Hank Shea, Former U.S. Attorney and one of the country’s most effective white-collar crime prosecutors, stood at the podium in front of a crowd of eager young professionals last Thursday. Far from the Law & Order-esque stoned-face stature a criminal prosecutor may carry, Shea stood in a posture of humility and spoke with fervent conviction, as someone who had experienced a lot over the years.
“I didn’t always show the most mercy at my job,” Shea admitted. But two key events led him to see his role as prosecutor and Law School professor in light of the Catholic faith. Shea’s loss of his wife and his father helped him to reorient this life and his goals and helped remind him of what’s truly important. Both losses brought Shea to his knees in prayer, where he asked the Lord for strength and courage to honor Him and to continue to do His will in tough times.
Act as if everything depends on you and pray as if everything depends on God.
“Life is full of ups and downs,” Shea pointed out, “But a piece of advice I always carried with me was to act as if everything depends on you and pray as if everything depends on God.” The place where Shea’s faith blossomed was in discovering his role in providing mercy to those he was prosecuting. Shea dealt with criminal cases from mortgage fraud to human trafficking. “I learned to forgive and love the sinner, and hate the sin,” he said.
As I was listening to Shea speak, the word “mercy” rang out in my mind. I remembered that just before Shea took the podium, Archbishop Bernard Hebda had led us in Eucharistic Adoration and evening prayer, and had brought to light the same topic of mercy. “God never tires of giving us mercy,” Hebda reflected. “It is us who tire of asking for it.”
Furthermore, Pope Francis announced this next year as an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy, to highlight the Church’s “mission to be a witness of mercy.” Whether you’re a criminal prosecutor, the Archbishop, the Pope, or a faithful young professional, as Pope Francis declared, “No one can be excluded from God’s mercy.”
A life of service is not about succeeding, but about trying.
Perhaps Shea said it best when he explained what mercy looks like practically lived out: “Success in life is about how you’ve served others,” he said. “A life of service is not about succeeding, but about trying.” Serving others can clearly be seen by the examples of Shea, Archbishop Hebda, and Pope Francis, who show compassion for the sinner, realizing that they themselves are in need of God’s mercy as well.
This week, let us think about God’s mercy, and whether we are letting it transform our lives and the lives of those around us. How can we better show mercy to others?
- Angela Deeney
“God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). … Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.”
— Pope Francis, Easter Urbi et Orbi message on March 31, 2013