The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy
First Spiritual Work of Mercy
Pray for the Living and the Dead
The Spiritual Work of Mercy to pray for the living and the dead in many hearts and minds today raises some suspicion of Catholics. The offering of prayers for the living is one thing, they are here with us; but the praying for the deceased that is totally different. If we examine the Old Testament specifically in the Second Book of Maccabees we find prayers for the deceased. An orthodox Jew to this day believes in praying for the dead. The Jew like Catholics believe in purification after death. The Jews for a period of time after the death of a loved one will recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for the repose of their loved one’s soul. As Catholics we believe in purgatory not so much a place as a state by which a soul passes through for purification in route to heaven. Pope Benedict XVI notes in his Encyclical Spe Salvi that “purgatory consists in a transforming encounter with the love of Christ that burns away all remaining impurities in the saved.” This is our faith as Catholics and the fact that through the life of grace which is given to us from God through His Church our prayers can assist our deceased brothers and sisters. Let us this Easter Season pray for those that have gone before us in faith that they will intercede on our behalf before the Father.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
Pray for the Living and the Dead
“If you knew the gift of God!" The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God's desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.” Catechism 2560
This beautiful definition of prayer that comes to us from the Catechism highlights for us the encounter that is an essential part of prayer. As we encounter our Lord in prayer, He touches our hearts and we, as it were, touch His heart. Thus there begins an intimacy through a listening and a giving of oneself. In this intimacy, we bring all our needs and share all our joys. We come with grateful hearts for His gifts and bring to Him the needs of those placed in our path. Here then is the setting for the spiritual work of mercy of praying for the living and the dead. Because Jesus has conquered death, the death of a person does not fracture his communion with the Body of Christ, His Church for ‘this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.’ Rom 15:9 So we offer our prayers for those who have gone before us. In addition to our own personal intentions, we should have before us those who have no one to remember them: those in prisons, nursing homes and hospitals, the home bound, the marginalized of society. As we seek to live out this spiritual work of mercy, let us open our hearts to the many ways in which we can bring our prayers before the throne of God. First and foremost is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass – the most powerful prayer on earth. Placing ourselves in Adoration before Jesus also helps us develop that quiet prayer so essential to intimacy with Him. And who of us would forget to invoke the intercession of our heavenly Mother who delights to take to her son our every request? Fr. Daniel Francis, a Redemptorist priest has given us some beautiful reflections on this work of mercy. His presentation lasts only four minutes and can be found on YouTube. And as we offer prayers for the living and the dead, we recall the words of Blessed Mother Teresa,
“Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
Second Spiritual Work of Mercy
Counsel the Doubtful
The Spiritual Work of Mercy to counsel the doubtful is a reasonable one to consider among all the violence both physically and politically in our world today. In the face of the evil that surrounds us we can become easily discouraged and even doubtful of God’s Presence. Robert Cardinal Sarah Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments recently published an interview in the form of a book where he gives a wonderful response to a similar question. He states, “Despite sufferings, despite failure, despite evil, our victory is our faith. Saint John writes: ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ Sometimes the relentless attacks against the pope, against the teachings of the Church, or against morality can cause us to think that evil has won the battle…We must not let our guard down against the noise that would like to annihilate man’s whole interior life by brutalizing him with images and news that are veritable drugs…We must believe in the future of the Church, which has overcome many crises. We must believe that the victor is still Christ. We must believe with great and loving patience.” May we who are filled with Easter joy respond to the invitation of Christ to strengthen those who are weak in their faith.
