If there is one way that we let Divine Mercy Sunday impact our daily lives, let it be this: a litany of mercies! Let us learn to lift up each night before bed, a litany of mercies!
So often when we climb into bed, we are proclaiming a litany of worries. All that we didn’t get done runs through our heads and we struggle to shut off our sputtering minds. Maybe we’re the one that tries to pray and then dives for the pillow and succumb to the anxiety or exhaustion that feels like too much (that’s me sometimes!). Or maybe we’re the one who stays up texting or burning holes in our eyes with computer screens (one…more….text…and you late night gamers, you!). Or maybe we’ve taken to an extra glass of wine to wash away the day, or one more Netflix episode…starting in 10 seconds…just one more! What could we do that would really cleanse our our minds and hearts, help us let go of the day, and sink into the deep rest of a peaceful and content servant? A litany of mercies!
In Lent we made a practice of fasting from things that interrupted our relationship with God or lead down unhealthy paths. My invitation for you today is to celebrate this season of Easter with the opposite – make a resolution to rejoice each night in a litany of mercies!
What is a litany of mercies? Exactly what it sounds like: a recounted list of all mercies, great and small, that God has showered on us that day. We so often get stuck on a litany of miseries! Lord, this is wrong with my life, this is wrong with me, this is wrong with the world…don’t get me started on politics…I stunk at this again and again, how am I still struggling with the same sin, relationship, situation, etc…a litany of misery. That’ll get ya some nightmares! Fr J Kentenich, a humble master of pedagogy and spiritual direction, teaches us a different way:
“Take the time necessary to compose a litany of mercies, and not of miseries. We give thanks for each thing. But not in a superficial, routine way, but rather with deep affect, reliving the things that happened, so that they transform our manner of sensing life, to finally be fully aware that God loves us as the apple of His eye. Don’t think that this foments pride; on the contrary, it makes us humble. I am the apple of God’s eye…you will see then how much strength this generates in you all, healthy strength.*
And if you’re thinking this is fluffy positive psychology or cheesy or something….”Today everything points towards a rebirth of nature. But our nature must also be reborn of God. And if God, as a magisterial pedagogue, has formed and designed things in this way and He himself has respected such a design and form, why then should I ignore the pedagogical wisdom of God in always seeing the bad?”*
God designed us for MERCY! Why should I ignore His fatherly education and stay stuck in the mud? Yes, we fall into misery again and again. But our misery should draw us into God’s mercy, not away from it! True pride pulls away from God’s help and wallows in misery, as if our misery could ever be greater than God’s mercy. True humility allows misery to guide the soul into the deep, deep mercy of God. That is the mystery of sin:
God, says St Augustine, has created the world without me, but doesn’t want to redeem it without me. For this reason we pay attention. What does God want? That we take into account the gifts received from Him, and also the tasks. Is it not worth looking back over our day and remembering all that God worked in me and through me? Is all that perhaps straw smoke, was it in vane? If I didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be such and such group, there wouldn’t be such and such stream of blessing in the world. Let us see things how they are. I believe that if someday we contemplate everything in the light of the mercy of God, we would embrace with great gratitude and love even the shadows of our lives. Mysterium iniquitatis (mystery of iniquity/sin). If we think over this mystery, allowing it to resound existentially in our interior, the consequence will be that we will grow in a great humility. Especially if we say, “Yes, it was a grave sin, and I didn’t know how to take advantage of it in the right way! Had I done it that way, how much I could have progressed spiritually!”*
I think you can see an echo of this in the gathering wisdom around gratitude (Brother David‘s TED Talk, and Carrie Newcomer’s poem, “Three Gratitudes” are some of my favorites). As Catholics, we are invited to take that gratitude into the depths, to the source – the great mercy of God. When we know this mercy in relationship, in personal relationship with God, then we are totally transformed, made healthy, whole, integrated and holy. And that merciful love of God can pour through us more fully, more strongly, into all those around us. Or perhaps it will happen the other way? Some of my deepest moments of mercy have come from experience the kindness and forgiveness from someone else, when I was feeling pretty miserable.
A new man, transformed by mercy:
These are the thoughts that infuse us with a new vital feeling that we need to configure the new image of man that counteracts the image of man today, who is a man that is ill. I advise you not only to compose a litany of mercies but also that in making your examination of conscience, reserve a moment to ask yourself the following question: “For what things do I have to give thanks today? How can I recuperate that which I have neglected? Here you have the special manner that God pours His kindness over us, and lavishes us with His benefits.”*
So, dear friend, I invite you to begin a litany tonight – for it is the Feast of the Annunciation! it could be a very auspicious day to being such a practice, could it not?? The Blessed Mother is the Queen of litanies of mercy! Before the great task which the Archangel Gabriel sets before her, she gives her Fiat, and before Elizabeth rejoices in her lowliness, for she knows this truth – that it is in through and within our smallness that God does GREAT things: “His mercy is from age to age” (Lk 1:50). Another great reason to start tonight -it is incredibly rare that Annunciation follows Divine Mercy Sunday – what a beautiful connection we have been given in 2016!
My first mercy for my litany tonight (or counting the previous sentence, the second?): Thank you God that in your mercy you have granted us Pope Francis as an answer to our anxious times, and that through him, you have drawn the attention of the Church, the people and the world to the great MERCY of GOD.
Happy Feast of Divine Mercy dear friends, and happy Feast of the Annunciation, and happy Easter season!
*La Mirada Misericordioso de Padre, Fr Joseph Kentenich, p 51 and 52, [translation from Spanish is mine]