Yesterday, Pope Francis closed the Holy Door of Mercy at St. Peter’s Basilica marking the end to the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began last December. He reminded us, “Even if the Holy Door closes, the true door of mercy, which is the heart of Christ, always remains open for us.”
Shelter is one of our most critical needs. In many ways, it serves as the foundation, or the building block, of our survival. Often, we hear people ask questions of the homeless, such as “Why don’t they just get a job?” or criticisms like, “If they had worked harder, they wouldn’t be in this situation.” One thing we must remember is that without the foundation of shelter, stability crumbles, and the goals that we strive for seem increasingly more out of reach.
During the month of November, we remember in a special way those loved ones who have passed into eternal life. Beginning with the celebration of All Saints on November 1, and continuing with the commemoration of All Souls on November 2, the month begins with an intensification of our prayers for the dead, our prayers that the dead may be reborn into eternal life. To pray for the living and the dead is one of the spiritual works of mercy.
“Because God has chosen to call our sister from this life to himself, we commit her body to the earth, for we are dust and to dust we shall return. But the Lord Jesus Christ will change our mortal bodies to be like his in glory, for he is risen, the firstborn from the dead. So let us commend our sister to the Lord, that the Lord may embrace her in peace and raise up her body on the last day.” (Prayer of Committal of the body, Order of Christian Funerals)
As adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse by clergy, we want to live full and complete lives, integrating the childhood trauma we experienced into the lives we have constructed. In reconciling ourselves to the tragic consequences of our painful past and reflecting on how they affect us today, we know God’s grace and mercy can manifest itself in many ways.
“... [D]uring the Christian journey, the journey the Lord has invited us to undertake, there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future”.
How often are we facing situations where we are not sure what is best for us? I found myself in that situation some years ago. I was discerning between the vocations of marriage and priesthood. I had spent years in the seminary, and I was taking a break from it. I was now in a stable relationship with my girlfriend.
The first spiritual work of mercy, to “admonish/convert” the sinner, can be challenging at times to understand. This spiritual work finds its roots in both the Old and the New Testaments.
While parents are settling their children back at school this month, the topic of education, learning, and knowledge move front and center. This time of year calls to mind one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, Instruct the Ignorant.
The sacred Scriptures make abundantly clear that the poor hold a special place in God’s heart. In fact, Jesus starts his public ministry by proclaiming that the Lord “has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Luke 4:18). In the final judgment discourse, Jesus goes even further, declaring, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Clearly as Christians, we are called to be in right relationship with those experiencing poverty, be it economically, spiritually, or physically. The challenge for us all is how we practice solidarity in a world that constantly casts the poor aside, often making them invisible.
These past few weeks, I have been in several meetings with different groups, concerning a variety of topics, and an odd thing keeps happening. A common theme keeps surfacing from different voices: “how can I be a good neighbor?”
This special Jubilee of Mercy calls us to reflect on the reality of God’s love for us. Perhaps the most difficult facet of this love and mercy is that we must accept it. It is not enough that we have received the mercy of God—we must choose to say “yes” to it so that God’s mercy might change and transform us. Living out this reality of God’s love and mercy for us can sometimes be challenging, especially when life gets busy. The Office for the New Evangelization’s intern, Emily Sullivan, has created 5 Strategies for staying connected to God’s mercy:
Last February, Archbishop Cupich laid out a dynamic pastoral vision for the Archdiocese of Chicago, which he called Renew My Church. You can read about it here. Rather than being simply an initiative, one among many things that the Archdiocese will do in a given time period, this Renew My Church vision, and its pastoral planning process, is fundamental to who we are as the local Church here in Chicago. It concerns not just a set of actions or strategies taken in isolation and checked off a list when completed, but it also lays down a fundamental and comprehensive approach to living as communities of missionary disciples united to Christ and to each other.
Some time ago, one of our professors at Mundelein Seminary asked us to write a short paper. We were supposed to explain, in the simplest possible way, what liturgy is. After a short meditation, I recalled a metaphor that the famous French theologian, Jean Corbon, used in his book “The Wellspring of Worship.” He compared liturgy to the stream that was described in the book of the Prophet Ezekiel: “I saw water flowing out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east… Along each bank of the river every kind of fruit tree will grow; their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail” (Ezekiel 47, 1. 12). The stream that Ezekiel pictures both heals and gives life. What is even more important is that the stream has its beginning at the Temple.
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ MT (25:34-40)
Maria and John had been married for over 25 years. As a couple, they were very well known and actively involved in ministries at their parish. Maria felt respected and admired until the truth was revealed. John’s long hours at work and his constant traveling were an indication of marital problems. John left Maria with three kids between the ages of 17 to 21. There was no turning back. The life she had known was crumbling in front of her while she was paralyzed by the news.
This past Friday on April 22, we celebrated Earth Day. It’s easy to imagine tree huggers throughout the globe, planting community gardens, promoting all that is eco-friendly for the earth. One could view this day as a joyous celebration of caring for our creation and participating in fun activities that illustrate just that.
