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

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