Mercy - It's Not About "Toughing It Out"

We decided to go to the 7:30 a.m. Mass over at the seminary, to fulfill our obligation for the Immaculate Conception. We figured it would be early, but not too early, and it would probably be quick.

Clearly, we underestimated how much those boys love their Mama.

I couldn't resist spelling this one out for her while I was teaching her how to do shading.

Almost two hours of stunning liturgy later, we emerged back out into the world. Chanted morning prayer, a beautiful Mass (chock full of incense, of course), and we were strengthened for our day.

My personal barometer for a good homily is one that I remember even when I've spent the time chasing down a toddler in the back of church. This morning's homily definitely fit into that category (of course, I'd expect no less from the priests at the seminary, but this one was particularly memorable). The homilist shared a story from his childhood, about a time when his youngest brother was writhing on the bathroom floor with stomach pain, and he and his middle brother thought surely he was faking it and needing to toughen up a bit. His mother, though, sensed something was seriously wrong, took him to the ER, and he ended up getting his appendix out. 

So, firstly - a mother has particular attention to detail, and she is particular in tune with the suffering of her children. Mary is no exception, and, the priest pointed out, is particularly aware of the suffering of her children, especially in this Year of Mercy. "Toughen up," the priest reminded us, "Is not a verse from the Gospels."

Boom. That line hit me straight between the eyes. 

I try to be understanding toward others, and their ups and downs. For instance, this week all the females in the house have been experiencing nasty colds. I'm trying to make sure the girls get enough rest, fluids, food, cuddles, etc. Myself? I feel guilty not pushing through how miserable I feel so I - you guessed it - push right through. I force myself to toughen up.

And honestly, in our culture - toughing it out is viewed as a virtue. Denying yourself basic self care in order to be as "productive" as possible is the queen of the virtues of our society. But, it is not the queen of the virtues in our faith. Jesus calls us to faithful, not productive, after all. 

I started a new routine in our home. I was really missing homeschooling, so I decided to continue it by doing a "real aloud time" right after lunch. (Here's looking at you, Sarah Mackenzie!) I hand selected some really quality picture books from out shelves, and put them in a special drawer on my shelves. Then, after lunch, one of the girls gets to take a turn picking a book out of the box. Today's book was A Time to Keep. If you only read/purchase one book by Tasha Tudor, it needs to be this one! The illustrations are, of course, stunning, but the story itself was beautiful. A little girl asks her grandma what the world was like when her mother was small, and the grandma takes her through the traditions the family had for every month of the year. It is beautiful! 

What struck me the most, though, was how many of the traditions for each month were not "productive." So many of them were things that the family did together, solely for the sake of enjoying being a family. The parents weren't trying to advance their careers or build up blog readership or keep a perfectly clean home, the children weren't signed up for a million outside activities. The family just enjoyed being with each other, and with their other family and friends.

Why can't life be more like that?

The thing is - it can be. Life can be gentler. My family can be gentler, more peaceful. But we have to be willing to be counter-cultural, to take the time to just be together. To slow down.

Part of that willingness to be gentler with ourselves and others is trusting in God's mercy. God does demand much of us, yet, but He is also incredibly loving and mercy. If we demand much of ourselves but lose track of that love and mercy, it makes what we do meaningless.

Mercy, penance - it's not about making ourselves "holier than God." It's about allowing ourselves to be like children - small, obedient, and trusting. 

What an excellent reminder to launch into the Year of Mercy.


  1. Your post reminds me of some advice a priest once told me: stop saying the word busy. I've tried to keep that up for awhile and it really has helped me have a quieter, more gentle life. Something about saying "I'm so busy" makes me feel so much more busy and stressed than I really am. Busy and stressed rarely leads to mercy.


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