On Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King, the Jubilee Year of Mercy will end. During this period, which began last Dec. 8, we have been granted an extraordinary time of grace. Now, the Holy Doors will be sealed.
The traditional Holy Doors in the Major Basilicas in Rome (St. Peter, St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran and St. Paul Outside the Walls) have brought pilgrims from across the globe.
We were also granted permission to establish designated sites for the Holy Doors in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In addition, two temporary sites were established for the day — one at Holy Hill for the Don Bosco Youth Day and the other at the Washington County Fairgrounds for the Women of Christ Conference.
Hundreds of confessions took place, spreading God’s mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation. In order to include as many as possible in the participation of this grace-filled year, our chancellor, Barbara Anne Cusack, presented virtual doors so that those incapable of getting to our established Holy Doors at our parishes could go online and participate in this year of grace and mercy. No one has been left out.
These Holy Doors, opened as a source of grace for all who sought God’s mercy, received a great number of pilgrims from various sections of the archdiocese. The lasting effects of this Year of Mercy will bring great spiritual benefits to the archdiocese.
Through the prayers and charitable works performed, we were reminded of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
It was also a teaching moment as individuals tried to remember their catechism instructions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2447) states: “The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.”
Most can easily remember the corporal works of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, giving the drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned and burying the dead. We have celebrated the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy at various locations throughout our archdiocese, drawing attention to the good works which have been performed by our religious and lay people, as well as by organizations erected as continuous sources of charity in our church, St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, etc.
The final meeting emphasizing “burying the dead” was the interment of hundreds of cremains, either abandoned at a funeral home or neglected to be buried in a timely fashion. It was a great moment to bring closure to all the works of mercy by laying to rest brothers and sisters with a proper burial.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are a bit more difficult to remember. They are: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted and pray for the living and the dead.
You can readily see how these Spiritual Works of Mercy form the soul. The one that I especially must work on in order to strengthen my own interior life is “bear wrongs patiently.” I think of Jesus on the cross, totally innocent yet accepting his persecution in order to fulfill his mission reflecting the Father’s will.
We have been especially blessed to have Fr. Ken Omernick, pastor of St. Charles, Hartland, as the missionary of mercy. His reflections on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy demonstrated the profound insight of a pastoral leader and doctor of the soul whose video presentations were mini-spiritual directions. We hope to collect his talks in a CD or DVD format and make them available to our archdiocesan faithful for meditation and study.
If you haven’t viewed his presentations please go to www.archmil.org as they are deserving of your time.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has fulfilled the expectations of Pope Francis by bringing us to an awareness of mercy in our lives and by sharing with others the mercy God has shown to us. The real proof of our success will be in our understanding of mercy and our integration of it into our spiritual formation.
Pope Francis announced the Year of Mercy in a work titled, “The Face of Mercy” (Misericordia Vultus). At the end of this work, he stated: “In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid and love. May she never tire of extending mercy and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: ‘Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old’ (Ps 25:6).”
Soon it will be Advent and we will prepare to receive our Lord at Christmas, but we must never forget he came into the world because he loved the world and that all who believe in him might be saved.
The Holy Doors are closing, ending the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, but the work of mercy continues as we become the voice revealing the face of mercy that we have discovered in the love of Christ.