For the last couple of weeks in my Cosmology class, we have been discussing the importance of stories for communicating truth. We have talked about the telling of stories as a spiritual, contemplative practice which draws us into relationship.
Mercy, by its very essence is relational – it is a quality given and received, and requires something of each person in the exchange. For anyone who has listened to the story of another, especially when they are telling something deep about themselves or their life experiences, it is a privileged encounter and an act of trust. This is especially true when someone is sharing a difficult experience, something that has upset or hurt them, or something they are struggling with. To share a story like this requires a person to open themselves to another and risk rejection, judgement, even the thought of being loved and accepted can be a risk.
Catherine McAuley said that the patient hearing of sorrows was an act of mercy which was most ‘highly prized’ by a person, more prized than money, for one cannot put a price on a deep, loving encounter or relationship. In my years of working in spirituality and pastoral work, I have heard many sorrows, and I deeply appreciate the people in my life who hear (and have heard) mine. The act of listening to another, to hear their vulnerability, to reverence their story, is an act of mercy which restores dignity and draws the hearer and the teller into a sacred relationship.
This week (Mercy week) be attentive to the many ways people entrust their story to you and try to respond with compassion and mercy.