Trust Issues: Divine Mercy for Every Moment

Patience, prayer, and silence – these are what give strength to the soul.

– St. Faustina Kowalska

Trust issues.

Whether you know it or not, you have a trust issue. If you are human and you are not sinless, you have a problem with trust. You may think, “What? I don’t have a problem with trust. I trust my family and my spouse. I trust God, too!” As someone striving for holiness, I often thought the same about myself: I did NOT have a trust issue. In my mind, trust issues were for bad marriages and cutthroat workplace environments.

During Lent, I read Fr. Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Merciful Love: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine MercyDivided into 33 readings for 33 days, Merciful Love not only tackles the wonder of Jesus’s mercy, but it also exposes our own shortcomings as sinners. In the first few readings, Fr. Gaitley claims, in essence, that all of us have trust issues because we sin.

Think about it for a moment.

Origins of Distrust 

Adam and Eve sinned in the paradise of the Garden of Eden. Ultimately, they chose not to trust in the goodness of God and to respond to Satan’s lies instead. As a result, they were banished from the garden and the scourge of Original Sin remains with us even today. In a way, sin is when we decide to trust our own instincts instead of God’s truth. When we sin, we say “I know what’s best for my life and I reject God.” To sin is not only to miss the mark, but also our own way of saying that we don’t trust that Jesus knows what is best for us. Likewise, when we worry and fail to relinquish our cares to Jesus, that’s also a lack of trust. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

I think about my own personal life and issues. At every turn, I work to justify my actions and my sin. I say, “Well, I wouldn’t have done this, had that not happened.” Also, “If I don’t worry about something, that means I really don’t care about the issue at hand.” The hard truth is: I feel like if I don’t worry and fret over an issue, I believe that I have lost all control of the situation. Talk about a trust issue!

Wisdom from Scripture 

Jesus, many times in the Gospels, admonishes His followers not to worry. Here are just a few examples:

  1. “Do not be worried,” John 14:27
  2. “Take courage!…Don’t be afraid,” Mark 6:50
  3. “Do not worry about tomorrow,” Matthew 6:34

In many of the New Testament Epistles, the Christians of the era were also taught not to fret:

  1. “Do not be anxious about anything,” Phillippians 4:6
  2. “Leave all your worries with Him,” 1 Peter 5:6

These are just a few of many examples from the Bible regarding the unnecessary act of worry in the life of a Christian. Yet, so many of us fret and worry each day. We sin, we worry, we lack trust. For many, myself included, it’s a cycle repeated each and every day. I keep holding on to what I imagine I can control through worry and anxiety. I don’t trust that God can actually bear my burdens for me. In fact, it makes more sense for me to worry. In the end, however, my faulty logic fails and I accomplish nothing.

A Source for Developing Trust 

It may seem as if I think not worrying is as simple as saying, “You know what? Today, I’m not going to worry. I’m going to let the Divine Mercy of Jesus wash over my life and relinquish all of my troubles to Him!” 

If only it were that easy.

One way I tackle my own issues of trust and sin is through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. While I won’t go into the history of the Chaplet here, the prayer (often prayed on Rosary beads), is a devotion centered on the infinite mercy of Our Lord. Devotees pray “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world,” and conclude by saying “Jesus I trust in You” three times.

Pray this with me: Jesus, I trust in You. 

Four powerful words, packed with infinite meaning. To simply pray, “Jesus, I trust in You” is to say that you trust that the King of the Universe can handle all of your cares. It says, “I reject my fear and my doubt, my own abilities, and I trust in God.” There are some days it is much easier to pray this prayer. On other days, it’s all I can do to say it through gritted teeth. But, like exercising, the more we proclaim our trust in Christ, the easier it becomes for us to receive His grace.

Today, and the next few days, I challenge you to tell Jesus that you trust Him with your life. This can be scary. It’s essentially to say, “I give up everything I am to You and I know You can handle it.” Yes, we have trust issues. But, with the grace of Christ, there is nothing He cannot do within us.

