Sunday, June 12, 2016

merciful like the father

The Jubilee Year of Mercy began in late 2015 and continues through late 2016.  Around the world, various sites have been declared Pilgrimage Sites and the faithful may obtain indulgences by visiting there and fulfilling certain conditions.  Without getting into all kinds of nitty gritty theology, if you want to know more, you can look up Fr. Champagne's "Mercy Minutes" on Facebook's Fete Dieu du Teche page or use Google.  I was kind of surprised to find out several years ago that indulgences are still around - after all the drama their abuse caused in the Middle Ages  -  but they are.

Entering through the Holy Doors can symbolize entering into Christ.  So, inspired by a friend who undertaken a similar local pilgrimage earlier this summer, I asked a group of Boy Scout mom friends if they would join me.  Our boys have grown up and gone down different paths, but we still enjoy each other's company.  One was busy, but the other two agreed.

We began our day at our local Cathedral.  As we arrived, we noticed other cars in the parking lot, and realized that today was the day that our diocese was ordaining 3 new priests.  People had already started to gather.  We located the stamp and ink pad to stamp the back of our booklet and then slipped into a pew near the back to pray.

Having received Your Mercy and forgiveness, we seek to pray for Your Mercy for others.  We lit our brothers and sisters up to You to be blessed and forgiven.  We call upon your Sacred Heart to fill them with Your boundless compassion.  We ask you to listen to their prayers, to inspire their hearts, to comfort their fears.  Assure them of Your love as we remember them to You. 

As we were leaving, I encountered a former co-worker from many years ago.She was there for the ordination...she had graduated with one of the men being ordained.  I remember long ago - maybe 15 years or more - a priest asking for prayers for this particular seminarian, who had just been diagnosed with leukemia.  She told me that he had not only fought leukemia, but had also lost both of his parents and had a heart transplant due the side effects of chemo.  Now in his 40's, God had continued to call him into His merciful heart.  His story in this video:  


For those who have sinned against others by selfishness or greed - who have become blinded by self-interest and allowed others to pay the price of their selfishness. 

We continued on to our next stop - Our Lady of Mercy.  We parked in the shade and entered the dimly lit church.  We located the stamp in the back, stamped our booklets, and knelt down to pray. 

For those who have sinned against others by prejudice and discrimination - who cling to graven images rather than bow before the dignity of  others.

After a few minutes there, we headed off to a Shrine to the Sacred Heart.  It was a good distance out of the way, but worth the trip.  None of us had ever been there before.  Probably none of us even knew of its existence.  

The miles passed and the conversation flowed.  Google Maps led the way.  To the middle of nowhere, it seemed.  

We located the Shrine easily enough. We opened the car door and a million a swarm of mosquitoes invaded the car.  But they weren't too hungry and left easily enough later on.  Our first priority was restroom facilities, and [mercifully] this location had them.  

We wandered around the outside of the Shrine.  It was so peaceful, with the sounds of nature.  There were outdoor Stations of the Cross, a basketball goal with a ball sitting....waiting.  The Blessed Mother, too, seemed to be waiting, inviting those who were burdened to come, sit, and reflect, so that she could lead them to her Son and His mercy.  Maybe it would be a nice retreat venue. 

We entered another Holy Door, signed in, stamped our books and knelt to pray.  

For those who have sinned against You, Lord by disrespecting Your creation: who regard Your precious gift as something to be exploited or destroyed.

The Shrine was built in the early 1980's.  It was the result of a dream that the priest assigned to the nearby church had while on retreat.  So many things fell into place for him to literally make the dream come true.  

The statue of the Sacred Heart had been offered to him by his physician.  The doctor's family had sold to the state a local hospital they had owned, and as such couldn't have a statue of the Sacred Heart in a publicly owned hospital.  The stained glass windows were offered to him by someone who had them in their shed.  They depicted Canadian martyrs and ironically the priest was Canadian.  The windows were over 200 years old.  

We lit candles at this location, but nearly all of the places we visited had candles. The lit candle symbolizes a way of extending prayers.  

