BURLINGTON—“Everybody experiences a need for healing from physical, mental, spiritual, addictive, relational or financial problems,” said Father Lance Harlow. “It is a universal human struggle, and the mercy of God compels the Church to attend to those who struggle in the pursuit of physical, mental and spiritual integrity. God’s grace is manifested for everybody at a healing service because His mercy flows so abundantly.”
That grace will be available at a special Year of Mercy Jubilee for the Sick, a healing service, Sunday, Oct. 16, at 3 p.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, 20 Allen St., Burlington.
Each of the monthly celebrations for the Year of Mercy has featured an emphasis on Catholic life and the Church’s role in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the modern world. “The Church has always been involved with preaching, teaching and healing,” said Father Harlow, rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral parishes in Burlington and diocesan chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Year of Faith. “The means for healing are both sacramental and charismatic. The Jubilee for Healing on Oct. 16 at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral will offer both.”
There will be two sacramental healing “stations” for Catholics who are able to receive those sacraments, namely, the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and the sacrament of reconciliation. For those who are not Catholic, there will be “stations” for the biblical laying on of hands with prayers for healing.
Father Harlow has been involved with healing services for 23 years in parishes throughout the Diocese of Burlington and offers a monthly healing service in his parish. He has seen people healed through the sacraments and through the laying on of hands. “Praying for healing is one of the most beautiful aspects of the Church’s ministry of mercy deeply rooted in the Catholic Church’s biblical and traditional expression of the faith,” he said.
Father Harlow emphasizes that it is God who heals, not him. “Only God can heal you; I just pray,” he said, explaining that “the Lord heals them according to His will.”
Some people are healed spiritually, physically or emotionally as they have requested, while others may receive a different healing, perhaps unbeknownst to them. “People tell me they were healed all the time…but the feedback is just a fraction of the reality of the people who get healed,” Father Harlow said.
But God knows their needs, and everyone gets graces from the service, he added. “Graces take root by conversion. Part of any healing is conversion, to grow in holiness and the perfection of ones’ vocation.”
Therefore, one cannot pray for a marriage to be healed without working on the marital relationship, for example.
“The sacrament of confession is the most beautiful and most important part of a healing service,” Father Harlow said. Physical healings would last only in this lifetime, and persons still die. But with spiritual healing, there are graces for the salvation of souls.
Joseph F. Myers of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Williston estimated that he has been prayed over more than 40 times. “I have had a physical healing of the low back while Father Harlow was praying over me,” he reported. “I have had an increase in my Catholic faith and trust in God. I have also been prayed over for many family, friends and co-workers fighting health issues. Some are cancer survivors and some have made a full recovery from major illnesses and surgeries.”
He suggested that if people have any reservations about going to a healing service, they should go and sit in a pew and pray silently. “They can choose to be prayed over if and when they are ready,” he said.
The focus of the healing service on Oct. 16 will be on the adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. “The healing ‘stations’ will revolve around Jesus as the central axis since all healing comes from him,” Father Harlow said. “Therefore, the whole diocese is invited to come and pray for the sick during this holy hour. Those who want to be prayed over for specific issues will be conducted to the correct ‘station.’”
Healing services, he said, are done for the honor and glory of God and to reveal to people how much God loves them.
St. Peter Chanel, priest, teacher, missionary and martyr, lived from 1803-1841. One of his students was asked why he believed what St. Peter was teaching. The student responded, "He loves us. He does what he teaches. He forgives his enemies. His teaching is good." Our Catholic school teachers, catechists in our religious education programs and home-school parents are called to do the same thing for the young people entrusted to their care: to love, show mercy and joyfully teach the truth by example.
There are approximately 253 Catholic school teachers in the Diocese of Burlington, some 695 people who lead our parish religious education classes and a large number of home-school parents, all striving to share the love and joy of Christ with their students. At the Sept. 18 Jubilee of Mercy event, we will honor and pray for all of them.
What are teachers of the faith called to do? Pope Francis in "The Joy of the Gospel" states "On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: 'Jesus Christ loves you; He gave his life to save you; and now He is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.'" Quite simply, they are called to share and model Jesus Christ with the young people entrusted to their care.
