Series will focus on ‘Living the Jubilee Year’
Editor’s note: Lent begins Feb. 10. And it is the Jubilee of Mercy. As Pope Francis notes in his Lenten message, there is no better time to deepen understanding and commitment to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. A Catholic Voice series highlighting these works begins with this article.
"It is my burning desire that during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy."
So wrote Pope Francis in the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which introduced the holy year, that runs from Dec. 8, 2015, to Nov. 20, 2016.
"Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples," the pope wrote. "Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy… And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy."
Helping Catholic Voice readers rediscover the corporal and spiritual works of mercy is the goal of a series beginning with this issue and running each month through September titled, "Living the Jubilee Year: Putting Mercy Into Action."
Priests of the archdiocese will share their reflections on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and how Catholics can practice them in their daily lives. And articles will feature people throughout the archdiocese who put mercy into action through loving service – volunteering at food pantries and shelters, visiting the elderly and prisoners, comforting and counseling the troubled, helping others meet their physical and spiritual needs.
The newspaper also is following the lead of Archbishop George J. Lucas, who encouraged personal action in a Jan. 8 Catholic Voice column, echoing the pope’s call for mercy.
"I believe he (Pope Francis) also encourages us to make these works of mercy more personal," the archbishop wrote. "We do meet Jesus in the poor when we encounter them face-to-face. They have something to offer us, even as we reach out to them. In even a limited experience of direct service to our neighbors, we will find that the mercy flows in both directions.
"The spiritual works of mercy are usually more personal by nature," the archbishop continued. "Here, too, we find many opportunities available in our parishes for sharing the encouragement of our faith with others."
For Omar Gutierrez, manager of the archdiocesan Office of Missions and Justice, the pope’s invitation is intended to help people transform their lives through transforming their actions.
"The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are concrete activities we can engage in for that transformation," he said.
Opportunities to show mercy often can be found in daily life, Gutierrez said. Parents perform corporal works of mercy every day, such as feeding and clothing their children, he said.
"I think the pope is inviting us to look at those activities as corporal works of mercy and to bring our spirituality into what we are already doing," he said.
"More than that, the pope is also inviting us to go outside our families and help others through activities such as volunteering at the local shelters."
Although the spiritual works of mercy may be a bit more difficult to exercise in everyday life, Gutierrez suggested looking for opportunities for spiritual formation, to learn about and teach others about the faith.
"Many parishes throughout the archdiocese are having missions during Lent or having events around the year of mercy," he said. "I’d encourage Catholics to go to those activities as a way of living out the year of mercy.
"Sometimes we think of the works of mercy as doing something, but sometimes just being with someone – visiting the elderly, for example – can be a very strong spiritual and corporal work of mercy," he said. "I know of folks who make a practice of visiting nursing homes on weekends with their kids as something the whole family can do together."
Gutierrez said the wisdom of the church always has held that by engaging in these activities, people build good habits, or virtues.
"The church is inviting us to engage in these activities so we can build virtues to better conform ourselves to Jesus – to bring ourselves closer to who Jesus is so we can be Christ to others."
Story ideas for the Catholic Voice about fellow Catholics making a difference in people’s lives through acts of mercy can be sent by email to email@example.com. Or call senior writer Mike May at 402-558-6611.
Works of mercy
Corporal works: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, comforting the sick, visiting those in prison, burying the dead.
Spiritual works: instructing the uninformed, counseling the doubtful, admonishing sinners, comforting the afflicted, forgiving offenses, bearing wrongs patiently, praying for the living and the dead.