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Closing of the Holy Door: Nov. 20

This Holy Year of Mercy will come to a close on Nov. 20, 2016, on the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe. Join Bishop Christopher Coyne, and the Faithful of the Diocese of Burlington for a very special Mass in celebration of God’s gift of Mercy through Christ Jesus, and the many gifts God has bestowed upon us in this Jubilee year. Mass will begin at 3 pm in St. Joseph Co-Cathedral. Fellowship and light refreshments will be available after Mass. 
 
Throughout this Year of Mercy, the Diocese of Burlington has formally celebrated Jubilees for lay ministers, religious and consecrated life, young children, young adults, deacons, priests and seminarians, families, musicians, catechists and school teachers, and the sick, while also holding all of God’s people in prayers of mercy, peace, and love. Take a look back at the opening of this extraordinary Jubilee, what mercy means in our lives, and the various celebrations each month at vermontcatholic.org/yearofmercy.
 
"In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old” (Ps 25:6)."  -Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus
  • Published in Diocesan

Walls aren't answer to people fleeing war, climate change, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Closing doors to immigrants and refugees is not the answer -- in fact, it only helps encourage the crime of human trafficking, Pope Francis said.

"The only way for resolution is through solidarity," where everyone pitches in because "all together we are a powerful force of support for those who have lost their homeland, family, work and dignity," he said Oct. 26 at his weekly general audience.

In his talk, the pope continued his series of reflections on the works of mercy, focusing on welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked.

He said clothing the naked is about caring for those whose dignity has been stripped from them and helping restore and protect that dignity.

So in addition to providing clothing to those in need, be on the lookout for and ready to help victims of human trafficking and those -- including children -- whose bodies are being bought and sold like some kind of commodity, he said.

Not having a home, a job or fair wages and being discriminated against because of race or faith are all forms of nakedness that "as Christians, we are called to be on the alert (for), vigilant and ready to act."

While voluntary or forced migration has been part of human history, the call to welcome the stranger is even more necessary than ever given that so many people today are on the move because of economic crises, armed conflict and climate change, he said.

There have been many "great expressions of solidarity" over the centuries, even though there have been social tensions, too, the pope said. 

"Unfortunately, today's context of economic crisis prompts the emergence of an attitude of closure and not welcome. In some parts of the world walls and barriers are appearing," he said.

"Sometimes it seems that the silent work of many men and women who, in different ways, strive to help and assist refugees and migrants is overshadowed by the noise of others who give voice to an instinctive selfishness," he said.

"Closure is not a solution, rather it ends up encouraging criminal trafficking," he said. 

The pope asked that people never be tempted by the "trap" of closing in on oneself, never become indifferent to people's needs and never become focused only on one's own personal interests.

The more a person opens up to others, he said, the more one's life is enriched, the more society opens itself up to peace and people recover their full dignity.

Looking up from his written remarks, the pope told the more than 25,000 people gathered in the square about a "little story" that happened a few days ago in Rome.

He said a woman had asked a man who was barefoot and looked lost if he needed help, and the man said he wanted to go to St. Peter's Basilica and walk through the Holy Door. The woman wondered how the man would ever get there without shoes, so she hailed a taxi, the pope said.

At first the cab driver did not want to let the man inside because "he smelled," but he eventually gave in. During the 10-minute ride, the woman asked the man about his life, and he talked about his trials of being a refugee escaping war and hunger. The pope said the women knew "the pain of a migrant" because of her Armenian roots.

When they arrived at their destination, "the woman opened her bag to pay the cab driver, but the driver, who at first didn't want this immigrant to get in because he smelled, told the woman, 'No, ma'am, I'm the one who must pay because you made me hear a story that changed my heart.'"

Pope Francis said, "When we do something like this, at first we refuse because it makes us feel a bit uncomfortable" or awkward, but in the end, carrying out an act of mercy or assistance makes the soul smell sweet and "makes us change. Think about this story and let us think about what we can do for refugees."

The pope also recalled the "stupendous figure" of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and who emigrated to New York from Italy in 1889 to minister to fellow immigrants, opening schools, orphanages and hospitals for the poor. She became the first U.S. citizen to be declared a saint.

"It is urgent today as is in the past" for all Christians to be assisting immigrants and refugees, he said. "It is a task that involves everyone, without exception." 
  • Published in Vatican

Pope highlights sanctity of life in Year of Mercy visits

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis donned a green hospital gown over his white cassock and entered the neonatal unit of a Rome hospital, peering in the incubators, making the sign of the cross and encouraging worried parents.

The trip to the babies' ward of Rome's San Giovanni Hospital and then to a hospice Sept. 16 were part of a series of Mercy Friday activities Pope Francis has been doing once a month during the Year of Mercy.

By visiting the ailing newborns and the dying on the same day, the Vatican said, Pope Francis "wanted to give a strong sign of the importance of life from its first moment to its natural end."

