The Prayers of the Laity: Vital Support for Any Pope’s Holiness

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What if a large group of friends—maybe a hundred people or so—supported you daily with their prayers and sacrifices?

What if each of those hundred forgave you your trespasses as they wanted God to forgive theirs, let you have a second chance ten times over when necessary (and begged the Lord to help you improve), gave up cream and sugar (or more) for you on a regular basis, and offered frequent Holy Hours, Communions, and extra Rosaries on your behalf?

I think we can each look at ourselves as if we were an uncut gemstone. We might look something like ordinary rocks in a field full of billions of similar ones. But God moves people’s hearts to pray for us, and when He hears those prayers, He, the Master Jeweler, answers them by shaping, cutting, and polishing us until we’re more like what He means us to be–jewels, shaped and formed by His handiwork in us. We’re no more important than we were when we just looked like rocks in a field, but we’re better able to reflect His light now in ways that serve Him and help others see how good He is. This isn’t our doing; it’s His, and it happens largely because of the prayers of others.

Most of us have this wonderful gift from Him: people pray for us faithfully! God understands how much it helps us to have friends. And when He designed the Church—a full expression of Catholic charity—He built this into Her structure.

One of the beauties of Catholicism is that each person in the Church, from the Pope down to the youngest child in the laity, has more friends than he or she can count, and no one is without influence.[1]  The people at the lower levels of the hierarchy have a great opportunity to influence what happens at the higher ones. We can even say the laity are a vital part of the hierarchy’s support.

This statement is rooted in an understanding expressed by Servant of God Elizabeth Leseur:

“Prayer is the higher form of activity; through it we act directly upon God, while the outward act is directed solely to our fellow human beings…”[2]

So nothing is as powerful as prayer. And the lower we go down the hierarchical ladder, the more the potential effect of prayer is multiplied. Why?  Let’s listen to St. Louis Marie de Montfort, speaking about group Rosaries:

“When the Rosary is said in common, it is far more formidable to the devil, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him. He can often overcome the prayer of an individual, but if it is joined to that of others, the devil has much more trouble getting the best of it.”

In any age, the Pope needs the prayers of the faithful so that he can become the saint God wants to make him. There’s a whole worldful of lay Catholics (today, around 1.3 billion), each entrusted with the duty of praying fervently for one Holy Father.

The Catholic laity are a broad network charged with a great role in the Church.[3] And our Faith is unique in that Baptism doesn’t just make fellow churchgoers; it makes family. Any Holy Father, in any age, is also a brother and a father of every other Catholic worldwide, which adds another dimension to our responsibility to pray for him.

For each of us, holiness takes conversion, and quite often, we can’t see our own need for that. We tend to not know which graces we need for ourselves until God opens our eyes or drops them in, so we have to pray for those for each other. We need others praying for our sanctification, and so does (or did, or will) every priest, Bishop, Cardinal, and Holy Father who has ever lived.

Mother Angelica used to say, “You are all called to be great saints. Don’t miss the opportunity.” This is the calling for every Baptized Catholic, from the laity to the top of the hierarchy. But we have to help each other along. In all times, and in all generations, the Catholic laity have to pray earnestly for the Holy Father and his sanctification, just as we pray for our own.

[1] Because of the Church’s three realms (earth, Heaven, and Purgatory), and because Catholic friendships and prayers extend across the realms, even if a person were completely abandoned on earth, he or she would never really be alone or without influence.

[2] The Secret Diary of Elizabeth Leseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest. Sophia Institute Press, 2002.

[3] “In the context of Church mission, then, the Lord entrusts a great part of the responsibility to the lay faithful, in communion with all other members of the People of God. This fact, fully understood by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, recurred with renewed clarity and increased vigor in all the works of the Synod: “Indeed, Pastors know how much the lay faithful contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they themselves were not established by Christ to undertake alone the entire saving mission of the Church towards the world, but they understand that it is their exalted office to be shepherds of the lay faithful and also to recognize the latter’s services and charisms that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one heart”[121].” Saint John Paul II, Christifidelis Laici, para. 32

In His Presence

I step inside and kneel—

The Monstrance before me,

The outside world behind—

And gradually my Fortress builds around me.

Brick by brick, stone by stone, it rises,

As deceptions, hardships, regrets, and worry

All begin to lose their power.

 

An hour passes, and I find that now

The walls are solid and high.

 

My focus and my center are Christ,

Who governs everything that passes on this earth.

