Ash Wednesday: When Mercy Rains Down

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

It’s raining here, today. Hard.

When I first woke up this morning and my eyes blinked open, I heard the rain pounding on my roof and the winds slapping against my window. My first thought was, “So gloomy.  What perfect Lenten weather.”

My second thought was, “With how hard it’s raining, those ashes won’t stay on my forehead very long.  What a shame.”

But my groggy, gloomy, lenten mood was immediately punctuated by yet another thought that could only have been the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear. “No.  How perfect.   We bring our shame to God and cover ourselves in ashes.  And immediately the winds of grace and the rains of mercy wash the stain away.”

Today’s rain isn’t depressing.  It isn’t gloomy.  God isn’t weeping tears of sadness.  He is crying tears of joy that wash away our sins and celebrate his children coming home.

This Lent, celebrate the fact that we are not defined by our sinfulness, but by the depth of his love and mercy.  For more ways to connect how much God wants to satisfy the deepest longings of your heart, check out Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart.

The Corporal Works of Mommy (and Daddy)! –Living the Year of Mercy at Home.


Pope Francis has declared this to be a Year of Mercy but…so what?  What does it mean to be merciful?  And what difference does this year make to families?

The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy illustrate that mercy means treating others in a way that allows them to see their worth in God’s eyes.

We Are All Royal

We are all God’s children and baptism enables us to be prophets, priests, and royals.  The Works of Mercy remind us of this.  We clothe the naked because every child of God deserves to be dressed in a manner the reveals their dignity as a son or daughter of the King!  We feed the hungry because every person deserves a place at the King’s table!  We forgive willingly and bear wrongs patiently because we recognize it’s hard to become a saint, so we try to be generous with each other’s struggles.   And yet, when those we love forget their godly dignity we admonish the sinner–not to condemn or judge them, but to invite them to remember that they were meant to be more.

The Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mommy and Daddy

When our oldest was preparing for his First Communion, we were reviewing the various Works of Mercy.  When he heard that they included things like feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty and clothing the naked, he looked up at us and said, “You guys do those things all the time.  They should call them the Corporal Works of Mommy–and Daddy too!”

St. Therese of Lisieux promoted the idea that every person could achieve great heights of holiness and sanctity by doing small acts with great love.  The Works of Mercy as practiced at home–what we call The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mommy and Daddy–remind us of the incredible spiritual power of everyday family life!   Lisa and I discuss the spiritual power of family life in our book, Discovering God Together:  The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids and we unpack the opportunities to practice the Works of Mercy at home in our forthcoming book for Our Sunday Visitor titled The Corporal Works of Mommy and Daddy:  Living the “Little Way” of Family Life. 

The Corporal Works of Mommy & Daddy.

Feeding the Hungry: When we put real thought into preparing healthy, tasty meals for our families, we create a nurturing space for communion and conversation.  Tons of research reveals the benefits of sitting down to meals together.  Add “growing in holiness” to the list!

Give Drink to the Thirsty: What parent hasn’t been asked to get a thirsty child a drink in the middle of the night?  Serving that child cheerfully with compassion is a work of mercy that reminds the child that he or she will be heard and loved even when it is inconvenient for us to do so.

Clothe the Naked:  Finding the grace to be patient while dealing with a toddler who only wants to wear the blue shirt or helping a teen dress attractively, yet modestly, are both exercises in patience, and opportunities to help your children remember their worth in God’s eyes!

Sheltering The Homeless: Working to make your house a beautiful, orderly, welcoming, and hospitable home is a great way to remind your family of their dignity as children of God.

Visit the Sick:  When you respond to a sick child lovingly, refusing to treat him or her as a burden or an inconvenience even though your schedule has been thrown into chaos, you are growing in compassion and showing your child his or her worth in God’s eyes and yours.

Visit the Imprisoned:  It is one thing to give our children a time-out when they have committed some offense, but when we visit them a few minutes later, talk them through their error, teach them what to do instead, and work to rebuild our relationship, we show our children they still have worth and dignity even when they mess up.

Bury the Dead: Helping a child deal with the loss of a pet, or face the death of a beloved relative requires incredible compassion and sensitivity–especially when we are dealing with our own grief.  Doing this well enables our children to connect with God’s loving presence even in times of sadness.

The Spiritual Works of Mommy and Daddy

Admonish the Sinner:  When we correct our children with compassion, understanding, and love, we do more than stop the offense, we remind our children that good behavior is a blessing not a burden!

Instruct the Ignorant: When we teach our children what to do instead of simply telling them what not to do, or answer their never-ending questions with patience and love, or teach them all the things they need to know to live life as a gift, our families become schools of humanity.