"Welcoming life and guaranteeing its dignity at every moment of its development is a teaching Pope Francis has underlined many times," the statement said. With the September visits he wanted to put "a concrete and tangible seal" on his teaching that living a life of mercy means giving special attention to those in the most precarious situations.

During the Mercy Friday visits, Pope Francis has spent time with migrants, the aged, at a recovery community for former drug addicts and at a shelter for women rescued from human trafficking and prostitution.

Pope Francis stopped by the emergency room of San Giovanni Hospital before going to the neonatal unit, where 12 little patients were being treated. Five of the newborns, including a pair of twins, were in intensive care and were intubated, the Vatican said. The pope also went to the maternity ward and nursery upstairs, greeting new parents and holding their bundles of joy.

At the neonatal unit, the Vatican said, the pope was "welcomed by the surprised personnel" and, like everyone else, put on a gown and followed all the hygiene procedures. 

Leaving the hospital, he drove across town to the Villa Speranza hospice, which hosts 30 terminally ill patients. The hospice is connected to Rome's Gemelli Hospital.

Pope Francis went into each of the rooms and greeted each patient, the Vatican said. "There was great surprise on the part of all -- patients and relatives -- who experienced moments of intense emotion with tears and smiles of joy."
  • Published in Vatican

Pope proposes care for creation as a new work of mercy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Calling for concrete actions that benefit human life and the environment, Pope Francis proposed adding the care and protection of creation to the traditional list of corporal and spiritual works of mercy. 

As a spiritual work of mercy, the pope said, care for creation requires "a grateful contemplation of God's world," while as a corporal work, it calls for "simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness." 

The pope reflected on the need for an integral ecology in Christian life in his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Sept. 1. 

The message, titled "Show Mercy to our Common Home," reflects on the day of prayer as an occasion for Christians to "reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation" and to thank God "for the wonderful handiwork which he has entrusted to our care."

Presenting the pope's message at a news conference Sept. 1, Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said the day of prayer follows the example of the Orthodox Church, which initiated the prayer day in 1989. 

Pope Francis' message, the cardinal told journalists, calls on Christians to be "honest with ourselves" and acknowledge that "when we hurt the earth, we also hurt the poor" and thus commit "a sin against creation, against the poor and against those who have not yet been born."

"This means that we must examine our consciences and repent. I realize that this is not the way we traditionally think about sin. These are sins, Pope Francis says, that we have not hitherto acknowledged and confessed," Cardinal Turkson said. 

In his message, the pope said concern for the planet's future unites religious leaders and organizations and draws attention to "the moral and spiritual crisis" that is at the heart of environmental problems. "Christians or not, as people of faith and goodwill, we should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common home and cherishing the world in which we live as a place for sharing and communion," the pope said. 

Pollution and global warming, due partly to human activity, he said, has turned the beauty of God's creation into a "polluted wasteland" that impacts the world's poor, who have suffered the brunt of "irresponsible and selfish behavior."

"As an integral ecology emphasizes, human beings are deeply connected with all of creation. When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings," the pope said.

The Year of Mercy, he added, offers Christians an opportunity to experience not only an interior conversion but also an "ecological conversion," one that recognizes "our responsibility to ourselves, our neighbors, creation and the Creator."

The first step on the path of conversion is to reflect on the harm done to creation by lifestyles inspired by "a distorted culture of prosperity," which brings about a "disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary," he said. 

Ecological conversion, the pope said, requires a serious examination of conscience, recognizing one's sins "against the Creator, against creation and against our brothers and sisters," and sincere repentance.

Sincere conversion and repentance are shown by a firm resolve to change course and bring about concrete actions that respect creation, such as energy conservation, recycling and caring concern for others.

"We must not think that these efforts are too small to improve our world. They call for a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread and encourage a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle," he wrote.

A change of course also requires governments to take steps to protect the environment. While praising the adoption of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, Pope Francis called on world leaders to honor their commitments in halting the rise of global temperatures and on citizens to hold them accountable and "advocate for even more ambitious goals."

Pope Francis said that adding care for creation to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy acknowledges human life and everything that surrounds it as "an object of mercy."

"In our rapidly changing and increasingly globalized world, many new forms of poverty are appearing," Pope Francis said. "In response to them, we need to be creative in developing new and practical forms of charitable outreach as concrete expressions of the way of mercy."
  • Published in Vatican

St. Jeanne Jugan ‘walked the talk’ on mercy

During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has encouraged us to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy with new enthusiasm. A member of my religious community recently noted how blessed we are as Little Sisters of the Poor to have multiple opportunities each day to practice mercy: serving meals to the elderly, bathing and dressing those who need assistance, comforting those who are sad or lonely, keeping vigil with the elderly who are dying and accompanying them all the way to the grave.

