Recently, as the liturgical year ended, so ended The Jubilee
Year of Mercy called upon and heavily promulgated by Pope Francis.
Last year, only a few days before Pope Francis ceremoniously opened
the Doors of Mercy at St. Peter's Basilica, my mother passed away
to her eternal reward.
Over the course of the last year, I found myself reading and
reflecting on her eulogy that I was honored to give at her funeral.
In doing so, I couldn't help but recognize the many references to
mercy regarding my mother and the parallels between her life, how
she lived it, and how Pope Francis is seeking to encourage the
Church and people everywhere to model this ethos.
All of this provoked some penetrating questions. Am I merciful
to others - not just people like me, but also those outside my
comfort zone due to ethnicity, geography, socio-economics,
religious belief or lack thereof? Am I reaching out to help those
in physical or spiritual need to the degree that I should?
While it may make me feel good when I am the dispenser of mercy,
am I humble enough to be the recipient of mercy from others or even
from God Himself? Do I believe that God's love, forgiveness and
mercy is limitless for those who believe in Him and trust in Him?
How and why is mercy - given or received - transformative to all
My mother had no interest in material things such as cars,
clothes, money, brands, status, big houses or other things many
people long for and cling to. My mother cared about people. Black
or white, gay or straight, rich or poor. Catholic, Protestant, Jew,
Muslim, believer or unbeliever.
It didn't matter. She was friendly, loving, open, generous,
hospitable, warm, kind, interested, engaged and present. She made
people feel loved and special, and people were naturally drawn to
My mother was "holy" in the true sense of the word - set apart,
unique. But she wasn't self-righteous, was not a Bible thumper,
outwardly devout, dogmatic or interested in complicated theology,
high ritual or showy piety. She didn't talk about or study
Christianity - she lived it.
While I don't recall her ever describing her actions using the
specific Catholic terminology, she lived her life centered on the
corporal and spiritual works of mercy. When she saw people in need
physically or emotionally, she helped them. When she saw people in
spiritual need, she encouraged them.
She believed that her/our real purpose in life is to love and
help one another - period. No ands, ifs or buts. She loved God and
made Him central in her life. It illuminated everything about her
and everything she did, especially in her relationship with others
and her extraordinary capacity to love.
At my mother's Mass of Christian Burial before being laid to
rest, and as a final send-off to her and all those present, I read
a simple but profound prayer by Thomas Merton that reminded me of
her and all she stood for. It's always been a favorite prayer of
mine and now one that will always be etched in my mind and on my
O God, we are one with you.
You have made us one with you.
You have taught us that if we are open to one another, you dwell
Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our
hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding
where there is rejection.
O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully,
completely, we accept you,
and we thank you, and we adore you, and we love you with our whole
because our being is your being, our spirit is rooted in your
Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love
as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes
you present in the world,
and which makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is
Love has overcome. Love is victorious.
Lois Jean Drees
2 Timothy 4:7-8
I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race; I have
kept the faith.