Carmen Tarbox, of St. Paul's School in Barton shares how much she loves teaching the children of God's love: "How I introduce God is very important, and the best way I have experienced this task is to associate God with the word 'Love . . . .' By the end of the year, the most satisfying feeling I have is . . . hearing the students say sincerely, 'God loves all of me!'"
One of the goals of the Year of Mercy is to inspire people of faith to be "Merciful Like the Father." There are countless opportunities for teachers to share God's mercy. Eileen Kendall, catechist at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Springfield mentions, "I think as a teacher you are always required to show mercy . . . . It's part of the job description." For Mary Dove Herrera, a home-schooling mother in St. Albans at Holy Angels Parish, it is helpful to think about how God is merciful to her when she works with her children. "I try to think about how God teaches me in daily life in comparison to how I respond to my own children… when my children are tired, frustrated and confused. Do I act the same when God is trying to teach me through my life experiences?"
INSPIRING SAINTS OF TODAY
Sharing the rich stories of the lives of the saints can help model the Gospel to students. As Tarbox notes, "The students and I read about the saints and discuss how we can be modern-day saints even as young children." Celebrating the saints is a way of teaching and living the faith in the Herrera home. Her girls love St. Therese, so on her feast day, she buys roses at Costco and the children give out roses to random people. "The kids can choose to whom they gave the roses. We have given roses to police officers, construction workers and even fast-food employees."
PRAYER AND GROWTH
The national theme for Catechetical Sunday (Sept. 18) is "Prayer: The Faith Prayed." Catechists are both sustained by prayer and models of prayer. When the apostles watched our Lord pray, they asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Lk 11:1). No doubt the apostles had been taught their prayers from an early age, but something in the way our Lord prayed, perhaps an intimacy with God the Father that they hadn't seen previously, attracted them to His prayer. Jesus responded by teaching them the "Our Father." In my years as a DRE, I was always encouraged when I saw my catechists spending time in prayer in the church either before or after their class. And, like the students they teach, a teacher's faith is always "evolving…constantly growing" Kendall said. A note of thanks to all our teachers, catechists and home-school parents for their tremendous efforts to pass on the faith and a prayer that they continue to grow in and live the faith they pass on!
Article written by Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops document “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship” states that music ministers are “ministers who share the faith, serve the community and express the love of God and neighbor through music.”
In our diocese, there are many different styles of music ranging from traditional choirs to folk groups to contemporary ensembles. We are also blessed in Burlington to have the
African and Vietnamese Choirs who add the textures of their heritage to our celebrations. While styles may vary, we all share the call to serve our Church community.
The primary function of the music minister is not to perform, but to prayerfully lead and support the congregational singing.
“When words come, they are merely empty shells without the music. They live as they are sung for the words are the body, and the music the spirit” (Hildegard of Bingen).
May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire all the musicians in our diocese to share their God-given gifts with their parishes and bring life to “empty shells.”
Article by Celia Asbell, choir director and organist at Immaculate Conception Cathedral and St Joseph Co-Cathedral.
Jerome P. Monachino was one of three children born into a musical family, and by age five he was playing guitar; “The Spirit Is a-Movin” and “City of God” were the first songs he played.
Because his mother was a church organist, he grew up with liturgical music. In fact, when he stopped being an altar server and became an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, he took every opportunity to be involved in music ministry.
In high school he studied vocal music and was a member of the chorale and jazz acapella group and joined rock and roll fusion bands.
At St. Michael’s College in Colchester, he earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science.
After graduating in 1991, he worked for a year as an analytical chemist. But the music never left him.
In 1992, Monachino got his first liturgical music job at St. Michael’s where he is now director of liturgical music.
Almost 25 years later, Monachino — who earned a master’s in systematic theology at the college in 1997 — is doing what he loves through the ministry of music.
As part of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Diocese of Burlington will celebrate the Jubilee for Families on July 17 with Mass offered by Bishop Christopher J. Coyne at 12:15 at St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte, and a relaxing day for families to enjoy. And you are all invited!
Pope Francis has repeatedly stated the impor-tance of families. He emphasizes that the fabric of society and the vitality of the Church are strength-ened by the family structure. In his exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia”, [The Joy of Love], he notes the prominent role the family plays throughout the Bible. Beginning with Genesis, and continuing to Revelation, family is depicted in its beauty and joy, as well as the distress which enters into the life of every family. Throughout Scripture, family life is revered for its role in forming the next generation.
