A man who failed every Lenten Season
(Saying the Chaplet of Mercy)
One day a few years ago, one of the retreatants here approached me and asked to see me. He looked somewhat distraught. As we sat down he told me how frustrated he was with himself over his weakness and inability to live out his resolution for Lent. “I have never had a good Lent,” he told me. I thought to myself, this might not be the best time to let him know that I am pretty much in the same boat as he is.
As he talked, I began to see a pattern in his life. He was just as demanding of others as he was with himself. He had paid a high price for this tendency. He had lost friendships, and his marriage was in trouble because his wife did not live up to her responsibilities as a wife. At least according to him. Everything about his marriage was about his wife, her problems and how she was responsible for the trouble they were having. It never occurred to him seemingly that his wife was just burned out with all of his desire to correct and control her.
I was a bit befuddled by this time, how to bring these two together.
So I brought up for his consideration that perhaps he treated his wife and was demanding towards her the way he was with himself, and just as unforgiving about it. He seemed startled by this. So I brought up what he said about his failures at keeping his Lenten resolve and his subsequent shame, and anger about it. Perhaps he was failing at Lent because if he was ‘successful’ he would be even more insufferable to be around.
“What? Was his response. Perhaps I said, “You need to embrace the reality of failure in how you live out your faith. To ‘miss, the mark’ is something experienced 7 times by the just man every day. Yet we continue the journey, for in reality there is no such thing as a truly just man. We can judge others harshly and most of the time we do not have the full story, hence the injunction not to judge. In your critical stance towards your wife, you place her in a position that is both very frustrating but also impossible. You demand from your wife, what you cannot do yourself. Your failings are not leading you to self-knowledge, nor to a deeper trust in God’s mercy for you and not only you but all. So, until you learn from what you struggle with and allow it to deepen your understanding of others, you will be stuck.”
He responded, “I still don’t see the connection”. So I said: “When we judge others, the reason it is so destructive is that we are also judging ourselves as well. I am talking about judging the worth or soul of another human being.” “How do I grow in understanding of what you are telling me”, he said.
So we talked about the nature of mercy, towards others as well as towards ourselves. Which flows from the mercy of God. He was Catholic, so we talked about forms of prayer, or devotions, which might help him to deepen his understanding of having compassion and mercy towards himself and others. So we talked about a Catholic devotion called “The Chaplet of Mercy”. It is a simple prayer and if said in a prayerful manner, can lead to healing on a deep level. In praying this chaplet with attention, what is happening is the one praying is placing before God all of mankind asking for mercy. In doing this, they are binging before Christ Jesus, all who have hurt, betrayed, or abused them in any way. It is asking for mercy for the one saying the chaplet and leaving no other human being out of this beautiful prayer lifting up humanity into the depths of God’s merciful love for all. It is often said for the dying.
These are the three central prayers of the chaplet, said with rosary beads.
1. Eternal Father, I offer unto you, the most precious body and blood, soul and divinity, of your beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and for those of the whole world. (Said on the Our Father bead)
2. For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. (Said on the Hail Mary beads)
3. At the end of the chaplet this prayer is said three times: Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Many people rush through prayers like this. I guess it is ok, yet to say the prayers slowly and with focus, can lead one deeply into the very heart of the Trinity, who wills that all be saved. We unite our will with the will of God when saying this prayer. In saying the Chaplet slowly, it is not necessary to say the whole five decades, but to simply be present, relaxed, and to allow the feeling of the beads to keep one present to the moment. Each person will say the chaplet differently in how the heart prays it, yet it is a beautiful healing prayer for all, and for those of us who struggle with forgiving others, this is a good prayer to bring us to the point where we put on the Mind and Heart of Christ Jesus.