Distractions and fears bounce off like so many arrows.

 

The second hour, and now

There are turrets at the corners.

 

My strength and my security are Christ,

Who pours out every rich treasure on those who seek Him.

He speaks peace to my heart, and at His word,

I’m no longer afraid of anything outside the walls.

 

The bells ring—three hours, and all the grace in them,

And now I find that

all that matters

Is safely sheltered within His Presence.

 

Copyright 2023 KitchenTableCatholic.com

I Have A Million Roses

 

I have a million roses.

It’s true, in a way.

Because, every day, I am given a million moments.

And each moment is a gift—beautiful, precious, and unrepeatable—

A rose.

 

If I’m faithful to grace, I can turn each one into an Ave,

Or a kind deed,

Or a prayer in Christ’s presence for someone who can’t be there,

Or a home that’s more strengthening for others,

Or encouragement for a friend.

In each moment, I can do something to help God,

and in that way give Him back, in thanksgiving, the precious rose He chose for me.

 

But I don’t have to.

If I want, I can give my roses to

my fears and worries,

the Internet,

my hair and makeup, clothes and shoes,

chatter about others’ lives,

or my need for those same others’ approval.

But none of those roses can ever really be anyone’s to keep.

 

And the best days in all my life have been the ones in which

I’ve done my best to give all the roses God has given me

right back to Him, without holding onto anything for myself.

 

So, for today, I’ll do my best

to offer Our Lady all her Aves,

to do every little kindness,

to spend time in Christ’s real presence,

to make my home the very best I can,

and speak blessing and encouragement with every word.

 

I’ll give my roses right back to God, each and every one,

to thank Him

for giving them to me.

 

You and I–every one of us, in every day we’re given–

we each have a million roses.

The Latin Mass and the Trumpet Vine

The other day, I was sitting on my front steps, telling St. Joseph lots of things he already knew, when I looked down and saw it. There, coming up through a tiny crack in the concrete between the bottom step and the sidewalk, was a new twiggy shoot sprouting a cluster of jaggedy leaves.

Trumpet vine.

Now, to understand the significance of this, you’ll need to know some background. Trumpet vine comes up everywhere in my yard. I could pull up brand-new  trumpet vine sprouts every hour of my life for the next six years, and at the end of that there would probably still be more than there were when I started.

They’re in the flowerbed, doing all they can to win the battle I’m fighting to keep them out from under the house siding.

They’re in various places in the yard, just coming up Willy-nilly. Why? I have no idea. There’s not even anything for them to climb there.

I feel like half my life is spent trying to keep trumpet vines from taking over my house and yard and making my city lot look like a good home for wild parrots and chimpanzees. I spend a whole lot of time scanning the yard for little twiggy shoots with clusters of jagged leaves and then trying to make it clear to them that they can’t stay.

But this day, looking at that little sprout coming up through the crack in the concrete, something good struck me.

You see, that trumpet vine is from a root that must have been planted soon after my mid-1940s house was built.

The original vine was planted at the back fence.

I have a good-sized city lot. The house is situated near the front of it. And now that trumpet vine, planted at the back fence…

Is coming up through the front steps.

The roots have been spreading under the surface of the soil all that time.

When I think about this, it reminds me of the Latin Mass. What Pope Benedict XVI did for us helped it to get reestablished. It had been planted long before, but his motu proprio helped it begin to spread again. Now opposite forces seem to want to take it out, but you can’t stop something that people already know is the fullest expression of God on the earth. It’s got deep, strong, healthy (in every sense of the word) roots, and wherever the Lord wants it to happen, new shoots will pop up and grow.

This Mass has formed so many saints we could never count them, from the East to the West, from the North to the South, over how many centuries now? It nourished them in this life, bore indescribably good fruits through them, and guided them to Heaven. And they all—every last one of them—are watching what’s going on right now from their places above the Firmament.  I wonder what all those thousands (Millions? Who knows?) are saying in their prayers to Our Lord about the strikes leveled against the Mass that brought them to Him in Paradise.

God is always working under the surface; Goodness and Wisdom never stop spreading their roots, and the Mass of the Ages is the most concentrated and honest expression of everything God is that exists on earth. No human force and no evil could stop it.