Spiritual Works of Mercy — Counsel the Doubtful
I believe, help my unbelief. Mark 9:24 As Jesus descended from Mt. Tabor after the Transfiguration, He encountered a man who pleaded with Him to heal his mute son. He said to Jesus, “If you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Mk 9:23. To this Jesus replied: “If you are able! All things can be done for the one who believes.” At this the man responded, “I believe, help my unbelief!” This is a cry that should be the prayer of us all as we ask for an increase in faith. The crisis of faith today leads many to doubt and even disbelief. Yet, was this not also true for those who had met Jesus as He walked the earth? Peter doubted as he walked on the water and cried out, “Lord save me!” Thomas refused to believe unless He felt the wounds of Jesus. And on the Cross, Jesus was mocked with the taunting words, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross.” The doubt that pervades our world today gives testimony to a loss of faith. Both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis describe faith as an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. To counsel the doubtful is to help others in this encounter – to help lead them to an intimacy with Jesus that fuels a deep faith. To counsel the doubtful is to nourish the soul of those we encounter. This nourishing begins in our homes; it continues in our work place and social life and is especially important as we encounter people in the ordinary ways of our daily life: the grocery; the hair dressing salon; at our campsite. Wherever the Lord leads us to encounter another – He wants us to be His Heart drawing them to Him To strengthen us for this work, we must nourish our souls at His table and in the sacramental life; we must foster a deep prayer life; spend quiet time with Him in Adoration; invoke the help of our Lady [the Rosary is a timeless treasure for this] and we must witness by our lives to our own intimacy with Him. Why not begin by prayerfully asking the Lord to show you how to reach out to the members of your family; to your extended family where there might be brokenness and rejection of Jesus? Invite friends and family to Mass with you; let your love and joy be an invitation to those at work to ask about your peace so that you can share your faith with them; and let us not forget that here at St. Peter’s, at the beginning of each month, a faithful team goes out to all the homes in our area to seek those whose faith needs our nourishing love. This allows us to touch the lives of the many who have been living in doubt and even despair. If you would like to learn more about this ministry you can contact Paul Gulotta at 337-365-4453 or 337-577-637. Set love as the criterion for all that you say, and whatever you teach, teach in such a way that the person to whom you speak, by hearing may believe, by believing, hope and by hoping, love. St. Augustine.
Third Spiritual Work of Mercy
Instruct the Ignorant
Fourth Spiritual Work of Mercy
Forgive Offenses Willingly
The Spiritual Work of Mercy to forgive offenses willingly reminds us of the last words of Christ on the Cross, Father forgive them for they know not what they do. From the Cross why is the Lord so ready to forgive? It is because He loves us. In just the proportion that we love anyone, we are willing to forgive him. Wherever there is love, there is forgiveness. Hence as St. Peter came to an understanding of love, after Pentecost, one of the first sermons he preached was: “The author of life you killed…I know that you did it through ignorance.” Peter was filled with love; therefore, he was willing to understand. I encourage you then love your neighbor and then you will forgive! These words of Christ on the Cross should infuse into us two resolutions. The first resolution is a willingness to forgive. Today in our world there is an ever increasing hate. This hate has caused a further increase in criticism. It is often forgotten that the criticism that we make of others is in almost every instance a criticism of ourselves. The second resolution is to seek forgiveness. We must never deny that we are sinners. Our disposition to go to confession is not only because sin is wrong, but because we see our sin in relation to the Cross. In realizing our own need for forgiveness we see that God forgives us and in turn that we need to forgive others.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
Forgive Offenses Willingly
"Peter, do you love me?" "Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you".
Our Lord, recognizing Peter’s repentance for his threefold denial, three times invited him to profess his love for Him. The call to reach out in forgiveness to others is born from a deep sense of the mercy that God has shown to us by forgiving us of our sins. When Jesus taught us to pray, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, He opened the door for us to share in His Merciful Heart by becoming agents of mercy. Who of us does not recall the beautiful words of St. Maria Goretti? As the eleven year old Maria lay dying from the fourteen wounds inflicted by her killer, she was asked if she forgave him. She responded, “Yes, for the love of Jesus, I forgive him … and I want him to be with me in paradise.” He repented and forty eight years later attended the canonization of little Maria. This power to forgive comes from our communion with Jesus.
The more we are united with Christ, the more we are empowered to forgive. Thus, the Holy Eucharist, is as an essential part of our growth in forgiving. The tender words of Jesus, ‘Do you love Me?’ draws us to His Heart where we learn to forgive. This week as we begin to look into our hearts to see where we need to allow forgiveness to begin, let us recognize that this forgiveness brings healing to our own hearts and then to others. Begin by forgiving yourself. In the sacrament of Confession we begin to accept God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Then let us look within our families and pray a simple prayer of forgiveness for those members of our family who have hurt us: “Father, In Jesus’ name I forgive [name]”. We cannot wait until we ‘feel’ this forgiveness. Rather, as we pray a prayer of forgiveness daily, we find our hearts becoming more and more like that of Christ. Then we can extend this prayer to those in our workplace, those we encounter daily. Each word of forgiveness, strengthens us to forgive more readily. Fr. Daniel Francis’ 3 minute video entitled ‘Forgive all Injuries’ provides a short and excellent look at the power of forgiveness. He ends by reminding us that ‘to forgive another person is to be the mercy of God.’ And Jesus Himself reminds us, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”. May the Mercy we have received bear fruit in the mercy we extend to others.
