Catholics find practice of mercy enriching

Sometimes mercy can come from the most unlikely of sources. Just ask Ramona Trevino. During the three years that she worked for Planned Parenthood, Trevino knew that among the pro-life community, she was considered “the enemy.” But when the day came that Trevino, motivated by her Catholic faith, decided to quit her job, she never expected the outpouring of mercy that she received from the same pro-life group that had once gathered to pray outside her place of employment.

Humbling experience

Ramona Trevino
Angela Bujan

“When I walked out of my job, I took a leap of faith,” said Trevino, a resident of Trenton, Texas. “I didn’t have another job and this was almost half of our family’s income.” Overlooking her past transgressions, pro-lifers offered Trevino and her family money to help pay their bills and to buy groceries. When their car was repossessed, a complete stranger donated one for them to use. At Christmas, they even received gift cards and presents for their children. “I worked for the largest abortion organization in the country, and to walk away from that and be embraced by the pro-life community, to me that was the ultimate act of mercy,” she said. “It was beautiful.” But receiving mercy, Trevino admits, isn’t always easy. She wasn’t used to receiving such support from people she’d never even met, and it put her in a very unfamiliar position. “It was such a humbling experience — to see Christ in action, to see him working through these people,” she said. “It is just really reflective of what God’s mercy is like.” That’s something Trevino has also tried to pay forward in her own life. Even though it can be a challenge to overcome human nature’s desire to hold a grudge, she said that she tried to follow what Christ would want her to do in showing mercy to those who have wronged her. What helps is her own experience of receiving mercy, which was a tremendous boost to her faith life. “It is remarkable what it does for your faith to [receive mercy],” said Trevino. “It has brought me spiritually to a different place and a different level than I’ve ever imagined.”

Everyday occurrences

It doesn’t take a life-changing event to have an experience of mercy. For Angela Bujan, a wife and mother of three from Round Lake, Ill., mercy is something that must be given and received on a daily basis. “I don’t think there’s any time in a day that mercy is not granted — in a family, in a community, in many different places,” Bujan said. “It is something in my daily life that I think about often and I am always conscious of it.” With three young children ages 8, 10 and 12, Bujan finds there are plenty of times in the course of the day when mercy is needed — preparing the kids for school, driving in the car or getting the kids to bed at night, just to name a few. And as a parent, she tries to point out opportunities for showing mercy to her children when squabbles break out amongst them. When everyone in the family practices mercy, she said, it is easier to live together more peacefully. After nearly 18 years of marriage, Bujan said she has also learned how to practice mercy with her husband, as well. “We don’t have to have a full-blown discussion on something, but we are starting to recognize how to call each other on things,” said Bujan. “But we don’t dwell on it.” To Bujan, that’s the essence of mercy: not keeping a record of wrongs and offering someone a clean slate, no strings attached. And it isn’t just limited to family. Bujan believes the same principles can apply in a parish or in the wider community. “Mercy involves accepting each other,” she said. “In a community, as we get to know each other more intimately, we are going to have to see one another’s faults as well as our strengths. And I think mercy is seeing your faults, accepting that it is part of who you are and loving you anyway.”

Mutual journey

Pat Cary

For Catholics like Pat Cary, showing mercy is more than a personal practice, it is a full-time job. Through her work with Martha & Mary Ministries, a hospice care center in Portland, Ore., Cary encounters people who are at a place of great vulnerability. As they reach the end of life, they have often lost their independence and must give up control and learn to rely on others for everything from decision making to physical care of their own body.

And just because mercy is offered, Cary said, that doesn’t mean it is always easy to accept. “There is a surrender that people have to make, and that is really tied to mercy,” she said. “You have to surrender to God’s mercy, you have to surrender to the merciful acts of other people, and it is really a huge job at the end of life to be able to do that.” In her work as a nurse, Cary has learned that it is her job to help people willingly enter that experience of mercy. But though it can be a challenge, it is one she is glad to accept. “It is such a tremendous privilege to be able to do this work and to do it in the name of my Catholic faith,” she said.

Being continuously surrounded by these types of experiences also makes Cary acutely aware of her own personal need for mercy. In that sense, she feels that mercy is not a give-and-take experience, but a relationship between two people who each have their own unique needs. “It is not just that we are in control and we are the ones who dole out mercy. It has to be rooted in the sense of God’s mercy for us and our own brokenness,” said Cary. “The relationship needs to be much more than I am the one who takes care of you and you get taken care of by me. It has to be more of a mutual journey.”

Scott Alessi writes from Illinois.