The Traditional Latin Mass doesn’t belong to anyone but God; it’s a Treasure He gave us—and He still holds it in His Hands. It’s good for us; it heals us; it draws us closer to Him and can restore our friendship with Him with a perfect depth and fullness. Everything Christ suffered and sacrificed, the love God the Father has for us, the awe we should have in His Presence, and Our Lady’s blessed and vital help—they’re all expressed most fully and most honestly in the Mass of the Ages. God made it this way, He loves us, and He is the one nourishing the vine at its roots. Some may try to pluck up the sprouts, but what God protects and fosters, man cannot destroy.

In the Stillness

 

There’s no shouting,

Drumming, dancing

In the stillness.

There’s no waving high

Or crying out, “Amen!

 

As we kneel, immersed

In silent Adoration

Of the One who forms and shapes

The hearts of men

 

In the stillness.

 

Here, you won’t find people “movin’ in the spirit”;

We just haven’t got the energy to spare.

Everything we have is pouring out in silence

As we turn to meet our God and King in prayer

 

In the stillness.

 

My grandma said

these waters run the deepest,

And now, I’ve seen enough

To know it’s true

We sense the slightest movements,

Gentle breezes;

It’s not a storm—

It’s daybreak, evening dew

 

In the places where He longs

For hearts to join Him,

In the places where He waits

For us to meet,

In the places where we silently

Adore Him,

Hardly moving, for His presence is so sweet

 

In the quiet,

In the hush,

In the silence,

In the deep,

 

In the holiness that wakes

The human soul from soundest sleep,

 

In the calm

And in the dark,

In the tranquil, resting heart

 

In the stillness.

 

Copyright  2017, KitchenTableCatholic.com

Empower Women. Defund Planned Parenthood.

Why are so many women up-in-arms over defunding Planned Parenthood? The message all the hullaballoo sends is anti-woman, not pro-.

If there were any truth in the cultural line that abortion gives women power, then maybe I could understand. But the opposite is true–abortion spoils a woman’s highest gift and robs her of the greatest opportunity she’ll ever have to change the world. Planned Parenthood, the world’s primary destroyer of motherhood, is the largest obstacle to women’s advancement today.

The radical feminist movement would have us all believe that a life lived outside the public eye downgrades women—that if we aren’t continually climbing the corporate ladder and tacking title upon title onto the ends of our names, we’re not living up to our potential. I ask, though: who has more influence on the world–a top-ranking female CEO, or the mother of someone like Dietrich von Hildebrand? A powerful attorney, or the mother of a saint? A brilliant female scientist who forgoes motherhood for the sake of her career, or the brilliant mother who raises four incredible scientists and makes sure they have good hearts?

Some of the most powerful and influential women in the world have not been those who went out and made great names for themselves, but those who formed and shaped others–and then sent them out to affect the world for good. These women didn’t give up their callings. Instead, they lived their lives according to St. Catherine of Siena’s wisdom: they became everything they were meant to be, and in doing that, they set the world on fire. Sometimes, they did it without the world ever even knowing their names, which I think is quite a remarkable feat indeed.

I’m not saying women shouldn’t be out in the world; I believe many were created for that. But sacrificing motherhood so that women can chase lower rewards is some extreme jungle-gym kind of upside-down and backwards—and taxpayer funding of an organization that kills baby boys and girls so that their moms and dads won’t have the blessing of parenthood is robbing millions of people, both male and female, born and unborn, of the lives they were created for. Each time a baby is aborted, at least three lives are robbed.

Our obsession with being able to control everything and be, do, and have all that men can has led us to a terrible point: women now believe that giving up their highest gift is the key to their success. Planned Parenthood promotes this; it is the enemy of motherhood itself. If we really want to empower women, defunding Planned Parenthood is a great place to start.

Saying “Thy Will Be Done”–With Hope

I love music. It’s always been one of my favorite joys, and long before I came back to the Faith, songs were the primary means God used to draw me to Him. I must not have made it easy when I was blasting Def Leppard and Boston 24/7, but somehow He still managed to sneak a good verse in here or there and touch my heart through it.

Nowadays, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist Pandora station is my favorite. There’s just something different about listening to the radio, though, and we all really enjoy it, so we often switch back and forth between Pandora and that.

We live in the Most-of-the-Books-of-the-Bible Belt. We don’t get any Catholic music stations here, so, when we listen to the radio, it’s often tuned to a praise music station. I don’t think of most of the songs on the airwaves as worship music (because to me, worship is about the ways God is “above us”), but they’re clean and seek to draw us closer to Him, so that’s what our radio is usually tuned to.

