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Mercy in the Midst of Suffering

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Friends of Mercy club member Dayna Strickland Ellis wrote in:

In August 2016, our parish suffered a 500-year-old record-breaking flood which inundated many parishioner's homes, the rectory, and our sanctuary. By Lent 2017, we were recovering from this great suffering and in need of a sign of hope. Our parish women's group, "Coffee Break," was hosting an all-day Ash Wednesday retreat.

The retreat included Mass, the Rosary, and an examination of conscience. Throughout the Rosary, the towering Divine Mercy Image with the inscription "Jesus, I Trust in You" was front and center before the altar. The peace that Jesus exuded in the painting brought comfort and solace to me. In front of the Divine Mercy Image was a crystal bowl filled with holy water that sat upon a cloth covered pedestal.

We received tiny slips of dissolvable paper and were told to write something that we needed to stop doing, an offense against God, upon the paper. Digging in my purse, I pulled out a green gel pen and jotted down something nagging at my heart. We all proceeded up to the bowl. Dropping my paper in, it flowed through the holy water, making s-curves as it sank to the bottom. I proceeded in the line to another bowl of holy water to wash my hands and dry them on a linen cloth.

It was a freeing experience to write my errors on the paper. The retreat leader encouraged us to go to Confession as well, but I didn't go right then. After this activity, we prayed the blessing for our Lenten lunch and were dismissed from the pews.

As I was leaving the church I heard someone mention that something had happened in the "bowl of errors." How I wish I had returned to the altar. Instead, I proceeded to lunch.

After our meal, when I returned to the sanctuary, my friend asked me if I had seen what happened in the bowl of errors. She showed me a picture on her phone — some of the ink on the papers had bled in the form of red and blue rays, the colors similar to those painted on the Divine Mercy Image above the bowl. Sometime later the retreat leader tried to recreate this happening at home, but she couldn't. To me, and others at our parish, this reminded us that God is always with us, even in the midst of our sufferings, and He always is ready to forgive our sins.

After this event, I did go to Confession. I hadn't been in many years. I give thanks to God for His mercy and forgiveness and for reaching out to us through this sign.

This Lent, take time for prayer and to make a good Confession, especially before Easter. As our Holy Father Pope Francis has said, "The Lord never gets tired of forgiving us. It is we, who get tired of asking for forgiveness."

For more information on how to make a good Confession, see our pamphlet "How to Make a Good Confession."

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