This past Tuesday, The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, was the official opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It runs till Nov. 20, 2016, The Feast of Christ the King. So we are now in the official Year of Mercy.
We anticipated the Year a bit by having a Parish Mission on Mercy, given by Paulist Fr. Frank Desiderio, CSP, Nov. 7–11. It was well attended and well done. Fr Desiderio defined mercy as “having a heart for the poor”. He demonstrated this very well with stories and incidents from the life of Pope Francis. He indeed has a heart for the poor.
It is important that we participate in and celebrate the Year of Mercy not only as individuals, but even more importantly as a parish community. How are we as St Austin Parish called to observe the Year of Mercy? Well, I am not entirely sure. The Parish Pastoral Council is pondering this issue. If you have specific ideas, feel free to share them with me, or one of the members of the Parish Pastoral Staff, or with the Parish Pastoral Council. The Holy Spirit (I believe) is at work throughout our parish, and we should be open to any inspiration that comes to us.
For me “mercy” is much more than just forgiving those who offend us, though that is central. By defining mercy as “having a heart for the poor,” we open ourselves to a much more proactive stance of mercy. We already do many things to help the poor here (the Christmas Basket program this coming Saturday being one of the clearest examples).
I hope, in the new year, to write an occasional series of bulletin columns on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
I would like to have a mini “film festival” to show some movies that contain the theme of mercy and that would stimulate discussion about mercy. If you know of a good film for this send me an email.
Perhaps we could have a book discussion on a book that raises issues of mercy. Or have some speaker come and talk to us about forgiveness, especially from a personal point of view. Maybe the artistic members of our community would put on a show of original works of art on the theme of mercy. The parish’s Christ Renews His Parish community is working on a retreat for women that will include the theme of mercy. I would like to have another parish mission at the end of the year of mercy to mark its close. And I am sure that there are other ways that we could examine and be touched by the themes of mercy. It is pretty broad.
With creativity and spirit we should be able to make the Year of Mercy both memorable and spiritually profitable for us and our neighbors.