The other day, one of these songs reminded me of something very Catholic that I had nearly forgotten–and I hope it will encourage you, too…so I wanted to tell you a little about what happened.

The song was “Thy Will”, by Hillary Scott. Now, this lady has been through the wringer, and God brought great beauty out of it. She suffered a miscarriage, and the lyrics, about accepting God’s will even when it’s hardest, were fruit of the pain. It’s very honest, and people have received it well; as of this writing, the Vevo video had been up about a month, and it had 722,148 views, even though the album hadn’t been released yet.

As I heard the opening lines of this song for the first time a few weeks ago, they really hit home. Our family has been “through the wringer”, too, for the better part of two decades now, and we live each day with the knowledge that the pain and crises could resurface at any moment. As Mrs. Scott sang about accepting God’s will, using Christ’s well-known phrase from the Agony in the Garden that we, as Catholics, often repeat when we’re hurting (“Thy will be done”), I said a prayer of thanks to God that a very faithful view of suffering had helped this songwriter through her pain.

Then, a few bars later, came words to help me through mine. In the bridge of the song, she tied the line “Thy will be done” to the lines from Jeremiah 29 that tell us that God hears us when we pray and that His plans for us are good.

Those few lines reminded me of something really important that I had begun to lose sight of over the past few years—that we don’t just accept suffering out of resignation, because we’re willing to endure the pain (although that is definitely a crucial part of our ministry). We accept the suffering because we trust God—we trust in His total goodness and His love—yes, towards those we are suffering for—but also for us. For each of us. The message of our faith is clear: God’s will is nothing to be afraid of, and we are very, very dear to Him.

We accept trials, knowing that however much it hurts now, He really is going to make “all things work together for the good of those who love Him”. He really is going to bring something more beautiful out of it than we could ever imagine. (I know, I know: DUH!!! Right? :-))

I don’t mean this in an “If you do right, your life will be easy” kind of way. We may never see the fruit this side of Heaven, and trying to please God doesn’t guarantee a pain-free life. Sirach 2, the Crucifixion, and the saints all make it very clear: “When you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials.” The Christian life requires suffering. As Padre Pio said, “There is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain.”

But God is all-good, and He loves us. When we know this—really know it at a cellular level in our hearts— we can say, “Thy will be done” not just with a fearful resignation, but with gladness, with trust, and even with joy–because we’re not only accepting the trials, but hoping in the abundant fruit God will bring out of them, too.

Originally published August 17, 2016

Mercy and Tomatoes

I planted tomatoes this year, which was a big step for me. You see, every year, I joyfully buy heirloom tomato plants as soon as winter gives way, before the dogwoods even bloom. I’m full of great intentions. Then, I let those beautiful heirloom plants sit there on my front porch until someone who actually knows what they’re doing passes by and says, “Ya’ know, it’s too late to plant those now. It’s too hot, and you’ll never get any tomatoes.” But this year, for the first time ever, I haven’t left a single tomato vine sitting there waiting to be planted until it was too late. For me, that’s something.

Now, the thing about tomatoes is–ya’ gotta’ plant ’em deep. In fact, one supplier recommends planting tomatoes so deep that a full 2/3 of the plant is underground, with only the top third exposed. The deeper you plant a tomato vine, the more roots it grows, which, of course, gives you a better crop.

This got me to thinking about the spiritual life and how, actually, we’re a lot like that, too.

It especially reminded me of mercy and service. There seems to be a push today to get us “out of the churches and into the world”. A sentiment is building that says our faith “isn’t about sitting in the church; it’s about going out and serving, ministering to the broken.”

Now, of course, a deep faith should well up in us and drive us out into the world to minister to those who are hurting. How do we get that deep faith, though? If we’re not “sitting in the church”, where is all this mercy supposed to come from?

How can we pour out God’s mercy onto others if we’re not spending plenty of time with the One who is mercy itself? What better way is there to tap into the Fount of Mercy–to receive His love so fully that it naturally pours out onto those around us–than by spending time with Him in the Eucharist?

Mother Teresa of Calcutta might have said it best: “We cannot separate our lives from the Eucharist; the moment we do, something breaks. People ask, ‘Where do the sisters get the joy and energy to do what they are doing?’ The Eucharist involves more than just receiving; it also involves satisfying the hunger of Christ. He says, ‘Come to Me.’ He is hungry for souls. Nowhere does the gospel say: ‘Go away,’ but always, ‘Come to Me.’”

