An Icon of Mercy

Today marks the ending of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. This year has been a very significant one in my life. This was the year that I came to understand the Lord's mercy as restoration and not condescension. This was the year that the Lord restored my sight to see who I truly am in the eyes of the Lord: a loved sinner, and a precious reflection of the image of God. This was the year that I became Sr. Josephine!

In my personal prayer last summer, as I prepared to enter novitiate, I experienced the Lord asking me to become an icon of His mercy. This was a very significant moment for me. I chose to take on a new name, a new identity, that reflects mercy. I chose the name Josephine in honor of St. Joseph, who is the only Saint who represents God the Father! He was the image of the Father's love for Jesus while He was a child growing up in Nazareth.

Before my retreat prior to entering novitiate, a sister passed along a quote to me from St. Gertrude, in which the saint spoke of the moment when she took the veil. She recalled the scripture passage from Isaiah 61:10:
"For He has clothed me with a robe of salvation,  
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,  
like a bride bedecked with her jewels. "
 As I prayed with this quote, I felt the very strong sense that the bridal veil that I was going to receive in a few days time was the Father's robe, his mantle of justice- a symbol of His mercy! It is the same robe that the Merciful Father extends to the prodigal son upon his return home (Luke 15:22).

That, my friends, is just what our habit is - a symbol of His mercy!

 St. Francis wanted his followers, above all, to be recognized as penitents. A group of his first followers asked him, "What should we say to people when they ask what we are?" Francis' response was, "Tell them you are penitents from Assisi."

In the middle ages, the Church asked many people who had committed serious sins, such as murder and adultery, to do penance in a public way before they could be fully received into the sacramental life of the Church again. These men and women, known as penitents, donned a gray tunic and lived simple and austere lives of chastity and poverty in reparation for their sins. Their penances would last several months or sometimes years.

In time, people who had not committed serious sins joined the penitential movement because they felt called to offer their lives and do penance in reparation for their own sins and for those of others. These new penitents dressed the same way and lived the same life as those who had committed more serious sins, and there were no distinctions between the two groups. St. Francis was one of these penitents, and his followers followed him in choosing to embrace a life of ongoing penance and conversion.

As a Franciscan Sister, I am choosing to live the life of a penitent. I am choosing to wear the veil and the gray jumper, not because I am holy but because I am a sinner. I am a sinner who knows that she is loved, and I want others to know the merciful love of God. I am choosing to be an icon of mercy for the Church and for the world.

Sr. Josephine,  Novice

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  1. Thank you sister for sharing your story!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story Sr. Josephine! God bless you and help you be a loving messenger of mercy.


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