Parented by Gratuitous Love

There are many beautiful flowers in the nursery garden, but I am drawn at once to Baby M*.  Only a few weeks old, he is the smallest of all, weighing in at only 2.5 kilos—the equivalent of a small sack of flour with an extra tablespoon or two thrown in.  The list of his medical conditions is longer than he is.  He can do nothing for himself; only receive.

Abandoned at birth, he is without parents; even his name is a gift of the state.  Unlike the other children who reward my attention with laugher and hugs, Baby M lacks the strength even to smile.  He is too weak to suck from a bottle, and so a makeshift feeding tube helps to provide nourishment.  A colostomy bag compensates for his inability to digest and process food properly.  Even his cry is weak—unable to raise his voice, he raises plaintive eyes instead, and his tiny fist squeezes my heart.

*            *            *

Before holding this little one, I would wonder at the words of Jesus to Saint Faustina: “The greater the sinner, the greater his right to my mercy.”

Surely sin has no power, no rights.  But mercy is not about the power of the sinner, but the power of God’s love.  Our weakness draws and compels the heart of God.

“God doesn’t love the way human beings love. We love people because they’re attractive, funny, talented, rich, and powerful,” notes author Father Michael Gaitley.  “God loves us because we’re so weak, broken, and sinful.  God’s merciful love is like water that rushes to the lowest place.”2

In today’s Gospel, Jesus comes to Jericho, and we are told He “intended to pass through the town.”  But then Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector and sinner, the Bernie Madoff of his day, is moved by the desire to see Jesus.  He too was small—so short of stature that he is unable to see Jesus because of the crowd—and so he climbs a tree to get a better look.

One can only wonder at what must have been an awkward sight, a grown man gawking from a sycamore tree.  But Jesus stops and looks up, and says “Zacchaeus come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”

This desire of Zacchaeus that moves him to climb the tree to see Jesus, in turn moves Jesus, compels Him.  “I must stay at your house.”

The crowd is scandalized. “They began to grumble.”  Zacchaeus is a notorious sinner, a thief, one of the “bad guys”; he has not behaved in a way to earn God’s favor, he is not one of their own.  His smallness was not only physical. But Jesus explains the “must”: “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what is lost.”

There is no recording of a preceding moral lecture by Jesus, no setting of prerequisites for His love.  Rather it is the invitation itself which causes Zacchaeus to hasten and “receive Him with joy.” It is the Encounter with Jesus which moves him to moral conversion: “Behold, half of my possessions Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I will repay it four times over.”

Moral behavior is not the prior condition for the love of God, but the consequence of it.  When we receive the unconditional love of God, we are freed to give it and to live it.  Yes—virtue is necessary; we cannot exempt ourselves from the laws of God.  But law is ultimately at the service of love.

It is our need and our desire which knock on the heart of God, which open the floodgates of His mercy.  There is nothing we can do to earn it; we can only accept or refuse it.

The church has always insisted on the right to baptize infants for this reason: all is gift.  We do not wait for proof of wisdom or virtue or even understanding.  We are parented by a love that is gratuitous, born of the goodness of God, not our own.

*            *            *

Baby M’s little heart is also weak, and it is clear from the beginning that his visit with us will be a short one.  And so we give him a special bath, and dress him in white, to prepare him to meet his Father.

On July 18th, his little body gives out, and he is transferred to a New Home, to be cradled in arms that will never let go.  And these days I ask for his help and intercession, that he might now assist me in my weakness.

Little saints, pray for us!

Baby Parenthood Finger Father Hand Love Mother

* Not his real name or initial

2 Father Gaitley explores this theme extensively in his highly recommended book, 33 Days to Merciful Love.  The quote cited is from this article: https://www.northtexascatholic.org/local-news-article?r=AGVJ9RUW3M

Image credit: (modified) from MaxPixel [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Freedom in Forgiveness

“Jesus said to his disciples,
“Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the one through whom they occur.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck
and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Be on your guard!
If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’
you should forgive him.”
And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:1-6)

“Have you forgiven him yet?” my friend asked as we sat in the driveway of my parents’ house, heat running in the car on a cold December night.

Her words pierced my heart. “Oh…” I said, “I thought I did. But I don’t think I actually meant it with my whole heart.”