The Holy Family is the model of the ideal family because of the purity of their love and the fidelity portrayed in the Gospel narratives. Mary’s pregnancy causing Joseph to contemplate “a quiet divorce,” the arduous journey to Bethlehem, and the humble birth of the promised Messiah in a stable. Gospel accounts re-port the massacre of the innocents, and fast-forwards to the child being “lost in the temple” and found by frantic parents. (Lk 2:48) When they saw him [i.e., Jesus], they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.”
The celebration of the Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Burlington continues on July 17 at the “Center of Life, Light and Love” with a Jubilee for Families during a special pilgrimage Mass. It will take place at Isle LaMotte’ St. Anne’s Shrine at 12:15 p.m.
This will be an opportunity for families from throughout the diocese to gather to celebrate this Year of Mercy and enjoy God’s gift of nature at this holy location in the diocese.
There will be a procession to the statue of St. Anne after the Mass and then a cookout.
St. Anne’s Shrine — located on the shore of Lake Champlain — includes an outdoor pavilion for Mass, outdoor Stations of the Cross, a gift shop, picnic area, gardens, cafeteria, camping and retreat cabins.
“The shrine is a very special place for families to gather because of the beauty of the grounds,” said Edmundite Father Brian Cummings, spiritual director there. “Families often picnic or barbecue after Mass on the beach or on the many spots on the grass. Families can recreate playing sports games, swimming, kayaking, biking, fishing or boating. The shrine provides the opportunity for families to pray together and rest in the Lord’s presence in a peaceful place. Some families come by boat and tie their boats at our dock. It is a prayerful and fun destination.”
The mission of St. Anne’s Shrine is to serve as a welcoming place of peace and minister to all God’s people through prayer, devotion, hospitality and spiritual renewal.
Father Cummings suggested visitors tour the historic chapel and visit the grottos hous-ing statues of various saints. Walking the grounds, particularly the areas where there are new cabins, would give them a feel for the potential for family and parish overnight retreats which are welcomed here.
As early as 1666, the French erected a fort and chapel on Isle LaMotte, dedicated under the invocation of “la bonne Sainte Anne.” It was here that Mass was offered for the first known time in the Northeast.
It is a unique place of pilgrimage with a rich religious tradition steeped in the history of the country’s founding. French explorers brought Jesuit missionaries with them as they landed on Isle La Motte establishing Fort St. Anne.
The care and direction of the shrine was entrusted to the care of the Society of St. Edmund in 1904; the Edmundites purchased it from the Diocese of Burlington in 1921.
For more than 100 years, families have come together to worship and to celebrate their faith on the shrine grounds. “The peaceful, serene and natural surroundings of the shrine are conducive to relaxation, prayer and recreation for people of all ages,” Father Cummings said.
People who visited as children often return years later with their own families to renew their relationships and faith. “I hope the people of our diocese will join us on July 17 for a day of prayer and family fun,” Father Cummings said. “We will worship together in celebrat-ing the Eucharist, and the sacrament of reconciliation will be available. After-wards, we will then kick back and enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed setting. It should be a great celebration remembering God’s mercy and giving thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. And it should be fun!”
More than 200 people gathered at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Troy June 25 for the second annual Family Day Retreat organized by local parishioners. The theme, in keeping with the current Holy Year of Mercy, was “His Mercy Endures Forever.”
The 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. event included Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, speakers, music, crafts and games for children, fellowship, the sung Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a Eucharistic procession and Benediction.
In their small group discussion for married couples, Deacon Gesualdo Schneider of St. Augustine Church in Montpelier and his wife, Loretta, likened marriage to dance, saying in both, the man and woman are equal, must know and do their part and communicate. “If you don’t have good communication, the rest falls apart,” Mrs. Schneider said.
They emphasized a couple’s need to be able to change their dance step when the music changes; similarly, in life people cannot choose all of their circumstances and must adapt.
In his talk to singles, Franciscan Friar of the Renewal Father Louis Marie Leonelli, director of St. Anthony Shelter for Renewal in the South Bronx, called single life a “challenge from Christ to live for Him.” He encouraged single persons to give their life to Christ everyday and not get caught in a “narcissistic mentality.”
