I have said to close friends I am struck by the timing of all the changes in my life recently coinciding with this holy year.
It has been a rough year a lot of the time. But at the same time, it has been such a time of healing and transformation. I feel different in so many ways. I have had a crash course in forgiveness, anger, mercy, detachment, and peace all rolled into one.
I have had so many experiences, reminders that God was in the middle of the mess.
Six months after my divorce was finalized happened to fall on the feast day of St. Faustina. She is the patron saint of mercy and the promoter of the Divine Mercy devotion.
Visiting Auschwitz helped me let go of it all. In a place of such evil and suffering, I will always look back and remember it also as a place of personal freedom.
The day I moved into my apartment I realized was the feast day of St. Maxmilian Kolbe. One of my favorite saints, he died giving his life for another prisoner in Auschwitz. When I was married, I constantly asked his prayers for healing and restoration.
I have had to forgive the Catholic Church both institutionally and personally. For not speaking up more publicly on addiction issues facing families and marriages. For making me feel trapped in an unhealthy, unsafe marriage. For not offering ministry or better support to divorced Catholics. For priests and well known Catholic writers who say truly hurtful things out of ignorance.
All those times I met with my pastor in his office.
I cried, got angry, and on occasion used some choice words. He hugged me, prayed with me, and told me I know where to find him if I need to talk or pray. He spoke truth and hope into me when I had none.
I love myself more. I love God and other people better.
The Year of Mercy has helped heal and soften my heart. There is no lingering resentment, blame, or hatred. This year has purified and refined me. Yes my Patty-ness is still there, but on a deep soul level I am different.
In his Papal Bull for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis writes:
"We are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Mercy is a key word that indicates God's action towards us. He does not limit himself to merely affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviors that are shown in daily living. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other."
Mercy has changed me radically. Because just as Christ is merciful to me, I am called to show the same mercy to all people. If not, then all this following-Jesus-church-going stuff is bull crap. There is no excuse, no reason to say it doesn't apply to me.