When I opened the convent door, Jacob, 12 years old, with a big smile on his face, unzipped his hoodie to show me the Miraculous Medal around his neck. He had received the medal from us and had said at the time, “I will always treasure this.” And yet, he was “too busy” this day to pray with me before leaving with the bag of food for his family.
When Lisa first started coming to the door she was angry, quick and demanding. She didn’t smile and had a desperation to receive what she needed. Now, years later, she comes with a big smile and shares about her life with us. She’s calm and grateful and, now, even prays with us. When asked what she thinks about having a bench placed outside so that we could spend more time talking when she comes, she said, “I’ll be here all day long.”
I approached the confessional. I sinned again. Hundreds of times I have come here to reveal my weakness and selfishness. And once more I received the loving mercy of God in the forgiveness of my sins and the new life He’s poured into me.
St. Paul says, “the love of Christ impels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). Love receives the other and affirms his or her value. Love waits patiently and walks at the pace of the beloved. Love smiles, is warm, prays for and thinks of the other. Love does not take offence at gruffness from a hard life, ungratefulness from a suffering soul, and the inability to respond well from one who feels alone and isolated. Jesus is Love: a total outpouring towards the other. Pope Francis urges us to follow Jesus as true disciples. He’s repeatedly asked us to go to the margins and find those alone and without − the poor − to share the love of God with them. He’s repeatedly encouraged us to show mercy in abundance just as we have received continuously from God. He calls this accompaniment. One who walks with the other, never giving up on him or her, for love’s sake. One who desires the best for the other and won’t let his or her weaknesses and hurts push him away. One who sees the goal, Heaven, and desires this soul to be there with him. It’s for love that Pope Francis urges us on.
Recently I experienced this anew with a beautiful woman named Carol. We’ve helped her daughter, Claire, for many years and some time ago Claire shared the desire they both had to be baptized. So we began a conversation with Carol, who lives far away, to see if we could help facilitate this. In the midst of these conversations she received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. All of a sudden, baptism became more urgent. After months of speaking about baptism with Carol and encouraging her to contact a priest, she seemed open to it but exhausted from this trial of the cancer and not much “progress” was made. We had heard from her family that she was nearing the end of her life and we had been making a plan to visit her, despite the drive. After discussion with the local priest, he agreed to come along “just in case” this was the moment for her to receive baptism. The trip was extended as we had offered to pick the priest up, because he did not drive. Phone call after phone call, detail upon detail. Finally, we arrived at Carol’s home. She was moved and a little overwhelmed to see us all and graciously greeted us. As we visited and spoke of better things to come in eternal life, baptism was brought up and a very patient and merciful priest guided her to make the choice in freedom. Carol did not choose baptism that day, which greatly disappointed me. But she was deeply touched by God’s loving presence as she received a powerful blessing by the priest, and tears rolled down her face as she unwrapped the image of Divine Mercy that we brought to her. God reminded me in that moment of the accompaniment He asked of me, of us, and which He gives to us every day. It’s not a program, and it’s not about results. It’s about love, walking with the beloved without seeking a return until he or she finally realizes the truth of being held each moment in His love.
Who are you called to accompany today?
Sr. John Paul, CFR
-Sr. John Paul