Year of Mercy Sky

2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy

Year of Mercy LogoOur Holy Father, Pope Francis, has announced that beginning on Dec. 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Church throughout the world will observe an Extraordinary Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy.

This year, which concludes on Nov. 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King, is only the third extraordinary jubilee in the Church’s 700-year tradition of holding jubilees.

The last extraordinary jubilee was 1983 and led by Pope John Paul II to celebrate 1,950 years since Jesus’ death and resurrection; the first-ever extraordinary jubilee was called by Pope Pius XI in 1933 to also celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The Catholic Church’s motto for the year is “Merciful like the Father,” based on Luke 6:36, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.”

In our observance of this Jubilee, Pope Francis has invited us to renew our outreach in service to those who are most in need of the mercy and healing of Our Lord. Specifically, this means an opportunity for living out of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The fourteen Works of Mercy are divided into two categories.

The Corporal Works of Mercy
Give food to the hungry
Give drink to the thirsty
Clothe the naked
Visit the sick
Shelter the homeless
Visit the imprisoned
Bury the dead
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
Admonish the sinner
Instruct the ignorant
Counsel the doubtful
comfort the sorrowful
Bear wrongs patiently
Forgive all injuries
Pray for the living and the dead

Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee 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 Him. Show us your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!”

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, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

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 good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.


 Reflections on Mercy

The year of mercy reminds us that mercy is not only shown by God. It should also be shown by us. How can we show others the mercy of God? We invite you to reflect more deeply on God’s call to mercy through our series entitled Reflections on Mercy.

Joanby Joan Straub, Franciscan Associate

I recently signed up for a class on Lectio Divina. One thing mentioned in this class that surprised me was that if we are not listening to God, we are probably not listening to those around us either. In our technology driven world, face to face encounters and meaningful sharing from the heart can be rare. As a Franciscan Associate, I’m learning to step back from the busyness, slow down and take the time to listen when encountering others. One day in particular, God showed me how precious giving someone our attention is. While volunteering at the women’s shelter, I sat and carefully listened to a frightened teenage girl. As we were leaving the shelter, she ran up to us shaking, gripped my arm firmly and said with a desperate plea, “Please don’t leave until you have prayed for me.” We prayed right there in the hallway. Her body stopped quivering, a wonderful peace filled her, and a radiant smile appeared on her tear stained face. That day God spoke to both of us. Miracles can happen when we humbly listen and pray.


Sister Amyby Sister Amy L. Williams

Pope Francis writes, “Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy–he reveals the mercy of God by his words, actions and person.” Jesus showed compassion and forgiveness to all those whose lives he touched, even those who persecuted him. No sin or wrongdoing was strong enough to outweigh the limitless mercy of our incarnate God. We too, with Jesus as our model, are called to be the merciful face, hands and voice of God to everyone we meet in our daily lives.

As a hospice nurse, each day I witness the mercy of Jesus in the actions of friends and families caring for loved ones in the midst of terminal illness. Some days families are at their best, and some days families are at their worst. But regardless of peace or struggle, the limitless self-sacrifice of caregivers in ministering to their loved ones is the embodiment of mercy and compassion, and the surrendering of the dying to the mercy of caregivers is the embodiment of humility and trust.

With Jesus as my model, and with patients and families as my inspiration, I strive each day to be a healing and merciful presence to others. Some days I am at my best, and some days I am at my worst. But through the mercy and forgiveness of God, I have the grace to begin each day with a clean slate, free to live out God’s call to be merciful to the best of my ability. Such grace is open to all of us, and it is the fullness of the gift of God’s mercy.


Sister Ellen McClureby Sister Ellen McClure

The loving mercy of God, incarnate in Jesus, is the redemption of all creation – including each of us.

Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Visitation – during which Mary and Elizabeth experienced the mutual love and mercy of God, meant for all of us, but incarnate in two humble women. I had the wonderful blessing of being taught by Visitation nuns in high school. The great holiness in this congregation took place in the revelations of Jesus, showing his merciful Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque several centuries ago. Learning about these revelations and the spirit of these nuns formed my spirit to expect to know the love and mercy of God for my life to come.

As I became a nurse, and later a Franciscan sister, the blessings came to be. As a freshman nursing student I spent days talking with a dying patient so that he would be ready to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick before his death. I saw the joy on his face these blessings brought to him and I was with him when he entered eternal life. I have never forgotten that interaction that took place over about a week’s time.

In my own formation and growth as a sister, the loving mercy of Jesus drew me on and on and became the spiritual center of my life in both joyful and challenging times. It is my anchor in God! I don’t always share the beginnings of my spiritual journey, but, the feast of the Visitation led me to think and pray about it again. I pray the love and mercy of God becomes your anchor as well and that it spreads wildly through the church in this Year of Mercy!


Sister Laura Hackenbergby Sister Laura Hackenberg

Our Lord Jesus has given us comforting words of mercy. He wants to lavishly shower mercy and love upon his children. Jesus revealed his message of Mercy to St. Faustina, a simple nun from Poland. He revealed this message to her so that she may pass it on to the world: “Souls that make an appeal to my mercy delight me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. No soul that has called upon my mercy has ever been disappointed. I will show my great compassion.”

