This past weekend, we welcomed two retreat groups to St. Anthony’s. That’s not news. That’s what we do. What is more Chronicle-worthy is who these groups are.
You know our mission here at St. Anthony’s is to welcome all. We strive to welcome anyone seeking a deeper relationship with God, themselves, others and creation. We don’t inquire into which spiritual path they walk; we recognize that spiritual paths are as numerous and varied as are the people that journey them.
These two groups were about as different as two groups could be when it comes to spirituality, “as far as the east is from the west”, you might say. One group’s spirituality was based on Eastern philosophies and meditation practices; the other group’s spirituality was profoundly Western. Yet as I looked at the schedules for the two groups, what caught my attention was the titles of the two retreats. Despite the divergent spiritual practices, the retreats seem to be pointing toward the same thing.
One retreat was titled, “The Union of Wisdom and Compassion”. The other was titled, “Discovering a God Rich in Mercy”. Compassion and mercy are related. In fact, the definition of mercy includes the word compassion. But do we really understand what mercy is, beyond the intellectual definition, that is.
Fr. Dan said mercy is not a quality, a trait or a thing that can be earned. It is not something we deserve, and receiving what we do not earn or deserve is not something we can wrap our logical brains around. He spoke of mercy as the essence of God, much like love is who God is. Mercy is also the heart of the Gospel message. It is as available as the air around us, but we need to get out of our heads and into our hearts first. In our hearts is where we find the union of wisdom and compassion (and mercy).
Quoting Pope John Paul II, Fr. Dan said that humanity and the world need mercy even though we often do not even realize it. If awareness is the issue, perhaps that explains why these two divergent groups came to St. Anthony’s this past weekend, both focused on the same thing. They recognized their own need for mercy and compassion and wanted to be a part of bringing more mercy and compassion to humanity and a world so in need of mercy and compassion.
It is unusual that these two groups, whose spirituality and spiritual practices are “as far as the east is from the west”, should be here on the same weekend, both seeking in their own way the wisdom, mercy and compassion of our Creator. It may even be difficult to imagine two such groups could each share St. Anthony’s and respect the other’s journey even though it was very different than their own. There was no competition, no conflict, no need for either group to persuade the other to change their path. Just acceptance, love and respect. Is that not evidence of the mercy of God? Couldn’t our world use more of that mercy?
For mercy and compassion; for the acceptance, love and respect they foster; for the wisdom to be aware of, accept and experience the mercy and compassion of our Creator; and for the courage and generosity be merciful and compassionate towards others, we say Deo Gratias!
P.S. Although I usually prefer a picture from St. Anthony’s for the Chronicle, we just don’t have a waterfall big enough to illustrate the immensity of God’s mercy.
Ahhh. So true. We should all contemplate our likeness, sameness.