“Merciful like the Father”
– The Papal motto for this extraordinary Year of Mercy
As mothers, we can be a bit overwhelmed on how to live out an extraordinary jubilee year! We can start to think on such a large scale that nothing really changes in our lives. As a busy mom, I myself know what it is like to experience Catholic guilt over missing out on the special graces the Lord wants to provide me and my family. So here is my cheat list of MUSTS for this year of tremendous graces! God is offering us an opportunity for grace and transformation through this gift of an extraordinary Year of Mercy. This special year begins with the feast of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, 2015 and closes with the Feast of Christ the King which falls on November 20th of 2016.
TOP YEAR OF MERCY ACTIVITIES AND IDEAS:
1.Read the Papal Bull: “There is no bull in this Bull”… Let’s get back to the basics. What happens in Rome shouldn’t stay there – we need to know about it! Read this great summary of Misericordiae Vultus by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Don’t have time to read the whole thing? Here are a few excerpts from this special letter from Pope Francis:
“At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.”
“We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.”
“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”
2. Come to Practice and Appreciate the Divine Mercy Devotion:
This devotion was revealed to us by the “Apostle of Mercy,” St. Faustina Kowalska. She shares in her personal Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, a powerful and compelling interaction with Jesus Christ and about His Divine Mercy. This wonderful devotion is a perfect complement for the Year of Mercy and our vocation to motherhood! The more we can live out the 5 aspects of Divine Mercy, the better we can successfully utilize mercy in our own lives. These 5 aspects are:
The Image of Divine Mercy
The Feast of Divine Mercy
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
The Hour of Great Mercy
Spreading devotion to Divine Mercy
Visit www.marian.org for more ideas and a summary of this devotion and consider practicing this powerful Devotion during this Year of Mercy! You can also download the Divine Mercy App here.
3. Visit A Door of Mercy– Pope Francis is encouraging us to head on a pilgrimage to a designated Holy Door of Mercy. If you can’t make it to Rome, find a local cathedral, shrine or church that is offering a similar grace. Every particular church, therefore, will be directly involved in living out this Holy Year as an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal. Thus, the Jubilee will be celebrated both in Rome and in the particular churches as a visible sign of the Church’s universal communion.
“By crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.”-Misericordiae Vultus- Papal Bull, section 14.
4. Write a Letter/ Note of Mercy: Who do you need to forgive? Mercy can be extended whether you are the victim or the violator; we all need God’s mercy and a letter affirming this mercy can go a long way. Think about your many relationships and decide who might need you to extend them mercy. Pick up a pen and write a handwritten letter affirming your desire to live out Mercy in your life.
“Pardoning offenses becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves. At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully”- Papal Bull
5. Mercy Journal: Track your spiritual progress and works of mercy in a Year of Mercy Journal. This journal will allow you to write down your prayers of thanksgiving and see that Christ is working in our lives every single day! Mark your calendar for December 8, the beginning of this extraordinary year! I hope that we can all grow in appreciation of God’s Mercy and be an instrument for the Lord.
6. Read More Scripture: “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). “In order to be capable of mercy, therefore, we must first of all dispose ourselves to listen to the Word of God.”-Misericordiae Vultus. Consider taking some time out in your busy day to read the word of God and allow Christ to speak to you. For the Daily Catholic Readings visit United State Catholic Bishops Conference. Consider placing this site as your homepage for the year of Mercy or sign up to receive the daily readings in your inbox!
7. Do Works of Mercy: As moms we are always on the go, so lets take time out and make sure our life is productive for the Lord. Mercy and motherhood go hand and hand. When we begin to think of others’ spiritual and physical needs, we can be the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus Christ himself. For ideas on how to implement this visit www.divinemercyformoms.com.
“Pope Francis affirms our intuition that mercy should be our focus as mothers. These acts of mercy reawaken our conscience, which too often grows dull through our own self-sufficiency. The works of mercy let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel, where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy.” – Divine Mercy for Moms: Sharing the Lessons of St Faustina
“Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity”- Pope Francis
8. Reach Out to Others, Make a New Friend:The Holy Father has challenged us during this year of Mercy to think of those outside of our daily walk of life. He challenges us to find friendship in people that are “different” than us and encourages us to reach out to those who are lonely. As moms, what could be better then having your children’s classmates over that rarely gets an invite, or reaching out to a new family in the parish or school or just seeking out those who need a good friend. When we seek to befriend others we are acting like Jesus Christ.
“May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!”- Papal Bull, Section 15
9. Smile, Mom, and Be Cheerful! It is easy to pick up the laundry, drive the carpools and serve your family with a frown on your face. There are days when I don’t want to do another thing for someone else, but the reality is we need to find joy in our service and understand the real gift is that by serving we are more like Christ! Our attitude is what separates us from doing just duties or work. Our cheerful attitude can penetrate the hearts of other or be a witness to our Catholic Faith.
