While the New Year is a month away, liturgically speaking, the New Year began this past Sunday with the beginning of Advent. At this time of year, I find myself reviewing the past year, searching myself and asking myself “ What changes do I need to address, which Saint is speaking to me/ calling me to develop a friendship over the next year and what goals (especially with my walk with my faith) do I have?”

Honestly, 2022 has been a difficult year filled with various challenges.

While it started off with high hopes and lofty goals for me and for Easter Pup Creations, I found myself distracted, inconsistent, overwhelmed and even discouraged and despondent at times. Life just has that way of throwing us unexpected curves and taking in us directions that we didn’t plan on. As a family, we faced Lizzy’s migraines getting progressively worse and numerous challenges in finding a neurologist that would see her, Donna being hospitalized for Kidney stones and sepsis and the seemingly unending battles with her insurance to get her the surgery she needed to address the kidney stones, the health challenges and needs of my elderly parents and helping them and the various health issues all of us faced throughout the year.

There have been financial challenges, sleepless nights, and challenges to the business along with cancelled markets either due to the previous mentioned challenges or to unruly weather, supply chain interruptions and even at times challenges to my faith. There were even times I found myself wanting to give up and withdraw into myself.

Yet, with all of these challenges came blessings.

Through these difficulties, I found myself growing closer to my family and clinging to faith with a deeper sense of urgency and reverence. I found great solace and guidance in the Sacraments, Adoration, praying the rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet, learning about various saints and seeking their intercession, learning more about my faith and seeking Jesus, diving into scripture and diving deeper into serving at my parish.
I admit that getting more involved presented its own challenges and opportunities. Last January, I was put on Pastoral Council and in May I was made an officer in my Knights of Columbus Council. In addition to this I worked on our parish’s Fall Festival Committee and was also Chairman of my Council’s Chili Cook-Off benefiting the American Wheelchair Mission. While wonderful opportunities, these also became quite time consuming. And at times I was overwhelmed.

These opportunities also forced me to closely examine my interactions with others and to broaden my view of things and become more open to others ideas and viewpoints.
It also forced me to learn to pace myself, take more time for myself and to occasionally say “NO”.I developed closer friendships while learning that it’s okay to care about people while at the same time distancing myself from toxic situations and relationships
As I mentioned, one of the things that helped me during difficult times was the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.”

That quote from the closing prayer of the chaplet stuck with me. Meditating on it soothed my soul and gave me strength. Praying the rosary along with the Divine Mercy Chaplet and spending time meditating on both led me to question “ Am I showing others mercy? Am I showing mercy to myself and more importantly accepting the mercy of Jesus?”

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the “Treasures of the Church” exhibit led by Father Carlos Martins, CC and hear his presentation along with being able to interact with over 150 relics of the Church and the Saints. I was deeply and profoundly moved and affected by the presentation, especially Father Martins’ presentation on St. Maria Goretti. Listening to her story, I felt as if someone reached into my chest and grabbed my heart. Her lesson of faith, mercy and forgiveness in spite of such a horrific and tragic attack forced me to further ponder mercy and forgiveness. If you’re unfamiliar with her story, please take a few moments and look her and her story up. You won’t be the same afterwards.

By forgiving others and myself, I have found forgiveness. By showing mercy, I have found mercy.

Yes, I’m still a flawed man subject to all of my failings, fears and insecurities but through the challenges and obstacles, I have grown not only as a man, but as a person of faith. I still have my goals and plans yet I am more confident than before because of the growth gained through the challenges over this past year. With the love and support of my family and my growing and deepening relationship with Jesus and Mary, I feel better equipped and prepared to pursue these goals and face the obstacles that I might face.
My simple and final thoughts: Be kind, show mercy and forgiveness. To others AND yourself and give your challenges, fears and successes to Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

But, what do I know; I’m just a simple rosary maker.

To learn more about The Treasures of the Church exhibit :