Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
Pope Francis called for “an extraordinary jubilee, a Holy Year of Mercy”, which began on December 8, 2015. He desired that this Jubilee Year would be steeped in mercy, and be an extraordinary time of grace, so that we could go out to every man, woman, and child, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God. The Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to a close on November 20, 2016. This date does not end mercy itself, just the extraordinary jubilee year.
My local church, as many Catholic churches around the world, has been observing this Year of Mercy to recall God’s merciful actions and to draw us all back into right relationship with God and our neighbors. These are some of our prayers and practices.
We concluded daily Mass with Pope Francis’ Prayer for the Year of Mercy:
Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees God.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power
above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm,
may bring liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind. Amen.
Pilgrimage to the Holy Door
There is a door in the Vatican that remains sealed except during a jubilee year. It was opened last December and became a Door of Mercy when Pope Francis crossed its threshold. Crossing the threshold of a Holy Door is an occasion of special grace. Because the faithful do not all have access to a door in Rome, other Holy Doors were opened in local dioceses. A group of about 50 people from my church made a pilgrimage together to cross the threshold of the Holy Door at the cathedral in Venice, Florida.
Mary Untier of Knots
A third occasion of prayer for us were petitions to Mary Untier of Knots or Mary Undoer of Knots, one of Pope Francis’ special devotions. The devotion is based on a painting by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner at the Church of St. Peter am Perlach in Augsburg, Germany. The concept of Mary untying knots is derived from St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who compared the knot of disobedience of Eve that was loosed by the obedience of Mary. At our church, we created a wall hanging that was cut into 3-inch-wide vertical strips. People were invited to write on strips of fabric anything that was knotting up their lives and to tie them to the wall hanging. They were invited to pray Pope Francis’s Prayer to Mary Untier of Knots:
Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God. So that we, free from sin and error, may find him in all things, may have our hearts placed in him, and may serve him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen.
Corporal Works of Mercy
The corporal works of mercy to which my church is committed gained special emphasis in light of this special year. We continued our monthly food collection for a local Catholic Charities center and increased the frequency of our collections of hygiene and personal items (items that cannot be purchased with food stamps) to be a second monthly collection.
During this year of grace, we established a collaboration with a neighborhood center that provides food, clothing, personal items, bus passes, and assistance with other needs to people who are homeless and/or struggling to make ends meet. We support this center financially, with collections of household goods, and most especially with volunteers who work at the center on a weekly basis. Our final special event before the Year of Mercy closes will be “Undy Sunday”, when we will accept donations of new underwear and socks for men, women, and children. These donations will be distributed by the center with whom we work.
The Year of Mercy will close in a few weeks, but our church commitment to these corporal works of mercy will continue. The ultimate goal of the Year of Mercy was to help us change our hearts and our lives so we can become conduits of God’s mercy in everything that we say and do.
Q. Are there any special prayers or good works, which your community observes, that you would like to share?