“May the words of the Apostle accompany us: he who does acts of mercy, let him do them with cheerfulness” (cf. Rom 12:8). -Section 16
10. Don’t Miss Out on a Universal Event- Mark Your Calendar! One of the greatest blessings about being Catholic is the universality of our Church. We do not only celebrate the same sacraments but we can celebrate and participate in extraordinary events like the “24 Hours of the Lord.” This amazing event will take place the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent. The theme of this great event will be “God Is Rich in Mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). This is an event that should not go unnoticed or forgotten! We are going to be given an unbelievable opportunity to experience God’s mercy and to help our family and friends come closer to Christ. Just think, the Holy Father is asking us to celebrate God’s rich mercy together on the same day!
“The initiative of “24 Hours for the Lord,” to be celebrated on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent, should be implemented in every diocese. So many people, including young people, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives. Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands.” –Section 17
So moms, if we can remember to get our children to soccer tournaments, birthday parties and important academic and club meetings, let us not forget to join in the Church and celebrate this amazing event!
11. Confession, Anyone? Take Time Out to Go! I have found that when life gets difficult for me, going to Confession can be a huge help. Confession is like taking a nice hot shower for the soul. It is an opportunity to reset your “life button” reflect on what needs to change and for what you need to seek out forgiveness and receive the graces you need to live out your vocation of being a wife and mom! Confession and mercy go hand-in-hand. When we turn to God the Father and ask for forgiveness, we receive the graces we need, are better able to serve others and improve our earthly relationships.
“…accept the faithful as the father in the parable of the prodigal son: a father who runs out to meet his son despite the fact that he has squandered away his inheritance. Confessors are called to embrace the repentant son who comes back home and to express the joy of having him back again. Let us never tire of also going out to the other son who stands outside, incapable of rejoicing, in order to explain to him that his judgment is severe and unjust and meaningless in light of the father’s boundless mercy. May confessors not ask useless questions, but like the father in the parable, interrupt the speech prepared ahead of time by the prodigal son, so that confessors will learn to accept the plea for help and mercy pouring from the heart of every penitent. In short, confessors are called to be a sign of the primacy of mercy always, everywhere, and in every situation, no matter what.” -Section 17
12. Know Anyone Suffering from Abortion? One of the hardest subjects to discuss with others is abortion. For many people it sparks debates and anger, but the fact is no matter what a person’s feelings are on the issue, this subject is about death, pain and suffering for a child and his or her parents. Pope Francis wants to take that pain away and is offering these men and women an amazing gift- God’s mercy.
“I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision (abortion). I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”
13. Missionaries of Mercy: From Rome to You! During Lent, our Holy Father is demonstrating his love for us so much that he is sending out his “best foot soldiers” to hear confessions, preach and represent God’s merciful heart. He is following the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola,the founder of the Jesuit order which has been influential for Christ over the ages. We not only need to live Mercy but spread it. There will be special priests who will preach and hear confessions through the whole world. Here is a brief description of these special priests:
“Archbishop Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, the office organizing events for the Holy Year of Mercy, said the priests will be chosen on the basis of their ability to preach well, especially on the theme of mercy, and be “good confessors,” meaning they are able to express God’s love and do not make the confessional, as Pope Francis says, like “a torture chamber.”
“I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon. They will be missionaries of mercy because they will be facilitators of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again.” -Section 18
14. Turn Away From Corruption: In a world of materialism, it is important to realize that corruption is a temptation for all walks of life. It is easy to “scrape off the top,” but during this Year of Mercy we are called to turn away from all forms of corruption. As mothers we need to help our children understand that our moral choices matter and that we must choose to turn away from sin.
“Corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor. It is an evil that embeds itself into the actions of everyday life and spreads, causing great public scandal. Corruption is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is a form of power… prudence, vigilance, loyalty, transparency, together with the courage to denounce any wrongdoing.” – Section 19
15. The Relationship Between Justice and Mercy: During the Year of Mercy, we must not only perform Merciful Deeds, work on developing a merciful heart, develop a deeper prayer life and appreciate God’s Mercy but also seek to better understand the role of justice and mercy. As mothers, we serve an important role of being our children’s advocate. By seeking justice for our family and those who cannot seek it on their own, we can teach our children to do the same for others. When we seek to bring about justice combined with mercy, we are better able to live out our Catholic Faith. Justice and Mercy are not opposites, but rather complements!
“Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe.” – Section 21
16. Gain an Indulgence: One of the most misunderstood concepts within the Catholic Faith is that of “Indulgences.” As Catholic mothers, we need to understand that the Church is offering us a tremendous gift for our soul and the souls of our family members!
“Jubilee also entails the granting of indulgences. This practice will acquire an even more important meaning in the Holy Year of Mercy. God’s forgiveness knows no bounds. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all human sin. Reconciliation with God is made possible through the paschal mystery and the mediation of the Church.” -Section 22
17. The Year of Mercy is Larger Than Our Catholic Faith:We can sometimes forget that we are called to evangelize and share the Gospel with others. Pope Francis challenges us mothers by reminding us that the message of mercy is not just for Catholics. We are called to “eliminate closed mindless and disrespect” that never has a place in important dialogs.
“There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes.” -Section 23
“I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with these religions and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.” – Section 23
In Conclusion:This Year of Mercy is an opportunity for the world to learn what it means to show mercy to others. If we are willing to be merciful, we will inspire others to do the same.
“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).” -Papal Bull, Section 25
Let us not miss out on the amazing graces being offered to us during this up and coming year of Mercy!!