I was writing to in prison. (Writing has been my way of visiting those in prison, because there are none within a reasonable distance of where I live).

Reading this book, Mercy in the City, has led me to think about mercy in a way I have not before. Rumbling around in me this morning was the refrain from a song I know based on one of the psalms, "Oh give thanks unto the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endureth forever!"
I wanted to pray that psalm, but didn't know what number psalm it was. So I googled "his mercy endures forever" :)

The search results led me to a site called biblehub that not only had the psalm number, but various translations at my fingertips, a concordance, a thesaurus, Hebrew and Greek translations of the word mercy.  What a grace to find this website!!!

I have decided to study "mercy" in a disciplined way this Lent.  My intent in doing this "practice"  Is to study/pray/sit with various scripture verses day by day that contain the word "mercy" ( all of which are amazingly given on the website!).  It is my prayer that God will reveal who God is as "Mercy" during this Lent, and that I will become more of a "reflecting pool" of mercy to others through this practice.

The grace here is palpable to me...having a verse from a song rumbling through my head this morning that has lead to a discipline that will carry through way beyond my "practice" period...with the invitation handed  to me on a silver platter if you will...because God has made me curious, just through the title of this book "Mercy in the City" .

Amazing grace!

I have just finished chapter 2. When Kerry talks about the drawbacks of trying to do the works of mercy, I felt a connection because I am always wanting to be the person God wants me to be, but at the same time not sure if I can measure up. It is silly I know, but a real fear. Mostly I think what he wanrts ia that I be in the moment and see what is going on around me and be someones reason to smile. We all need to know we are seen and heard, that we are part of where we live and play. I think if I am more in the moment I will be better equiped to see what needs to be done. At least that is my plan for this week. I will be back with a report. This could be the best Lent in 65 years!

I’m a diabetic so fasting is not an option for me, but I can abstain.  Instead I decided to fast from my guilty pleasures like celebrity news sites, magazines and television shows which consume a lot of time but are just mindless entertainment to escape from dealing with stress or some difficult issue.  Instead, I’m using the time to focus on prayer, reading the Bible, this book and reflecting on my Lenten journey.  Yesterday I gave the homeless man who I pass everyday on my way to work a sandwich.  I used to avoid eye contact with him before this. But as Kerry said ‘we can do more’. I continue to pray that God will open my heart to ‘more’.

The grace of reading chapters 1 to 3 is a conviction that the spiritual life is always new and beckoning. After 60 years as a professed religious Sister of Mercy, it is inspiring to me to be along on this journey.

ILent is a good time to get things together. A time to decide what is important in our lives and what we can let go of and “give up.” But it is also so much more. It is a time to figure out what we can give. I look forward to this journey through the season of Lent. A little spring cleaning for the soul and the birth of a new outlook on life.

In chapter 2, Kerry gives James Keenan's definition of mercy as"the willingnes to enter into the chaos of another". This simple but profound statement caused me to see that the opportunities for engaging in the works of mercy are present to me each day. There are many people who need a listening ear and a prayer because their lives are in chaos. The Lord is shedding light in my darkness! 

In Chapter 5, Kerry talks about her initial experience of working on a bread line.  She admitted some frustration with those in line who were breaking the rules when it came to receiving seconds.  I sometimes find myself having a knee jerk reaction to what is in front of me before I can catch myself to get to a place that might be called compassion.  Most of us, myself included, do not know what it is and feels like to be truly hungry.  What I have seen from doing some mission work is those in need, tend to share more and be more generous, than not.  So, one family member receiving a small package of crackers, does not eat them all but makes sure the other brothers and sister have some.  This could reframe those getting seconds and maybe even thirds from the bread line.  Those extras may be the only food another person has for the day and one brother could just be looking after another.  My other thought was regarding the individuals who may be more invisible and in need.  In bread lines and soup kitchens those in need are identified by their presence.  Jesus spoke of ministering to the "one".  He left the ninety-nine sheep to go in search of the one lost sheep.  This reminds me to be mindful of each and every interaction I may have because one never knows how many reverberations one action may have.

The author's stream of consciousness-like sharing reminds me how common are our human experiences. Her attempts to balance the letter of the law with the spirit of the law are amusing to me because they strike home. My favorite musing so far? " I wonder if a Work of Mercy still counts if you're crabby about it?"

