Why We Still Need Mercy

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Why Do We Still Need Mercy?

The year of Mercy may be over, but as we enter into 2017, we are in need of mercy now more than ever.

Someone once said to me that they would rather go to Hell than forgive the people who hurt them. To my surprise, a friend of mine who converted from Protestantism said that it’s something a lot of so-called Christians say. It’s hard for me to believe that people who claim to love their neighbor can hold on to a grudge so badly that they are willing to go to Hell for it. Believe me when I say this: Hell is not worth it.

There is a reason why CS Lewis said “The doors to hell are locked from the inside.” Hell is not worth staying angry or being judgmental or believing the lies of opportunistic politicians and fake news. Mercy and forgiveness aren’t just part of being a Christian, they are a part of having a healthy life.

I’m not saying to “forgive and forget.” I’m not saying you should reconcile to the people who hurt you. I’m not saying you should act like nothing happened. I’m asking you to let go. Let go of your anger. Let go of the hatred you feel. This is the greatest act of mercy you can do for the ones you and for yourself. The healing can’t begin until you let it all go.

How does forgiveness tie into mercy?

Whenever some bad news about a shooting or certain political groups comes up, volatile reactions on Twitter often follow afterwards. People blame others or buy into false rhetoric. What nobody seems to realize is that mercy is the real answer. Mercy is given to those you don’t think deserve it because they’re the ones who need it most. Without mercy, we are no better than the people who commit those violent acts and the ones we see as arrogant and overly powerful.

Through mercy and forgiveness, we can find the hope and a renewal of trust we have been lacking this year. We may not be able to trust the ones who’ve hurt us, but we can hope for the best for them and trust that we can be smarter going forward. We can avoid the fate of those who lost someone to death without making amends.

I know that right now, practicing mercy and forgiveness can be an unimaginable thing. But nothing is impossible with God.

What can we do?

I know that right now, everyone’s saying that 2016 has been the worst year in history. Believe me when I say that history has seen worse years. It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. The year of Mercy may be over, but since we are in the last week of Advent, I think it would be a good time to start practicing mercy and forgiveness. It even says so in the Bible!

If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

– Matthew 5:23-24

Give someone the gift of mercy and forgiveness this Advent.

The Lady and the Lion: Advent Week 4 Poems and Stories, Day 1

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For this last week of Advent, I want to share some poems and short stories that will hopefully fit with the spirit of the season.

 

The Lady and the Lion: A Spoken Word Poem

 

It started with a desire and a treacherous first step.

I journeyed across an infinite web

in search of some kind of connection.

Reaching out to the stars,

I found a lady in the constellations

Small, yet radiant; gentle, yet strong

I chased the lady across the sky

Until she ran to the side of a lion,

frightening and intimidating.

In fear of the tiger, I left the sky

Hiding away until I felt it was safe to come out

Even so, the lady and her lion followed me

 

The lady became like a bright shadow or reflection

While the lion returned to the sky,

She taught me to let go of my fears of uncertainty

And in doing so, I made my first connection

The lion was always out of my reach

but the lady always heard me.

Making me laugh and sending me love.

The lady and her tiger watched me

As I changed as slowly as a flower coming into bloom

As I learned how to dance in the desert

As I kept trying to fly, but kept falling and breaking

The lion came down from the sky

and caught me whenever I fell,

breathing into me as I rested.

 

As summer turned into fall,

The lady and her lion watched me from the sky

while I started running non-stop in hopes of flying.

The lion’s breath became my strength, my power, my faith

and soon my running became the fuel for my flight,

held up by the wings of a fiery dove.

 

I’ll always need the lion to catch me when I fall,

and the lady as my companion on my journey.

but I don’t need to hide in the caves anymore.

Instead, I take off to the stars every day,

acting as my guiding lights as I continue to fly.

Our lives, connected through the wind beneath my wings

Never really seeing, but always connecting

Connecting through smiles and shared wisdom

Connecting through music and shared gratitude

Connecting through words and shared love

 

The Joy of the Lord: Advent Week 3, Day 5

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

I don’t know what kind of year you had, but I’m certain that there are times that God brought you out of the dark. If you feel like you’re still in the dark, know that God is already rescuing you from that. You may not see it, but like the famous Footprints poem, God is carrying you through whatever adversities or trials you are undergoing right now.

Read the rest here

A Joyful Heart: Advent Week 3, Day 4

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

Today’s passages come from tonight’s Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office). For those who don’t know, the Liturgy of the Hours is a series of prayers dating back to the times of St. Benedict. Most religious orders pray the Liturgy of the Hours on a daily basis. Leah Libresco, author of Arriving at Amen, prays the Liturgy of the Hours as part of her daily commute. During Advent, the prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours take on a joyful tone.

Psalm 126 is a joyful song of captives being set free. These particular verses resonate with me:

“Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap. They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing: they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.” Psalm 126:6

Read the rest here!

The Lord Guides Us To Joy: Advent Week 3, Day 3

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From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship

Some of us may find it hard to trust in the Lord.

But as the Psalm says

“those who choose another god multiply their sorrows.”