Mother Teresa’s sisters spent one hour–sometimes two–in adoration daily, even with everything they had to do to in their ministry. No–because of everything they had to do to in their ministry! In fact, another quote attributed to her is “Each day we should spend one hour in adoration, except on days we are busy. Then we should spend two.”

Would anyone say Mother Teresa and her Missionary Sisters of Charity haven’t been fruitful? Good night–no! Yet, her sisters spend long stretches in quiet time with Christ each day, away from the world they are charged with serving. This piece of their lives, hidden in time alone with the presence of the Lord, makes the portion spent out in the world bear more fruit.

It’s the same with us. We need deep roots, tapped into the One who can give us the grace and mercy it takes to serve with selfless, open, peaceful, trusting hearts. So let’s get back into the churches. Let’s spend a little more time before that tabernacle or monstrance where He waits for us. Drawing our nourishment from Him, we’ll produce a more bountiful crop…because we’re kinda’ like tomatoes.

Originally published May 7, 2016

The Beauty of the Mass and “Religion vs. Relationship”

I went to a community event that was hosted in a non-Catholic church the other day. There was a quick prayer service, and the preacher gave a full sermon.

It reminded me of the time I had spent attending other churches before returning to my Catholic faith fourteen years ago. That time taught me a lot, and I loved those Sunday morning praise services back then. But now, something was very different.

The preacher was giving a sermon on suffering. It centered around thought-provoking points, and his jokes were engaging and funny.

I really liked all of the people there. They were warm and friendly and comfortable to be around, and they genuinely cared about my family.

But, still, I struggled with a feeling of dissonance as I listened to the preacher.

At the end of the sermon, he made the point about how the Bible says we are not supposed to hold on to rituals or religion—that the goal is a personal relationship with Jesus.

We live in an area of the country where Catholics don’t even show up on some local demographic maps, so I hear this argument quite a bit. People often use it to say that Catholicism is flawed because it is a religion with standard doctrine and practices. The implication is that doctrine and standard practices somehow hinder our relationship with Christ. And, before, I never knew how to respond. But this day, listening to the preacher make that point, I really wanted to talk to him, and I knew what I wanted to say:

“Thank you for inviting us into your church. The music is uplifting, the people in your congregation are warm and welcoming, and the prayers are heartfelt.

But, you see, in the Mass, Jesus comes…and He sits with me.”

From the entrance hymn through Communion, everything is focused not on what God has done for us, but on Who He is. The focus is Him. We spend the whole Mass preparing our hearts for Him in a way that is quiet and awe-filled, because we really are about to witness the physical presence of a King whose glory we can’t even fathom—a King so powerful He can bring the dead back to life with a single word.

Then, after our hearts are filled with total reverence and awe at His glory, He comes to us in the humblest way.

He’s there, on the altar, and we say, “Lamb of God” three times, remembering that He is the One who takes away our sins and brings us peace. Then we tell Him that we’re not worthy to that He should come to us, but that one word from Him will heal our souls.

Now, my heart is ready. Carefully and silently, I go forward to receive His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

And I go back to my pew, but I don’t go alone.

Christ comes with me.

And He sits with me. He listens to me—not just in the spiritual way He listens when we pray in our living rooms or cars, and not just because there are two or more people gathered in the room, but in the fullness of His Real Presence. He speaks to my heart—and it’s easy, because He is physically there, right next to it. He’s with me in a very real way—a way I never knew before I found the beauty of the Catholic faith.

I’m not the only one. At this point in the Mass, the church is filled with people on their knees, eyes closed, their faces entirely shielded from the world with their hands, blocking out anything that would interfere with their own heart-to-heart with Christ,

because He’s sitting with them, too.

I’ve heard the point about “relationship” often, and I’ve experienced the “religion” in Catholicism, because that’s been my home for fourteen years now.

And I can tell you that all that time in the other worship rooms–it started me on the road Home to my Faith, and I’m thankful for it.

But never, never, anywhere, in any other church, across two states,

have I known the relationship with Christ that He’s given me through Catholicism…

Because every time I go to Mass, Jesus comes,

and He sits with me.

 

As High As the Heavens Are Above the Earth…

Originally published April 3, 2016

Okay–the Avoiding the Almighty Smackdown post was sorta’ intense. There was a reason for that, though. Even though it’s terrifying to think of our sins and the punishment (ummmmm…death) they merit, it’s critical that we do this. If we don’t, we can never fully appreciate God’s mercy, either.