Speaking to women, Jeanne Nadeau of the Lancaster, N.H.-based Nadeau Family Music Ministry, likened life to a purse with various pockets. “Most women guard their purse with their life,” she said, speaking of the importance of mercy and grace in each person’s life.
Father Leonelli spoke to the men at the conference, lamenting the threats to manhood today. “Manhood,” he said, “is the very thing God needs to keep things balanced.”
As we celebrate the Jubilee for Priests and Seminarians this month as part of the diocese’s year-long celebration of the Year of Mercy, I am reminded of my own priestly ordination that occurred 23 years ago on May 8, 1993. I was the first priest of this diocese to be ordained by His Excellency, Bishop Kenneth A. Angell. The ordination took place in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and I keep one special photo of the event in my living room. The photo captures the moment during the rite of ordination when the ordinand makes the promise of obedience to his bishop. It is one of two sacred promises. The other sacred promise is celibacy. During the rite of ordination, the bishop asks the ordinand: “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and to my successors?” To which the ordinand responds: “I do.”
In the photo, I am kneeling before Bishop Angell with my hands held in his. On that day I did promise respect and obedience to him — and to his successors; that is, Bishop Matano and Bishop Coyne. I remember the moment clearly. I also remember it every year when the entire presbyterate assembles with the bishop at the annual Chrism Mass during Holy Week at which we renew our priestly promises.
That promise of obedience opens a door of special graces for the priest. As he physically places his hands into those of his bishop, he surrenders his priestly ministry to the bishop’s discernment for the greater good of the diocese. While there is always place for discussion and collaboration with his bishop, ultimately the priest believes that through his promise of obedience, God will manifest his will through the bishop. That belief is not just an abstract theological notion; it is ratified through the lives of countless saints over the course of two thousand years. Not once has a priest-saint ever said, “Do your own thing” or “Your career comes first.” But rather, every priest has sought grace through obedience — and it has always borne fruit in his ministry.
While most parishioners view their priest as belonging to “their parish,” he really belongs to the entire diocese. (I am speaking here of diocesan priests. Priests belonging to a religious order fall into a broader category defined by the scope of their apostolate). A diocesan priest must live in that poverty of obedienceby which he realizes that he belongs to no single parish, but rather that he belongs to all parishes. His pastorates are temporary depending upon the needs of the particular parish and those of the whole diocese. Jesus made that lifestyle clear in the Gospel in the following scene where, humanly speaking, He should have stayed in one town and made a very successful career for himself. But such was not God’s will:
“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ He told them, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come. So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee’ (Mk 1:35-38).
The Holy Spirit opens and closes doors throughout the priest’s life leading him to “nearby villages”— even when things seem to be going well for him in a particular parish. The Holy Spirit knows the souls who will benefit from the priest’s new ministry, and the priest desiring nothing more than to do God’s will, goes where he is sent empowered by the graces brought about by his promise of obedience.
And so, on the day of his ordination, the young priest kneeling before his bishop enters into a new reality of grace. So young and without any priestly experience, he makes those sacred promises certain of the correctness of the Church’s wisdom. And then years later, seasoned by age and experience, he not only remembers those sacred promises, but he has an even greater certainty of their correctness, fruitfulness and protection. Those two words, “I do,” freely given on the day of his ordination, allow him to teach, to preach and to heal, not for his own personal success or comfort, but for the common good of all of you who constitute the people of God in Vermont. When you see the young ordinands on June 18 kneeling before Bishop Coyne and placing their hands into his, promising obedience to him and to his successors, remember that those sacred promises will open the doors of special graces for them to have very fruitful priestly ministries.
-Father Lance W. Harlow, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Williston and Our Lady of the Rosary in Richmond, is the diocesan chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Year of Faith.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Christendom College in 2011, Matthew J. Rensch was trying to decide whether to enter the seminary or to get a job. “I wasn’t clinched in the idea of answering the call [to priesthood] immediately,” he said.
So he called the vocations director for the Diocese of Burlington who told him that there is always a logical, sensible reason to delay attending seminary and that answering the call will never make complete sense according to the logic of the world so delay can always be justified. “And so, given that I was thinking about it, he encouraged me to jump in, to take the plunge, to cast out into the deep,” he said.