We may not bow down before statues of cows, but many of us would rather find comfort in things such as wealth, pleasure, power and honor. In this time of year, wealth and pleasure are especially tempting idols. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can hold onto our things like a miser. We can also overindulge in shopping or eating too much or drooling over attractive actors. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but none of them will fulfill us the way that God does.

Read the rest here!

The Joy of the Moment: Advent Week 3, Day 1

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This week, I’ll be sharing my reflections on the third week of Advent from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship’s Advent Bible Study.

Today is about “The Joy of the Moment.”

One wonderful thing about being Catholic is that Christmas lasts for more than just one day. The revelry and celebration last long enough for us to properly enjoy the holiday so that by the time the actual Christmas season is over, we are ready to go back into reality. Until then, there is a certain joy in anticipation. Even as we make our plans and deal with traffic, lines, and the everyday inconveniences, we can have joy knowing that we are going to celebrate the birth of our Lord.

Read the rest here!

Seven Quick Takes on Marian Devotion: Advent Week 2, Day 5

— 1 —

My friends and I are starting a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots tomorrow. If you wanna join in, I’ll post the novena on this blog!

As many of you, Our Lady of Knots is Pope Francis’s favorite Marian devotion, so this is a perfect way for you to get a good start on this Year of Mercy. Offer this novena for anything that you’re struggling with, especially if you have an addiction or some unresolved issues that stem back from long ago.

— 2 —

One thing I remember from my retreat was that my friend Julie kept saying “Bye Patricia!” It’s a play on the slang “Bye Felicia!” For those who don’t know, “Bye Felicia!” is the millenial way of saying “See ya, suckers! I’m not even bothering to be polite, cuz I gotta go!” My friend’s new catchphrase came from the fact that even though Hurricane Patricia was a Category 5 hurricane that passed through Mexico, there were no fatalities or any major issues that devastated the country. Julie attributes that to Our Lady of Guadalupe. So yeah. Bye Patricia! Mary’s got Mexico covered!

— 3 —

Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship is offering online groups for Marian Consecration. One that’s coming up right now starts on December 31st and ends on the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (February 2, 2016). Marian Consecration is the perfect way to start off the new year! Click the link to check it out!

— 4 —

So a couple days ago, I got notified that Fr. Michael Gaitley was going to be on EWTN Live. Fr. Michael Gaitley basically taught me everything I know about Marian Consecration as well as how a devotion to Divine Mercy impacted the life of St. John Paul II. Up until I watched the show, I have never seen Fr. Michael Gaitley’s face. I just heard his voice and read his words. I didn’t Google the guy so I had no idea what he looked like. Imagine my surprise when I finally see a picture of him from a Facebook page and took a good look at his adorable baby face.

NO PRIEST SHOULD LOOK THIS CUTE! I thought.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. I had my first priest crush. Even though Fr. Michael Gaitley had a beard when he was on EWTN Live, I still couldn’t get past the fact that he had such a baby face. How old was he when he went into seminary? 15?

Oh well. Holiness is always an attractive quality in a man and now I understand why that French girl who later became a nun had such a crush on him. And I learned once again that people who enter into religious life are full of suprises.

Check out the video here:

And check out all of Fr. Michael Gaitley’s works on Lighthouse Catholic Media.

— 5 —

If you want to know why I have major issues with the song “Mary Did You Know,” check out Fr. Robert Mcteigue, SJ’s article on Aleteia.

Catholic Sistas shared this picture from Catholic Fortress. I consider it a good retaliation for the song as well.

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A Protestant friend of mine, however, still doesn’t understand the nuances behind the term “full of grace.” Thankfully, Dave Armstrong has something to say about that.

— 6 —

I learned that yesterday was the feast of Our Lady of Loreto. I remember praying the Litany of Loreto as part of my Marian Consecration and that Mother Teresa was initially a member of the Congregation of Our Lady of Loreto before going on to begin the Missionaries of Charity. Feel free to pray the litany with me:

V. Lord, have mercy.
R. Christ have mercy.
V. Lord have mercy. Christ hear us.
R. Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us. 
Holy Mother of God, pray for us. 
Holy Virgin of Virgins, [etc.]
Mother of Christ,
Mother of divine grace,
Mother most pure,
Mother most chaste,
Mother inviolate,
Mother undefiled,
Mother most amiable,
Mother most admirable,
Mother of good Counsel,
Mother of our Creator,
Mother of our Savior,
Virgin most prudent,
Virgin most venerable,
Virgin most renowned,
Virgin most powerful,
Virgin most merciful,
Virgin most faithful,
Mirror of justice,
Seat of wisdom,
Cause of our joy,
Spiritual vessel,
Vessel of honor,
Singular vessel of devotion,
Mystical rose,
Tower of David,
Tower of ivory,
House of gold,
Ark of the covenant,
Gate of heaven,
Morning star,
Health of the sick,
Refuge of sinners,
Comforter of the afflicted,
Help of Christians,
Queen of Angels,
Queen of Patriarchs,
Queen of Prophets,
Queen of Apostles,
Queen of Martyrs,
Queen of Confessors,
Queen of Virgins,
Queen of all Saints,
Queen conceived without original sin,
Queen assumed into heaven,
Queen of the most holy Rosary,
Queen of families,
Queen of peace,

