By Corrinne Burns, FC 17 Syracuse
Pope Francis, clearly thinking of me when he did it, announced that this year would be a jubilee year– of Mercy. At first, I tossed this idea aside. Mercy was too abstract. I could get behind the years of Faith and Consecrated Life much easier but I knew very little about mercy and was too busy, or not invested enough, to learn more.
Well, I didn’t need to be invested to learn about mercy. My service site and community had plenty to teach me. Last week’s Gospel reading about the Good Samaritan solidified my understanding of my year of Mercy in its closing lines, “‘Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’ He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’”
How have I been a neighbor and merciful this past year as the Holy Father asked me to be? I’ve been asking myself this question over the past month as my year of service is ending. I signed up for a Summer of Mercy email daily devotional and it has helped me to see how my year of service has been a year of mercy.
This Summer of Mercy has focused primarily on interacting with the Works of Mercy, something FrancisCorps knows a lot about. God was constantly at work on our hearts this year in small ways and in the most unexpected ways.
Bear Wrongs Patiently: working with youth has made it far too easy to accomplish this work. Each day, I go to work and love the people God has put before me no matter what. However, living in community has placed this work heavily on my shoulders. After being patient with the children I come home and do not want to patiently bear anything. If someone bought 1% milk and not whole milk I am challenged to bear it patiently. If dinner isn’t ready as soon as I expect it I bear that patiently. Even when I’m grumpy or tired and someone makes a small joke at my expense I am pressed to bear that patiently too and be merciful to my neighbors.
Feed the Hungry: This day I thought was easy too. I spent a few extra hours of time I had with Ana at the food pantry and quickly checked this work from my list. Then, I went to Vincent House with the hungry out of my mind and began staff training with the summer staff from the neighborhood. When the Pre-K teacher asked me if I wanted some of their leftover snacks from the year, I saw another way I could feed those who, though not actively hungry, still often went without vital nutrients and I shared what she offered with our new staff from nearby impoverished neighborhoods.
Comfort the Afflicted: My supervisor sometimes can get fired up about various issues. Usually the children keep us occupied and these other thoughts take a back seat, but instead I took this day to take time to listen to the things he had to say. I took time to see how he was and be an active listener. This day led to a week of relationship building between the two of us in a way that we had never gotten to before.
Clothe the Naked: A few weeks prior to the beginning of summer I donated several sweaters and other warm gear in order to purge some of my stuff. Now that I was being challenged to clothe the naked I thought I should perhaps purge again, but that didn’t seem quite enough. I was finishing up a few things at Vincent House for summer program when one of the girls showed up at the door. I noticed that her feet appeared to be about the same size as a pair of donated Nike shoes I had in the office. Her face lit up when I brought them to her and the day after when she happily told me her dad was letting her wear her new shoes to camp. Uniting her with the pair or shoes seemed a better fit for the day than dumping old t-shirts at Goodwill.
Counsel the Doubtful: Getting this devotional assignment I didn’t even know what it meant. I read the reflection and hoped that something would come up during my day– of course it did. On the first day of summer program we had one young boy who was having a very difficult time staying on tasks, minding his words, and listening to directions. As he was being disciplined I took some time to sit quietly with him and ask about his school year, his behavior, his dreams and fears. Encouraging him to think about his actions while being open and honest with him about my concerns about his behavior sparked a very encouraging conversation that hopefully he will keep thinking about during the summer and when he goes back to school.
Harbor the Homeless: I don’t have much of a direct contact with the homeless population in Syracuse so I again struggled so see how I could be merciful to my homeless neighbor. But, then I realized Vincent House is called a house for a reason. Every day, children without a safe place to go, children who play on the streets, children who have witnessed shootings in their neighborhood come to Vincent House and I am able to harbor them for at least a little while.
As the Summer of Mercy continues I’m eager to see where I experience Mercy every day. Likewise, as I leave FrancisCorps and move onto a new phase of life I’m eager to experience the values and insights I’ve gained here alive in a new way. My year of Service and my year of Mercy won’t end here. They’ll always be a part of who I am and the way I love and treat others.