The first Roman Catholic holy year organized by Pope Boniface VIII for the city of Rome in 1300 became a tradition that has been passed down to this day. Following in the footsteps of Pope Boniface, Pope Francis will formally proclaim the Year of Mercy today in front of the Holy Door. From December 8, 2015, to November 20, 2016, this Holy Year offers an opportunity for Catholics to grow spiritually.
Pope Francis’ decision to proclaim a year of mercy was influenced by his own faith journey and experience with the Lord’s mercy. He has often narrated this story, but on one occasion he spoke with affiliates of the Catholic lay movements about the importance of growing up Catholic (CNS). He said:
“One day in particular, though, was very important to me: Sept. 21, 1953. I was almost 17. It was ‘Students’ Day,’ for us the first day of spring — for you the first day of autumn. Before going to the celebration I passed through the parish I normally attended, I found a priest that I did not know and I felt the need to go to confession. For me this was an experience of encounter: I found that someone was waiting for me. Yet I do not know what happened, I can’t remember, I do not know why that particular priest was there whom I did not know, or why I felt this desire to confess, but the truth is that someone was waiting for me. He had been waiting for me for some time. After making my confession I felt something had changed. I was not the same. I had heard something like a voice, or a call. I was convinced that I should become a priest”.
Pope Francis frequently reminds us that God is waiting for us in confession with open arms. This Sunday, widely known as Divine Mercy Sunday, is an opportunity for us to benefit from this beautiful sacrament of reconciliation.
Attending the sacrament of confession is an opportunity to meet the merciful God who is always ready to forgive those that seek him. The one who once gave himself in mercy for us, holds nothing back, in the sacrament of divine mercy. It helps us also to extend a hand of mercy to others just as God has been merciful to us. God’s mercy is shown when we are close to those who are suffering or when someone helps us in our difficulties.
Today, the news is filled with illustrations of the need for mercy in our world. It reminds me that I am not to condemn but instead to extend a hand of mercy just as Jesus was merciful to the Samaritan woman in the gospel of John. From this story, we see how an act of mercy can have the power to change a life, to give hope to those who feel lost and forgotten. In this story Jesus reminds us that love and mercy are related. To be merciful is a way of showing love.
Everyday is a day of mercy. Every day is day where we can extend a hand to someone in need.
Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium: “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.”
-Lisa Dzikowski, Marketing and Sales Assistant
In The Church of Mercy, readers get a first-hand look at Pope Francis’ vision of the good news of Christian hope and mercy. To view this book, click here.