OTTAWA (CCN) — Ottawa’s archbishop will invite the faithful to perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy during the Jubilee Year of Mercy commencing Dec. 8.
“What can you do to be an example of merciful love and service, reflecting in some small way God’s love and mercy?” Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast asked 700 Catholics gathered for the eighth Archbishop’s Benefit Dinner Oct. 21. “Whom should you forgive? Of whom should you ask forgiveness? Who needs your kindness?”
“If we seek them, God will provide us with opportunities to be merciful to others, as the heavenly Father has been and will be merciful to us,” he said.
Prendergast said he would soon issue a pastoral letter making the invitation that each of the faithful perform at least one corporal and one spiritual work of mercy during the year. He said he would also “encourage each Catholic to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation — to go to confession — during the Year of Mercy.”
The diocese is preparing a Holy Door of Mercy for Notre Dame Cathedral to “give expression to our desire to receive God’s mercy toward us and to share it with others,” he said, inviting Catholics to “make a pilgrimage to pass through the Holy Door,” after it opens Dec. 12, perhaps with other parish members, prayers groups, or other associations.
The archbishop listed the corporal and spiritual works of mercy through illustrating the work done by the charities supported the fundraising dinner supported this year.
“Performing the corporal works of mercy is frequently satisfying and gives us a sense of achievement,” he said. “To feed the hungry and to give drink to the thirsty at the Hawkesbury Food Bank or St. Joseph’s Supper Table; to clothe the naked; to welcome the stranger; to shelter the homeless through the Catholic Centre for Immigrants, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, or Chez Mère Bruyère; to visit the sick and imprisoned; or to bury the dead through various outreach programs — all can touch us profoundly for the better.”
“Compassion to others changes something in our hearts, in the core of our beings,” he said. “The spiritual works of mercy are less known and often harder to perform. They are: to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to admonish sinners; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive offences willingly; to comfort the afflicted; to pray for the living and the dead.”
“Yet these spiritual works of mercy often are very close to what is done through Kateri Native Ministries to support, heal and renew our Aboriginal brothers and sisters or to what we do when we support the struggling parents of our young people, the children themselves, or our fellow workers, relatives, and friends,” he said.
Prendergast spoke of one of the pope’s titles as “Servant of the Servants of God,” noting how Pope Francis “humbles himself to go out to the margins” and “embraces” those “on the peripheries.
“He challenges us to do the same: go out to those who are hurting, lost, abandoned, or alienated, and bring them in,” the archbishop said. “Serve them. Humbly remind them of their glorious identity in Christ. This is being a servant-leader.”
The theme for the 2015-2016 Pastoral Year is The Family: Home of Love and Mercy, the archbishop said.
“Children, families, parents and grandparents, siblings, uncles, and aunts crave a hearth where they can find love, affirmation, and support,” he said. “But because families are also places where hurts occur, misunderstandings take place, and disappointments are common, family members do not find what they deeply yearn for.”
“We need to help the family to be the locus of mercy, of healing, of renewal, of transformation,” he said. “Humbly aware that God alone is perfect, we must safeguard each person’s dignity. Every child should know that his identity, his value, is in being God’s handiwork and the adopted son or daughter of God.”
He urged parents to correct their children without angering them and when offences occur to seek and offer forgiveness.