Mercy. It is lovely and precious when we receive it. It can be arduous and challenging when we are called upon to show it to others.
Challenging it may be, but I don’t have to look very far to find examples of those who selflessly give their time doing works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal. Often, I am overwhelmed by what others do in the name of Christ and his unending forgiveness. One such person stands out in my mind, since he has a gift of reaching out to those who have the most hardened of hearts; those who are arguably most in need of God’s mercy.
For my Uncle Joe, retirement is about spending time with family, riding his Harley, hunting and fishing. But add to that, making rosaries for his church, volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Society and committing time to his toughest ministry, which is visiting those in prison.
I recently spent time with my uncle, and he shared a lot about this virtuous corporal work of mercy and what it means to care for the outcasts and the forgotten in our society. I asked him how it all began.
“I felt called to prison ministry years before I started. A fellow volunteer at the St. Vincent de Paul Society, who also works in prison ministry, invited me to come with him to see if I was truly interested. After my first visit, I started volunteering on a weekly basis,” he recalls.
For my Uncle Joe, an average day is more than a visit to a 6-by-8-foot cell to talk to inmates. “We bring the word of God to them in a short, structured Communion service with some meditation on the readings of the day. We also use part of the service for Bible study or to discuss a variety of topics, using the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other resources. We pray the rosary or the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, a powerful devotion which has had a profound effect on many there.”
Visiting the prisoners has, in turn, deepened my uncle’s faith and revealed to him the power of God’s mercy. “I feel it has brought me closer to Jesus Christ. It has also given me more compassion for the prisoners and what they have to endure being incarcerated. Before doing this ministry, I had little sympathy for those behind bars. But spending time with them has really opened my eyes to the fact that they too, are created and loved by God,” he says.
I admire my uncle for his work in the prison. Despite the reality that these men may be locked up for a long time, he has helped them seek and find spiritual liberation. Even the most sinful and dangerous in our society are born with souls that God intended for salvation. But who might come to remind them of their own value in the eyes of God, or their need for his mercy? And how will God reach them and give them the chance to seek it? Well, for some prisoners in our area, God works through a Harley-riding, hunting and fishing man I call Uncle Joe. But if we all look for ways to observe and extend Christ’s mercy to our most broken brothers and sisters, then the answer to the question, “How will God reach those who need him most?” can be “through us!”
Divine Mercy Chaplet bag clip and keychain
The Divine Mercy Chaplet is a devotional for seeking God’s “Fountain of Mercy” through his son, Jesus. In one revelation to St. Faustina, the Lord promised, “Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet, only once, he would receive grace from my infinite mercy.” Prayer instructions and history can be found online.
You will need:
- 1 key ring with snake chain
- 10 red beads
- 1 white bead
- 11 spacer beads (or 4mm beads)
- 1 split ring
- 10 lb. hemp cord
- Divine Mercy medal
- Small crucifix
- Needle-nose pliers
Tie a double knot at the end of the cord measuring 12” long. String 10 red Hail Mary beads starting with the red one, followed by spacer bead. Add the white Our Father bead and last spacer. Tie a double knot at the end (making a loose knot over spot where you want to tighten). Tie end piece around split ring into a double knot. Using pliers, open split ring and attach beads to middle section of key ring. Close ring. Attach medal and crucifix to the bottom section and close ring.