Speaker urges families to bring mercy into their homes
Lynn and John Clark, and Penny Pappas, all parishioners at St. Mary in Crown Point, share their thoughts about the role of mercy in everyday life during Family Advent Day at St. Mary's. The annual event drew almost 400 people or all ages. (Marlene A. Zloiza photo)
by MARLENE A. ZLOZA
Northwest Indiana Catholic
CROWN POINT – Calling the family a “school of love,” speaker David Wells urged close to 400 people attending Family Advent Day on Nov. 27 at St. Mary parish to embrace “a mercy that is unlimited and patient” in nurturing their family and reaching out to their parish and community.
Following the theme “Mercy in the Home,” Wells quickly established that “There is no perfect family,” but gave his audience reason to hope.
“If you read the writings of Pope Francis, you’ll see that all of the opening chapters begin with a sense of our self-deception, a reality check,” noted Wells, who began his career as a teacher, then an advisor for the Diocese of Nottingham in England, and is now an evangelism advisor and speaker. “He says to the Church, ‘It could be better than this.’”
Wells said the Catholic Church “is in danger of getting stuck in a kind of paralysis, and a kind of remoteness and small-mindedness. . .” A tomb psychology, he added, “slowly transforms Christians into mummies in a museum.”
Disillusioned “with reality, the Church and themselves,” these ‘mummies’ “experience a constant temptation to cling to a faint melancholy”. . .feeling “no energy, no zeal.”
Wells boiled down the theme of “Downton Abbey,” the iconic television show about British gentry in the early 20th century, to “What do you do when you are stuck and the world around you is changing,” and compared it to the predicament the Church is facing. “The pope says that is a real danger for the Church – the world is changing and the Church is ‘stuck’.”
Pope Benedict XVI, Wells added, addressed this fear with the statement: “If in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be 'devout' and to perform my 'religious duties,' then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely 'proper', but loveless.”
In a modern context, Wells said, “People are crossing the sea to save their lives and we are debating what hymns to sing.”
In another instance, Wells quoted Pope Benedict XVI that “The programme (mission) of Jesus is ‘a heart that sees.’ This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly.”
Critical to the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI and becoming the foundation of Pope Francis’ papacy, added Wells, is the idea that the role of mercy “is to look through the eyes of love” and forgive the Prodigal Son when you see him “coming over the hill, admitting that he got it wrong.”
“Is mercy a word you use?” Wells asked his audience. “Where do you see it? Where do you experience it?”
“I say ‘Be merciful to me’ when I pray,” offered Penny Pappas, a St. Mary parishioner. Another St. Mary parishioner, Judy Stearns, said she thinks of mercy “When I see someone in the paper doing something (nice) for someone else, a stranger.”
Wells said mercy, in Greek “elios” from the Hebrew “Heged,” is the intersection of family love, grace and compassion – something people learn best “with the people you love.”
“This parish exists to mercy Crown Point,” Wells stressed to encourage St. Mary families to widen their scope.
“We are losing our young people. . .they are not a part of our (faith) communities at the moment,” Wells said. “Our job is to look at them with the eyes of love. You know that you were born to love, you know what’s important. The role of the family is slow and patient, to nurture the children.”
Wells said that as an 18-year-old college freshman he realized how difficult he was during the previous year and he called his father to apologize for his behavior. “My father said to me, ‘If you’ve learned anything from me, don’t give it back to me, I’m your dad, and I love you. Give it to your children when they arrive.’ My dad was teaching me to ‘pass it on.’”
Dale O’Donnell, a St. Mary parishioner who attended with his teenage son William , appreciated Wells’ perspective as a father who is often serious when he should be more joyful. “I saw myself in that description, making sure my kids follow ‘the rules.’ I learned that it’s not always about ‘the rules.’ I need to lighten up a bit,” he said.
William O’Donnell, 18 and a senior at Andrean High School, said he found Wells’ talk “not just another lesson, but as having a deeper meaning. He was relating to mercy as we see it in our lives,” rather than just an abstract concept.
David and Christina Petrovic, who both grew up in the Catholic faith but later became practicing Lutherans, said Wells’ message came at the perfect time for their family. “We recently moved to Crown Point and came today with my parents,” said David Petrovic. “We haven’t found a church here yet, and today’s program was a real eye-opener. It hit home – we need to find a church.”