The Gift of: Being a Witness

caravaggio_-_the_incredulity_of_saint_thomas

This past Sunday we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. And the Gospel was the story of St. Thomas and how he doubted that Jesus was risen from the dead.

So this got me thinking “What do mercy and the story of St. Thomas have in common?”

What I came up with was this: We have to show mercy to those who doubt us. Those who doubt our faith. Those who doubt the existence of Jesus, they doubt His love. They doubt not only His existence…they doubt His existence within us.

That’s probably why we take it personally (okay I take it personally, speaking for myself) when people say they are skeptics or doubters or unbelievers. It’s like they are saying they don’t believe in us. And we are sitting right in front of them and talking to them yet they say “I don’t believe.”

I’m actually quite hurt by four simple words – “I don’t believe you.”

It’s one thing for people to say they don’t believe in God. Okay, I get it. Well, actually I don’t get it but I’ll accept that you believe that.

But what I’ve noticed is that when you try to explain to a non-believer how God has shaped and completely changed your life only to hear them say they still don’t believe – that’s crushing and really devastating.

If I may be completely honest, this is what causes me sleepless nights. I know there’s doubters among us. And some of them I’m very close to. But they doubt any existence of God, causing a huge (and unspoken) rift in our friendship.

But then we come back to mercy. How would I begin to try to help untwist their “unbelief” while still showing them mercy?

I would need the same kind of reaction Jesus got from Thomas. I would need my Thomas’ to take notice and say, “Wow, this person went through something. This person lived through something. I might not relate to it directly but I believe they experienced something profound.”

There’s a name for this. It’s called being a witness.

We can all be a witness, actually.  One way to is through the spoken word, usually the most common and most popular, in my opinion.


 

I never heard a witness talk until 3 years ago on a young adult retreat. I hadn’t even been on a retreat since maybe 8th grade. I was long overdue.

The first witness speaker on this particular retreat had quite the story. She told an incredible story that although it wasn’t directly relate-able to my life, it was a human experience that all of us in that room found very moving. It was incredibly sad and touching and left not a dry eye among us after it was over.

I have since been on numerous retreats and made Renewal at my parish where I heard more witness talks. And just last fall I had the privilege of being one of those witness speakers.

I cannot even begin to tell you how healing it is to share your journey with others. With total strangers! It was scary at first, but I was SO ready to get back up and share it all over again as soon as I was finished. Ever since, I have felt a calling of sorts to speak my story.

I have gone back and forth with myself if I should share my story here but it really truly is best HEARD and not READ. (Reminds me of my Spiritual Director who gives such great homilies but was hesitant to share them on his blog for the same reason. “Homilies are meant to be heard, to be proclaimed, not read.”)

Another priest mentioned in a homily recently on the same topic of witness talks:

“I couldn’t help but think what a different place the world would be if each of us had the opportunity, the desire, the incentive to tell and share these stories of faith or be attentive to other’s stories. How God’s presence would be irrefutable, overwhelming and certain for those who don’t believe or struggle to see God near…This is the message we are called to live – with our words and in our actions – so that others who say, “Show me” will be able to exclaim, “We have seen the Lord!”


 

So the challenge is how can I, how can anyone for that matter, share their witness with others who are open to hearing it? We can’t just blurt it out. We can’t just tell people our messy problems and expect them to understand us better than ourselves. But what we can do is invite them in to our mess.  And they can see how Jesus cleans it up!

Because, you know, Jesus didn’t force Thomas to touch Him. He invited Thomas to touch His wounds. So…wouldn’t that suggest to us that we invite people into our mess?  Our brokenness? Our struggles?

I’m gonna go out on a limb and answer yep! (Finally after years of going to mass I think I’m finally getting this whole “applying the Gospel to your life” thing).

So consider this your formal invitation into my broken world.

Hopefully, if you ever have the chance to hear my witness story, you can say “Truly, the Lord has been at work in this woman’s life!”

From there, maybe you can find Him at work in your life too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Personal Creed

This post is going a bit way off subject from the theme of my blog but I’m sure you will all forgive me this one time.

The subject is writing – And yes even though this is a blog, it’s far from what I would consider writing for me.  I used to write on a regular basis.  And by write I mean writing actual words on a piece of paper with a writing utensil, not typing.  In fact it’s one of the jobs I thought I would actually have as an adult when I graduated college.  I wanted to write ads.  Even after my internship at an advertising agency I still had the “itch” to write but I suppose I had a bigger itch to move to Chicago and see what life was like there.  And writing took a backseat.

This past weekend I went on a retreat for people in their 20’s and 30’s who are going through a “Transition.”  It was advertised in my church bulletin a couple months ago and I recall telling my Mom that I really wanted to attend this retreat and she was so happy for me.

Everyone who knew my Mom, knew she always prayed for anyone in need.  When she was first diagnosed with lymphoma in 2009, she received so many cards from friends and family praying for her and sending her well wishes.  Lo and behold, months later she was in remission.  The prayers were answered.  This last time around was no different.  Cards came pouring in.  We kept all of them and I read them to her shortly before she passed at her bedside.

But what was the most amazing thing is that my Mom herself sent cards and prayed quite frequently – Thank You Cards, Birthday Cards, Just a note to say Hi cards…you name it, she sent them.

So this weekend while I was at the retreat, we had alot of quiet reflection time where we wrote answers to questions regarding the subject matter we had just heard.  Then we discussed what we thought.  Well, I didn’t do much writing at all because I did better “talking” my thoughts rather than writing them.

But then on the last day of the retreat, we were asked to write our own Personal Creed.  I sat in my room and just started free thinking…free writing?  Scribbling down some thoughts here and there and before you knew it I had a rough draft.  The rest came pretty easily to me.  So here it is!

My Creed
My Creed

Sorry it’s so small but if you click on it you should be able to see it.

I’m pretty happy with it.  The best part was sharing it with my small group and getting their feedback which was all positive.  The only question I got was: “Is this how you see yourself living your life NOW? Or is it a goal of how you WANT to live your life?” 

Before she even finished the question I answered: “It’s the goal, this is how I want to live.”

I suppose it’s come full circle:  Even though I’m not at my goal yet of being “stage-ready,” I’m constantly working to get there.  As with my faith, although I am not living this Creed at this moment, I feel like I’m getting closer to it.  I would have to say Mom has a lot to do with it.   I definitely felt her presence at the retreat.

Before I end, I must share this random cute story: A co-worker of mine found my Mom’s prayer card from the wake on the seat of her car as she headed into work this morning.  Funny thing is, she has no idea how it got there.  I had given her a thank you card with my Mom’s prayer card INSIDE of it, but she didn’t even see it.  The best part is, she was having a bad day so seeing my Mom’s smiling face on her car seat gave her a little boost to her day.  My mom has that effect on people, even now. 🙂

Happy Easter everyone!