In the Year of Mercy, at the Feast of Divine Mercy, it felt the right time to say a new prayer, a commitment to merciful love. I felt like I was taking a big step even though it could only be small as I was inspired by the Little Way of St. Thérèse. I am finding the more I become friends with her, the more she seems like the saint of opposites: young but wise, a little flower but with faith as strong as stone. And I know her way is little, and I have to keep trusting that Jesus is providing the wonderful, merciful, grace-filled big answers to the little steps I take.
During Thérèse’s life she offered herself to Merciful Love, just as I’ve tried to do. This offering is one of the main inspirations for Father Michael Gaitley’s 33 Days to Merciful Love: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy. A group of individuals at our church participated in this self-study retreat. So there I was on Divine Mercy Sunday at Mass saying my prayer.
I could ponder Fr. Gaitley’s book for 330 days. But for me, there are three things that I really love from the book after 33 days—plus one prayer experience I had that has guided me.
Perhaps you’ve seen the image of Divine Mercy shown to St. Faustina. Rays of white and red light shine out from the heart of Jesus. At the bottom is written, “Jesus, I trust in you.” It’s hard for me to do, since I tend to want to control my life. Early in the retreat, Fr. Gaitley speaks of asking a mentor, Fr. Seraphim Michaelenko, how he can live with trust.
You will love the simple answer of how to live with trust: “Praise and thank God in all things. That’s what the Lord said to St. Faustina.”
I thought that I had to go out and immediately do large works of mercy. Of course, I want to increase these. But I’ve found that thanking God for good weather, pretty flowers, and other small things throughout the day is increasing my trust.
Most importantly, I’ve started looking people in the eye and smiling—really thanking them by noticing their presence and their uniqueness. Every interaction becomes more of a chance to acknowledge that God is present in everyone and to thank God in a way for making that person unique.
In Thérèse’s offering to Merciful Love, she wants to console the sacred heart of Jesus. I want to find out more about this devotion, especially since June is coming up and is the month of the Sacred Heart!
Prayer to Want to Pray
Sometimes I don’t feel as faithful. I can’t find words to pray. Or I’m at Mass, and I find I’m just thinking about what I have to do next. Thérèse’s words can help me. At our weakest, we can just pray to want to pray.
My Inspirational Prayer Experience
During a faithful time, the prayer experience that set me on the way to the retreat happened on Holy Thursday during Adoration. While watching a young teen pray, I felt all the way through my fingertips, “There is an ocean of mercy without judgment, and hardly anyone knows.”
Whenever I doubt, I return and return to this space of prayer, this memory.
My daughter and I have dug up some Irish potatoes—See’s Candies Irish potato candies! We couldn’t believe how realistic they were, in terms of how they looked and felt. Here are our real-time comments as we tasted and reviewed the candy:
Commenting on the cocoa on the outside, “It’s like actual dirt on your hands.”
“The things on the outside, the eyes I guess, are soft.”
“It tastes sort of bland like a potato.”
“The texture is like a heated potato.”
“This looks exactly like a potato. The wrapper makes me think of grass. It’s so festive.”
“I’m impressed with the realism.”
“I think the ingredients are nougat, nutmeg, nuts, and cocoa.”
“This is a great food disguise.”
So what are See’s St. Patrick’s Day Potatoes? Here is the official description from the box of these joyfully creative candies:
“Fluffy white chocolate and English walnuts, coated in milk chocolate, cinnamon and cocoa powder. With pine nuts ‘eyes’.”
We recommend this fun tasting experience.
St. Patrick loved the shamrock, since its three leaves in one plant reminded him of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit together making up the Trinity. So I’ve become inspired to celebrate the shamrock as many ways as I can this St. Patrick’s Day: through a prayer, food, a word search, and a hike to search for a shamrock-like plant.
My new St. Patrick’s Day Activity Page, http://www.sherrysknowledgequest.com/saintpatrickactivity.htm, on my wildlife viewing site gives all the details:
But after all this, my daughter and I want to check out another dirt-dwelling Irish symbol, the potato. We’ve heard rumors that See’s Candies has a potato candy for sale this time of year. We’ll report back if we find it.
Be part of the Reader Wolf Pack for The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick. Are you a student and have you read the book? I’m celebrating the first 25 students on my author website. You could be the very first (or one of the top 5) in your state. Hurry: there are already students planning to read in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, and Ohio. The book came out on New Year’s Day 2016!
All you need to do is: Get the book, read it, and check with your parent. Have your parent go to www.SherryWeaverSmith.com and click on the Contact form. I'm collecting the first 25 student names (first name, last initial, and state). You will join the wolf pack! Good luck and happy howling and reading.
There are so many saints that it may be difficult to choose one that may interest you and your family. So, if you are wondering what saint might be interesting for you, here are some ideas:
The name of your Catholic church: check your parish website to see if it provides some background its saint. Maybe there is an icon or statue of the saint.
Your family’s heritage: Celtic saints like Saint David of Wales have a unique history of wandering around in boats without oars or connecting with nature. Italian saints represent a tremendous heritage: Saint Francis, Saint Clare, Saint Catherine of Siena are just a few. If you are German, Saint Hildegard of Bingen was a truly gifted saint who wrote plays and songs. Latin American and South American saints like Mexican Saint Juan Diego, a model of faith, and Peruvian Saint Martin de Porres, a model of service, are inspirations.
Sense of place: Perhaps there is a place where you’ve traveled where you’ve felt a sense of connection where a saint also lived. Maybe you’ve visited a church dedicated to a particular saint. Pay attention to the call of the Holy Spirit in places like these.
Hobby or Job: Saints are often the patrons of everyday activities like baking, fishing, etc. If you enjoy these, connect with the related saint, just as you would with a typical friend. For a list of patrons, see http://www.catholic.org/saints/patron.php
Animals: Kids especially enjoy stories of saints helping, or getting advice from, animals. In one story, St. Patrick refused to let his companions hunt a deer and her fawn, because they rested on a hilltop site where he wished to build a church. Catholic Icing has compiled a wonderful list of saints and their animals; see http://www.catholicicing.com/animals-for-peg-dolls/
Prayer: A way of praying from a certain saint may touch your soul. When I was first considering becoming Catholic, I struggled to move beyond my childhood perceptions of God as a punishing “judge.” When I heard the Breastplate of St. Patrick prayer, “Jesus with me, Jesus before me, Jesus behind me, Jesus in me, Jesus beneath me…,” I began to change, knowing Jesus wanted to enfold me in love, hope, and protection.
St. Patrick became a guide and friend. I wish you luck in finding a saint friend as well!
I'm Sherry Weaver Smith, author of The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick. I like to have adventures in getting outside in nature, crafting, and cooking as I explore our Catholic faith with my daughter. We want to be inspired by the saints!