Our Own Mercy Street
Did PBS have a tip-off from the Vatican about the Jubilee Year of Mercy when its TV series “Mercy Street” went into production for this year?
Merciful, merciless… they’re all here, in these “inspired-by-history” episodes set in a Civil War hospital in Alexandria, Virginia.
My ears pricked up whenever the characters claimed mercy as their motive: for anesthesia during an amputation or for arms-smuggling to supposedly end the war faster. There’s plenty of opportunity for merciful forgiveness but not much practice of it.
We can all ask ourselves how we take those opportunities: To whom am I merciless? Maybe to myself?
Maybe it’s the grace of this year, or maybe a gift straight from Kathleen in heaven….
Kathleen and I collaborated in beginning the Company of St. Ursula in the USA. She died on February 19, 2008. Since she had no close relatives in this country, I had cared for her as my sister in her untimely final illness. At the moment of her death, I was in the kitchen grilling a cheese sandwich for my lunch. Returning to her bedside, I realized that she had breathed her last while I was in the next room. No matter how natural that was, no matter how attentive I had been, this absence has haunted me these eight years. Why had I not recognized the imminence of her death? Why was I doing something for myself? Merciless.
Last week (her anniversary) I was revisiting that moment. Suddenly I felt a wave of compassion for that woman who, despite the death-watch, may have harbored a shred of denial. I forgave her – that is, forgave myself.
And was grateful for God’s grace of mercy, wider and deeper and greater than my mercilessness.
And grilled a cheese sandwich for my lunch.