One of the words Pope Francis uses over and over again is mercy. Every time I see a reference to his book The Church of Mercy, Peter Gabriel’s haunting song “Mercy Street: For Anne Sexton” starts playing in my head.
The imagery in the music video makes clear the connection to Anne Sexton’s poem, “45 Mercy Street” as well as her posthumous collection of poetry, The Awful Rowing Toward God: “I’m mooring my rowboat / at the dock of the island called God” (“Here Endeth the Rowing”).
Sexton’s life ended in suicide. She was searching all her life and tragically she never found the peace she was seeking. But perhaps the seeking itself carried its own grace.
Thomas Merton, in The Sign of Jonas, refers to God as “mercy within mercy, within mercy.” I first heard this quote in a book about a woman who struggled with terrible depression after a miscarriage. We like to think that faith is all about the joy of believing we’re saved, believing we’re loved. But the reality is that the deepest faith knows what it is to struggle in darkness, to reach out to the hand that we know is our last chance.
Pope Francis writes in “The Joy of the Gospel”:
“How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.”
A church of mercy reaches out to those who most need that sign of God’s loving mercy.