By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
A Year of Mercy lesson presented itself to me last week, but the lesson didn’t sink in until a few days later. “Colin wants you to call him,” my husband Steve said when I arrived home from work that Monday night.
I already knew about Colin’s far-from-perfect day in a program for adults with special needs and didn’t look forward to the phone call. Colin answered the phone positive and upbeat. Our conversation didn’t begin with details of the day, but eventually I asked how his day had been. “I had a good day, Mom,” he said. “Are you sure?” I asked. “Yes, it was a good day.” But it hadn’t been a good day and I asked if he could figure out what precipitated his inappropriate behavior. “I don’t know Mom,” he said. We talked awhile about positive coping skills, and said goodbye.
Two days later Colin had another rough day, which required a one-day suspension from his program. I felt angry and frustrated with my 29-year-old son. I pray every day for him to thrive and to be engaged in meaningful activities, and eventually a job. But I can’t control the choices he makes, some of which hinder his ability to reach his potential.
I didn’t want to call Colin that night, even though he wanted to talk to me again. I felt a persistent nudge, the quiet whisper from God, telling me that I needed to reconsider my emotions and reluctance to talk to Colin. I ignored the voice. Two days later, Steve and I attended a previously scheduled meeting to prepare for our son’s annual Individual Program Plan (IPP).
When I arrived at Colin’s apartment, his excitement at seeing me warmed my stony heart. His endearing personality, innocence and unintentionally humorous observations about life keep me from holding a grudge, thank God.
Crystal, the Department of Human Services supervisor in charge of the IPP, asked Colin if he’d like to have a job and what kind of work he’d like to do. He responded: “I’d like to do religious work with my mom and do yard work with my dad.” Who would have known?
We talked about the two bad days and what might have caused them, since he’d been doing so well in his program. Helen, who helps keep an eye on Colin and his roommate in their apartment, made an observation that clicked. “Sometimes Colin says something or does something before he has time to process his thoughts and feelings.” Of, course. I know that. But I am sometimes too close to see the forest from the trees.
All of us had missed some of the antecedents that boosted his anxiety and lowered his coping skills that week. The angry presidential election, a power outage, the death of the father of someone close to him, and my laryngitis, among other things, created a build-up of stressors.
That doesn’t excuse his behavior those two days last week, but provides me with a renewed perspective about what it’s like to walk in his shoes. “At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives,” Pope Francis wrote in “Misericordiae Vultus” for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
The Year of Mercy comes to a close this month. On Nov. 12, Bishop Martin Amos will celebrate the 4 p.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport in preparation for the closing of the holy doors on Nov. 13. Pope Francis will close the holy door at St. Peter’s Basilica the following Sunday, Nov. 20.
They’re not closing the doors on mercy, a gift that Colin and I will need to give each other the rest of our lives. “In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us,” Pope Francis said. “Pardoning offenses becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians, it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves.”
(Contact Barb Arland-Fye@