Reflecting on the mercy of God during this Year of Mercy has given me great consolation and peace. I am inspired by the prayer of St. Faustina. She offers to God her prayer that she may become a vessel of God’s mercy to all she meets.

Prayer of St. Faustina

Most Merciful God, as many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, do I want to glorify Your mercy. I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors’ souls, and look kindly upon them.

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ cries and not be indifferent to their needs, pains, and challenges.

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good and charitable acts of mercy to my sisters and brothers.

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor. May I overcome my own fatigue and weariness so that I may walk along with them.

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. And I will rest in safety in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me. Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us. Merciful Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in You! Amen.

St Faustina

Sister Marcieby Sister Marcella Nachreiner

Mercy is who God is. It is love’s other name. Mercy is forgiveness.

God is more interested in our future than in our past. He takes past sins seriously but never as the last word. God wants each of us to become the best person he wills us to be and this requires conversion — a change of heart. Genuine mercy believes God’s grace has the power to transform us. God does not owe us forgiveness. Nor does God’s mercy license us to continue to sin — it demands a response to go and from now on sin no more (John 8:11). God’s mercy motivates us to do better.

God’s forgiveness is an easy thing to obtain. One needs only to ask. God forgives — he opens his loving arms and grants mercy. He gives love away.

We do not have to feel guilty over the reality of our human frailty. God is not going to sternly judge us. No, God is running down the road toward us, eager to wrap his arms around us and kiss it better. The enormity of God’s love, which is so vast it is beyond measure or comprehension, creates in us an awareness of the depth of our inadequacy. But that awareness does not trigger feelings of unworthiness. Rather it creates a sense of poverty which allows us to trust fully in God and willingly accept his bountiful love.

Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts of the spiritual life. It enables us to be released from the sorrows of the past and reminds us to forgive others without hesitation, without question. Without question is hard to do, which only illustrates more clearly God’s love. Forgiveness simply says that we will never put someone out of our heart.

Jesus says “Be merciful, just as the Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

Our holy father St. Francis who was touched by God — filled by God, burned with a desire to help others believe in their goodness. He invites us today to rebuild our lives in the image of God, whispering in our ears ever so gently, God is waiting for your response.

We believe Pope Francis’ and St. Francis’ mission is clear: help people find reconciliation with themselves, others and God. Day by day rebuild individual lives, communities and the world.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s Second Homily as Pope Francis

Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think—and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy …. It is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! “Oh Father, if you knew my life, you would not say that to me!” “Why, what have you done?” “Oh, I am a great sinner!” “All the better! Go to Jesus: he likes you to tell him these things!” He forgets, he has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, he kisses you, he embraces you and he simply says to you: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). That is the only advice he gives you. After a month, if you are in the same situation …. Let us go back to the Lord. The Lord never tires of forgiving: never! It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness. Let us ask for the grace not to tire of asking forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving. Let us ask for this grace.

Yellow Flowers

Sister Kathy Osbeltby Sister Kathleen Osbelt

No one deserves mercy. For example, a woman, whose son was brought before Napoleon for deserting Napoleon’s army, went to plead with the military leader after hearing the young soldier had been judged as deserving death. The deserter’s mother begged Napoleon to have mercy on him.

Napoleon said the man did not deserve mercy. The mother responded: “It would not be mercy if it was deserved.”

This world seeks justice yes, but not mercy. Mercy is a gift. It cancels out wrongs and transgressions. It is not earned; it doesn’t require a defense attorney nor is it about how much good it takes to outweigh wrong doing. Mercy is a gift given to each of us. It is God’s utter graciousness in the face of our need.


Sister Aliceby Sister Alice Dunlop

“Merci.” It is the French word for “thank you.” I grew up in a family where we were taught to say thank you, and to send thank you notes for gifts.

This value, which was instilled in us as children, continues to this day. I can almost hear my parents reminding me to say thank you more often than I do.

This seemingly small human gesture is important, but what is even more important is the thank you, the gratitude, we give to God for his love, his mercy.

As I become more aware of my human failings, selfishness and sinfulness, I become more aware of a merciful God (and merciful family and friends) who can see beyond my failings and affirm a person who is broken yet good, struggling yet blessed. That mercy, from others and from God, compels me to be a person of mercy, a person who is merciful with myself — and with others.

In “The Sign of Jonas,” written in 1953, Thomas Merton writes an epilogue about God’s mercy as he depicts God speaking to Jonah: “‘I have always overshadowed Jonas with my mercy, and cruelty I know not at all. Have you had sign of me Jonas, my child? Mercy within mercy within mercy.’”

And so let us together give:

A thank you to Merton, who tells us that God overshadows us with mercy!

A thank you to St. Francis, who celebrated God’s mercy for all people, all creation!

A thank you to Pope Francis who calls us to a special Year of Mercy , for ourselves, each other and all creation!