The good news is that the LORD doesn’t want to wipe us off the face of the earth. (Whew!) As a wise friend put it, “God wants to forgive. He’s just waiting for us to give Him any excuse to forgive us!”

Sometimes, when we face the ways our sins have hurt others, we question God’s ability to absolve us. When we doubt His mercy, though—when we think, “God can’t forgive me, because I’ve [insert the worst thing you’ve ever done here],” that’s not Him speaking to our hearts. I think what we’re really saying is, “If I were God, and someone had done this same thing to me, I couldn’t forgive.” On the farm, we called that “weighing somebody else’s corn in your own bushel basket”. We don’t understand how God could forgive us, because we couldn’t offer the same forgiveness.

Isaiah 55 tells us, though, that God loves to do things that seem impossible to us:

“Seek the LORD while he may be found,

Call him while he is near.

Let the scoundrel forsake his way,

And the wicked man his thoughts;

Let him turn to the LORD for mercy,

To our God, who is generous in forgiving.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.

As high as the heavens are above the earth,

So high are my ways above your ways

And my thoughts above your thoughts…”

With these lines, God lovingly reminds us that we can never fully understand His ways. When it comes to mercy, His greatest attribute, He pours out His gifts so abundantly that we can’t even fathom the bounty.

A Mother Angelica quote came through my Facebook feed yesterday, and I thought it was perfect. This spunky, “all in for God” nun, who was known for having just a little trouble holding her Italian tongue (and temper), said, “God always forgives when you are totally repentant and you desire to change. He forgives…and He never gets tired of forgiving. Never. You may get tired of asking. I hope not. He never, never tires of forgiving you. Never.”

Now, we don’t exactly know whether Mother is a saint or not yet, but she sure did try. The stories of the saints tell us that many of them were just people who had a great sense of their own sinfulness, ran to God with repentant hearts when they fell, and gratefully accepted the mercy He offered them. That builds a close relationship with God, which is even more evidence of His mercy. He has a way of taking our sorrow over our biggest sins and using it as a seed for gratitude, which fosters deep friendship with Him.

Scripture teaches us that the LORD wants all of us, not just those who wear habits or are ordained, to receive this kind of mercy—with this kind of heart. In Luke 7, Jesus comes to dine at the home of one of the Pharisees. A sinful woman, having learned where Christ was eating dinner that night, brought an alabaster flask filled with ointment. She wept, bathing the Lord’s feet with her tears. Then she dried them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of a woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner,” Jesus told a story:

“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since both were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?”

Simon [the Pharisee] said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”

He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love….”

I just can’t get over this story. I like to think the use of the word “hence” here might signify that she had been forgiven before she came to wash Christ’s feet with her tears.  In other words, when the sinful woman experienced Christ’s forgiveness, she felt such intense gratitude that she wanted to find Him–to go to wherever He was and show her thankfulness to Him with a heartfelt gesture–and Jesus, the King of Kings, allowed her to express her gratitude to Him in this very personal way. This scene reminds us that, no matter who we are and no matter which sins we’ve fallen prey to, God wants to forgive us—and that His forgiveness helps our gratitude to grow. It’s the seed for our relationship with Him.

Repentance is the turning point that starts a person on the road from darkness to light. It gives God the chance to flood us with the gift he loves to share the most—mercy. And that mercy can help anyone, no matter what his or her sins are, to draw very close to Christ. No one is beyond God’s redemption. That is the beauty of the Divine Mercy–it’s for all of us.

Mercy has touched my own life, and I’ll always be grateful. A long time ago, I was away from the Church, a thousand miles from the family and friends I had grown up with, and living in a very painful domestic situation. The darkness was so thick that I didn’t know if I’d ever see a day of hope again. Sometimes I didn’t want to see another day, period. Thank goodness I had one nearby friend–a lady who had yearned for nothing more in her younger years than to be a cloistered nun. She knew that practicing my faith would have protected me from the pit I was in, and she sent me straight to Confession. In that little room, God reached down, gave me hope, and began to heal my heart. I owe Him (and my friend-who-was-almost-a-nun) a debt I can never repay.

Even if we’ve fallen far, we can still know joy; God’s mercy takes our sorrow for sins and returns love and peace for it. In this way, the Lord really does change our darkness into light. Yes, His thoughts are far above our thoughts, and His ways are far above our ways–so far, in fact, that when we beg His mercy, He draws us into His close friendship.