I started the book last night and read the first three chapters; I had to stop myself from reading the whole book at once. I love how the author treats serious matters (the Corporal Works of Mercy) in a lighthearted way; it is far too easy to let the penitential tone of Lent grind one down into dourness. I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

There were two comments in the Mercy in the City book (Chapter 4) that caught my attention.  In speaking of Lent, Kerry Weber says, "I love the possibility the season implies.  A season of possibility would not be how I would have previously described Lent.  A season of giving up, with a large chance of failure, would have been closer to my previous reality.  But, when the focus becomes what is possible then anything and everything can be possible.  For me, it also focuses me onto how I am to achieve things.  I am in partnership with the Lord not a solo act.  All is possible through Him and with Him.  He knows I will fail at times, I will not get things right but if my trust is in Him and not in myself, than the possibilities are greater.

The second sentence that struck a cord in me was, " do I let God work through me?".  I am His instrument.  I am His hands, feet, ears, words.  Someone once said to me, "You may be the only Bible that someone reads."  That phrase has always stuck with me.  Is there any disconnect between what I profess to believe as a Catholic and what people see?   What we profess can quickly be negated by how we act.   Who we be is where the rubber meets the road.

Maybe for the first time in my Lenten experiences, I am encouraged by the possibilities of the season not discouraged about the time ahead and if I will weather it with my resolve intact.  As it has often be said of the Christian journey, "it is not a sprint but a marathon". 

I saw this book group and thought,  "What a great opportunity!" for Lent. As I was praying and reflecting this morning about mercy, and the works of mercy, my phone rang.  It was my neighbor telling me that he had run out of oil during the night and his kitchen was already getting cold. His oil company was not going to deliver oil until his existing balance was paid, and to pay that balance would mean that my neighbor would have no money left for the rest of the month. That he was between a financial rock and hard place was clear. I did what mercy would require and paid his balance so that he could use some of what he had left for the month to buy oil. 

There were many graces operating here...from the basics such as just being able to communicate, to having telephones, to having the surplus to help...Yet, the greater grace was to see into my own heart, and see my own hesitation and righteousness.  You see, everyone in the neighborhood, including my neighbor, predicted last September that he would be in this predicament, and he did little to change his situation.

The grace given  was just to see in the moment another human being who today was cold, while I was warm.  Yes, I was warm because I worked, and budgeted, and denied myself some things so that I would have money for heat this winter...and the grace given was to know that even while all of this may be true, even this was John's gospel says "from his favor we have all received...grace upon grace."

The grace given was to see the self righteousness within - as if I could take credit for my situation - and make a choice to repent.  

The grace given was to reflect on God's mercy toward me, in spite of doing the same self-defeating things over and over.

Grace- amazing grace.
Thanks be to God.

Chapter One: After one short chapter, I am hooked on Kerry's writing style and her fresh perspective on "shrove Tuesday". Admittedly, I had pancakes yesterday as a tradition. The Grace of this chapter is based on my experience as a sponsor many years ago for a RCIA candidate. It was a very Grace filled experience that I can remember vividly today as Kerry relates her experiences. I was lucky to have the opportunity today (as I do every Wednesday) to perform two of the Corporal Works of Mercy. I took communion to a mother and daughter who are homebound and we typically spend time discussing matters of faith, as we did today. Secondly, on Wednesdays, I deliver meals to the elderly/homebound near me. Visiting the imprisoned with be the toughest challenge and my hopes are that no one I know passes away during lent (so as to bury the dead).

We have formed a Lenten reading group made up of faculty and staff from Sacred a Heart Academy Hamden. We look forward to journeying with you.

I join each of you in the excitement of this lenten adventure and am delighted to have companions along the way. As I begin reading this book and reflecting on how I can be more sensitive to the needs of others around me through reflecting on the works of mercy and beginning to express such in practical and ordinary ways throughout this Lenten period, know that I hold each of you in prayer as we begin our Lenten Journey and discipline together.

Decided to buy 5 copies of the book and give to various people in the my Parish. The 1st question my wife asked  was “Where is my Copy?”!!!  That was the first prodding I received from the Holy Spirit.  Lent Begins at Home with your Family and should be a shared experience. I plan to do so! 

I started the Mercy in the City book over the weekend and loved it. She has a great “easy” style to read, very authentic and practical. I added a Lenten resolution based on the reading thus far.

I am so excited to join this Lenton activity. I ordered the book yesterday! I think it will be delivered in time. This group of committed Christians are a grace that I rejoice in and hope to traverse our days of anticipation to our Lord’s resurrection together. God bless you richly for your lead part in this gathering of voices.

