Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mercy and Justice

I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of mercy. I am working some of it out here, and I'd really like to hear what others think and have to say about it.

In light of the Gosnell trial many of my friends have been posting on Facebook about mercy, saying that to hope he receives the death penalty is vengeful, and that the pro-life movement needs to take the higher ground.

This is good. Mercy is good, the higher ground is good, speaking against hatefulness is good. 

But it has also been bothering me. Because mercy is not the opposite of vengeance; justice is the opposite of vengeance. And mercy cannot be defined in relationship to vengeance, but only in relationship to justice. To say someone should be shown mercy implies that they have done something wrong, and thus that they stand in debt to justice.

So. What is mercy not? Mercy is not simply an aversion to violence. It does not absolve a person of the responsibility to look their sin in the face and acknowledge what they've done, because that is the opposite of justice.

What is mercy? I am perhaps incapable of answering that question very thoroughly, but I have come to two conclusions. 1) Again, we can only understand mercy in relationship to justice, and 2) we must understand that mercy has a specific goal. If a "merciful" action denies what is just or goes against what should be it's ultimate goal, it is a false mercy and harmful to all parties involved. 

If you ask that Gosnell be shown mercy by not receiving the death penalty, the implication is that it would be just for him to die for his crimes. Because again, the opposite of mercy is not vengeance. If Gosnell's death sentence was motivated purely by vengeance, arguing for his life would be an act of justice, not mercy. To be up front: I am not arguing for Gosnell's death, but I do believe that it would be just, considering that magnitude of evil he has committed. I also believe many people desire his death out of vengeance. That is wrong, although it isn't hard to understand; it's something we have to guard against in ourselves. But if Gosnell is sentenced to death, I don't think we can simply label that "vengeance" or "hatefulness." Would that it were so simple.

The reason that this is so important is because I think mercy is in danger of being misunderstood. This is very dangerous for many reasons, but primarily because mercy has a very definite purpose. It is meant to accomplish what is truly and actually best for the person who is being shown mercy. Acting as though someone hasn't committed horrible and hateful crimes is not good for that person; it is the worst thing you can do for them. In other words, Gosnell must be punished and his punishment must matter, for his own sake

Even if you don't believe in heaven and hell, I think you can agree that if Gosnell cannot see the evil of his actions he is either extremely ill or simply a depraved man. Both of these things are harmful to his personhood. True mercy aims to heal the illness--and/or to correct the evil in his soul. 

Personally, if I imagine myself in such a position, I can see myself being much more motivated to repent of my actions if I knew I was going to die and face eternity in a matter of weeks or months. And perhaps being sentenced to death is the only tangible way that some people will be brought face to face with the enormity of what they've done. 

But, I can also imagine this:

An act of pardon that demonstrates, in a real and tangible way, that the door of forgiveness is always open. And perhaps, knowing that, something takes root in the heart of a criminal and can grow into repentance.

Looking at mercy from a theological standpoint, I think of how each of us deserves Hell for our sins. And yet when we are sorry for them, when we repent, we are forgiven. 


Even more so: Christ died for us before we even had the desire or ability to repent. It is His Mercy which even puts such a thought into our hearts, long before we are worthy of it. Mercy precedes repentance, but repentance is its goal. And repentance can only come from a recognition of what we have done, and what we deserve--of justice! 

We are called to be witness for Life in a society that disrespects it. This may indeed mean arguing for Gosnell's life, but just as importantly it means fighting to be sure that his actions are recognized as evil. Perhaps others are more open to grace than I am, but I personally find these two strands very difficult to hold together and find it requires continual struggle.

In case it's unclear, I am NOT arguing that Gosnell should receive the death penalty. Thankfully that choice does not rest on my shoulders. But I believe it is more important to pray for his soul than anything, anything else, even his life. And that it is vitally important we understand what mercy really means.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Serious Case of the Blahs

Lately I have felt just drained. Hard to wake up, some small energy in the middle of the day (so long as I can motivate myself to move around and do things), and then I'm usually ready to go to bed at 8 with Michael. (Or else sit on the couch and space out until I fall asleep.)

Mental and physical energy are very closely tied for me, hence the spacing. I haven't even been doing much knitting, and--this is kind of funny--I've been avoiding my online addiction. Pinterest, because for some reason the thought of "catching up" on it exhausts me.

I need to drink more and eat better and get outside. Especially now that the sun is out. And get more sleep, which now that Michael is feeling better is starting to happen.

