|12/11/2016 9:31:00 AM|
Mercy became personal for me
Catholic News Service
People take a selfie before passing through the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. Mary Major after its opening by Pope Francis in Rome Jan. 1, 2016.
Sarah J.In November 2015 Pope Francis announced the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I thought of mercy in very broad terms. I was merciful. I did corporal acts of mercy: fed the poor, helped the sick. I also believed that I received mercy when I participated in Mass and went to confession. So what is so important about mercy? Why did the Holy Father want us to celebrate mercy?
In June I went on a healing retreat. During the retreat, participants were asked to take a rock and reflect on what it meant in our lives. As I carried the rock, it began to symbolize my own unworthiness.
I was unworthy. I reflected that I often felt like a fake or fraud and felt that if people really knew me, they would see I was unworthy. These “if only” thoughts went through my mind for quite some time. I spoke with the priest on the retreat, and he asked me to prove to him that I was a fake, a fraud or unworthy. I could not. I laid my rock down during the retreat and asked God to show me that I was worthy.
The journey continued after the retreat. God gave me courage I never knew. I began reflecting on my life. I was writing down my story for the first time. I knew the events in my life, and as long as I just remembered them and did not share them, I did not have to deal with them. Writing them on paper makes them real.
I dealt with the top layer of my own unworthiness — my abortion. I had worked for 13 years on the healing from the abortion. The Lord wanted me to go down further. I began to write about being bullied and raped by a classmate in fifth grade. I wrote about my mother’s suicide attempts and so much of her physical and emotional abuse. I began to realize the depth of my shame. This was where I felt unworthy.
I began to pray through my sins and shame. Through the sacraments of the church I started to grow. The weekly and often daily reception of the Eucharist continued to give me courage. Facing so many of my sins and having the courage to say them out loud in the confessional removed the shame. I no longer had secrets — the “if you only knew” type secrets. As the layers of shame fell from my overburdened soul I began to receive mercy. I was, in fact, worthy of God’s mercy.
On a trip back home to visit my family this past summer I was able to visit the garage where I was raped and bullied by the classmate. I sat in my car for nearly an hour outside that garage. I said some prayers, some Hail Marys, and reflected on the sorrow and shame I felt as that little girl back then. I then traveled and prayed outside the abortion clinic where I sacrificed my baby so many years ago. I prayed. Next I went to the local Door of Mercy.
I walked through that Door of Mercy. How can Mercy change my life? Little did I know, mercy was changing me. I went to hear Father Theodore Lange of Mount Angel Seminary give a talk on the effects of mercy. I learned that mercy forgives, heals, restores and then elevates me to new life.
I began to reflect on my journey. I no longer feel ashamed of my past, I am a worthy, beloved daughter of God. I have received unprecedented forgiveness for my sins, deep healing from the abortion and the childhood abuse. Mercy also removed layers of pain restoring my soul. I have been elevated to a new life in Christ. Mercy has become personal to me.
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