Saturday, 22 October 2016

I think I shall miss the Year of Mercy when it ends ....

It can appear that, in inaugurating a Year of Mercy, Pope Francis was being radical and novel in the way in which he wished to encourage us to live the Christian life. Actually I believe that what he has done is draw attention to a dimension of the Christian life that is already present and multiform in Catholic life.

The year has given me a sensitivity, for example, to those occasions when the Church's Liturgy makes reference to the mercy of God. The Collect for the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, for example, is:
O God, protector of those who hope in you, without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy, bestow in abundance your mercy upon us and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.
And for Twenty Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
O God, who manifest your almighty power above all by pardoning and showing mercy, bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us and make those hastening to your promises heirs to the treasures of heaven.
Reading recently about Elizabeth of the Trinity, I came across a reference (which I can't at the moment trace) to St Catherine of Siena's praise of Divine Mercy in her Dialogue. This occurs in the section "A Treatise of Discretion" (text taken from EWTN website, and the same as that in the translation published by Baronius Press in 2006):
How this soul wondering at the mercy of God, relates many gifts and graces given to the human race.
Then this soul, as it were, like one intoxicated, could not contain herself, but standing before the face of God, exclaimed, "How great is the Eternal Mercy with which You cover the sins of Your creatures! I do not wonder that You say of those who abandon mortal sin and return to You, 'I do not remember that you have ever offended Me.' Oh, ineffable Mercy! I do not wonder that You say this to those who are converted, when You say of those who persecute You, 'I wish you to pray for such, in order that I may do them mercy.' Oh, Mercy, who proceeds from Your Eternal Father, the Divinity who governs with Your power the whole world, by You were we created, in You were we re-created in the Blood of Your Son. Your Mercy preserves us, Your Mercy caused Your Son to do battle for us, hanging by His arms on the wood of the Cross, life and death battling together; then life confounded the death of our sin, and the death of our sin destroyed the bodily life of the Immaculate Lamb. Which was finally conquered? Death! By what means? Mercy! Your Mercy gives light and life, by which Your clemency is known in all Your creatures, both the just and the unjust. In the height of Heaven Your Mercy shines, that is, in Your saints. If I turn to the earth, it abounds with Your Mercy. In the darkness of Hell Your Mercy shines, for the damned do not receive the pains they deserve; with Your Mercy You temper Justice. By Mercy You have washed us in the Blood, and by Mercy You wish to converse with Your creatures. Oh, Loving Madman! was it not enough for You to become Incarnate, that You must also die? Was not death enough, that You must also descend into Limbo, taking thence the holy fathers to fulfil Your Mercy and Your Truth in them? Because Your goodness promises a reward to them that serve You in truth, You descended to Limbo, to withdraw from their pain Your servants, and give them the fruit of their labours. Your Mercy constrains You to give even more to man, namely, to leave Yourself to him in food, so that we, weak ones, should have comfort, and the ignorant commemorating You, should not lose the memory of Your benefits. Wherefore every day You give Yourself to man, representing Yourself in the Sacrament of the Altar, in the body of Your Holy Church. What has done this? Your Mercy. Oh, Divine Mercy! My heart suffocates in thinking of you, for on every side to which I turn my thought, I find nothing but mercy. Oh, Eternal Father! Forgive my ignorance, that I presume thus to chatter to You, but the love of Your Mercy will be my excuse before the Face of Your loving-kindness."
"In the darkness of Hell Your Mercy shines ..." is the phrase which strikes me most as capturing something of the spirit of the Year of Mercy.

This is without considering the more recent development of devotion to the Divine Mercy prompted by the charism of St Faustina, and the establishing of the Liturgical celebration of that devotion at the beginning of the Easter season.

As I said above, rather than representing a radical innovation, the Year of Mercy draws our attention to a dimension of Christian life that is present already in the history and life of the Church and encourages us to live it with an ever greater richness.

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