 

 

 

Tips for Mercy

I am always compelled by those have lived, and live, lives of mercy. One of my favorite true stories of a merciful life is that of Satoko Kitahara, the subject of Fr. Paul Glynn’s The Smile of a Ragpicker (I wrote about Satoko here). Long-story-short, Satoko left a life of privilege to serve the poor and detested souls of Tokyo’s Ants Town. After her death, the Church recognized Satoko as a Venerable, and she is on the path towards sainthood.

What is impressive about Satoko is that she was merciful to those in her own city. Though she wanted to serve in the foreign missions, she instead was a “Japanese for the Japanese.” In our everyday lives, there are numerous opportunities to show mercy to Image result for mercy pixabaythose we encounter.

Personally, is something I struggle with each and every day.

Often, those around me do not meet my expectations or just get under my skin. It’s easy for me to ignore those I deem not worthy of my time. Yet, today, to have mercy for all is an incredibly counter-cultural act. In fact, in the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus tells us to be merciful because God is merciful to us (Luke 6:36). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 6:7).

But why, Lord, does mercy have to be so difficult? My theory: Anything worth cultivating won’t be an easy undertaking. So, to help you along your way, I’ve listed three tips for living a more merciful life:

  1. Pray: This is an obvious solution that sometimes we rarely employ. Is there someone grinding your last nerve? Pray for them. Are you on the verge of hatred? Pray about it. Do you find more comfort in anger than in peace? Pray about it. I know, it’s easier said than done. On many occasions, I’ve relished in the idea of resentment more than a heart of forgiveness. Instead, I should have asked for a merciful heart towards those I perceived had wronged me. Prayer changes things, and God will guide you on a merciful path.
  2. Take Up a Devotion: Is there a religious practice that has meaning for you? This could be praying the Rosary or going back to the same passages of Scripture and meditating on it. Personally, I love the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. While praying the Chaplet, you ask God to have mercy on you and the whole world. When you realize that you, too, are in need of God’s mercy, it puts other struggles into perspective.
  3. Sacrifice: Once again. it’s one of those spiritual practices that’s easy to preach, but harder to live out. I want you to think about someone who annoys you. As a personal rule, I tend to avoid these people. But, to cultivate mercy, maybe we could sacrifice our comfort to say “Hello” to that person or ask about their day. It’s one small step, one little sacrifice, that can lead to a lifetime of merciful living.

Do you have any tips for living a more merciful life? What advice would you give to someone who wants to show more mercy to their friends and neighbors? God bless!

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. // Chaplet of Divine Mercy

One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest. // St. Faustina

Little Offerings

During my time in RCIA, I started reading as much as I could about the Catholic faith and practice. Two of the best books I read were Matthew Kelly’s Rediscover Catholicism and The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. Though I was in the process of discovering Catholicism (not rediscovering) through the formal RCIA process, I was impressed by many of the book’s claims about the important value of Catholicism in modern culture. Yet, the topic that stood out to me the most (and was touched on only very briefly), was the act of “offering it up.” Honestly, I can’t remember which book in which I encountered the idea of offering something for someone else. Yet, months later, I still remember it.

In a nutshell, Kelly claims that anything can be a prayer. He states that even if your job is but to collect garbage, you can “offer” that hour of work as a prayer for someone in need. In one way, these little acts of selflessness help us fulfill St. Paul’s instructions. After reading that particular section in Kelly’s book, I was floored. Never once in recent memory had I thought about my daily actions as a prayer to God.

For me, to pray without ceasing meant to pray in a traditional way, eyes closed and hand folded, at all times. For a prayer to “count,” you had to list all of your needs, wants, and thanks to God. It was my job to inform God of every little jot and tittle in my life. It’s no wonder I was usually exhausted trying to pray non-stop. Prayer had become a chore rather than a privilege.

Now, as I’ve matured in faith and age: prayer has taken on a new meaning. Now that I know I can “offer” up anything to the Lord as a prayer, the possibilities seem endless. For example, I may say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and offer it for those who are hurting or discouraged. One night I may say it for a very specific intention. On other days, I may offer up my daily work for a group of people or a cause. I may attend an hour of

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Walking with Purpose

adoration for the intentions of a religious sister. And while I may not know the needs and specific intentions for those I am praying for, I know that God know. What a comfort!