Forgiveness—it’s sometimes so hard for us, yet always so easy for Jesus. See, I used to think that forgiveness meant I was saying it was okay that someone hurt me. It wasn’t until I was deeply wounded by another several years ago that I figured out what forgiveness was all about. I remember hearing someone say the words forgiveness and freedom in the same sentence. My gut reaction was, “I want that…is that really possible?”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to forgive, even if the same person hurts us seven times in one day. Forgiveness isn’t saying that someone else’s sin against you is okay—forgiveness says, “What you did hurt me, but I put you in God’s hands. I do not desire your destruction.” Forgiveness is surrender, casting our cares on the One who cares so deeply for us.

Forgiveness in graver matters takes time and is a journey, and that is okay. With the situation I mentioned above, I would kneel and say the words “I forgive_____” and pray a Hail Mary for the person every Sunday before Mass until I started to believe it in my heart.

Forgiveness softens our hearts; holding onto unforgiveness leaves us bitter, angry, and unhealed with walls around our hearts screaming, “DON’T come in!” Forgiveness frees; unforgiveness enslaves. We become chained to our hurt. If we don’t forgive, we may as well put a millstone around our own necks. Is there someone in your life you need to work on forgiving?

I find it fascinating that the Apostles’ response to Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness was, “Increase our faith.” Their hearts were pierced like when my friend invited me to truly forgive. I imagine them seeing the faces of the people they knew they needed to forgive flash before their eyes as Jesus was talking.

And how often do we struggle to forgive ourselves? I know I do sometimes. I’ve walked out of the confessional before only to beat myself up about my sin a few hours later. The liar of shame creeps in and tells us our sin defines us and that we’re not good.

When St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (the saint to whom Jesus encouraged devotion to His Sacred Heart) began having visions of Jesus, her spiritual director, St. Claude, was very skeptical at first. He told her to ask Jesus what the last mortal sin was that he confessed. Jesus answered, “I don’t remember.” How powerful is the ocean of mercy of our Lord!

Father, increase my faith so that I may more easily forgive others. Strengthen me to be courageous and put the people that have wronged me and wounded me into Your wounded hands. So often others’ own woundedness leads them to hurt me; help me to have an understanding heart towards that. Increase my faith so that I may better forgive myself. Help me to know that I am not defined by my sin but as Your precious child. Help me to forgive like You do, Lord Jesus, and set me free. Remove any shame, fear, hard-heartedness, or bitterness from my heart. May I have great faith in Your mercy, Your love song for Your people.

“In Bitterness Is My Joy”

Today’s readings may seem a little harsh: God putting Job in his place, Jesus proclaiming woe to those who reject Him. Why would God point out Job’s insignificance and insufficiencies when he is already experiencing so much suffering?

Becoming aware of our own weaknesses is, in fact, a grace. It can be a struggle, too, for it requires us to learn humility, but it also brings freedom. Being aware of our weaknesses frees us from any pretense of perfection, from feeling as though we have to carry the world on our shoulders, and from a false perception of reality, of the world and our place in it.

It is through these weak points that the enemy will try to break in, through our bad habits and less noble inclinations. As the Church Militant, we are continually fighting the good fight, storming the forces of evil and protecting what is sacred—including, first and foremost, our own souls—from being corrupted. If we are aware of the weaknesses within ourselves, we can mount a defense to enemy attacks. In order to do so, we must put aside our pride and call in reinforcements. The battle is bigger than any fantasies we may have for ourselves of glory and heroics. If we want to win the fight, we have to be willing to take orders from our Master, who is infinitely stronger and wiser than we are.

When we understand this greater reality, we will be able to proclaim our weaknesses without shame. We are mere soldiers in a spiritual battle that is far beyond our depth, but we will receive unyielding support to bolster every weakness, if only we ask it of God.

Today is the feast of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Apostle of Divine Mercy. She beautifully illustrates this idea of confident humility, and her receptiveness to God’s message of Divine Mercy was cultivated by her great dependence on God and the knowledge of her own weaknesses.