A thank you to a good and gracious God who is mercy and calls us to mercy!

Merci for Mercy!


Sister Marcieby Sister Marcella Nachreiner

We hold within ourselves an extraordinarily precious gift –our capacity to be merciful. Mercy is a blessing that allows us to make choices, to sense the possibilities open to us. The practice of mercy challenges us to be less judgmental.

Imagine a world without judgment. It would be a world without hatred and division, without alienation and violence. Acceptance, forgiveness, mercy and understanding would be the pillars of our relationships. No enemies would be created, no rejection or belittlement would be extended on the basis of color, gender, religion, or race. Imagine your personal world without judgment.

Forgiveness, tolerance, mercy remind us that the person we see before us is simply ourselves in another form; yearning for the same love, acceptance and openheartedness for which we yearn. If we wish to have mercy in this world, we must be merciful. The power of our mercy can be contagious.

Is it our role to judge others in the world? Perhaps a wiser role is to bring a spirit of love, mercy and understanding alive in the midst of confusion and pain.

Hope Love Rocks

Sister Thereseby Sister Therese Vaulet

Many years ago when the Baltimore Catechism contained the answers to all questions regarding religion, we recited the spiritual and corporal works of mercy without much understanding of their meaning and implications in our lives.

As I advanced in wisdom and age, I became more aware of just how much they were a part of my everyday life since childhood. It was customary in our family to visit the sick and shut-ins at the county home in our town and to entertain them with our music. A beggar never left our door without being fed and refreshed. And I could go on. The works of mercy were a given at any time and place.

When I became a teacher, the works of mercy took on a whole new world of meaning. Besides further incorporating them into my own life, I could share with children of all ages — from kindergarten to college — the concept of relationship with all God’s creation, through all sorts of activities.

Today, as we celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the works of mercy take on a broader and more practical meaning. Joe Paprocki, DMin., defines the works of mercy as “kind acts by which we help our neighbors with their everyday material and physical needs as well as their spiritual and emotional needs.”

At the age 93, I feel blessed to see mercy from another perspective. Celebrating this Year of Mercy is an invitation to live a life full of love, kindness and unbounded generosity; an invitation to encounter the incredible mercy of God and in so doing, to encounter God himself.

What was once simply words on a page in a little book, has been translated into a Gospel way of life. May mercy too, become your way of life.

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Larkin_Patriciaby Sister Patricia Larkin

One of Giotto di Bondone’s paintings of St. Francis of Assisi in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, depicts Francis sharing his cloak with a poor knight. Referring to this artwork during a presentation at Siena College in Loudonville, New York, Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ, made one very interesting observation.

In reflecting on the meaning of the artwork, the words she used struck me: “In this scene, a young Francis, still dressed comfortably, encounters a poor knight and without hesitation, removes his cloak and offers it to him. In this moment of spontaneous generosity, the legend accounts, the young man performs two acts of pietas: he gives away what he owns to someone who is impoverished and he affirms the dignity of one who has been humiliated by the events of life.”

What a beautiful description of mercy! Mercy affirms the dignity of one who has been humiliated by the events of life. Let us, too, affirm the dignity of others as we perform our own works of mercy.

Mercy Affirms Dignity

Sister Ellen McClureby Sister Ellen McClure

New Year’s Day is full of resolutions, some of which don’t last the week! But a fresh beginning is both life giving and comforting — and cool! One way to start over is to let go of left over grudges from the past year – or maybe years. Letting go frees up room on our spiritual hard drives for things like love and mercy.

Mercy, by the way, is a two way street. It frees up the unforgiven person (especially if it can be expressed) and it brings joy to the person granting it.

Mercy is God-like and God, as all varieties of Scriptures tell us, is all about mercy. Mercy heals hearts and souls wherever it is granted. 2016 is a Year of Mercy, named so by Pope Francis. That will help many people pay attention to it. But, whoever you are or whatever faith you hold, mercy is healing and saving.

While mercy begins “at home,” it can extend toward wars and even terrorists. But, beginning small is usually best. By the way, showing mercy to yourself is a great place to begin.

Year of Mercy

Sister Ellen McClureby Sister Ellen McClure

Suddenly all the trimmings and music of Christmas are gone, and churches are looking and feeling different as the baptism of the Lord comes and goes in the liturgical year and we enter ordinary time. But, strangely, although season and arrangement of colors reflect our images like a white haired old man on a heavenly throne dispersing mercy to sorrowful sinners, sometimes mercy is making up after a quarrel in a family. Mercy is all this and more.

In the time of David, God resided in a throne of mercy (wooden box) and was carried solemnly through the desert where David communed with the Holy One and carried messages of mercy back to the community in Exodus from Egypt. God was present and available in the throne of mercy.

Today, God is also always present in the hearts of believers and doubters and even sinners who seek and grant mercy to and from God and one another. Today mercy is as wide as the sea and as simple as a change of heart – forgiveness, sorrow, love rekindled and mutual peace. Are you carrying something you can let go – and do you want to live in peace?