Fifth Spiritual Work of Mercy
The Spiritual Work of Mercy to admonish sinners has to be examined with great precision. The reason for such precision is that charity should precede the execution of the act of admonishing sinners and for many this is a difficult task. St. Augustine in his Treatise on the Sermon on the Mount states: “When we have to find fault with anyone, we should think whether we were never guilty of this sin; and then we must remember that we are men, and might have been guilty of it; or that we once had it on our conscience, but have no longer: and we should think of ourselves that we are all weak, in order that our reproof may be the outcome, not of hatred, but of pity. But if we find that we are guilty of the same sin, we must not rebuke him, but groan with him, and invite him to repent with us.”
The Great Theologian Augustine’s advice is a guide for us who seek to do good in assisting our brethren in this life in preparation for the life to come. Remember always St. James’ exhortation at the end of his Letter: “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his ways will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (5:19-20)
Spiritual Works of Mercy
In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus recounts the story of a man injured unto death by robbers, ignored by many and finally cared for by an ‘outsider’ who had compassion on him. In this parable is captured the pain and agony of one in sin. Wounded by sin, many are dying – on the point of losing eternal life and the glory of heaven while so many pass by, indifferent to his condition, perhaps quietly thinking, ‘It’s his choice,’ or ‘You can’t tell a man how to live his life.’ Thus does the evil one distort the love that we should all have for a brother who is suffering. St. Paul tells us, “If a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit.” Gal 6:1 We recall too the words of Jesus who said, “I your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. Mt 18:15
So what does Jesus ask of us. He wants us to pour the wine of truth upon the one wounded by sin so that his recovery may begin. This wine may at first bring a stinging discomfort to the person but it is the beginning of his healing. Jesus wants us too to soothe the wounded with the oil of love and compassion so that while we warn the sinner that sin is taking him to death, we still support him with love so that he can be taken to the inn where he can recover. That inn is the Church who provides the healing balm of reconciliation and the sacramental life. To admonish the sinner simply means to warn him – to remind him in loving charity of the beauty of his soul when he takes the path of God. Yet, noting too that wandering along the dangerous path of sin, allows the robbers to attack him at his most vulnerable.
This week, why don’t we begin to look at our own life and see how sin has wounded us? Let us allow that knowledge to fill us with compassion and a desire to share with others the path to reconciliation with God. Only a soul that is filled with the love of Christ can truly stop and pick up his neighbor who has been beset by robbers. How beautiful are the words of Pope Benedict XVI : “There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives, as God has done and continues to do with each of us.” Lent, 2012.
Sixth Spiritual Work of Mercy
Comfort the Afflicted
The Spiritual Work of Mercy to comfort the afflicted strikes at the heart of human person’s experience of suffering. This side of heaven we all experience suffering. It is first experienced interiorly and then exteriorly in our interactions with others. When we see another suffering we are moved to do everything within our means to alleviate that distress. What occurs too frequently in our world today is that we avoid comforting those who are afflicted. The reason for this is fear. We are afraid to face the afflictions of another for it reminds us of our own affliction. This avoidance of suffering separates charity and truth. It is charity that inspires us to do works of mercy. For in charity we view the other as another self. If the other is suffering, then he counts the other’s suffering as his own. Here lies the truth we are all suffering. We are all sinners and in this life we cannot avoid suffering. Suffering when seen in charity and truth is transformative. In his Apostolic Letter On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering Salvifici Doloris Pope St. John Paul the Second speaks of the transformative element of human suffering. “Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace. To this grace many saints, such as Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ignatius of Loyola and others, owe their profound conversion. A result of such a conversion is not only that the individual discovers the salvific meaning of suffering but above all that he becomes a completely new person. He discovers a new dimension, as it were, of his entire life and vocation.” (26) Heeding the words of the Saint may we who have seen his physical suffering be inspired to comfort the afflicted in our lives and in turn become Saints like Pope St. John Paul the Second.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
Comfort the Afflicted
Insult has broken my heart, and I despair; I looked for compassion, but there was none, for comforters, but found none. Ps 69:20
The psalmist captures for us the sorrow that must have filled the heart of Jesus as He hung abandoned on the Cross. Yet, as His pain-filled eyes looked down, He beheld His Mother. She could do nothing for Him but stand with Him in His last moments. In our Lady’s faithful and steadfast journey to Calvary with her son, we have the image of the Comforter who stands quietly, silently bearing the weight of the cross with the one who is suffering. And as St. Paul reminds us, it is in the strength of Christ that we are “able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.” [2 Cor. 1:4]
On April 8th, our Holy Father traveled to the island of Lesbos where he met some of the 500,000 refugees who have fled the terror of their homeland. His compassion and love touched them deeply and His visit there, he said, was to remind them that they have not been forgotten. In a very real way, our Holy Father embodied the words of St. Therese who reminds us that “God has no arms but yours.” Whenever we speak a word of comfort, whenever we listen to the pain of another, we bring Christ’s love to a sorrowing heart. We all know how beautiful it is to be touched by the kindness and thoughtfulness of those who see us suffering and offer a word of comfort. All that we need is a compassionate heart and an attentive ear. In this way, the merciful eyes and hands and feet of Jesus come to a broken world through us. Tragedy and sadness are inevitable in the lives of men, and before He left this earth, Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Let us ask Him to fill us with this Holy Spirit so that we in turn may become Comforters of those most in need of consolation. In this way we truly love one another as Christ has loved us. And why not consider the several ministries in our Diocese that work to bring comfort to those whose hearts are grief-stricken?
