I Will Be Your Missionary of Mercy

Dzień dobry from Flagstaff, Arizona!

That’s right. I did it. I am home.

Have you ever spent a long time abroad, and when you get back, you’re just happy to be on American soil again? That’s how I feel. Proud of our wonderful country, and relieved to have no plans to leave again in the foreseeable future.

Israel and Poland were incredibly special. To go to the Holy Land – where Jesus walked, lived, taught, died, and rose again – is truly the trip of a lifetime. I touched the spot where Jesus was born; presented all of our intentions, yours and mine, where the magi presented their gifts to Christ the Babe; stuck my hand in the very hole where Christ’s Cross stood; renewed my Baptismal vows in the Jordan River; floated on the Dead Sea; and sailed on the Sea of Galilee. I entered into the Valley of the Visitation; into Mary’s home in Nazareth where she gave her fiat to the archangel Gabriel; into the Wedding Church at Cana; and into temple ruins at Capernaum. I stood at the Wailing Wall; watched women cry at King David’s tomb; and entered Dormition Abbey, where Mary fell asleep and was taken into Heaven. I ascended the Mount of Temptation and Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration; I visited Mount Carmel; and I prayed at Christ’s Tomb. I participated in Mass at the Chapel of the Resurrection in the Holy Sepulcher, walked the Via Dolorosa, stood in the pit where St. Helen discovered the True Cross, and touched a thorn tree not unlike the kind of thorns that would have been woven into a crown for Our Dear Lord’s Passion. I walked in Christ’s footsteps, and the Gospel has come to life in my heart.

After Israel, we flew to Budapest and drove North through Slovakia into Poland. Slovakia is beautiful; I plan to return some day to explore and enjoy, next time with extra loved ones. We stayed for five days with a host family in Sosnowiec, Poland for “Days in the Diocese,” which is an opportunity for Polish families and parishes to host pilgrims from all over the world, share their culture, and show grand hospitality. Our sweet young family was generous and joyful, and it was a bonus that Ela and Jarek spoke English so well. We talked and laughed a lot with them. During these five days, we took a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa and prayed in front of the miraculous image of the Black Madonna, Queen of Poland.  We also traveled to Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most infamous of the Nazi death camps. I walked under the well-known “Work will make you free” sign that spans the gate to Auschwitz I, and I walked the rows between buildings where millions of human beings were brought to die. I stood outside the Block where St. Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of another prisoner, where he lead nine others in song and praise of God while they were starved of food and water for two weeks. I stood outside the building where women were tortured and experimented on while so-called “doctors” tried to find viable techniques to make an entire race sterile, extinct. I walked past rows and rows of burnt up buildings at Birkenau, feet away from crematoriums. I touched the barbed wire that held innocent people in that horrible death camp, that horrible site of human suffering and evil destruction. I walked through, bewildered by the flowers growing in those fields. How can something so beautiful grow where such ugly evil was rampant? The feeling of peaceful calm was so eerie. Even while I looked at a picture of a crowd of Jewish women and children waiting exactly where I stood to be led into the gas chambers, how could I fathom that souls walked here in their final hours? The camps were hard; what other adjective could I use? But hope is always bigger than despair, love always greater than fear, truth always dominant over lies. Please take a moment to read this message of hope and mercy, proof that God makes beautiful things out of our human failures.

After the Days in the Diocese, we said good-bye to our first host families and departed for Klecza Dolna, just outside of Wadowice which is where St. Pope John Paul II grew up. Our new host family, though more humble in housing, offered another loving and joyful home and an abundance of foodstuffs. This second home brought the commencement of World Youth Day 2016. Days were full of overstuffed train rides, exploring the beautiful city of Kraków, English catechesis in Wadowice, plenty of walking, a LifeTeen WYDUSA Rally with Matt Maher and Audrey Assad, sleeping in a field, and Mass with the Holy Father Pope Francis. The message was Mercy, and the response we are called to give is this: “Yes, Lord, I hear You calling me, and I will respond to the Mercy You have shown me in abundance. Yes, I will accept the Mercy You wish to shower over me. Yes, I will learn to show Your Mercy to others. Yes, I will be Your missionary of Mercy.”

Here are some of the messages from World Youth Day:

In God’s eyes, you matter, and your value is invaluable. He is always cheering you on, like the most loyal of fans.

Mercy is loving to those who will waste your love.

Nothing is more beautiful than Mercy. The Year of Mercy is about doing something beautiful for God.

Mercy is never earned, only ever freely given despite the recipient’s unworthiness.

We will never be worthy of the Mercy shown to us by God.

Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall obtain Mercy. (WYD Theme Song) (And now in English)

We also learned:

Details about the Image of the Divine Mercy.

Practical ways to practice the works of Mercy, spiritual and corporal.

How to be instruments of God’s Mercy.

Mercy is so beautiful, and I cannot wait to share more about the catechesis, adventures, fun, and lessons learned. Mostly, I learned that before I can give it away, I have to accept and receive Mercy. Let us pray that we will open our hearts – as individuals, as a faith, as a nation, and as the entire human race – to receive the Mercy showered down on us from the Cross.Image result for divine mercy image in krakow

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.

O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.

Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You. Jesus, I trust in You!



  1. Ken · August 7, 2016

    First mail I read this morning
    I learn so much from my friend


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