We cannot receive God’s mercy if we are not aware of our need for it. St. Faustina shows us though the example of her own life that accepting humiliations leads not to despair but to great joy. When St. Faustina faced trials and injustices, she did not view them through the lens of her own ego but through God’s mysterious economy of grace. She knew she was playing a part in a larger story. When her things did not proceed according to her plans—when she was turned down from several convents, faced serious illnesses, or was misunderstood and ridiculed—she did not cease to trust in God, because her faith was not in her own wisdom but in God’s alone. When she was mistreated, she did not become indignant but instead thought of how Jesus was mistreated at Calvary, drawing close to Him. She was not ashamed of her shortcomings but humbly accepted them, knowing that God created her with those weaknesses for a reason. She used every struggle as a chance to learn to depend upon God all the more and to increase in joyful gratitude for His overflowing mercy.


And you, Faustina, a gift of God to our time, a gift from the land of Poland to the whole Church, obtain for us an awareness of the depth of Divine Mercy; help us to have a living experience of it and to bear witness to it among our brothers and sisters. May your message of light and hope spread throughout the world, spurring sinners to conversion, calming rivalries and hatred, and opening individuals and nations to the practice of brotherhood. Today, fixing our gaze with you on the Face of the Risen Christ, let us make our own your prayer of trusting abandonment and say with firm hope: “Jesus, I trust in You!”
(Prayer of St. John Paul II)

Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies the soul. In suffering we learn who is our true friend.

True love is measured by the thermometer of suffering. Jesus, I thank you for the little daily crosses, for opposition to my endeavors, for the hardships of communal life, for the misinterpretation of my intentions, for humiliations at the hands of others, for the harsh way in which we are treated, for false suspicions, for poor health and loss of strength, for self-denial, for dying to myself, for lack of recognition in everything, for the upsetting of all my plans.

Thank you, Jesus, for interior sufferings, for dryness of spirit, for terrors, fears, and uncertainties, for the darkness and the deep interior night, for temptations and various ordeals, for torments too difficult to describe, especially for those which no one will understand, for the hour of death with its fierce struggle and all its bitterness.

I thank you, Jesus, who first drank the cup of bitterness before you gave it to me, in a much milder form. I put my lips to this cup of your holy will. Let all be done according to your good pleasure; let that which your wisdom ordained before the ages be done to me. I want to drink the cup to its last drop, and not seek to know the reason why. In bitterness is my joy, in hopelessness is my trust. In you, O Lord, all is good, all is a gift of your paternal Heart. I do not prefer consolations over bitterness or bitterness over consolations, but thank you, O Jesus, for everything! It is my delight to fix my gaze upon you, O incomprehensible God!

—St. Faustina Kowalska

When Goods Become Gods

Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”—Matt 23:23-26

I recently subscribed to Apple Music, which enables me to listen to pretty much any song for free.  In a fit of nostalgia, I downloaded many of my high school favorites from the 80’s and early 90’s.  Listening to them I am amazed and amused by two things: First, these songs are so riddled with longing and angst I am surprised I survived even an hour of adolescence without copious amounts of Prozac.  Second, I really had no idea how very many metaphors there are for the should-be-marital-act that I was completely oblivious to in my youth.

Just like the lyrics of an old country song, I too was “looking for love in all the wrong places.”  But this is not a story about sexual mistakes or what Fr. Isaac dubbed the “Las Vegas Sins.”  Rather I tried very hard to be a “good girl” and knew that my desire for love was ultimately to be met in God.  But I (unconsciously) believed that God’s love was something to be earned, fought for.  I thought it was a matter of getting the rules right, of moral perfection, of mastering my will.

The Opposition Voice will take one of two tactics when it comes to morality.  First, he may tempt us to ignore God’s law entirely, saying a particular sin is no big deal, won’t harm us, isn’t even really a sin.  Or, he may take an opposite tact: he may encourage us to fixate on sin, fixate on what is right and wrong, the details of law—at the expense of our relationship with the Law Giver.  This was the mistake of the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, and at times my own as well.

All of God’s laws are for our ultimate good and happiness, even those we find difficult and unpalatable.  Moralism, however, takes those beautiful and good laws and makes an idol of them.

We need a sidewalk to proceed down a street safely, but we are not meant to live our life looking only at the concrete.  A map may provide helpful directions to keep us from getting lost, but life is not meant to be an endless squabble over the map.

A few years ago, some Frassati friends and I visited Yellowstone Park.  There are hundreds of acres of land that are completely free and open to exploration.  There are some areas with recommended paths that are helpful but not required.  And there are some areas, generally surrounding hot springs or canyons, with paths and platforms that are absolutely essential for one’s safety—step off the path, and you could die.

