November 18, 2016
Last December, Pope Francis opened the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy with a call to turn to Jesus Christ, “the face of the Father’s mercy.”
“We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy,” the pope wrote in proclaiming the Jubilee. “It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it.”
On Sunday, Nov. 20, the Feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis will bring the Year of Mercy to a close at St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and Bishop David Choby will do the same at the 11 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville.
“I think people embraced it,” Father Jayd Neely, pastor of St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows Church in downtown Nashville, said of the Year of Mercy. “Mercy is a theme that resonates with everybody.”
When Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of Mercy at the start of the Jubilee at St. Peter’s, he invited local bishops around the world to do the same at their cathedrals and other significant churches in their dioceses. Bishop Choby designated Holy Doors at the Cathedral of the Incarnation and at St. Mary’s, the former cathedral and one of the oldest churches in Nashville, dedicated in 1847.
During the Year of Mercy, people could obtain an indulgence, which is remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, by making a brief pilgrimage to a Holy Door, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and participating in the celebration of Mass with a reflection on mercy. Those seeking an indulgence also had to make a profession of faith and pray for the pope and his intentions.
To help people making a pilgrimage to the Holy Door at St. Mary’s and seeking an indulgence, the Sacrament of Reconciliation was offered there every day before the weekday Masses, Father Neely said. “We have people come every day.”
“One of the primary ways we encounter (mercy) is through Confession,” Father Neely said. He encouraged people to put aside any fears or anxieties that might keep them from going to Confession. “It’s like a band aid, you’ve got to rip it off. But you’ll feel good afterwards,” Father Neely said.
“The more often you go, the easier it is to do,” he added. “You don’t have this huge burden every time you go.”
While the Church encourages people to seek mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it also encourages people to share mercy through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
As part of the commemoration of the Year of Mercy, Aimee Shelide Mayer, program coordinator for social concerns and advocacy at Catholic Charities of Tennessee, organized an event each month since May reflecting one of the Corporal Works of Mercy.
“Basically, I tried to look at our Social Services Department and the Refugee Services (Office) to see which works of mercy fit” with the services offered, Mayer said. “Some were natural fits.” An event at the Loaves and Fishes program, which provides meals for the poor and homeless, fit well with “Feed the Hungry,” she said.
But sheltering the homeless was harder to do because Catholic Charities doesn’t have a program to directly provide housing for the homeless. Instead, they held an event to raise awareness of the problem of homelessness and the work of Safe Haven Homeless Shelter for families, which partners with Catholic Charities, Mayer said.
The other events and corresponding Work of Mercy were:
• A drive that collect bottled water and healthy snacks for Catholic Charities’ HOPE Program, which provides counseling for children and teens who have experienced trauma – “I was thirsty and you gave me drink.”
• A drive that collected more than 8,300 diapers for the adoptions assistance program – “I was naked and you clothed me.”
• Volunteers wrote cards that can be delivered to Catholic Charities elderly clients and refugees upon their arrival – “I was ill and you cared for me.”
• Visiting the homebound through the Living at Home program – “I was in prison and you visited me.”
The final event will be a memorial service for loved ones who have died in the last year at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, at the Catholic Pastoral Center. The memorial service and potluck lunch to follow is open to everyone, Mayer said.
In organizing the events, Mayer was looking for initiatives that could continue beyond the Year of Mercy.
Some of the events served as “good initial encounters when people aren’t quite sure how to get involved,” she said. “When people find something that they’re passionate about it, then it will really stick.”