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Mercy Moments: Episode Seven

Mercy Moments: Our lives are dripping with mercy.  Indeed, our world is drenched in it.

“My family is starving while hiding from the Taliban.  You’re telling me there’s no way to expedite my case?”

“My cousin fled Ukraine and is now in Germany without connections or family.  She needs help!  You’re telling me there’s nothing you can do for her right now?”

“I just had twins and my husband is still waiting for his visa.  You’re telling me there’s no way to speed up this process?”

“It’s a fourteen-year wait?!  My daughter is 26-years-old! You’re telling me that I’m not going to see her again until she’s 40?”

“My friend is still in Burma and she sends me messages every day saying she fears for her life.  You’re telling me I can’t petition for her to come to safety?”

“I’m a U.S. citizen. He’s my husband! You’re telling me there’s no way he’s eligible for a visa?”

*These questions were adapted from real conversations at Family Immigration Services during March 2022.

What can we do when it seems as though we can’t do anything?  When nothing will change the outcome or fix the situation?  When fear and heartbreak cover over faith and hope whole?

In the summer of 2020, I completed a Doula certification course.  The title Doula comes from the Greek for “minister or woman who serves” and today it refers to people who physically, mentally, emotionally, physiologically, and spiritually support women throughout pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.  While the course provided practical guidance, a theme that was woven into each step of the Doula training was the importance of presence – bearing witness to joy and excitement, questions and concerns, fear and grief.  Whether it’s birth preferences prep classes or offering continuous support during labor or sharing a meal and listening to someone recount her birth story; women need to know they are never alone.  During the birthing experience, presence is powerful and it’s essential in honoring the sacred.

My doula training was clearly intended to be practiced with women along the reproductive continuum.  But then, on July 30, my partner Tony called from Jefferson City to tell me he had finally had a telehealth appointment at which his doctor told him to go to the ER immediately. 

I hung up the office phone and said decidedly, “I’m going to drive to Missouri.”  The 10-hour drive from Cleveland was filled with updates from Tony.  “They can’t figure out what’s wrong.  Nothing is helping the pain.” or “They’re moving me to the ICU.” and “They want to know if I want a priest.”

After an excruciating and long wait, I was finally able to enter the ICU and immediately went to work using the skills I had honed in my doula course.  Acupressure for the pain.  Aromatherapy for the nerves.  Continuous support was critical!  All at once, I was his partner, advocate, caregiver, and interpreter.  Fear, pain, and uncertainty remained for several more days, but I was present with Tony.  His fear, pain, and uncertainty were mine.

Our story has a happy ending for which I am grateful.  Tony was discharged from the hospital after a week and we were married last August.  But I didn’t always know Tony would recover.  And what about when there is no happy ending in sight?  No practical patience that will alleviate a crisis?  No simplistic solutions?  What do we do when it seems as though we can’t do anything?

On this Good Friday, no matter which crucifixion account you read, all four gospels tell of Jesus’ doulas – the women who had ministered to him for years and continued to do so to his death.  They saw things as they truly were – in all the horror of a public execution – and they remained with him. 

They drew near to him when so many others – even his closest friends – fled the scene of suffering.  They demonstrate for us the powerful presence of com-Passion – solidarity in struggle and sorrow!

Many people who are seeking guidance in navigating the U.S. immigration system eventually discover that they cannot legally stay in the U.S. or reunite with family members, or migrate to safety.  People living through hopeless circumstances – which systems and policies and laws have created – are who theologian Jon Sobrino, S.J. would identify as “the crucified people” of our times.   

The women at the crucifixion are the model to which we at Family Immigration Services can look when we are pressed with the “You are telling me there’s nothing you can do?” type questions.  Sometimes the only thing we can do is to remain with the questions and the crucified.

Calling for Mercy

Calling for Mercy #7:

Whether you attend a service at your parish or read the gospel accounts on your own at home, we invite you to pray the Stations of the Cross sometime during the next few days. If you can’t go in person you can find Bishop Robert Barron’s online Stations of the Cross on YouTube by clicking here. Then consider reflecting on Christ’s Passion in the context of the “crucified people” of our times.    

Ask:

  • Where do I witness Christ’s Passion in our world today?  
  • How can I be compassion to those suffering most?  (Compassion comes from the Latin, meaning “to suffer with”.)
  • How does my belief in Christ crucified, compel me to do all I can, as Jon Sobrino encourages us, “to take them down from the cross”?