Remember the “Year of Mercy” announced by Pope Francis? As I reflect back on that year, a number of thoughts come to me. One, mercy is hard. Personally, I found aspects of that year very challenging. Two, the year and the “mercy experiences” in which I took part were profound and good for me to go through. Three, a year was not enough time. We could use another “Year of Mercy.”
Concerning mercy, Pope Francis once used the phrase, “Miserando atque eligendo” which can be translated “By having mercy (or compassion) and by choosing.” What we have here is a fairly straight forward use of ablative gerunds. The ablative case conveys the manner or the instrumental dimension of what is being done. For example, look at Jesus’ call of Matthew the Tax collector. When we read about what Christ did and ask, “How did Jesus come to pick Matthew?” The answer is that He called Matthew by (a) having compassion on him and (b) by making a decision. Jesus had a great plan for Matthew. Matthew was chosen to eventually be an instrument of God’s mercy. BUT FIRST, Matthew needed to experience what God’s compassion “feels like” (compassion from the Latin meaning cum – passio or “to suffer with” someone). As Jesus says, “sick people need a physician” so Jesus had to have Matthew walk with him for a while on the journey to heal him.
Concerning mercy and the physician, Pope Francis’ has often talked about the Catholic Church being a “field hospital” – a temporary place, a place for urgent care, not a place to see a specialist.
As reported in a CNN article, Pope Francis says that there is a war going on. The enemy is trying to kill God’s people and, in fact, some are getting killed. Others are wounded, some of these gravely. These include those caught in sin, especially those who are not aware of this. They are the most critical because there are so many! They are not ever aware that the decision they are making and the life they are leading is slowly killing them. The Holy Father claims that one of the problems is that people in the Church think that this is a battle of the mind. “If we just educate them, they will see the errors of their ways and convert.” Pope Francis says that this is not the case. The battle will not be fought or won on the terrain of ideas because this is not where the wounded are to be found. We’re losing people because we’re on the wrong battlefield. The battle terrain is the terrain of the heart.
There are distinctions and decisions to be made when treating the wounded. Treat the heart first. This is where the most serious wounds are. We must also distinguish what the wounds are. Two in particular come to mind. The first is a loss of a sense of sin and loss of sense of shame. This is a major reason why people are not going to Confession. “Why do I need a savior? I don’t have anything to be saved from?” The second issue goes in the opposite extreme. It is a loss of sense that my sin can actually be forgiven. Based on the real-life experience of Pope Francis, this is a more significant obstacle today than most people realize. (See the Holy Father’s book, The Name of God is Mercy).
In order to have mercy, people need to experience mercy. That comes with human interactions. Over the past three years, under the fine leadership of the Catholic Young Adults of Chester County, St. Monica has participated in the Helping Hands project in cooperation with Catholic Relief Services (See blog post from August 16, 2015 here as well as parish bulletin report here). Over the past three years we, respectively, packaged and sent 15,000, then 30,000 then 50,000 meals to the country of Burkina Faso.
The parishioner who actually brought this idea to St. Monica is Levi Keene. Recently he told me that is he will be actually traveling to Burkina Faso to see the country and meet the people with whom we have made a long-distance relationships. He provided some details:
Three people from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are traveling: Normal Yabut, Lois Heist, and myself. We’ll be joined by delegates from two other diocese in the U.S. (2) We’ll be in Burkina Faso about 1 week, leaving on July 18 and returning on July 26. We’ll visit sites where CRS does work in the region and meet the people that our parish assists through our Helping Hands event. (3) The purpose of the trip is not to DO, but rather to SEE and UNDERSTAND. There is an expectation that we will share our experiences with the community and help to advocate for the humanitarian work that CRS does in Burkina Faso and elsewhere. (4) Since information sharing is a key part of this trip, I will be capturing lots of moments with photos, possibly a blog, and definitely an article when I return.
St. Monica – Here’s how you can help:
- Pending internet availability, I’ll send photos and short posts back to the parish. Fr. Zlock and the Parish will be posting this information on the FrZlock.com and the St. Monica website and St. Monica Facebook pages. Post it further! Let people know what the parish of St. Monica is doing, both near and far, to answer God’s call and the challenge of Pope Francis to “reach out to people on the fringes.”
- I’ve put together a website myself so that you can follow my experience. You can keep abreast at my site here.
- I’ll run an article with a few photos in the parish bulletin when I return. I’ll target the weekend of 8/12 for publishing if that works. When that appears, please post it forward to your internet friends.
- We might consider doing an information session for anyone in the parish/community who would like to learn how they can get more involved in humanitarian work. I could give a slideshow of what I saw. Still pondering this but I could use a few people willing to handle set-up, hospitality, logistics and advertising.
(From Fr. Zlock: Anyone interested? Contact me or the rectory.)