So he did.
Now a transitional deacon, he will be ordained to the priesthood at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington on June 18 along with Deacon Curtis A. Miller.
Seminarian Joseph J. Sanderson will be ordained to the transitional deaconate.
In anticipation of their ordinations, the three men shared some of their thoughts and experiences with Vermont Catholic magazine.
Deacon Miller was born in St. Johnsbury, the younger of the two children of Edward and Judy Miller.
When he was young, the family moved to Colchester where he grew up and attended public schools and Our Lady of Grace Church.
He heard the call to priesthood when he was in high school on a retreat with the opportunity to spend time with the Lord in prayer, especially in Eucharistic adoration. He said yes to the call because he believes it is what God is asking him to do and trusts that He is leading him on the path on which he can best serve Him and the Church and be truly fulfilled.
“In retrospect, I can also see how God was preparing me for this vocation throughout my life,” he said. “My parents instilled the importance of the faith in my sister and me from an early age. As an altar server, I was also able to see my pastor’s priestly ministry up close in his celebration of the Mass and other sacraments and his other acts of service to God and the people of our parish. My parents, sister, and my parish priests have all been very supportive of me.”
After he graduated from high school in 2008, he entered seminary, spending the first four years of seminary formation in Rhode Island at the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence with classes at Providence College; he graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
He spent the past four years in formation at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass., and had summer assignments as a custodian at the diocesan offices in South Burlington, helping lead the Totus Tuus summer catechetical program throughout the diocese and at parishes in Castleton, Orwell, Williston, Richmond and Brattleboro.
Deacon Rensch was born in Binghamton, N.Y., one of the six children of William and Margaret Rensch.
The family moved to Vermont when he was five; his home parish is Immaculate Heart of Mary in Williston.
He was homeschooled until 11th grade and then attended Vermont Technical College at the Williston campus for a bridge year. After a year there studying electrical engineering, he went to Christendom College then to seminary at Our Lady of Providence Seminary and North American College in Rome. From 2012-2015 he studied at the Opus Dei University of the Holy Cross, earning a sacred theology bachelor’s degree and now at the University of St. Thomas for a Licentiate in moral theology.
During his seminarian summers he worked with at the Diocesan Bishop’s Fund Offices, studied Italian at Middlebury College and worked at parishes in Richford, Brattleboro and Barre.
His call to priesthood was influenced by the close relationship of his family to their parish and the former pastor, Father Donald Ravey, and attending daily Mass. “Another key moment was reading C. S. Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’ in high school; he was a true witness of Christ to me,” Deacon Rensch said. “Then in college the witness of the professors and the continued spiritual life helped to clarify the call.”
Sanderson, born in Middlebury, is the son of John and Jennifer Sanderson of Conversion of Saint Paul Church in Orwell. He attended Orwell Village School, Fair Haven Union High School and Providence College. He has completed the spring semester of Third Theology year at St. John’s Seminary in Boston.
He had not given serious thought to another vocation. “I have always had a desire to serve and to bring others to Christ,” he said. “I have experienced the love and mercy that only comes from God. Now, I wish, and want to give my life, so that all may come to know this love and mercy.”
Pope Francis inspires him to get out of his comfort zone and to seek out those who are suffering, lost or estranged from Christ and His Church in any way. “I look the example of the pope and pray for the courage to take up this task,” he said.
This summer he will be assigned to parish work in Swanton and Highgate Center.
As he anticipated his ordination to the transitional diaconate, Sanderson experienced feelings of deep peace, certitude and excitement. “However, as acting on and freely choosing any lifelong and life changing choice, I have naturally experienced the full gamut of emotions,” he said. “Vermont has always been my home, and I look forward to living my life in service of its people.”
Contemplating the influence Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI has had on him, Deacon Miller said the latter helped him understand the beauty of the liturgy and the truths of our faith and how to explain them clearly. “Pope Francis has highlighted the necessity that we seek God’s mercy and show that same mercy to others, especially through acts of charity that reveal God’s love,” he added.
