Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Mater Misericordia

by Stephen Drees


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 involved?

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 her.

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.

works of mercy.jpg  spiritual works of mercy.jpg

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 heart.


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 in us.
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 being,
because our being is your being, our spirit is rooted in your spirit.

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.
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.

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.