Extraordinary gift of Indulgence. Many have heard that Pope Francis is making this Year of Mercy a time of reconciliation. Individuals who have been away from the Church (for whatever reason), have the opportunity to have the two meet in a spirit of harmony, settlement and reconciliation. This year allows priests and local authorities to have the ability to act for the good of the souls who find resolution “cutting through” preserved red tape and formalities.
The Year of Indulgence is kind of like the character played by Lucille Ball (if I remember correctly), who was filling out an employment application. When she came to the line marked “age” she hesitated for a long time. Finally, the personnel manager leaned across his desk and whispered to her, “The longer you wait, the worse it gets.” Before the opportunities run out…just do it!
Isn’t it strange and rather sad that most of us do not seriously consider a reform in life and turning our backs on our sins until our backs are against the wall? The alcoholic usually will not go to AA and take the first step toward change until his or her spouse has left them or is very close to it, or perhaps they have been fired or close to it. Some people will not stop going too far on financial statements until they think that this is the year they might have an IRS audit. I suppose this is because most of us are like water and like to seek the path of least resistance.
Sin is the great liar of life. It tells us it is easier to follow it as a path than righteousness (at least while we are sinning). Unfortunately, the sins we sow begin to reap consequences and draw us deeper and deeper into bondage until the choice is clear – either repent and change or die in one way or another. I always think of the two men who were adrift in an open boat and it looked bad for them. Finally, one of them, frightened, began to pray: “Oh Lord, I’ve broken most of the Commandments. I’ve got some pretty bad habits—I drink a lot, I curse most of the time, I steal things from work, I treat people like dirt. But if my life is spared now I promise you that I will change, that I will never again curse, that I will never again steal, that I…” Then, suddenly, his friend cried out to him: “Wait a second, Joe. Don’t go too far. I think I see another ship coming.”
This Year of Mercy also gives the faith the traditional opportunity for Plenary / Partial Indulgence for The Year of Mercy (December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016).
Those who make a pilgrimage to and pass through the Holy Door/Door of Mercy at…
- Peter’s Basilica in Rome or any of the other Papal Basilicas in Rome;
- Any Shrine or Jubilee Church in which the Door of Mercy is open; or
- The Holy door in every Cathedral or church designated by Bishop Swain.
(The designated pilgrim churches in the diocese will be given in a future bulletin.)
(When it comes to Plenary Indulgences – the requirements of confession, Communion, prayer for the Pope and freedom from all attachment to sin are required…more on this later as well.)
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is in Progress
Well…first things first. What is so unusual about a Jubilee Year?
We’ve seen several special “years” in the Church. (You may remember the Year of Faith in 2012–13.) But an Extraordinary Jubilee is, as the name implies, something special.
The tradition of “jubilee” has its roots in the Old Testament, where the People of Israel would, every fifty years, remember God’s mercy for them and that they were to extend mercy and forgiveness to others (not only for slights against them, but even monetary debts). All hurts were required to be forgotten and never thought of (or brought up) again. As the people would want God to forgive and forget…so it would be the same with the People of Israel. This tradition has continued in the Catholic Church, where every 25 years a jubilee (or holy year) is called. The most recent was the Jubilee Year 2000 to mark the beginning of the new millennium. An extraordinary jubilee occurs outside that normal 25 year cycle and is called to direct our attention to a particular event or theme.
Why Pope Francis call for this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy?
“Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favorable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.” (Divine Mercy Sunday, 2015)
Our days can often be filled with experiences of division between friends and strangers, family and co-workers, and even within our Church. This spiritual cancer, of course, necessarily translates and reflects our “Christian World”. More than ever our world needs mercy today, as seen in the frightening events of mass shootings and terrorism, war and rumors of war, and the incredible and unprecedented plight of millions of refugees from the war-torn Middle East. Our own country seems more polarized and divided than ever over the most fundamental questions of life, family, and freedom.
Pope Francis has called us to step back, to recollect ourselves and consider God’s work of mercy in our own lives…how He has extended forgiveness to us and blessings for us…and…in return…how we have and might still offer mercy and kindness to others.
Over the course of the Holy Year of Mercy, let’s use this space to offer suggestions for how we can seek mercy for ourselves and our loved ones and offer mercy to others. A good start is the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We’ll be expanding on the meaning of those works of mercy as well as other ways to live out the Jubilee of Mercy.