Your little offerings may look different from mine, and that’s okay. Perhaps you like to recite the Morning Offering before you get out of bed, or maybe you set aside a few minutes of Bible study for someone’s needs. There is nothing too small that Our Lord won’t notice. St. Martin de Porres said that scraping vegetables, tending a garden, and cleaning a room can be a prayer as long as it’s offered to God. Simply, no act is too little.

This week, I challenge you think of an action, activity, or amount of time that you can offer up to the Lord. Think about who you can offer it for (or maybe for yourself!), and begin to pray without ceasing.

Pure love…knows that only one thing is needed to please God; to do even the smallest things out of great love – love, and always love. // St. Faustina

I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for the intentions of the Sacred Heart…[and] for the intentions of all my relatives and friends. // from the Morning Offering

 

 

 

Lessons From a Ragpicker

Though I am well-acquainted with the geography and history of East Asia, I never encountered the word ragpicker in my studies or travels. This changed when I read Fr. Paul Glynn’s The Smile of a Ragpicker: The Life of Satoko Kitahara, Convert and Servant of the Slums of Tokyo

At the heart of this biography, Satoko Kitahara is born and raised by her well-to-do Japanese family. She enjoys an education, and cultivates a love of poetry and fine art. However, the Second World War decimates the Japanese landscape and morale. Satoko, who once believed that Japan was the crown of the world, now sees her fellow countrymen defeated and in despair. After the war, day-by-day she drops her sister off at a local foreign, convent school. There, Satoko meets the Mercedarian sisters and develops an interest in Christianity. Sataoko, convinced of the truth of Christ (and to her parent’s dismay), converts to Catholicism.

Because of her new-found faith, Satoko  becomes interested in the people living in the local slums (called Ants Town because the people who lived there “worked like ants”).

Ven. Satoko Kitahara // catholicherald.co.uk
She visits Ants Town to volunteer a few hours per week, but soon, she realizes this is not enough. Satoko wants to mirror Christ who took on our humanity and also became poor. Because of her strong conviction, she eventually becomes a “ragpicker,” someone who sifts through garbage for scraps to sell. Leaving behind a life of wealth, comfort, and security, Satoko plunges into Tokyo’s most destitute neighborhood, only to die penniless and of tuberculosis at the young age of 28. Today, the young woman known as the “Dorothy Day of Tokyo” is on her way to sainthood, currently bearing the title Venerable Satoko Kitahara.

After reading Smile, I was left with many convictions churning in my heart. I thought for many days about God’s mercy and the mercy I offer to others. Often, as Christians, we are quick to say that “Yes, I show mercy to those who need it the most.” After all, it’s so easy to say we are merciful. We throw some coins in the can of a homeless person, we serve an hour a month at a soup kitchen, or we go to Mass regularly. We’ve gone on mission trips to other continents, painted walls, held children for a few hours, and then headed across the ocean to our own comforts.

I say this not to disparage volunteering in soup kitchens or participating in foreign missions, but rather to cast a light on how we think about mercy. In my personal experience, I’ve found that it’s much easier to show mercy to those with whom I don’t have a close relationship. For example, when I was in college, I went on a mission trip to Texas to conduct vacation Bible schools in low-income housing communities. It was easy for me to show mercy and “love on” those kids during that week because I didn’t have the baggage associated with them and their lives. In a similar vein, it’s easy to love kids in a slum living 5,000 miles away because, whether we want to admit it or not, we will eventually go back home to our normalcy.

But, it’s hard to love those who are closest to us. Simply put: We know too much about them. When you’re spouse is insufferable, it’s hard to love and show mercy to him or her. Perhaps there’s a co-worker who grinds your last gear, and you’d rather be sick than share an office space with him. Or maybe it’s your parents, who you think don’t listen to you enough or are maybe too overbearing. It looks like a brother or sister who takes advantage of you, or the family next door that has three kids who are just too loud. In these cases, mercy is very, very difficult.