The purpose of these latter paths is non-negotiable—we disregard them to our peril.  But we do not come to Yellowstone to gaze at and photograph the path, but to enable us to enjoy all of the beauty that surrounds it.

Similarly, the moral law is not at end in itself, but God’s plan to help us live life to the full.  A good marriage is not the absence of adultery or murder or skillful negotiations about who does the dishes and takes out the garbage.  Certainly, those things are necessary if not deal-breakers, but they are not enough.  What makes marriage meaningful is the love lived between spouses, the gift of self that grows into new little gift-givers.

The Opposition Voice will sometimes encourage perfectionism and moralism, not because he values morality, but because he knows we will ultimately fail.  He will encourage us to jump as high as we can, in order to try to reach God on our own, knowing we will get tired and eventually give up.

After sin, he continues with the same varying tactics.  To one he whispers, “Your sin is no big deal!  No need to go to Confession.  You didn’t kill anyone after all.  Oh, well, maybe you did, but she deserved it, right?”

To the other: “What an abominable sin you committed!  God could never forgive that.  You are not worthy of the pure love of God.  You shouldn’t even think about approaching Him in prayer!”

Always his goal is to block relationship, block reconciliation between creature and Creator.

When I taught children about Confession I would hold up a clear glass of water, telling them that it represented their souls at baptism, clean of original sin and filled with sanctifying grace.  Then we would add drops of food coloring, representing various sins committed, until the water turned black.

“Does God love you when you look like this?” I would ask.  There were always a few who guessed No.

“God never stops loving you—even when you look like this!” I would insist.  “God loves you just the way you are—but too much to let you stay that way.”  And then I would talk to them about the sacrament of Confession, how God’s love not only washes us but transforms us with His Grace and Mercy.

To further illustrate this, I would pour into the blackened water Absolution (represented by a bottle of Clorox), which changed suddenly the contents of the glass.  I had been told that this would make the water clear again, but in fact, it turned it a deep golden color.  At first I was dismayed that it “didn’t work properly,” but then I realized that this was in fact a more appropriate image for Confession.

Scripture tells us that “where sin abounds, grace abounds more.”  God takes the evil we offer and transforms it to an even greater good than existed previously.  The Prodigal Son upon His return finds not the life of servitude he expects, but a great welcome, the father running out to meet him, a party thrown in His honor

May we seek to follow Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and Life, and never let any sin be an obstacle to His love for us.

Lamentation

Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young;
I will set up an everlasting covenant with you,
that you may remember and be covered with confusion,
and that you may be utterly silenced for shame
when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord GOD.
—Ezekiel 16:60–63

Today’s reading from Ezekiel reminds me of a recent video from Fr. Robert Barron, which is definitely worth a watch: Bishop Barron on Ezekiel and the Sex Abuse Crisis. Ezekiel wrote of the corruption within the holy city of Jerusalem and its cleansing through avengers from the North. Today, the “holy city” of the Church has fallen into corruption, and it too needs to be cleansed, to endure the painful siege of repentance. God will not abandon His covenant with us. But if we are to be cleansed, we must allow Him to show us the weight of our sin; we must be willing to feel our shame and sorrow.

As Aidan and Alyssa have written this week, it has been sobering to read reports of the horrific abuse that has occurred within the Church and the deep corruption that kept it hidden for years. As American Catholics, we are mourning over these unthinkable crimes and trying to figure out how we can possibly move forward through this mess.

Yesterday’s Gospel reading, which Alyssa reflected upon, spoke of forgiveness, which may seem untimely at the moment. The Gospel asks us to forgive, but often we don’t understand the meaning of true forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean making excuses for the person who wronged you or brushing it under the rug. That’s not forgiveness; it’s denial. True forgiveness must acknowledge the sin and yet refuse to feed it. A person who forgives renounces any claim toward revenge and resists the tendency to harbor resentment. It is a daily decision, and it is not an easy one. But it is the only way that we can stop the cycle of sin and open our hearts to mercy. A truly forgiving heart is not indifferent to injustice; it is all the more deeply hurt by it, since it refuses to dehumanize either the victim or the perpetrator. It sees the tragedy of an innocent life altered irrevocably; it sees those individuals who used their God-given will for evil. And it resolves to do better.

