40-Day Challenge: Mercy (Day 20)

Begin with the Prayer of Abandonment.

Today I’m afraid I must be brief — I’ve reached the actual deadline on my current project, and the deadline is breathing down my neck. But I didn’t want to let down the team, so here goes!

If you’re like me, you have a short list of books, movies, and music that changed how you look at the world. For me, one of those books was Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy, a haunting true love story about Sheldon and his wife Davy. If you have never read it, please do. One of the passages that stayed with me was the “shining barrier” the two of them erected against the outside world, built brick by brick by simple sharings. The first months of courtship, they spent reading every book the other one had read, listening to every recording, and so on. That shared experience made their love strong enough to persevere to the end. Which, sadly, was not so very long.

The sequel, “Under the Mercy,” was a series of essays about the years they spent together, preparing to enter the Catholic Church. His essay about the white cliffs of Dover was another revelation, which I read just as I was about to swim the Tiber (or in this particular metaphor I guess it would be the English Channel) myself. It was cold. It was hard. But oh, the glory of it.

One day when I was working at Servant, I about fell off my chair when I pulled an envelope from Dr. Vanauken from the slush bin. The pages smelled of pipe tobacco, which I found charming (my dad used to smoke a pipe), and I read with total absorption. As it turns out, his beloved wife had given birth to a child prior to their meeting, and the essay was about his tracking her down so he could meet that last little bit of Davy, which continued to live on after she was gone.

I did my best to convince Servant to publish the book, and it is one of my great regrets from my time there that I was unable to get them to catch a vision for it. (I believe “Little Lost Marion” was later published by OSV, God bless ’em.)

Soooo… Where am I going with this? Today’s theme, mercy, recognizes that the potential for greatness in the human heart is often obscured by — stuff — that clears itself with time (okay, time and a bit of extra help as needed). I do not know how Dr. Vanauken first felt when he found out about Davy’s daughter — it must have been hard to hear at first. But in time that source of pain became a source of great grace.

If you see any similarities between this story and your own, feel free to ponder them today.

Today’s Challenge:  Think of someone in your life that has always rubbed you the wrong way. Perhaps it’s someone who consistently shuts you out, or refuses to play fair, or otherwise offends you regularly and seemingly without the slightest pang of guilt. Now … go pray a rosary for that person. Right now. I’ll wait.

Today’s Prayer:  Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.

1 thought on “40-Day Challenge: Mercy (Day 20)

  1. Dear Heidi,

    It seems you wrote today’s prayer and challenge for me! Bless you.

    I recommended your 40day challenge to a couple of friends, family and the feedback is heart warming.

    Thank you very much and may we all rise up to our Lenten challenge


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