Welcome to the Divine Mercy for Moms Book Club! We're reading Divine Mercy for Moms: Sharing the Lessons of Saint Faustina, by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet.
The spiritual works of mercy do not require material means, as the corporal works of mercy often do, they just require compassionate hearts. This compassion should arise in us when we see the suffering of others, especially emotional suffering, and should elicit our drive to want to comfort them in some way. A kind word, a hug, a encouraging note, a handshake of peace after an argument, these are the makings of spiritual works of mercy.
Some of these gestures may be small and seem easy in practice but it often takes courage, discernment and sacrifice to actually carry them out. And of course, we always need to be on the lookout for these opportunities to be merciful and always praying for the right response in the midst of these moments. As the book says: "We cannot just wait for others to come to us; we must join this mission to go out into the world to seek souls[....]This requires that we give of ourselves" (Page 65).
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Counseling the Doubtful:
This section in the book really spoke to me, especially encouraging the overwhelmed and the worried. This includes ourselves. It was interesting how some of the ideas to live out the spiritual works of mercy were directed at the reader themselves, such as seeking out the counsel of others when you become obsessed with worries. I always think of the works of mercy as focusing on the needs of others, but Emily and Michele seem to point out throughout this chapter that sometimes the work of mercy is pointed inward. The section about encouraging the overwhelmed and listening to others when they are stressed is something many of us do anyway when we are interacting with mom friends or family members, so it's helpful to remember that a small and everyday act such as this can be considered a work of mercy!
Instructing the Ignorant:
Recently, I have made a habit of saying a quick prayer before I go out in public that goes something like this: "Lord if there is someone you want me to evangelize or show your love to today, please help me to recognize that and respond to your prompting. I pray this as I'm walking into the grocery store, library or shopping mall because those are the places I'm going to interact with strangers and it's where I most commonly get tongue-tied about my faith. As a stay at home mom with like minded Catholic friends, I don't encounter daily evangelizing moments so when they do pop up, I'm often caught off guard and end up not saying anything when I can feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to respond.
For example when I hear strangers venting about a difficult situation in the check out line or a neighbor mentioning a hardship, I try to say something like: "That sounds rough, I'll keep you in prayer." Mentioning God in passing keeps the conversation light but still gets the point across that God is an important part of my life and that I want to share His love. I think many people just need the reminder that there is a God, since religion is so far outside the radar of our secularized culture.
Admonishing the sinner:
This one is always hard for me because I am either too timid to say something when I need to, or I say things in the wrong way. For me, the best way to admonish others is to send them my opinion in a note format later on after I have witnessed their actions. If I can go home and settle my thoughts, I can state my position more clearly and kindly than I would have the spot. I am also learning that people are not going to necessarily change because of what I tell them but I need to tell them anyway because that is what Christ is calling us to do. It takes courage and charity, and we must pray and prepare ourselves to engage in the challenge of evangelization.
Comforting the sorrowful:
There is sorrow and grief all around us and I have had the opportunity to experience it first hand this year with the loss of my third child to an ectopic pregnancy. This has been both a time of grief as well as an eye opening experience to now be able to truly empathize with others in similar situations to mine. A listening ear and genuine concern for those grieving can be such a simple and tender way to show mercy to them.
Forgive all Injuries:
This one affects me to the very core of my being, not only because I have received the forgiveness of God in confession countless times, but because I have had to forgive those closest to me. And there have been times where I was holding a grudge and didn't even realize it until the resentment exploded in an angry outburst. When we received our writing assignments for this book club, I read the forgiveness section and just shook my head in amazed disbelief at God's perfect timing. God has a sense of humor in how he gives us opportunities to reflect and grow in the areas we are struggling in the most. Forgiving all injuries is definitely an area I struggle in, and I am realizing how I constantly have to choose to forgive and to pray for those who I am subconsciously resentful towards.
Bear Wrongs Patiently:
In the book, Emily and Michele discuss an intriguing idea that distractions can be wrongs that we bear patiently. I have always thought of distractions as just that, distractions. But if we can embrace our distractions, whether it be strangers in front of us at church, noise in a crowded room or our own children clamoring for attention, we have a chance to grow in patience, grace and prayer. I have so much to learn on this subject since I tend to lose patience quickly and become annoyed very easily, especially with my kids! But I take comfort in the quote: "where distractions lie, graces abound for us to continue to grow in holiness" (Page 80).
Pray for the Living and the Dead:
Does anyone else forget that this is a work of mercy? I constantly forget that when I pray for others I am living out mercy, probably because I am still in the mindset that works of mercy are always large complicated acts. But the reality is that they can be small heartfelt acts as well, like saying a daily prayer for our family members, those who we've promised to pray for, those we see suffering or those we hear about in the news. There are some great ideas in the book about giving Mass cards as gifts and creating prayer photo books for kids.
There are so many amazing ideas in this book, even in just this one chapter! I only touched on a few of the many practical and simple ideas that Emily and Michele offer us to live out the spiritual works of mercy.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- What is one spiritual work of mercy that you can work on this week?
- What is the most difficult spiritual work of mercy for you to practice and why?
Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week's reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
Download this week's printable journal:
Next week, we'll cover Chapter 6: Mary, Mother of Mercy. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Divine Mercy for Moms Book Club page.
Copyright 2016 Hannah Christensen
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