I am reminded of the story of St. Maria Goretti and her murderer/attempted rapist, Alessandro Serenelli. Now, this is not a typical story—we should not go around assuming that all murderers and rapists will be reformed by our prayers and can be later welcomed into our families. But it is in fact what happened in the case of Alessandro Serenelli, incredible though it may seem. Though Alessandro was bitterly unrepentant for the first few years after Maria’s death, he experienced a profound conversion of heart after experiencing a vision of Maria in which she forgave him. He was moved to weep for his sins for the first time, and he began the process of true repentance. Due to Maria’s miraculous intercession (again, possible only through the grace of God and not by human means), he was completely reformed and eventually became an adopted son of Maria’s mother.

While Alessandro clung to his pride and callously denied his guilt, the seeds of sin and evil continued to fester within him. Only when he realized the depth of his sin and entered into a living purgatory of shame and regret was his heart opened to receive God’s mercy. This step was crucial: acknowledgment of wrongdoing, grief over what has been tainted and destroyed, ownership of one’s sinfulness. Unless we confront the realities of our sins and face our deepest wounds, we will never be able to receive healing. And Alessandro’s revelation of guilt—and thus his pathway to forgiveness—was made possible because of Maria’s purity and steadfast prayer.

As faithful Catholics who are shocked, saddened, and heartbroken over the recent scandals within the heart of our Church, we are called to step up and be the solution, to challenge the Church to rise up to her sacred calling. Now is the time for prayer and fasting. We will expect from the Church a higher standard, and we will start by being saints. The purification of the Church will begin with the purification of our own souls, by a deep desire for holiness and purity throughout every aspect of our lives. Jesus and Mary weep alongside us at these crimes. I’ve been encouraged by the discussion among young, faithful Catholics of the many ways in which we can carry this out, and I’ve compiled a list of resources here.

I stay with the Church because her teachings proclaim the dignity of the human person, even as some of those who represent her have trampled upon human dignity through objectification and abuse. I pray that we allow the light of truth to overcome the darkness, so that everything hidden will be exposed to the light. The truth of our own dignity and worth—and indeed that of our children—must prevail against the shadows.

Unpayable Debts

Dear fellow pilgrims,

Honestly, I think the last thing I wanted to talk about today in my reflection was forgiveness, in light of the horrific news that has surfaced out of Pennsylvania.  Members of our own beloved Catholic Church have perpetuated sexual abuse from hundreds of priests against hundreds, if not thousands, of children, and this is only a thorough report from one state in one country.  Even just over the course of a few days I have said repeatedly in my mind, and discussed with friends: “Now is not the time to defend the Church. Now is the time for sackcloths and ashes, fasting, mourning, listening to victims’ stories. Now is the time for confession, not changing the subject.”  We should all be outraged and be demanding further investigations and transparency above any trying to “save face.”

But today, the Holy Spirit, through our Church, is reminding us that even though we are just beginning to realize how thick and dark this pit of sin actually goes in the hierarchical systems of the Church, it is no match for Jesus’ mercy and plan for forgiveness among His people.

In today’s Gospel, we are called by our Lord to forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven (which really means an infinite number of times). Our first pope, St. Peter, asked Christ, almost like a child… “So, seven times… that’s enough forgiveness, right?” But when Christ answered, I bet St. Peter gave quite a look: wide-eyed, silent, mouth agape, while not realizing that Christ was showing him even the deepest sins of betrayal he would commit would be completely forgiven.

However, the simplistic point here that I could make – that even priests who perpetrate unspeakable terrors to children can be forgiven – is not what I want to highlight. (This is important to think about, but I honestly don’t think I’m ready to muse about that at length in an open forum quite yet.) Rather, what I see that I want to communicate here are possible inner dynamics within the individual who has the un-payable debt that led him to immediately demand a debt be paid to him from a fellow servant.

Maybe the servant with the un-payable debt did not actually see or understand that he was forgiven of his debt. Maybe he was just so worried about his own well-being and so relieved when he was let off the hook that the thrill of being set free gave him this false sense of favoritism and superiority over other servants. Maybe his actions immediately post-forgiveness showed a glimpse into the kind of person who could accumulate such a large, un-payable debt.  Maybe somehow the extreme forgiveness shown to him actually made him think he was more like the one who forgave him than the one who desperately needed forgiveness. The servant forgot that he was a servant dealing with other servants, and even more so, a servant with a much deeper debt than others he preyed on; he was blind to his own condition, he thought he was the ultimate authority.