Deacon Rensch has seen popes in person, including the last Angelus of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis. “What has struck me deeply about both is their profound humility,” he said. “The humility of Pope Benedict was forcibly displayed in his willingness to resign and retire to a quiet, hidden life, forever relinquishing his desire to teach as a professor. The humility of Pope Francis has been similarly displayed, very notably in his request to us in St. Peter’s Square after his election to pray for God’s blessing over him. Both popes, then, are fantastic witnesses to the Christian life.”
One of Deacon Rensch’s favorite saints is St. Francis de Sales, mainly because of his combination of burning missionary zeal with brilliant apologetics. St. Therese of Liseux, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Francis of Assisi are also favorites.
Deacon Miller identifies with St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, who though he was not as intelligent or talented as other priests brought many souls to know and love God by his personal faithfulness to God and his devoted service to his parishioners.
As a priest, Deacon Miller most looks forward celebrating Mass and reconciling people to God in confession; Deacon Rensch looks forward to offering Mass, celebrating all the sacraments and encouraging or confirming the role that the priest plays as a father.
Both deacons hope to emulate the good priests they have known.
Asked to give advice to young men discerning a call to the priesthood, Deacon Miller encouraged them to spend quiet time with God in prayer every day at a regular time — even if only for a few minutes. “Ask Him to reveal to you His plan for your life and ask Him for the grace to be able to respond positively to that plan,” he said. “Maintain this relationship by attending Mass every Sunday (or more often), by regular Eucharistic adoration and by seeking God’s forgiveness often in confession. Talk to your family and a trusted, holy priest. Have good friends who challenge you to live a holy life. Try to serve others every day, especially by being involved in your parish. If you do all these things, you will more easily be able to hear God’s call, whatever vocation He has planned for you, and thus live a truly happy and holy life.”
Deacon Miller’s hobbies include reading — especially American history and literature — and spending time outdoors, hiking and camping.
“Don’t worry, they’ll take care of you.” This was the comment made by one homeless man to another in reference to St. Willebrord Parish in downtown Green Bay on a wintry Saturday. The gentleman had missed the normal lunch hours at the parish. His friend encouraged him to go to the parish rectory anyway, confident that, even outside of the regular hours, they would take care of his friend. Sure enough, when the gentleman arrived, the priest found him a sandwich and provided for him. I don’t know that the two gentleman were Catholic, but they knew that the Catholic Church would be there for them.
Before coming to Vermont, I worked for the Diocese of Green Bay. Their winters are what I expected Vermont’s to be like! The above true story is the type of encounter Pope Francis is hoping to encourage in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
In Pope Francis’ note announcing the Jubilee of Mercy, Misericordiae,Vultus, he called for us “to gaze more attentively on mercy….the bridge that connects God and man…” (MV 2, 3). As I read through the document, I recall being struck by one thought: Pope Francis wants people to think of “mercy” when they think of the Catholic Church. Let’s be honest, that’s probably not the first term that comes to mind when people think of the Church or their parishes. Yet, when people think of Pope Francis, inevitably mercy or its attributes are mentioned.
Mercy is what the two homeless men saw and acknowledged about St. Willebrord’s that winter Saturday afternoon. And it was recognized because the parish has made a concerted and sacrificial effort to meet the concrete needs of the people around her. “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers…” (MV 10)
Much has already taken place as we near the halfway point of this Year of Mercy. Monthly events, with average attendance of around 500 people, have taken place at the Co-Cathedral. Various groups in the Church have been recognized and affirmed in their apostolates. Retreats have been undertaken, materials have been studied, and prayers have been offered. The Spiritual and Corporal Acts of Mercy have been performed. The staff at the Diocesan offices has even undertaken to serve lunch at the Burlington COTS Day shelter one Thursday a month.
Slowly, by living our Catholic Faith in this Jubilee of Mercy, we are seeing “…a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.”(MV 3).
What are you doing, in your parish, your home, and your life, to make visible, “…the face of the Father’s mercy.”(MV 1)? For that is our calling and our opportunity at this time, halfway through the Year of Mercy.
Phil Lawson is the Director of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington
All but two Jubilees are to be held at 3pm EST, at Saint Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington - the location of the Holy Door of Mercy. Exceptions are the June 18th Jubilee for Priests and Seminarians to be held at 10a.m. at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral, and the July 17th Jubilee for Families to be held at St. Anne's Shrine, Isle la Motte @ 12:15pm.