March 7, 2016

When Pope Francis declared this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I never expected it to have a transformational effect on my own life.

On Jan. 30, I was a sleepy attendee at the CWL conference. One of the ladies gave us the goods on the Holy Door of Mercy at St. Joseph's Basilica.

"Ladies, if you walk through the Door of Mercy, pray for the pope's intentions, go to Confession and receive the Eucharist within a week, you may receive a plenary indulgence if you are in a state of grace." My half-awake mind took in her words with a stunned silence.

Later I encouraged our CWL to walk through the Door of Mercy, head over to the Back Porch, and pray for the unborn and for women who have had abortions. Our prayers would surely qualify as praying for the pope's intentions.

Directly across the street was an abortion clinic. Men were dropping off women, and one woman hastily skirted out having just had an abortion and jumped quickly into a waiting car driven by a man, who was hovering in a nearby alley.

We were flabbergasted that this unmarked building was so busy in broad daylight with the business of killing babies.

I dedicated my rosary to both the unborn and the women who have had abortions because they have no idea the harm they are inflicting upon their souls. They are lost in confusion.

The next day I went to the basilica, as I was the assigned lector. I had slept not a wink the night before and found myself feeling tremors of fear so intense that my heart was pounding out of my chest as I was awaiting an important decision.

I recalled the Gospel passage telling when the apostles panicked in the boat. Jesus awoke and said, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"

I realized that my own faith must be weak to live in this anxiety. I was told earlier in the day that I would have to wait another three weeks. How would I sustain the suspense?

I went to Confession to seek counsel from the priest about my own wavering faith. I

arrived an hour early, walked through the Door of Mercy, prayed for the pope's intentions in front of the Blessed Sacrament and waited patiently for Father Manoj Xalxo to arrive.


When he arrived, I checked my emails one last time. At the very moment he walked past me, I received an unexpected email from the organization holding my future in their hands to say an early decision was granted in my favour and a certain requirement that would have been nearly impossible for me to fulfill was waived.

In a state of shock, I entered the confessional and then broke down into tears of absolute gratitude for the mercy God bestowed on me. Certainly this was no coincidence.

As I read the Responsorial Psalm to the congregation, my voice cracked: "Wipe out my offence. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me." It reminded me of my own sinfulness and the sinfulness of women who have had abortions.

I knew in that moment what mercy really means - God not giving us what we deserve.


Given my past, I certainly didn't deserve the mercy given to me that day, and although I have never had an abortion, I can relate to the confusion of the women who do.

I felt as though I was given a new mission - a mission of mercy for all women who are lost in the mire of our age making fatal decisions.

I wanted to share my story after hearing Pope Francis' homily to the religious in Morelia, Mexico: "Resignation is from the devil; . . . woe to us if we are not witnesses to what we have seen and heard, woe to us."

I encourage everyone to act as fast as they can to find God's grace and walk through that Door of Mercy before it is shut. Do not be the sleepy attendee of your own life. The pope has beckoned all of us to break the habit of resignation.

(Sharon Ryan teaches ethics and is the CWL chair, legislation & resolutions at Holy Family Parish in St. Albert.)