Mercy: meaningful near and far

By The Beacon | February 2, 2016 2:51pm
Senior Kealey Johnson.

by Kealey Johnson |

Pope Francis has called for a year of mercy. When people hear that, they think of all of the acts of mercy, big and small, to perform. Last year, while studying abroad in France, I experienced true mercy.

Before I left for my big adventure, I thought of all of the possibilities that a semester in Europe would hold for me. I knew that I’d learn about different cultures and gain a new perspective on life, that I’d probably meet new friends and visit new countries. I thought of the worst case scenarios that could come out, and one of them was the off chance that I would lose someone I love and never get the chance to say goodbye to them.

About two weeks into my program in France, I found out that my grandmother was being admitted into hospice and probably wouldn’t make it much longer. I didn’t understand how this was possible — I had just spent Christmas with her and she seemed to be healthier than she had in awhile. The news crushed me and soon consumed all of my thoughts. I didn’t want it to be this way; I was supposed to be immersing myself in a new culture and instead, I was always rushing to find the nearest WiFi in case my parents had called.

On the morning of Feb. 5, I woke up to a call from my mom and I knew instantaneously what was on the other end of the line. My grandmother had passed away. And although she left this world in the same graceful way that she lived, it left me feeling so alone. I was so upset that I had to be in France and couldn’t be with my family in Montana, or even with my UP family. I didn’t feel close enough with anyone in my program to share what I was experiencing. What I didn’t know would come was the outpouring of love that I received from all around the world.

As soon as my best friend found out, she immediately Skyped me to offer her love and support in that most difficult time. I received texts and calls and felt love from people near and far. Thanks to modern technology and the most caring host mother, with an endless supply of tissues, I didn’t feel so alone anymore.

During this Jubilee Year, Pope Francis has called us to be “merciful like the father.” There are so many manifestations of this call to be merciful and it is so wonderful. When I was feeling the lowest of lows almost a year ago, it was because of the mercy of so many that I was able to pick myself up and actually enjoy my time abroad. Mercy is represented in so many ways and it’s easy to overlook. As Pope Francis has asked us to latch onto this concept, I think it is so important that we recognize how impactful even the smallest acts of mercy can be.


Kealey Johnson is a senior French studies major. She can be reached at