V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Spare us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
R. Graciously hear us, O Lord. 
V. Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, may we be freed from present sorrow, and rejoice in eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

The versicle and prayer after the litany may be varied by season. Thus, during Advent (from the fourth Sunday before Christmas to Christmas Eve):

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray. O God, who hast willed that by the message of an Angel, thy Word should receive flesh from the womb of the Virgin Mary: grant unto thy suppliants, that we who believe that she is truly the Mother of God, may be assisted by her intercession before Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

From Christmas to Candlemass (the Feast of the Presentation), that is through February 1:

V. Thou gavest birth without loss of thy virginity.
R. Intercede for us, O holy Mother of God.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the fruitful virginity of blessed Mary hast offered unto the human race the rewards of eternal salvation, grant, we beseech thee, that we may know the effects of her intercession, through whom we have deserved to receive the author of life, our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son. R. Amen.

From Candlemass to Easter (through Holy Week), AND from the day after Pentecost (or from Trinity Sunday, if Pentecost is celebrated with octave) to the beginning of Advent:

V. “Pray for us” and prayer “Grant unto thy servants,” as above:

During Eastertide (from Easter day through Pentecost, and throughout the octave of Pentecost if it is celebrated):

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord is truely risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, Who by the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, hast vouchsafed to make glad the whole world, grant, we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His mother, we may attain the joys of eternal life, through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

 

— 7 —

And for lulz, I’m gonna leave you with this meme I created:

tik tok

Don’t stop, Holy Pop! Jesus turn that mercy up!

Tonight shine the light, shine light of Christ!

Tik tok! Advent’s clock counting down to the day that He comes back

Oh-whoa-oh-oh! Oh-whoa-oh-oh!

 

Another picture from Andrea Marie Lopez, shared by The Catholic Memes on their Facebook page:

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There’s also this funny video from Brandon Vogt. Equally hilarious:

Finding Light in the Darkness: Advent Week 2, Day 4

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Darkness and light are huge themes in Advent. My friend Elizabeth Imms from the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship shared three Bible verses in the reflection she wrote for today:

“The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” Matthew 4:16

“And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness does not overcome it.” John 1:5

“But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

I grew up in New Jersey and I remember how the way the seasons changed was so clear to me. I remember the colors of fall that painted the boulevards of my neighborhoods. I remember sledding in the local park as a child and praying that I get snow days. In Texas, it almost never snows. But given, for some reason, the sky is bigger in Texas than anywhere else I know (Texas bias, I know, but go with me on this), I can still see the change of the seasons by how quickly it takes for the sky to get dark.

Whenever I go on retreats, they usually take place somewhere out in the city where you can actually see the stars at night. The stars remind me that there is still light in the darkness. During one retreat, there was a distant thunderstorm and although I didn’t see the stars that night, the lightning that flashed across the sky was dazzling and frightening all at the same time.

The light of the Lord is very much like the stars and the lightning. Sometimes, He can seem cold and distant like the stars or as dangerous as lightning. In truth, like the stars, the light of the Lord guides us in the darkness, and like the lightning, it’s natural that we fear the Lord. In fact, fear of the Lord is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. However, the fear of the Lord isn’t a paralyzing fear the same way other phobias are.

According to Pope Francis: “The fear of the Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit, doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us. It is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace when the Holy Spirit lives in our heart, he instills consolation and peace in us.”

You may not know this, but St. Thomas Aquinas was afraid of lightning storms due to his sister being killed in one such storm. Whenever a storm broke out, Aquinas would hide in a church.

 

In this time of Advent, let the Lord guide you in these dark times. Understand that it is only through God that we are able to find peace. As Augustine said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

Juan Diego's Devotion: Advent Week 2, Day 3

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I didn’t grow up knowing St. Juan Diego the way a lot of other Cradle Catholics did. In fact, I actually learned about St. Juan Diego from a show called “Wishbone.” The episode was called Viva Wishbone and centered on the main character, David, learning the story of Juan Diego from his Mexican nanny. David wanted to get a good present for his mother for Mother’s Day, especially when he feels like his mother likes one of his friends more than him. However, through the story of Juan Diego, David learned what it means to be devoted to one’s mother.

Juan Diego was a simple man and showed his devotion to Our Lady in spite of the local bishop’s skepticism. The only time he strayed from his mission to please Mary was when his uncle was sick. However, Mary assured him that everything would be okay. Acting on faith, Juan Diego went up to the hill where a mass of flowers bloomed in spite of the winter cold. After gathering the flowers in his tilma, he took them to the bishop. As he unrolled his tilma, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared. Juan Diego spent the rest of his life taking care of the shrine.

What I love most about this story is Juan Diego’s simple devotion. His determination to make sure that Mary had a shrine in her honor reminds me of a passage from today’s first reading:

They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.- Isaiah 40:30-31

If you’re curious, check out the episode of Wishbone on YouTube. I’ll tell more about how amazing Our Lady of Guadalupe is later this week.