Let mercy overcome misery

Archbishop Aquila

It is the Year of Mercy, and people are starving for God’s mercy, even if they don’t recognize it. I was pleasantly surprised to see concrete evidence of this hunger at Mercy Chose Me, our archdiocesan conference on mercy.

Close to 500 people packed the parish hall at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Northglenn to learn about the role of mercy in the New Evangelization, our archdiocesan model of mercy Julia Greeley, how to incorporate mercy into one’s spirituality, and to discover opportunities to engage in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Lent, which we began on February 10, is a perfect time to practice the works of mercy and make them a regular part of our daily lives.

The hectic pace of our society makes it difficult to be merciful. It’s easier to pass by the suffering of others, to let our schedules carry us past encounters with others that would be a chance for healing and forgiveness to enter our lives and theirs.

A few months ago, someone approached me and suggested that we should hold a Eucharistic Procession around the Planned Parenthood campus in Stapleton. I told that person I would pray about it, and after I brought it before the Lord, it became clear that we should hold the procession.

The need for God’s mercy at Planned Parenthood or any abortion facility is enormous. The Colorado Department of Health reported that 10,648 children were killed by abortion in 2014 in our state. That means that over 21,000 parents – not to mention other family members – were wounded by the trauma of abortion.

If that many Coloradans lost their lives or were harmed by an infectious disease, I’m sure that the state and federal governments would assemble task forces, coordinate relief for the afflicted and spread awareness through the media. But because the suffering is quietly borne and the unborn are defenseless, the trauma experienced by parents, extended families and siblings goes untreated.

The Church does extraordinary things through our Archdiocesan Catholic Charities to help those who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation or who have made the tragic decision to abort their child. Lives have been changed forever through these works of mercy. No one is beyond God’s mercy.

I am inviting you to join me in carrying out a spiritual work of mercy on March 5 at the Planned Parenthood facility in Stapleton. On that day, beginning at 10:00 a.m., I will lead a Eucharistic Procession seven times around the campus, similar to what Joshua did around Jericho.

Truly experiencing the freedom of the Jubilee Year begins with each of us acknowledging that we are sinners in need of God’s mercy. Once we receive his mercy, then we are able to bring it to others. With that in mind, we will ask God as we process around Planned Parenthood to have mercy on all those who enter the abortion clinic, on those that work there, on all those impacted by the evil of abortion, and on our country. We will pray for their deliverance from the evil they participate in.

A wonderful way to prepare yourself to participate in this prayerful procession is to experience God’s mercy in the sacrament of Confession before attending. Then, ask the Lord to prepare your heart to be his agent of mercy in interceding for those involved in the sin of abortion.

God’s mercy conquered death when he rose from the dead. The mercy of the Father can overcome abortion, and all sin and evil, when we open our hearts to him. Let us pray for the conversion of all involved in abortion and the spread of God’s mercy throughout the world!

COMING UP: Local artists choose life in pro-life art show

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For someone who’s always been in love with art, it’s not surprising that Brett Lempe first encountered God through beauty. Lempe, a 25-year-old Colorado native, used his talent for art and new-found love of God to create a specifically pro-life art show after a planned show was cancelled because of Lempe’s pro-life views.

Lempe was “dried out with earthly things,” he said. “I was desperately craving God.”

Three years ago, while living in St. Louis, Mo., Lempe google searched for a church to visit and ended up at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

“I was captivated by the beauty of the 40 million mosaic tiles,” he said.

Lempe is not exaggerating. This Cathedral is home to 41.5 million tiles that make up different mosaics around the sanctuary. Witnessing the beauty of this church is what sparked his conversion, he said, and was his first major attraction towards Catholicism.

Lempe continued on to become Catholic, then quit his job several months after joining the Church to dedicate himself completely to art. Most of his work post-conversion is religious art.

Lempe planned to display a non-religious body of artwork at a venue for a month when his contact at the venue saw some of Lempe’s pro-life posts on Facebook. Although none of the artwork Lempe planned to display was explicitly pro-life or religious, the venue cancelled the show.

“I was a little bit shocked at first,” he said. “Something like me being against abortion or being pro-life would get a whole art show cancelled.”

Lempe decided to counter with his own art show, one that would be explicitly pro-life.

On Sept. 7, seven Catholic artists displayed work that gave life at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Denver.

“Catholicism lends itself to being life-giving,” Lempe said.

The show included a variety of work from traditional sacred art, icons, landscapes, to even dresses.

Students for Life co-hosted the event, and 10 percent of proceeds benefited the cause. Lauren Castillo, Development director and faith-based program director at Students for Life America gave the keynote presentation.

Castillo spoke about the need to be the one pro-life person in each circle of influence, with coworkers, neighbors, family, or friends. The reality of how many post-abortive women are already in our circles is big, she said.

“Your friend circle will get smaller,” Castillo said. “If one life is saved, it’s worth it.”

Pro-Life Across Mediums

Brett Lempe’s Luke 1:35

“This painting is the first half at an attempt of displaying the intensity and mystical elements of Luke 1:35,” Lempe said. “This work is influenced somewhat by Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ painting as I try to capture the moment when the “New Adam” is conceived by Our Blessed Mother.”

Claire Woodbury’s icon of Christ Pantokrator

“I was having a difficult time making that icon,” she said. “I was thinking it would become a disaster.”

She felt Jesus saying to her, “This is your way of comforting me. Is that not important?”

“Icons are very important to me,” she said. “I guess they’re important to Him too.”

Katherine Muser’s “Goodnight Kisses”

“Kids naturally recognize the beauty of a baby and they just cherish it,” Muser said of her drawing of her and her sister as children.

Brie Shulze’s Annunciation

“There is so much to unpack in the Annunciation,” Schulze said. “I wanted to unpack that life-giving yes that our Blessed Mother made on behalf of all humanity.”

“Her yes to uncertainty, to sacrifice, to isolation, to public shame and to every other suffering that she would endure is what allowed us to inherit eternal life.”

“Her fiat was not made in full knowledge of all that would happen, but in love and total surrender to the will of God.”

All photos by Makena Clawson