In light of that, I think these are key elements of true forgiveness and consequent repentance: truly knowing what it is that is being forgiven, truly knowing who you are as one who is forgiven, and truly knowing who is it Who is forgiving the debt.

Some of the most powerful news stories that have come out of tragedies, in my view, have been those of victims forgiving those who have wronged them or others close to them. Nadine Collier forgave Dylann Roof publicly after he killed her mother and eight other church members and then showed no remorse, even pride afterwards: “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.” Rachel Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, also forgave him publicly for sexually abusing her repeatedly “under the guise of medical treatment” when she was a teenager: “I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well…”.  These stories of victims sharing their stories and forgiving their abusers do not only work for justice for the victims, they seem as if they are also aimed at offering mercy for the abusers. These statements, occurring within the processes of seeking legal justice for the victims, are giving the abusers the opportunity to know just what it is they are being forgiven for; there is no doubt that they are sinners in desperate need of forgiveness.

And here is where this connects to our current situation, my dear friends: without justice and confronting the weight of sin, there can be no true mercy. These were critical aspects of the Cross, from which all mercy flows! When these hundreds of abusers and the systems that perpetually condoned abusers were not confronted with the legal, public justice system, the abuse, the sin, continued. And this is true on a much smaller scale, as well. When we hide sins, we cannot be forgiven for them. When we do not have contrite hearts, we are not fully forgiven (theologians, feel free to correct me on that if I am off). And, when we do not understand the depths of our sin, or at least seek to, we are much less likely to forgive others because of that ignorance.

Let us pray for justice and mercy to come to all those involved in these scandals, including those priests who perpetrated unspeakable abuse in their lifetime but are now deceased. For we are all servants with unpayable debts, and Christ has told us to have “pity on [our] fellow servants.” Let us pray for our Church, that she would no longer keep justice and healing away from those victims who need it the most. Lord, have mercy on us all. Lord, purify and clean our Church, Your Church.

Pax Christi,
Alyssa

Feast of the Assumption

Sisters, Brothers:

Today is both a wonderful and terrible day for our Church.

I trust in Jesus Christ and his promises of life in Him. I proclaim my love for Mary, our invaluable intercessor, who was assumed bodily into Heaven, she was so pure.

Let’s pray for purity, then.

Let’s pray for mercy and justice. Today, Alyssa sang an Audrey Assad song at Mass: “Your rod and Your staff are a strange mercy in a world where I’m not yet home.”

Mercy, then. Mercy, mercy. Mercy, Lord. Your mercy come.

If any of us claim to believe in the power of prayer, may we now put it to the test like never before: Lord, bring your peace, healing, and love to your little ones, the victims. When all the world tells us that peace and healing are no longer possible, that ordained men have broken people in a way so that cannot be remade, we pray for your healing. We pray, that by the Blood of Jesus Christ, you will take this most evil of evils and bring about renewal.

I am at a loss for words. I do not need to add my “take” on the brutal truth. It’s true, and my God it’s brutal.

Instead, I will proclaim my faith, whether I feel it or not at this moment. I don’t. I will not proudly recite my faith from the rooftops today. I don’t claim to have much to offer in terms of comfort or clarity; it was just my day to write.

So I write my faith:

I believe in the Father. He is our creator. He is almighty.

I believe in Jesus Christ. He is the Son, the One who came into the world.

The virgin Mary miraculously bore Him, birthed Him, and raised Him as her son. She later was taken, body and soul, into Heaven to be with her truest loves.

I believe Jesus suffered. He died. He went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” He rose from the dead. He ministered further to His disciples and was then raised into Heaven to live forever with His Father.

He is our King, now and forever.

He is our Judge, now and forever.

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the Holy Catholic Church. Even on days like today. Faith in the Church is not my right. It is not even my human, intellectual decision. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart that has led, and will continue to lead me to profess my faith in the Holy Catholic Church. I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.

I believe that Saints can and do pray for us. Please pray for us today.

I believe that sins can be forgiven. Lord, forgive us today.

I believe that we, body and soul, may too join Jesus in eternal life because of His great and powerful Love and Mercy.

Mercy, then. Mercy, mercy. Mercy, Lord. Your mercy come.

Amen.