As Christmas now ends, we take a moment to reflect on how Christmas brings us to the crib of Jesus. We are claimed for Christ and His Kingdom at baptism. The vast majority of Christians, including almost all Catholics, are baptized when they are infants, and this is most fitting. The sacraments are instruments of God’s grace, and even newborn babies need the grace of God. Moreover, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism,” and for this reason: “The practice of infant Baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church.” (CCC 1250, 1252). But along with the indisputable benefits of baptizing infants comes a special danger: those who are baptized before the beginning of memory will have no recollection or understanding of the most important day in their lives. Unless they receive the Gospel with saving faith and the meaning of their Baptism is explained to them as they grow, then they will not know that they have been born again of water and the Holy Spirit and have been made children of God, members of Christ and heirs of the Kingdom.
So, as John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, parents and godparents are reminded at each baptism: “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?” And, the parents respond in this faith: “We do.” In other words, as Jesus begins His ministry at His baptism…the parents (and godparents) begin their ministry in perpetuating the faith until He comes again.
As we begin a new calendar year and enter more fully into the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we might make a resolution to better keep the Great Commandments to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Sometimes we can separate the two without knowing it. Jesus declared that they must go together.
Have you ever had an experience so powerful, so moving, so breathtaking that you never wanted it to end? Where there are no words adequate to describe it? Perhaps it was a special moment with someone close to you, the birth of a child, the achievement of a difficult goal, a sunset, or the tender presence of a friend in time of need.
It is those moments and memories of them that can keep us going through the thousands of other moments of life not so moving. Often they are moments of love and encouragement that give us hope, real hope, not the surface hope so talked about in our day.
One for me was when I was ordained a priest. Part of the ritual is for those being ordained to prostrate themselves on the floor while the litany of the saints is chanted: “St. Catherine, pray for us, Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us, Mary, mother of God, pray for us”. Now we can add Saint John Paul II and soon Saint Mother Teresa, saints from our own day.
Anxious about where God was leading me, it was a humbling and uplifting experience that reminded me and reminds me still, that in my priesthood I am not alone. The saints of God will come to my aid, and yours. I remember it vividly and that memory gives me hope.
Another was at my ordination as a bishop. The Book of Gospels is held over the head of the one being ordained almost as a roof, a source of protection. It too was humbling and uplifting. I remember it still and it gives me hope. Today I understand its power more deeply as the Gospel of life.
The stories and the witness of the saints are powerful sources of hope. I think especially of the first apostles. It must have been difficult being a disciple of Jesus, to travel with him and experience the mounting hostility, the carping criticism and the negative attitudes. What a strain to stand by while he was called a hypocrite, a blasphemer, a violator of the Law. Many turned away from him; his words were hard to accept. Many turn away in our day as well.
Surely reading their hearts Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain. As those who have been there know, the likely Mt. Tabor is a steep rise in the midst of a flat plain. One can see for miles from its top. The beauty, the calm, the peace of the place were very different from the turmoil and antagonism the disciples met below.
Imagine the reassurance they felt when Jesus stood before them, transfigured, revealing his divine nature, his face shining like the sun, his clothes white as light. Further assurances for them were those standing with him, the revered Moses the Law giver and the great prophet Elijah. It was so good, so reassuring that Peter did not want to leave. “Let us build three tents here.” And who could blame him.
To read the full article, go HERE.
The Solemnity of the Epiphany is one of the richest feasts in the Christian liturgy, and for this reason, it is also among the most misunderstood. The Greek word which we translate epiphany simply means “appearance” or “manifestation”, and in the Western liturgical tradition the Epiphany is linked most strongly to the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child. But in the Eastern liturgies, the Epiphany is focused not only on the visit of the Magi but on every early event by which Christ is revealed to the world as the Messiah: His birth, the visit of the Magi, His presentation in the Temple, and His instruction of the elders in the Temple, His Baptism in the Jordan, and His first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana. For this reason, ancient liturgies refer to the Epiphany as a festival of illumination, declaration, and theophany, and in many Eastern Christian Churches (like the Armenian), January 6th is the primary or only celebration of the Birth of Jesus, not December 25th.
