There is a tenderness in mercy in all its definitions, a tenderness that beguiles  and confounds justice and relieves fear.  Mercy belongs not to kindness as much as it does to love, the kind of love that embraces rather than denies reality.  Mercy lives with forgiveness and begs for openness of heart.  Mercy is not blissful denial or attempted tolerance.  Mercy dances with Hope, with Promise, with Possibility.  Mercy admits change and trusts in the more.  Mercy is a trust that Goodness exists in, beyond, and for one another.  Mercy takes a chance.

Mercy meets the deepest darkest moments of hurt and failure, grief and pain and remorse.  Mercy acknowledges flaws and errors, mistakes and choices with an unerring  eye.  It neither excuses nor celebrates wrong.  Instead, Mercy reaches past the experience to the soul of the person. Mercy remembers the contours of humanity and the otherness of God.  Mercy sees with crisp vision and invites the recipient to see, too, those contours and that otherness.

Mercy is the great antidote to revenge, to vengeance and to judgment.  Mercy is an awareness of the incredible power that lives in human words and actions.  It is the ambassador who whispers, “You are the hands and heart of Christ” with the acute  sense that the words belong to every human being, to every moment.

Mercy means daring to step past the brokenness into becoming, to discover that anger is genuine, merited, fair and real.  But living is about Mercy more than anger, about constancy and forgiveness, purpose and function.  Mercy means allowing and being more and better than who and how we are, allowing the sliver of Divine Light within to find a window to the world in word and choice and action.

Mercy is enfolded within the annals of the complicated and curious history of Catholicism.  It glistens from the words of the Beatitudes,  “Blessed are the merciful…”  and it beckons to each of us.  Mercy makes a house a home and a heart a harbor. Mercy.





Faith is intangible but far from invisible.  It is a flame of heart that finds living expression in attitudes and actions.  It stretches through doubt and glows through injury.  It grows roots in darkness and buds softly in the light.  Faith dances with strong, confident movement; it meets skeptics with depth and daring and knows a trust that does not need affirmation or even corroboration.

Faith is not confined by boundaries; it spills into every interaction,  every dream, every breath.  Discovered and nurtured, faith spirals deeper and deeper within.  And  so it becomes a well for being, becoming.  Faith knows moments of failure as moments of grace.  Faith  opens possibilities: forgiveness, reimagining, evolving.

Faith is believing in something far greater than self; faith is knowing a personal space within the world, knowing that as owned and as shared.  Faith is that deep confidence that alleviates anxiety and inspires openness.  Faith transforms fear and recognizes strength; it is flexible and resilient.  Faith finds structure and sustenance in practice and traditions shaped through centuries and refined in each generation.

Faith itself, that flame, enlivens and transcends.  The human expression of faith shared knows diverse and dramatic animation in ritual and art and architecture.  And still, nothing can capture the essence of one heart’s faith.

Catholicism in the richness of diversity opens so many options for igniting flames of faith.  There are the wealth of sacraments, the allure of sacred space, the swell of sacred music, the rhythm of the Rosary,  the daily liturgy and the simplicity of Eucharistic adoration: something for everyone searching, exploring, wondering.  And most of all, there is the way faith animates the life of Catholics.  There is the reality of what Francis of Assisi said.  “Preach the Gospel.  If necessary, use words.” That is faith lived and celebrated.





Christmas may be an event of memories now, packed away with unruly strings of lights and treasured ornaments, waiting for the next unwrapping.  While those things will speak then of the harbors of the past, represent what is steady and stable and known, the ordinary days between now and then will have quietly changed more than can be imagined.

Ordinary days are devoted to the simplicity of living, caring for loved ones, and grafting dreams onto the reality of each day’s experiences.  There is the day to day of what matters: sleeping, eating, communicating and caring, hurting and healing, searching and discovering, creating and accomplishing, trying and failing.  Those moments, the ways time is shared and spent, sculpts who we are.  We may be unpacking the same Christmas boxes next year, but we will not be the same persons.  Ordinary time will have touched and changed us in ways mysteriously imperceptible and vividly visible.

“Ordinary time” is anything but, yet it comprises the majority of the Church’s liturgical year.  The wisdom of that is that it mirrors human experience.  So much of life is ordinary, and the Church borrows the phrase as a reminder of what is most truly sacred, of the spaces where what is created can intersect with what is celebrated, what is most holy in one can be respected in another, what is deeply good  can be seen and chosen and embraced. Ordinary time, like ordinary days, is that invitation to hear the whisper of the divine in the softest breeze and the strongest wind.  Ordinary time means taking the time to look carefully at what we see, to listen throughly to what we hear, to reverence what we touch.

Ordinary time is discovering and knowing the extraordinary  is here with us everyday.  Easter and Christmas glow within the Church’s calendar.  But the essence of both is found in the way ordinary time is lived.  Each ordinary day, each choice, defines who we are and enables, empowers change.  To some extent, that rests within our own human hands.  Coping with the circumstances that occur, tragedy and triumphs, the unexpected and the disastrous, that leads to crafting sense of the incomprehensible.  And even that, the new normals, become ordinary.

“Ordinary time” is anything but in the Catholic tradition.  It is the sacred space of each day, and it is the awareness that the divine resides with us always.



Coffee shops have a culture, an etiquette of their own, fashioned by digital technology and personal service, one complementing the other.  The Christmas story, highlighted today by the Three Kings, is like that.  An old and personal story wrapped in the wave of another generation, one complementing the other.

There are so many intriguing aspects of that story: the phenomenon of the star itself embraced by astronomers and captured by story tellers and artists; the simplicity of the manger versus the grandeur of learned kings; the gifts themselves: gold,  frankincense and myrrh,  symbolic or purposeful.   And then the inevitable contrast with shepherds and the more humble gift of presence.

The narrative itself inspires wonder and skepticism, and thousands of questions.  What happened to the gold, for example?  Why choose the frankincense and myrrh, what meaning did the choices have? What sort of curiosity impels such movement? And what of the cruelty of governments that so fear new life?  What of the conscience of those who slaughter newborns?

But then, there is the firmness of revelation: those all mirror human experiences in the world we share today.  Every aspect of the story bears a resemblance to the tensions, the skepticism, the curiosity, the symbolism, the cruelty that too often characterizes human interaction.  This story,  often relegated to childhood storybooks,  belongs to adults as well.

Ours is a world of seismic change socially and politically, even financially.  And ours is a world where the discouraging word, the anger of cynicism and frustration smolder relentlessly, and certainty and wisdom seem more elusive than ever.   And yet,  everyday brings the miracle of new life, the birth of new hope, and the possibility of  real change.  All of it so visible, even in the darkest of nights, to the attentive.  And each of us can bring what we have to the moment, to recognizing and marking that before moving on.  In some way, the Epiphany offers what we need for the journey ahead.

The Epiphany invites us to curiosity about Jesus, the teachings and the beginnings, the roots.   The Epiphany reassures us of the most ordinary aspects of life, and that each of us somehow has a place, a role  in the story going forward.  And it is a reminder that Presence is a constant in life.  How it is honored is a choice, a decision or series of decisions.  The presents of the Magi are meaningful as presence, a humble testimony to the Presence within the world of the ordinary.  That belongs to all of us.