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Volunteers provide an example of living out the call to mercy as they help sort coats Oct. 26 at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul warehouse in Omaha. Alan Large, left, of St. Joan of Arc, Kathy Koraleski of Holy Ghost and Mary Vacek of St. Robert Bellarmine parishes, all in Omaha, and Diane Gau of St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue are among dozens who helped prepare thousands of coats donated for an annual giveaway Nov. 5. Photo by John Bosco/Staff.

Making corporal, spiritual works of mercy part of life

Father Andrew Sohm

Father Lydell Lape

As the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis draws to a close, Catholics are reminded to continue making mercy and forgiveness part of their lives.

It’s important to stay with those mainstays of the Catholic faith, emphasized during the jubilee year, said Father Andrew Sohm, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Newcastle and St. Joseph Parish in Ponca, and Father Lydell Lape, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Bellevue.

"To be merciful people is our identity – it’s who we are," Father Sohm said. "It’s an ongoing, daily commitment."

Mercy also is a key part of Archbishop George J. Lucas’ recently announced pastoral vision and priority plan for the archdiocese, Father Sohm said.

"It’s something we want to continue to grow in and become more merciful every day of our lives."

Father Sohm encourages people to continue performing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

"Things like visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry," he said. "It can be something very simple like serving at funeral lunches where we feed the hungry, but it can be very profound.

"Or write a note, write a letter, forgive someone," he said. "Let the Holy Spirit lead, have an open heart and an open spirit, and when you’re called upon, act with great joy and great love."

Forgiveness is an important dimension of mercy, Father Lape said. "Once we are forgiven by God, he expects us to do the same, as it says in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’

"I think the pope not only wanted us to experience mercy, but he wanted us to do a greater job of practicing mercy," he said.

Father Lape suggests picking out someone to forgive from the past, even though reconciling with that person may not be possible.

"Mercy is a special kind of love," he said. "Archbishop Fulton Sheen said mercy is that special love that is evoked when you see someone in difficulty and want to help them. God’s love for us is always a merciful love, because he sees we are always in trouble and comes to us with his compassion."

Helping others spiritually and with their physical needs doesn’t end with the Year of Mercy, Father Lape said.

"These are the ways of Christ and we’re meant to live that way all the time," he said. "God’s merciful love is eternal and so our practice of mercy is not just for a special jubilee year."

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