Chapter 1: I love how she planned ahead all the things she would do during Lent. I especially like the idea of incorporating the corporal works of mercy. This will be new for me and I'm still trying to figure out how I can go about it. I'm praying for inspiration.

Wow! the Dorothy Day quote Kerry references--"I really only love God as much as the I love the person I love the least."---was like a punch in the gut. I've never thought about it quite that way. It boils "love" down to its essence.

Reflections on
trying the Works of Mercy

I went through my closet and selected some items which I donated to a chariable organization which feeds and clothes homeless persons.  Kerry could relate stories about items of clothing. I realise I cannot do anything like that. I may remember where I bought the item and how much I paid for it and that's about it. I buy at least one item of clothing a month and I am concerned about how I look to others, maybe too concerned. I've decided not to purchase any new items during Lent.

I must admit that thinking about and trying to perform the Works of Mercy has been a challenge.  I think that the one that troubles me the most is visiting the imprisoned. Maybe I just look at things differently, but because I work with the welfare population daily, I see firsthand the “prisons” that they live in and endure.  So many of these women are isolated and alone and have no real partner to support them as they face life’s challenges.  They have more limitations than most people in terms of what they “have to do” to be able to provide for their families through the welfare system.  There may not be bars on their windows and doors, but they do encounter obstacles that can imprison them.  

Everyone that we meet is imprisoned by something. May we all seek the grace to try and “free” each other from that which holds us back- whether it is a physical building or the walls we all build around ourselves.


I had lunch this week with a life-long friend who is very ill. Only after reflecting on the impact this experience had on me did I even think of it as a "work of mercy." He needed company and I wanted to support him. It went way beyond that for me. It was profound for him to express his vulnerability to me and to reach out and ask for time to be together. I was happy I could be there with him and listen and promise the support of my prayer and presence with him on what will likely be a tough journey ahead. I imagine that this is what Jesus wanted us to do for each other.

What I didn't imagine is what it did for me. In the midst of my very busy life - some of which was quite involved with problems I'm having, and which on bad days can bog me down in some self-pity - I was simply pulled out of myself for a while to let my heart go out to someone who was sufferig with, vulnerable to fears that I didn't know. To look into the eyes of mortality itself, wiht a dear friend, is quite purifying and quite liberating. Since that time together with my friend, I've been thinking more about my mortality as well. My compassion for and presence with my friend was a gift for me to put a number of things in my life in better perspective. And, the reflection, the grace, just grows. How many more people in my life, in my city, in our world, are facing serious vulnerability and fear about thier health or their survival. My "issues" begin to pale in comparison and my compassion grows. All over one moment of mercy, over a surprising Lent moment.

I have started this book and retreat with the full intention of giving it my full attention in reading and hopefully practice the works of mercy daily.  Today which is the Friday after Ash wednesday I happen to be sitting in Church getting ready for mass when a woman sits in the same pew and then becomes preoccupied with the book that I took to Church.  As the mass ends she introduces herself and asks about the book….I explain the MercyRetreat and some info about Creighton University and write the website on the back of an envelope for Haiti relief that was going to be my charitable giving for this season of Lent.  She tells me she is not computer savvy and that her daughter will do it once she recovers from her pending surgery.  I ask for her daughter's name, give her my rosary so that she realizes my pledge to pray for her daughter and then just give her my copy of Mercy in the City.  I was concerned about how practical I would be in living out the works of mercy and Christ gave me an ample opportunity to speak to someone who was lonely, needed a listening ear and some prayers for herself and her ill daughter and then I felt nudged to just give her the book.  I have asked her to take the retreat for me. She agreed and she promised to make a donation to the Haiti Relief in my name….Thank you Lord for the wonderful encounter and the practice of the works of mercy that I was graced to practice and that this woman practiced in return to me!  Her daughter's name is Susan and I am sure she would not mind if we all prayed for her.

God never ceases to surprise and amaze me. Thank you Lord!

LENT IS HARD!. What I mean to say is that anything worth doing takes some effort.  Whether it is getting up early to work in a bread line or making a conscious effort to rid ourselves of what holds us back, we must take that first step. Most of us want to try and find opportunities to help those who are in need but the reality can be daunting. I went with my husband to visit my mother-in-law in a nursing home this weekend. There were people there who had needs on so many levels. Some simply hungered for companionship while others really did need to be fed. Some had no visitors at all while others were surrounded by family.  It makes you stop and think about what is really important. And it made me want to strip away more of the baggage that I carry in an attempt to serve others as He would.  I pray for continuing grace.