When reading about Satoko’s life in Japan, I thought about how she served as a conduit of Jesus’ mercy to Tokyo’s most destitute. It would have been easy, effortless even, for her to ignore the plight of Ants Town. After all, she was educated and lived in a comfortable home. If she wanted to do good, Satoko could have easily went to a “proper” mission and sacrificed an hour or two a week.

But, she didn’t.

Rather, Satoko was wholly invested and merciful to those in her own backyard. While others in her elite neighborhood looked down on both her work and the citizens of Ants Town, Satoko gave her physical and spiritual life up for the most poor of Tokyo. But, though she was materially poor at the end of her life, Satoko experienced the richness of the many conversions to Catholic Christianity as a result of her witness. Ultimately, she was known as a “Japanese for the Japanese.”

I ask you: Today, to whom will you show mercy? Think about where you’re from and where you live. Will you be a Californian for Californians? Maybe you’ll be a brother to your sister, or a wife to your husband. A Canadian to Canadians. One does not need to venture very far to show mercy, or even to make an impact. Like Satoko, your ministry of mercy may be next door or down the street. Our Lord does not require a journey of thousands of miles to show His mercy  to others. Today, I pray that we may take the love that Christ has given us, and pass it along to those who are closest to our hearts.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  // Luke 6:36

O Font of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself upon us. //  The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

 

Sunday Thoughts: Transfiguration

Today, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Transfiguration of Our Lord. The Transfiguration is an odd story, and it’s always been one that has caused confusion for me. I never fully understood what the Gospel writers meant when they told the story of the event or even what the Transfiguration meant for me in my Christian walk. I foolishly viewed it another wondrous account of the life of Christ on Earth. From there, I would often scurry along.

In today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew (17:1-9), Jesus takes Peter, James, and His brother John on a “high mountain.” There, the men witness Jesus’ face shining like the sun, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah. Surely, this would frighten any one: On one hand, you have the Son of God, whose face is radiant, and then long-deceased Moses and Elijah show up. On top of all of this, the voice of God descends from the heavens, saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” The men fall to the ground, but Jesus assures them, saying “Rise and do not be afraid.”

Until today, I rarely thought about the message God delivered to the three men: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Yes, of course I believe(d) that Jesus is God’s Son. But, after spending time today thinking and reading other devotions on the topic, I thought: “What would God say about me?” When I reach the end of my Earthly journey, will Jesus say that He is well-pleased with me? Did I allow him to change, or transfigure, me from the inside-out?

Metamorphosis, Transfiguration, Church
The Transfiguration (pixabay.com)

This is a difficult thought because change is hard. It’s hard when you want to go to Adoration for an hour after work, and then you think of the extra 30-minute drive (one way!) it would add to your day. It’s hard when you want to follow the daily Mass readings, but then it would require you to wake up 15 minutes earlier. It’s hard when you feel the Lord urging you to put a little bit more in the offering basket, but you want to keep that $5.

Selfishness often gets in our way (Note: If you couldn’t tell, all of those struggles listed before? They’re mine). We want holiness and good fruit in our lives, but often, we’re overcome by what’s safe and comfortable to us. It’s comfortable for me to stay home from Adoration and kick back after a long school day. It’s safe for me to hold tightly to my money. If I want Jesus to truly change me, I have to let go and “do not be afraid” of what I imagine I’m missing.

It’s not a coincidence, I think, that this past week I’ve been more intentional with my life and work habits. Personally, I use the Blessed is She liturgical calendar planner. I use the to-do list for each day to write out my daily spiritual goals: read the Mass readings, pray the Divine Mercy chaplet, write Mr./Mrs. XYZ a letter. I can immediately tell so much more peace has entered my life in the past week when I choose to put God first and allow Him to dictate my schedule, not the other way around. This may not work for you, but it helps me grow closer to Our Lord.

On this Feast of the Transfiguration, I pray you have or will encounter Jesus in a way that leaves an impression on your heart and soul. May we all change inside and out for His glory, so that one day, he will look at us say that He is pleased.