I had dinner last night with three Missionaries of Mercy, including EWTN’s own Fr. John Paul, and two of his friends. The three had met in 2016 when they were called to be Missionaries of Mercy towards the end of the Jubilee of Mercy. I had a ton of questions and I listened as they told their stories and how their lives had changed since accepting this assignment. Spellbinding is the word I’d best use to describe the evening. I wish Pope Francis had been in my place to hear their stories. I know how they anticipated today’s meeting and Mass with the Holy Father, and reading his words to them gave me a greater understanding of his message.
And now, a heads-up for coming days:
I have been busy in the last weeks – including my time in New York – researching, writing, editing and re-editing scripts for 11 new “Joan’s Rome” videos. We are scheduled to tape these inside the Vatican and around Rome over the next two days and there will not be a spare minute to write this column. If there is breaking news, I’ll try to post it on Facebook. Thanks for understanding!
POPE TO MISSIONARIES OF MERCY: YOUR SERVICE IS PRECIOUS FOR THE CHURCH
During an audience with some 550 Missionaries of Mercy in the Vatican, Pope Francis reaffirmed them in their mission saying they provide a much needed service to the Church and warned them that the Christian path is an arduous one, “with stones upon which to stumble and banana peels on which to slip.”
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticannews: photo Vatican media)
The Missionaries of Mercy have been meeting in Rome for a few days of prayer and reflection organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
During an audience with Pope Francis on Tuesday, he told them that they are providing a much-needed service to the Church.
Although his initial intention was that their mandate would cover only the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope told them that it was because of the many testimonies of conversion attributed to their service that he had decided to prolong their service.
Mercy, the Pope told them that it was because of the many testimonies of conversion attributed to their service that he had decided to prolong their service.
He said his reflections intend to be supportive of the responsibility that he had given to them so that the expression of “ministry of mercy” that they are called to live might be improved.
Message of Mercy
Pope Francis said, “the message that we bear in Christ’s name is that of making peace with God…. God needs people to bring the message of his pardon and mercy to the world.” This is the mission that Jesus entrusted to his apostles the evening of his resurrection. The lives of those who fulfill such a mission must be in harmony with it, the Pope reminded them “To be collaborators of mercy, therefore, presupposes to live the merciful love which we ourselves have first received.”
St Paul: the mirror for the true Missionary of Mercy
The Pope reflected substantially on the experience of St Paul who, acknowledging his past as a “blasphemer and persecutor,…received mercy” from the Lord. Because of his past he became an ambassador of God’s reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20), and declared that he gave scandal to no one so no one could discredit his ministry (2 Cor 6:3). The key to collaborate with God is that one always acknowledges that “God has treated me mercifully,” the Pope said.
God makes the first move
Some concrete advice the Pope gave was that priests should remember that God makes the first move. Thus, when a penitent approaches the Sacrament of Reconciliation, they need to remember that God’s grace is already at work. “Our priestly heart should perceive the miracle of the person who has encountered God and who has already experienced the efficacy of his grace,” he said.
The priests’ work is the second move
The Pope explained that the priests’ cooperation in God’s grace already at work consists in “the not rendering vain the action of the grace of God, but to sustain it, and allow it to come to perfection.” Like the father of the prodigal son, confessors need to look in the eyes of the penitent, listen to them, and throw open wide their arms to welcome them, so that they can experience the love of the Father “who forgives no matter what, clothes the son with the festal garment and the ring which is a sign that he belongs to his family.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis said: “Living in communion with the Source of Life, Missionaries of Mercy are called to be interpreters of and to bear testimony to this experience: that everyone is always welcome without distinction into the community that sustains those who find themselves in a moment of need or difficulty.”
YOUR MINISTRY HELPS PEOPLE “TO BE REBORN FROM ABOVE”
After addressing the Missionaries of Mercy earlier in the morning, Pope Francis presided at a concelebrated Mass with them at noon at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica.
In his homily, the Pope said, “Everything starts from the Resurrection of Jesus: from it comes the testimony of the Apostles and, through this is generated the faith and the new life of the members of the community, with its frank evangelical style.”
He added that, “The readings of today’s Mass brings out these two inseparable aspects well: personal rebirth and community life. So, turning to you, dear brothers, I think of the ministry you carry out, starting from the Jubilee of Mercy. A ministry that moves in both these directions: at the service of the people, so they may be “reborn from above”, and at the service of the communities, so that they may live the commandment of love with joy and coherence.
Francis then proposed “two indications” he wants the Missionaries to grasp.
The first, he said, is that “those who are called to bear witness to the Resurrection of Christ must themselves, in the first person, ‘be born from above’. Otherwise one ends up becoming like Nicodemus who, despite being a teacher in Israel, did not understand the words of Jesus when He said that to “see the kingdom of God” we must ‘be born from above’, be born ‘of water and the Spirit’.
“Nicodemus did not understand the logic of God, which is the logic of grace, of mercy, so that those who become small are great, those who become last are first, those who recognize themselves ill are healed.” The Pope said this means “ordinary priests, simple, gentle, balanced, but able to let themselves be constantly regenerated by the Spirit, docile to His strength, inwardly free – above all by themselves – as they are moved by the ‘wind’ of the Spirit Who blows where He wants.
Francis explained that “the second indication concerns community service: to be priests capable of ‘raising’ in the ‘desert’ of the world the sign of salvation, that is, the Cross of Christ, as a source of conversion and renewal for the whole community and for the world itself.”
Pointing to the “communion manifested from the beginning in the community of Jerusalem where – as the Book of Acts attests – “all the believers were one in heart and mind, he said, “It was a communion that was made of the concrete sharing of goods, so that ‘they shared everything they had’. And ‘there were no needy persons among them’.”
“Dear brothers,” said the Holy Father, “put your specific ministry of Missionaries of Mercy at the service of this dynamism. In fact, both the Church and the world today are in particular need of Mercy so that the unity desired by God in Christ may prevail over the negative action of the evil one who takes advantage of many current means, in themselves good, but which when misused, instead of uniting tend to divide. We are convinced that “unity is greater than conflict” (Evangelii Gaudium, 228), but we also know that without mercy this principle does not have the strength to be implemented in the reality of life and history.”
The Pope said he hoped the Missionaries “leave this meeting with the joy of being confirmed in the ministry of Mercy, confirmed in the grateful confidence of being the first to be called to be reborn always ‘from above’, from God’s love and… confirmed in the mission of offering to all the sign of Jesus ‘lifted up’ from the ground, so that the community may be a sign and instrument of unity in the midst of the world.”
FROM THE HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE AND VICARIATE OF ROME
SUNDAY, April 15, Pope Francis will visit the Roman parish of St. Paul of the Cross at Corviali and say Mass.
TUESDAY, May 1 at 5 pm, Pope Francis will visit the Shrine of Divine Love to recite the rosary at the beginning of the Marian month.
SATURDAY, May 5 at 11 am, the Pope will preside at a meeting of the Neocatechumenal Way at Tor Vergata, on the 50th anniversary of the “Way.