The list at the end of this article provides contact information that may help us to grow in this work of mercy. May Mary, Comforter of the Afflicted help us to walk with those in need.
- Companions Along the Journey
Contact: Carla Oliver
- Pregnancy and Infant Loss
- Healing House for Grieving Children
- Hospice of Acadiana
Contact: Mary Lahey
Seventh Spiritual Work of Mercy
Bear Wrongs Patiently
The Spiritual Work of Mercy to bear wrongs patiently is linked with comfort the afflicted that we spoke of last week. Comforting the afflicted focused on the suffering of others. Bearing wrongs patiently focuses on how we respond to suffering within ourselves. What is at the heart of the Christian life is grace present in our souls by faith, hope and charity through the reception of the Sacraments. Here is the well that never runs dry of providing us with charity which is love of God. The greater the love of God the more we can endure all things for Him whom we love. How then do we grow in this love of God? It is by the promise of the Father through the Son to give us the Advocate, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. How will this love of God affect us? What are we likely to face when we love God? One thing is for certain of those who love God: persecution in one way or another will occur. Why? It is because if the world loves us we are of the world. If we love God we are of God. It is God Who calls us out of this world not because we are just, but by His very calling us out of this world we who were unjust are now justified. It is not we whom have chosen God, but God Who has chosen us. It is not that we have loved God, but that He loves us. The Divine Physician both hates and loves the sick man. He hates the sickness within him and loves him because He wants to drive away his sickness. Devoid of charity there cannot be true patience. This love of God is in us by the Holy Spirit Who comes in us as love and of Him comes patience. A good will St. Augustine says, “is a will subjected to God, a will set on fire by sanctity of that ardor which is above, a will which loves God and neighbor for God’s sake; whether through love, of which the Apostle Peter makes answer, ‘Lord, You know that I love You;’ whether through fear, of which the Apostle Paul says, ‘In fear and trembling work out your own salvation;’ whether through joy, of which he says, ‘In hope rejoicing, in tribulation patient;’ whether through sorrow, with which he says he has great grief for his brethren; in whatever way it endures bitterness and hardship, it is the love of God which ‘endures all things,’ and which is not shed abroad in our hearts but by the Holy Spirit given to us.” (Treatise on Patience) As the Lord ascends to the Father may our hearts inspired by divine charity express in mercy the patience that shows not only our love of God, but primarily God’s love for all.
Spiritual Works of Mercy
Bear Wrongs Patiently
When He was insulted, He returned no insult; when He suffered, He did not threaten; instead, He handed himself over to the one who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23 As Jesus stood silently before Pilate, accepting the unjust punishment that would end in His crucifixion, His silence penetrated the heart of this Roman governor. Astonished by this man’s quiet acceptance of the accusations, He asked, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jn 19:10 The silence of Jesus was a fruitful silence—one that He patiently and lovingly embraced so that God’s will, His mercy and salvation, could be realized in all mankind. When we bear wrongs patiently, it is not just to ‘keep our sanity’; this is not a stoic acceptance of the injustices of others. Rather, it is a prayerful desire that those who make injustice their way of life may be touched by the witness of our lives and so come to know and live in the truth of Christ. Bearing wrongs patiently, ‘offering up’ the sufferings that come from the wrongs committed by others, is not meant to point to ourselves but to bring the merciful love of the Father to these very people. When gossip creates pain in our hearts; when rumors make us lose friends; when business associates cheat and rob us; when family members betray us – it is in the Merciful Heart of Jesus that we find strength not simply to not retaliate but more importantly to patiently offer the suffering for their salvation. It is only in Christ and His sacramental life that we can be strengthened for this work of mercy. Fr. Daniel Francis in his short clip on this work of mercy speaks of us becoming a ‘bridge of understanding and love’ and so becoming the peacemakers of whom Jesus said ‘they will be called the children of God’. By clicking here, you can view Fr. Francis’ excellent presentation. Let us keep in our hearts and before our eyes, the Silent Jesus, hanging on the Cross saying, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy Indulgence
This liturgical year we have the opportunity to obtain a plenary indulgence either for ourselves or for someone who is deceased. A plenary indulgence is a complete release from all the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven. “The faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains the indulgence under certain prescribed conditions though the action of the church, which as minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” (CCC1471)
What Are The Ordinary Conditions For Obtaining An Indulgence
One must be baptized and in the state of grace.