We de-mosquitoe'd the car and continued our trek - back the way we had come to our next outdoor grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes.  

This location was a little harder to find.  We arrived at the church, but there was serious construction going on nearby.  Just as we were about to set out on foot to find the grotto, an angel of mercy in an SUV drove into the parking lot and pointed us towards the right direction.  She even showed us where to park and told us where to find the stamp for our booklets.  

Built by a husband in memory of his wife who had passed away from ALS in 2003, the brochure noted that they had faithfully prayed the Rosary every night and had received "innumerable graces". God's mercy.  The path had a marker for each of the 20 decades of the Rosary. 

We noted that it might be a quiet place to return to for prayer.  Maybe when it is cooler.  Note to self: October is the month of the Rosary, and it is cooler then.  

Soybean ? fields nearby.  It was quiet and peaceful.  We returned to the church parking lot since the stamp for the booklets was located inside the church. 

We prayed for a bit in the quiet coolness.  Maybe we gave thanks for God's merciful love in our lives and the lives of those close to us or maybe we prayed for good health or asked him to draw close to Him those who are wandering or any number of other things. 

For those who have sinned against You, Lord by offering the lives of others:  who see the human life as useless or expendable.  

We were starting to feel hungry, so we headed on towards our predetermined lunch destination. 

It was a fairly leisurely, delicious meal.  I'm pretty sure there wasn't a morsel of food left on any of our plates.  We split a slice of salted caramel cheesecake three ways.  Pure awesomeness!  Maybe we were merciful to our server when we left a tip.  

There had been a downpour while we ate lunch, and we stepped back out into the steamy summer day and headed for our next stop.  Another Our Lady of Mercy.  

We parked and entered through the doors.  We stamped our books, surveyed our surroundings and knelt to pray.  Maybe we said a prayer for those in our families who have passed away or for those in the world without enough to eat or for those who are struggling with their vocations in life.  

For those who have sinned against themselves by surrendering their truest identity:  who surrender their authentic self as Your child to the lure of addictions or the expectations of the world.

There is a Vietnamese community in this area.  Their heritage was recognized in one of the stained glass windows.  

There was also an icon of St. Maximilian Kolbe that was unlike anything I'd seen before.  

We journeyed on through sugarcane fields and beautiful oak trees to the oldest church parish in our area.  

They celebrated 250 years last year.  The current church building was built in 1836.    

It was after 3:00 and the 4:00 Mass crowd was starting to assemble.  We parked across the street and approached.  

We followed an older couple who were both walking with canes.  They, too, were on a pilgrimage. They had started at a church much further south and were making their second stop of the day.  An usher held the door open for us and welcomed us.  

We entered, stamped our books and looked around a bit.  There were quite a few things that caught our attention.  The pews still have doors on the ends, as they did in colonial days.  

There was a grotto on one side.  It was constructed by a freed slave in the late 1870's. The Stations of the Cross were massive and came from France in 1904. 

We settled into a pew for a bit and prayed as people arrived for Mass.  

For those who have sinned against themselves by tuning from freedom:  who choose to accept the bondages of sin, resentment, despair and rage by refusing Your invitation to Mercy. 

There was one more stop that we hoped to make on our journey and the hour was getting late.  We headed out.  Rain threatened.

We arrived at our final destination with 10 minutes to spare, but found that it had closed early due to the threatening weather.  A little disappointed, maybe, but it is local to us, so we can go another day.  All in all, a peaceful, relaxing day with a good mix of conversation and friendship, quiet and prayer. Time to be grateful for God's great mercy towards us and contemplate ways that we might be merciful like the Father.   

Merciful Father, You leave the ninety-nine in desperate search of the one.  You place the lost on Your own shoulders to secret away to greener pastures.  You kill the fatted calf to rejoice with the found. There is no limit to Your Mercy.  Your embrace leaves us breathless and forgiven.  Teach us to be instruments of Your Mercy in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.  

From Prayer of Pilgrims of Mercy
Diocese of Lafayette