This is the second week of Lent and trying to do these works of mercy is becoming more & more challenging.  Yesterday I offered a homeless man something to eat and he cussed me out. He also cussed Jesus and His Mother Mary. I just walked away. I felt I had to do reparation. But there are others whose needs I could serve, so praise the Lord!!!  Also in Chapter 14 I could not relate to Kerry's sleeping in a shelter with homeless men. I understood it was an act of solidarity with the homeless but she's single and it works for her. What would work for me?I'm thinking I'll donate money to a 'neediest fund' which assists families who have lost their homes due to fire, inability to pay rent, etc.

“Visit the sick, and don’t stay too long, and then leave, unless they ask you to stay”.  Solid advice from the sisters who spent a lifetime visiting the sick.  I visited the Carmelite home for the aged this week, and though I called ahead to arrange my time for the visit, when I got there, everyone was sleeping (afternoon nap) except for one man who was watching television show. And he was more interested in the show! So I visited the chapel instead. I was amazed at the peace I experienced there.  I felt enveloped by a protective, tender peace that I had never experienced before. I was in God’s presence and in that moment I experienced contentment. As Kerry says when you’re sick you’re more vulnerable than you want to be so when you visit the sick, you do what’s needed and leave. I prayed the rosary for the people who were sick and their loved ones, for all the nurses and other workers, and for all the Carmelite nuns who have prayed  in that chapel since it was constructed over 100 years ago. I also prayed that I may be given the sensitivity of spirit I need so that when I visit next, I don’t stay too long, then I leave, unless of course, they ask me to stay. 

I am going through my closets also quite systematically. I am still asking if this is enough.  I have so much that maybe this is actually the easy option.  There are at least 6 other corporal works of mercy I need to get around to.  But Kerry creates a different view from me as she reminds us of Paul's encouragement to the Collosians to "put on garments of love". I ask myself, do I really cloth my self with love which touches and embraces others?  I feel I fall short in this.  I do clothe myself as the "successful executive" during the week or the "quite hip 60's+" on weekends.  These are my clothes and probably my stance.  So as well as clearing my closet, each week as I dress ... That shirt, that tie I choose, my pair of jeans at weekends ... I will say a prayer to invest them (me) with the garment of true love that I hope I can bring to others. 

After reading the first three chapters of "Mercy in the City,"  I was inspired to look for ways to increase my corporal works of mercy during Lent. By accident (not really!), I was looking at mass times for a Jesuit parish downtown and saw that they were having a meeting for the St. Vincent de Paul group that visits people in their homes to assess needs for payment of rent, utilities, and the like. The meeting was in an hour. Carpe diem - I had one of my projects. What a grace to be with the volunteers and the gentleman in need. We prayed for and with him and filled out forms to pay his rent to prevent him from getting evicted. My heart was filled with compassion for this gentleman. If that was not enough, the volunteer that I was with gave me a medal from her bag and it was Mary of Guadalupe. My father died on that feast day and Juan Diego was canonized on my birthday. I am grateful for this book that led me out of the suburbs into the heart of the city.

Last week, I went to three funerals and felt what a work of mercy it is to bring comfort to those who have lost a loved one, just by going to the wake service and the funeral. Burying the Dead is a work of mercy. This week a relative and I will visit an uncle of ours with Alzheimer's disease, in a nursing home. It is difficult to visit him because his memory is so damaged. He repeats the same question over and over, "How are you?" I tend to prefer doing thing that have a measurable outcome. I am opening my heart to this ministry of mercy, which is offering the care of our presence and which will bless us with a deeper compassion. I'm most curious about how I will try to Shelter hte Homeless and Visit the Impressioned.

I love this book. I went through my hall closet and took a load of jackets and sweaters that we never or hardly ever use and donated them. It is hard for me to let go of things and I was tempted to leave a few things in the car and bring them back home, but I let go of all of them.  I plan on going through another closet this week - as I am retired and no longer need all the clothes I have. But like I said, it is not easy for me to let go of things - so say a prayer for me.  I hope that this letting go of "things" in my life helps me to grow spiritually. 

As I'm starting Kerry's book, I'm starting to think about how I can try these 7 works of mercy this Lent. I already realize, just trying to be practical, that not only will this be work, but it will be wonderful. It may be the first Lent that I'm not so self-absorbed and I actually learn about and expereince the struggles of others. I look forward to a renewal of my soul in a much deeper way this Lent.

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