One must have the general intention of gaining the indulgence, either for oneself, or a deceased person.
One must worthily celebrate the Sacrament of Confession either in the days prior to performing the indulgenced act or immediately following it (within 20 days is allowed, but preferably on or close to the indulgenced act). One may receive several plenary indulgences on the same Confession.
One must receive Holy Communion properly on the day of the completion of the indulgenced act, however within 20 days of the act suffices, either before or after. (Holy Communion must be received once for every plenary indulgence.)
One must demonstrate communion with the Church by praying for the intentions of the Pope. Praying an “Our Father” and a “Hail Mary” will suffice, but other suitable prayers are acceptable.
One must have an interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, mortal and venial. That means that I am diligently trying to become aware of sin in my life and that there is no sin that I am aware of that I am not wholeheartedly trying to uproot in my life.
One must perform the indulgenced work.
How Can One Obtain The Special Jubilee Of Mercy Indulgence
Make a pious pilgrimage to the Holy Doors of designated churches in our area chosen by Bishop Jarrell or go through one of the four papal basilicas in Rome, or in the Diocese of Lafayette:
The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette
St Martin de Tours in St. Martinville
Monastery of Mary, Mother of Grace in Lafayette
Our Lady of Mercy in Henderson
Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in Leonville
Our Lady of Mercy in Opelousas
Sacred Heart Shrine in Duralde
St. Joseph in Patterson
Our Mother of Mercy in Church Point
Our Lady of Mercy in Rayne
Action To Be Performed On The Occasion Of A Pious Pilgrimage To The “Holy Door”
Make a brief pilgrimage to the holy door. (Hint: look for main church doors)
Enter shrine or church with a deep desire for true conversion.
Celebrate Sacrament of Confession and Holy Eucharist preferably on day of visit, but within 20 days with some time spent reflecting on mercy.
Pray the creed while visiting the shrine or church.
Pray for the Pope’s intentions.
For The Elderly, Confined, And Sick
Pope Francis in his Letter on Jubilee Indulgence wrote…”For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord, who in the mystery of this Passion, Death, and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and holiness.” They may gain the indulgence by: Living with faith and joyful hope in this moment of trial and receiving Holy Communion or attending Mass and community prayer, even through various means of communication, i.e. TV, radio, internet, etc.
Jubilee Year of Mercy
How is this Jubilee different from other Jubilee years?
The Jubilee of Mercy that Pope Francis has called, from December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016, is an Extraordinary Jubilee. This designation as an "Extraordinary Jubilee" sets it apart from the ordinary cycle of jubilees, or holy years, which are called every 25 years in the Catholic Church. By calling for a holy year outside of the normal cycle, a particular event or theme is emphasized. For example, Pope Francis called this particular Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy to direct our attention and actions "on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father's actions in our lives . . . a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective"
Jubilee Year of Mercy Prayer
Gracious Father, I thank you for the mercy you have shown in forgiving my sins and for the peace that comes from being reconciled with you and with your Church. O God, you are faithful, and you never abandon those who hope in you. I know that my redemption from sin and death has been purchased at the cost of your Son’s blood. In return for this priceless gift, I resolve today to renew my trust in your unfailing mercy. In times of doubt, when painful memories of past sins threaten to destroy the peace you have given, let the power of your Holy Spirit cast out all self-condemnation and give me greater confidence in your word of pardon. Teach me to encourage others so they, too, may seek your tender compassion and come to know your peace, which nothing can take away. I pray this in the name of Jesus, your Son, in whom you have restored me to life. Amen