In the meantime it's hard to get things on my "long term" to-do list done. For example, a girl I taught last year just emailed me reminding me I promised (a year ago) to give her feedback on her novel. I feel  badly; this is the second time she's reminded me. And I haven't forgotten, truly I haven't. In fact, I read her novel and made notes on it, but they are on my Kindle. It was long enough ago that I know I should reread it before typing them up for her; and that (the rereading, the typing up) seems like a ginormous task right now. Way too much thinking involved. Hopefully I'll get it done within the next two weeks.

Thank you for your continued prayers for my cousin. He is essentially bleeding to death internally, and the buildup of old, black blood has been gushing out, and now his blood pressure is severely dropping. My parents are heading across the state today so that they can say goodbye. It's hard to comprehend that the next time I see him he will be gone. I imagine the Lord will be taking him home today or tomorrow, so please do pray for his soul and for the consolation of his family.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

(almost) 100 hexipuffs

Linking up with Ginny for her fabulous yarn along!

Baby knitting has stalled. I still haven't found the yarn for Maximilian's sleeves, unfortunately. As for the other sweater, both sleeves are finished and joined, and I am knitting the yoke, but right now I'm just not feeling it. In fact, I haven't felt inclined to knit much at all lately. Or really do anything in the evenings except sit and stare at the wall. Bleah.

But I have managed to knit a few puffs. Especially since I discovered a group on Ravelry devoted to trading and selling mini skeins ... *cough* I had hoped to have 100 hexipuffs to show you today, but alas, I only have 98. Which seems a kind of anticlimactic number. But oh well.

Playing with hexipuffs seems like a legitimate way to spend naptime, don't you think? ;) I tried out a "flower garden" arrangement, but I don't think I'll go with this ultimately. I just don't have enough puffs of the same color. As you can tell from some of the very scrappy looking "flowers." Heh. 

My goal for this month is 15. I've knit 8 so far. I don't know when I'll be done or what "done" even means ... I don't think I'm making this for our bed (which would entail knitting 800+ puffs ... yikes!), so maybe the twin guest bed (that's currently in storage in my father-in-law's basement)? To throw over a couch? Or a window seat, if we happen to get a house with a window seat? (I really like that last idea, but we'd need a window seat first. :-P )

I'm reading Best American Short Stories 2012. March was a slow reading month, but I'm picking back up again.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Prayer Request

Dear friends,

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook may remember me asking for prayers for my cousin, Jason, a month or two ago. He was in a high speed car accident (not his fault) that left him in a coma. It's been a rough time of ups and downs since then, but it seems he is going to die within the next week.

He my aunt and uncle's only child. He is the oldest of the cousins on my mother's side of the family. He is young--only in his thirties. He has a toddler son and an unborn child. He and his wife were married mere months before the accident; and she has since received some news which I don't feel comfortable revealing on my blog but which makes this time so, so much more difficult for her. So please, pray for her, for him, for his children, his parents, his family.

Thank you so much in advance.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Baby Knitting Woes

I am so happy to be able to join up with Ginny this week for another yarn along! The past week and a half have been consumed by baby knitting.

The brighter green is a Sunnyside cardigan for my nephew/godson, Maximilian Kolbe. (Can you refer to a baby as your godson before he's baptized?) I knew I wanted to knit him something and found a skein of this yarn waiting in my stash. My cousin has big babies, and I was afraid he'd outgrow it before he got a chance to wear it later this year, so with a little nail-biting I cast on for the 12-18 month size. According to the pattern I don't have enough yarn, but according to other people's Ravelry notes, I do. So we'll see how long the sleeves end up being ... if they end up being at all. (More on this in a moment.)

Anyway, I started knitting happily away and was a good bit in when I realized I'd forgotten the first buttonhole. Whatever, I thought. It's just one buttonhole at the very top. I am not knitting back. Who ever buttons their cardigans all the way up to the very top, anyway? (I am a perfectionist but I am also lazy. I've gotten used to embracing things as "design elements.")

Well, I can't say that I believe in karma, but after reaching the bottom and binding off I realized that I had managed to forget to make the last three buttonholes. Now, if this was a little girl's cardigan, I might be able to rationalize this as another "design element" (see "Maile," below). But it's not, and I can't. So I will be ripping this out and reknitting once I finish the sleeves.