This helps us understand the profound link between the Western feasts of Christmas and Epiphany and why this celebration is the traditional Twelfth Day of Christmas. The revelation of the Son of God to the world begins with His birth, continues with the visit of the Magi and with His presentation in the Temple, is intensified at His Baptism, and finds its first miraculous expression at Cana. Though separated by thirty years, the events at Bethlehem and Cana are truly but one continuous unfolding of the eternal plan of salvation, and of all these mysteries we can speak with equal force the words of the Preface of the Epiphany from the Roman Missal: “Father…today you have revealed the mystery of our salvation in Christ as a light for the nations, and when he appeared in our mortal nature, you made us new by the glory of his immortal nature.”
The Epiphany is an older Christian feast than Christmas, and from antiquity it has been kept on January 6th. The first recorded mention of this feast was in 361, and by 385 the Epiphany was celebrated in Jerusalem for eight days, like the present Octaves of Easter and Christmas and the old Octave of Pentecost. All of this points to the supreme importance of the sacred mysteries we celebrate today: by His incarnation and birth, by His revelation to the Magi and His presentation in the Temple, by His Baptism and the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, the Son of Mary is gradually shown to be “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.”
Friday, January 1 Mary, 2016 – Mother of God
Monday, August 15 – The Assumption of Mary
Tuesday, November 1 – All Saints Day
Thursday, December 8 – The Immaculate Conception
Sunday, December 25 – The Nativity of the Lord
(Then it starts all over again.)
These days mark significant Solemnities of our Catholic faith and since they do not always fall on Sunday (except once every 7 years) the Church wants us to celebrate them no matter what day of the week they fall.
Now…go home…get out the Sharpie and circle these dates in those new 2016 calendars and when you turn to the new month…you will see…and prepare yourself…for coming to the Holy Day Mass. Four of them fall within a two month period (with the Feast of the Mother of God coming up next week).
All Catholics are bound to attend Mass for this Feast, either by attending a vigil Mass the night before or a Mass on the very day. This gets a little tricky when a Holy Day falls either side of Sunday, so I’d like to review the options you have to fulfill your obligation to celebrate both Sunday and the Feast Day.
First of all, there is no way to attend Mass on Saturday and have “it count for” both the Solemnity and Sunday! No, you must attend two Masses next week! Please look on this as the great opportunity that it is…the chance to be reminded of God’s marvelous plan for our redemption that involved a woman without sin…Mary…who was chosen to be the Mother of God and give humanity (and flesh) to Jesus! Hence, delight in the manifold graces that God will lavish on you each time you glorify Him through His Son in the Mass. Enjoy and celebrate this wonder filled (wonderful) Christmas Season! Remember, the Year of Mercy and Grace of 2016 will only occur once in our lifetime.
5 days! Yes, schools will be closed, some businesses will be on ‘shut-down’ and many people will take time off for vacation. So this might be the perfect time, to really slow down and reflect upon your life. How’s it going? Are you living in accord with your priorities…or are changes needed?
Ready or not, the New Year will begin…in 23 days! This is the customary time to make new resolutions and to begin to live in the way you really want to live. Of all the things you can hope for in the New Year, I suggest you to contemplate the idea that we, the people of God, are called to become hope for the Church and the world.
Our Holy Father, Pope Emeritus Benedict, once said: “hope is a recognition of the ongoing need for salvation.” In other words, we are not supposed to just sit still and await the arrival of the Lord as if He was some beautiful decoration coming to a world already saved. Rather, we are to actively participate in the work of guiding others to salvation in Jesus Christ.
The goal to achieve…is God…for us and for all! And that should be our top priority as we enter the year 2016. So, ask yourself the question: “What can I do to help others begin or renew their relationship with Jesus?” And then, ask yourself: “What can I do to improve my relationship with Jesus?”
Do you have family members and friends who are living away from the Catholic Church for one reason or another? Well, this would be a particularly good time to invite them to come back to union with God in His Church! Great graces will flow during the Christmas Season and many people will feel the urge to be back in Church. So, please pray for the courage and the words to invite all of your fallen-away family members and friends to come and be reconciled with the Church.
Encourage them to start the New Year out right by meeting with their Parish Priest and charting a course to come back into the Sacramental life of the Church. As we celebrate the Great Mercy and Hope that God gives us when He gave us His Son 2015 years ago, let’s pray to actually become hope for many others as we invite them to come and adore Baby Jesus whose image is in the Crib Set, and whose True Presence is in the Tabernacle!