I am sitting out at Mount St. Francis in Cochrane at a weekend silent retreat.
This was much needed after the kids and grandkids came home for Christmas – Christmas dinner was 23 people and Boxing Day was 40. I’m reading about my favourite saint, St. Joseph, and enjoying the quiet and slow pace. The retreat is focused on the mercy of God, which I have been reflecting on a lot recently.
Many of you know I work as a police officer with youth at risk and have been doing this work for almost eight years. In mid-November, one of the young men I work with was murdered by three other young men that I knew along the way. The young man I was working with was not the intended target but was gone just the same. I tried to comfort myself and my co-workers that God was merciful and I prayed that he was calling out to God in his last moments. I was visiting his mother a few days later when CTV stopped by to do an interview. What his mother said floored me as she forgave the three young men who killed her son. She said Canada is a new beginning from her homeland in Sudan and they don’t want the violence here as it is a peaceful country.
What a testimony to mercy – something we all struggle with.
Three weeks after this murder, another of the young men I work with was murdered. He had been sitting in my office just days before. He too was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was very much a bright light wherever he went. He had worked off several community hours both at my parish and at our annual God Squad conference last year. He was Muslim but very open to discussing faith. At a marriage renewal conference and again at our conference, I suggested he stay downstairs working during Mass, only to turn around and see him at the back of the church. It hit very hard when I got the news that he was dead as I was walking into my son’s play at St. Francis High School.
God was merciful to me as I watched all these young people singing and dancing the play of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. God did not allow me to fall into despair by watching these joy-filled young people entertaining us. Once again I was praying that God have mercy on his soul as I went through the next few days.
This brings me back to sitting at Mount St. Francis on retreat trying to make sense of God’s will in my life with all that has transpired. During this time, they were offering the sacrament of reconciliation and my thought process was I had gone just over a month ago and we have two dynamic priests at our parish, I will wait to go see them. Then I got thinking about St John Paul II who frequented the Sacrament of Confession on a weekly basis and had said: “”We live in a society that seems to have lost the sense of God and of sin. Christ’s invitation to conversion is all the more urgent.”
I was also reflecting on what I was reading on how St. Joseph was the reflection of God The Father to Jesus as a youth and how much I had failed to do this in my own life. Here I was sitting across the hallway from Christ in the person of a priest who was offering me mercy and I was thinking I’ll go later. I immediately got up and crossed the hall and availed myself of the mercy of Christ in confession. It does not matter how dynamic, young or old, race or culture the priest is in the confessional, for he is there in persona Christi – in the person of Christ.
This helps me pray with a clear heart for the souls of the two young men that God have mercy on them and allow them to enter into his rest. St. Augustine said: “It is thanks to the medicine of confession that the experience of sin does not degenerate into despair.”
Join us at our conference March 17-18 at St. Mary’s Cathedral where every year we are blessed to have a number of priests join us to offer the sacrament of reconciliation.