St. Jeanne Jugan, who established our congregation in France when she offered her home and her heart to a homeless elderly woman, is our inspiration and example in the practice of mercy. Each time I enter our chapel I pass an icon of our foundress with two elderly residents; this image reminds me of her kindness and compassion toward the poor. 

Inside the chapel, there is another image, a statue depicting Jeanne Jugan sitting alone in a posture of prayer. This image reminds me of how she practiced the spiritual works of mercy in a profound way, especially when she was deprived of her role as foundress and forced into the shadows.

Although Jeanne had been legitimately elected superior by her companions, in 1843 she was removed from office by a priest who served as the community’s advisor. She was recalled to the motherhouse in 1852 and spent 27 long years there in forced retirement, enduring an obscurity so extreme that the young members of her congregation eventually had no idea that she was the foundress. Although she was no longer able to participate directly in our mission of hospitality, Jeanne continued to practice mercy in two remarkable ways.

First, she played a unique role at our motherhouse, even as she grew increasingly frail in her old age. Among the young novices, Jeanne practiced the spiritual works of mercy by instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful and fervently praying for others. As she gave them moral support, practical advice and spiritual counsel, they felt loved by her, and in return, loved her as a mother. Several Little Sisters ultimately attributed their perseverance to her.

Many of the young sisters who knew Jeanne Jugan admired her spirit of faith and her profound humility, but the most striking example she gave them was the way she bore wrongs patiently and willingly forgave those who treated her unjustly. Placed in a similar situation, most of us would fight back, considering it a matter of justice to reclaim our rightful place, or at least to let others know about the wrongs committed against us. 

But in the case of St. Jeanne Jugan, there is not a single recorded instance of her trying to set the record straight or assert her legitimate authority. Among the numerous testimonies collected in view of her canonization there is just one incident in which she told the priest responsible for her deposition, “You have stolen my work — but I give it to you willingly!”

Such was St. Jeanne Jugan’s practice of the spiritual works of mercy. Her humility and long suffering were truly heroic. 

What was the secret to her sanctity? Jeanne found consolation and courage in the merciful heart of Jesus, gentle and humble of heart. She saw her life as a continuation of His and, out of love for Him, tried to incarnate His merciful love for the poor. Inspired by her love for Christ, she also bore her share of his cross joyfully until death.

Article written by Sister Constance Veit, director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Pope's Peace Day message urges individuals, world leaders to take action, show mercy

Pope Francis called for abolishing the death penalty worldwide, lifting the burden of debt on poor nations, global aid policies that respect life and revamped laws that welcome and integrate migrants.

He urged individuals, communities and nations to not let indifference, information overload or pessimism discourage them from concrete efforts to improve the world around us, beginning with our families, neighbors and places of employment.

Building peace, he said, is not accomplished by words alone, but through the grace of God, a conversion of heart, an attitude of compassion and the courage to act against despair.

The pope's multifaceted plea came in his message for World Peace Day, Jan. 1. The message, which was delivered to world leaders by Vatican ambassadors, was released at the Vatican Dec. 15.

The message, titled Overcome Indifference and Win Peace, contained a three-fold appeal to the world's leaders.

He asked that countries: refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts of wars, which not only destroy a nation's infrastructure and cultural heritage, but also their moral and spiritual integrity; forgive or make less burdensome international debt of poorer nations; and adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of the local populations and not harm the fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.

The pope called on national governments to review their current laws on immigration and find ways they could reflect a readiness to welcome migrants and to facilitate their integration as well as respect the rights and responsibilities of all parties concerned.

All nations' leaders should also take concrete measures in alleviating the problem of a lack of housing, land and employment, the pope wrote, as well as stop discrimination against women in the workplace, which included unfair wages and precarious or dangerous working conditions. He said he hoped those who are ill could be guaranteed access to medical treatment, necessary medications and home care.

With the present Jubilee of Mercy, I want to invite the Church to pray and work so that every Christian will have a humble and compassionate heart and that all people will learn to forgive and to give, he said in his message.

God is never indifferent to the world, he said. He not only sees, hears and knows, he comes down and delivers real healing and eternal teachings.

The credibility of the Church and its members rests on their willingness to live and act with the same tireless mercy God has for the world, the pope said.

We, too, then are called to make compassion, love, mercy and solidarity a true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships with one another, he said.

Since these attitudes of compassion and solidarity are often handed down from person to person, the pope emphasized the importance of families and teachers in showing what love, respect, dialogue, generosity, charity and faith mean.

He also reminded the media and communicators of their responsibility to serve the truth and not particular interests. They don't just inform people, he said, but also form and influence their audience.

Communicators should also be mindful that the way in which information is obtained and made public should always be legally and morally admissible, he said.

In his message, the pope praised those journalists and religious who raise awareness about troubling and difficult situations, and defend the human rights of minorities, indigenous peoples, women, children and the most vulnerable people in society. (CNS)

 
  • Published in Vatican
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