Oh yes. The sleeves. I bound off while my mother-in-law was visiting for Easter--so last Monday? Tuesday? I set the cardigan, the needles, and the yarn in my knitting basket. Two days ago I went to retrieve them. I found the needles, I found the cardigan ... I did not find the yarn. I have literally torn apart my living room looking for it, so it must be somewhere else. But that makes NO SENSE. I put in my basket; I did not bring my basket anywhere else! I am terrified I won't find this yarn and will have to go buy more and knit something else for Max from scratch. Sigh. We'll see; hopefully St. Anthony will pull through for me on this one!

The lighter green is the sleeve of a Maile cardigan for another friend's baby. Although my gauge is off a bit, so far it is going better than poor Max's cardigan.

The book is Pillars of Gold by Alice Thomas Ellis, and I'm afraid that after this book I've exhausted our library system's supply of  her books, which is depressing. Unfortunately her books are also mostly out of print (although surprisingly this one is available as a Kindle edition), so buying them can get a bit expensive; but I guess a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

birthday crown

I loosely followed this tutorial, using the instructions but not the pattern and a ribbon instead of elastic. (I also skipped the interfacing, although I'd bought some.) I had visions of sewing on felt leaves, but I realized that the crown pictured in the tutorial looked quite nice with its simple squares, so I imitated it.

A third of the time making this was spent setting up and then trying to figure out the darn sewing machine. (Stitch selection doesn't work the way the instructions tell you, apparently! Or maybe I was just reading them wrong.)

Also, I can't sew in a straight line.

But that's okay. I'm still pretty happy about this. We'll see if he actually cooperates and wears it. :)

Friday, April 5, 2013


1. Easter was lovely. My mother-in-law came out to visit, and my family joined us for dinner. There was lamb and Italian Easter pie and yes, chocolate. ;) (Please tell me I'm not the only one who finds myself thinking things like "Oh my gosh, I have to hurry up and eat all this so it will stop tempting me" ...?? Because that makes lots of sense, right?) I'm afraid I didn't take any pictures, but Michael had his first Easter basket (complete with a St. Michael softie!) and Keith "hid" his eggs around the living room--he actually found a few himself!

2. There is something that's just different about these feasts as as mother. It felt a bit odd in some ways because I was preparing for Easter during Holy Week. But it's a good kind of different; I think having children helps you enter into the spirit of the liturgical season. Even if it makes it harder to pay attention at Mass. :-P

3. I solicited opinions on Facebook but I will also solicit them here ... I am trying to decide whether to knit myself an Ink or a French Braid cardigan. I love them both. I think I like the look of Ink a bit more, but I like that French Braid is knitted in a heavier weight yarn. Any opinions?

4. Still no mobility, still no teeth ... I really do think Michael's decided he wants to remain a baby indefinitely. ;) Honestly, I'm not worried; but I do wish people would stop saying some version of "When he DOES start moving, you'll be sorry ...!" Believe me, I know that keeping up with a mobile little guy will be a lot of work, but seeing as he's practically a year old, I think I'm ready to deal with it!

5. Oh my gosh. Michael is going to be one year old. In ten days! I have so much I want to do before then--I want to write his birth story (which you all will probably be subjected to ;) ), get his baby photo album together, make him a birthday crown ... we'll see how realistic those goals are.

6. One area he has been REALLY growing in lately is his verbal skills. I keep finding new words that he understands. Mama, Papa, and milk, of course; but also ball, puffs, microwave (haha), kick, Jesus (well, he knows that the crucifix and Sacred Heart are both Jesus), "can I have ____," monkey (and relatedly, "oo-oo-oo") and more I'm sure I've forgotten. He can say Mama and Papa when he wants to, although he can only say Papa correctly if he whispers; most of the time he calls Keith "Bap." Which is really cute. :) And sometimes when we ask him to say Mama or Papa, he says the opposite, with enough frequency that we're pretty sure it's something he does on purpose. Is this a glimpse of his personality? Hehe.

7. In any case, he is definitely going to be a kid you need to be VERY careful what you say around. He imitates words all the time. He tries to say good and hello, and once he even tried to say Jesus, which was too cute. (It came out sort of as "shoosh," haha.) He also loves to imitate the dog downstairs when it barks; he growls at his stuffed bears; he loves to have coughing "conversations" with us and imitates our sneezes. Some of the inanimate noises he's imitated are the turn signal in the car, an aerosol can, and Keith clipping his toenails.

I guess a lot of babies do these kind of things, but obviously my baby does them most adorably. ;)

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