Yesterday was the Feast of St. Thérèse, the Little Flower. Yesterday was also the last retreat in the SOS series offered here at the Mount. Sister Carolyn has been leading them for 32 years!
I was grateful to participate in a few of Carolyn's SOS retreat days since I arrived here last year, and in fact, it was one of her Holy Week retreats that was a big part of my beginning the discernment process with this community.
The theme of the day yesterday was mercy. We reflected on having mercy for ourselves, for others, mercy's connection with nature, and with justice. I am never less-than-amazed at the wisdom that fills the space when participants begin sharing their own experiences.
The fact of the matter is that Carolyn has been leading these retreats longer than I've been alive. Imagine all the wisdom and spirit that has entered the world as a result - certainly a force of love to be reckoned with. I reflected on just the mercy shown to me throughout the day yesterday, and I was overwhelmed.
St. Thérèse was so overwhelmed by God's love and mercy that she knew her calling before the age when we can legally learn how to drive here in the U.S. She knew that the path to God was found in little ways of embracing God's will over her own. She knew how boundless God's mercy is. And, another fact of the matter is that we most often experience mercy in little ways rather than big ones: someone holding a door for another, a friend making sure you are okay after a long day, finding just the right words to fit a situation, a cup of hot coffee on a cool morning - the list is just as boundless.
Even when I am in the worst of moods, which, yes, does happen from time to time, I am grateful that it doesn't often take long before I am able to recognize God's mercy working in my life again. That is grace at work. Another grace yesterday was Carolyn's reminder: "Mercy, forgiveness, and justice all fall under the umbrella of compassion." Ah yes, the ever-important compassion.
I have been reading some Thich Nhat Hahn recently, and I came across this fitting quote this morning:
When your mind is liberated your heart floods with compassion: compassion for yourself, for having undergone countless sufferings because you were not yet able to relieve yourself of false views, hatred, ignorance, and anger; and compassion for others because they do not yet see and so are still imprisoned by false views, hatred, and ignorance and continue to create suffering for themselves and for others. Now you look at yourself and at others with the eyes of compassion, like a saint who hears the cry of every creature in the universe and whose voice is the voice of every person who has seen reality in perfect wholeness.
These words were a bit of mercy today, and I carry them with me as I continue the journey of liberation from everything holding me back from communion with the universe. I pray that you, too, will experience some little piece of God's mercy that will free you in a big way.
Let us walk in the holy presence.