While preparing for the Jubilee Year of Mercy I was reflecting on the corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the sick, ransom the captive (also called visit the imprisoned) and bury the dead. Most of the corporal works seem pretty straight forward – you can feed the hungry by volunteering at the soup kitchen or you can clothe the naked by donating unused clothes to a shelter. But what does ransom the captives look like?
Just recently, I decided to return to the gym after years of doing pretty much nothing at all, in a physical sense.
The first efforts to establish the Divine Mercy in the Catholic Church were undertaken by Blessed Michael Sopocko, confessor and confidant of St. Faustina Kowalska. He had been promoting this worship since 1935 in the churches of Vilnius, present-day Lithuania. In 1946, the Polish Bishops' Conference, led by Cardinal Augustus Hlond, sent a petition to the Vatican to establish the Feast of Divine Mercy on the first Sunday after Easter. However, after 11 years, in 1957, the Vatican commissioned a group to examine the development of the devotion to the Divine Mercy. During the canonization of Sister Faustina in 2000, John Paul II proclaimed the second Sunday of Easter as the Feast of Divine Mercy for the whole Church. It is worth noting that the Church beatified John Paul II on the Feast of Divine Mercy in 2011, and proclaimed him a saint, alongside of John XXIII, on the Feast of Divine Mercy in 2014.
I always mess my life up. At least…that’s what I tell myself when I pour myself a full bowl of cereal in the morning only to realize later on that I’m out of milk. As dramatic as that sounds, that thought does go a bit deeper than my humble attempt at humor may suggest. The stability of my life always takes a stiff hit to the jaw whenever I deny relationship with the one I should be closest to: Jesus Christ. In Christ, we are given many gifts. One huge gift in particular is being renewed by God’s mercy. Pope Francis describes God’s mercy as “an abyss beyond our comprehension.”1 Just reading that quote sends chills throughout my body. I regularly ask myself how can we be asked to entrust ourselves to God’s mercy, but not be able to fully understand it? Below, you will find stories of my attempts at understanding God’s mercy.
As a church musician, I’ve had the privilege and responsibility of walking with people during the very high and very low points of their lives. Like many others in music ministry, I’ve planned weddings and funerals, sacramental celebrations, and other liturgies marking life’s most momentous occasions. Sometimes this planning is filled with faith, hope, and joy; and sometimes it’s very challenging, both to me and to those individuals and families involved in the planning. Although funerals, weddings, and other celebrations can be challenging pastorally, these are the moments when our pastoral skills are absolutely needed most. People come to the church for these liturgies and sacraments for a variety of reasons. Our care and attention in helping them make the best choices in music and liturgy for these celebrations can be a make-or-break religious moment for many people. In these moments, we can either invite them further into the life of the church or drive them away by our pastoral inattention and demeanor. It’s a huge responsibility but also very fulfilling ministerial work.
March 8 is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate the social, cultural, and political accomplishments of women while reflecting upon the work that still needs to happen in order to increase equality, participation, and empowerment of women across the globe. On this day last year, Pope Francis shared a special greeting for all women who seek to build a more humane and welcoming society: “A world where women are marginalized is a barren world because women not only bear life; they also give us the ability to see beyond. They see beyond themselves, they give us the ability to understand the world with different eyes, to sense and feel things with a more creative, patient and tender heart.”
I was blessed to be able to travel last week to Kraków, Poland in preparation for World Youth Day 2016. Our Familiarization trip took us to the beautiful city that has history and architecture that inspired us, both in our civic and faith lives. We also visited pilgrimage sites like Wadowice, Saint John Paul II’s home town; Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, the Polish monastery and convent meant to bring the Holy Land to those who cannot travel there; and the Divine Mercy Shrine, where Sister Faustina lived and committed the work of her community to the Divine Mercy devotion.
Although I did not know it at the time, my struggle against injustice began the day my little sister entered school for the first time. Julia, who is deaf and has other learning and motor disabilities, went in on the first day excited to learn, but left that same day crushed because she did not understand what was going on. My family learned later that the school had only hired one interpreter who had to be shared with another student for half of the day.
I grew up in the United States, but also lived in Mexico, Guatemala and Europe. These cross-cultural experiences have formed me, and I often find myself ‘homesick’ for the unique intercultural encounters I used to have every day. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) gives me the opportunity to encounter people from around the world every day, and carry them with me even though I’m not able to go overseas to meet them in person.
That's the beginning of one of the most well-known phrases from one of the most popular European fairy tales. The Evil Queen who utters this commanding question, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?” jealously guards her beauty and renown - and goes to great lengths to protect herself from ever being seen as second best. One gets the sense from this kind of reaction that something beyond a sense of her own beauty drives the queen's actions - it’s as if insecurity tears at her heart with dark claws. She sees herself in a particular way, and needs the magic mirror to somehow prove that self-understanding wrong.
“A father said to his son: Son, ‘be careful where you walk.’ The son responds: ‘you be careful… remember that I follow in your footsteps.’”