Counsel the Doubtful:  Sometimes our kids don’t feel like they are up to the challenges they face. Taking the time to be there for our kids; to support and encourage them, reminds our children that they can accomplish all things when Christ is their strength.

Comfort the Sorrowful:  When our children’s hearts are broken, taking the time to really listen–instead of either being dismissive of their pain or hurling platitudes at them in our discomfort–can help connect our kids with God’s consoling embrace.

Bear Wrongs Patiently: Picking our battles, and letting little offenses and mistakes go can be a huge work of mercy that inspires saintly patience in us, builds rapport with our children, and enables necessary corrections to really count.

Forgive Willingly: When our children hurt us, it can be tempting to react in anger.  When we check that impulse and forgive our children willingly, we grow in compassion and self-control and teach our kids that they can never lose our love–or God’s love–even when they are less than perfect.

Pray for the Living and the Dead: Teaching our children to have their own vibrant prayer life is the best way we can help our children experience the love of their Heavenly Father.

Saint-Making Machines

In this Year of Mercy, our homes can become saint-making machines if we allow The Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mommy and Daddy to reveal the spiritual power of everyday family life!  To explore more ways you can create a grace-filled home, check out Discovering God Together:  The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids.

Coming Monday on More2Life Radio– To forgive, Divine

As our nation tries to put itself back together in the aftermath of last week, many are asking questions about mercy and forgiveness really asks of us.  It’s a great question, and one that has a great deal of personal resonance as we reflect on how to treat those who have hurt us in big and small ways. Today, we’ll look  at forgiveness actually requires, some common misperceptions about forgiveness and how to bring about healing after the hurt. Call in from Noon-1pm Eastern at 877-573-7825 with your questions on forgiveness and mercy.

Don’t forget to respond to our M2L FB Q of the D:  What offenses are hardest for you to forgive and why?

Can’t get M2L on a Catholic radio station near you? Tune in live online at, listen via our FREE AveMariaRadio IPhone or Android App (Check your app store!), or catch the M2L Podcast (also at

What Does it Mean to “Show Mercy”?

“Set mercy phasers on ‘stun’!”

We discussed mercy on More2Life Radio today.  I would venture to guess that most people think that “being merciful” is synonymous with “letting someone off the hook.”  Honestly, though, I really don’t see how this can be true.  In order to be merciful, mercy must be just (and in order to be just, jutice must be merciful) so it’s hard to imagine how not giving someone an opportunity to learn and grow from their mistakes/offenses would be merciful.  Even in the parable of the unmerciful servant, the King didn’t forgive the servant’s debt so much as place a new debt on him; to be as merciful to others as the king was to him.  In fact, when the servant failed to pay that new debt (“paying mercy forward” as it were), the king had the man thrown in prison until he could pay the old debt.  No one was let off the hook in this story.

I think mercy is a genuinely stunning experience.   True mercy is actually off-putting because it allows us to feel loved and challenged to grow at the same time.   While there is a sense of the word mercy that means, “alleviating the suffering of another person,” alleviating suffering usually involved taking one’s medicine or going through treatment.  That’s even true of confession.  It’s true, for instance, that Pope Francis has pointed out that God never tires of forgiving us, but even so, that forgiveness comes with the price of resolving to not commit the offense again (even if we ultimately fail in our efforts) and our willingness to do at least some kind of penance.    But look at the nature of the penance.  Those 5 Hail Mary penances aren’t punishment.  They are intended to be the time we sit in Our Mother, The Church’s, lap, in the presence of our Heavenly Father so that we can be showered with a love so great that it makes us never want to leave home again.

I would argue that from the Church’s example, we can conclude tha mercy is the virtue that allows us to address offenses in a manner that is mindful of the larger relationship and invites the offender into a deeper  relationship with the offended.  Obviously, that’s going to require some work.  The point is not that mercy lets people get away with an offense.  It’s that true mercy allows the addressing of the offense to be an opportunity for greater healing and unity by calling the person out in a way that makes both of you more whole.

Who, in your life, is it hardest for you to be merciful to…and why?

–Need help figuring out what it means to address offenses between you and another person in a manner that leads to a deeper/healthier relationship (i.e., be authentically merciful)?  Check out God Help Me, These People are Driving Me Nuts!   Making Peace with Difficult People.

COMING TUES on MORE2LIFE RADIO: A Question of Mercy.

Coming Tues on More2Life Radio:  A question of mercy.  We’ll look at mercy, what it is, what it isn’t and how to give it more freely without being taken advantage of.
Call in with your questions from Noon-1pm E (11am-Noon C) at 877-573-7825
Listen to More2Life live weekdays from Noon-1pm E (11am-Noon C). Can’t get M2L on a Catholic radio station near you? Tune in live online at, listen via our FREE AveMariaRadio IPhone or Android App (Check your app store!), or catch the M2L Podcast!