YEAR OF MERCY – WHAT EVERY CATHOLIC AND PARISH SHOULD KNOW AND DO
What is the Year of Mercy?
On 11th February, the Vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter or Sunday of Divine Mercy, 2015, His Holiness, Pope Francis, issued a Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy titled “The Face of Mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus in Latin). In this bull, the Pope declared that the Holy Year of Mercy would open on 8th December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and close on the Liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King on 20th November 2016. According to the Pontiff, “We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking Him to pour out His mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future”.
Why Year of Mercy?
Pope Francis has proclaimed the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church “to make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy”. This year, the third special jubilee in Church history, will be an opportunity to encourage Christians to meet people’s real needs with concrete assistance, and to experience and recognize with gratitude the mercy of God in our own lives.
What are the Spiritual Advantages of Celebrating the Year of Mercy?
As stated by Pope Francis in the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the Jubilee of Mercy is “an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal”. A Jubilee Year entails the granting of indulgences. The pardoned faithful, properly disposed, will be granted plenary indulgences, which will free him from “every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather than fall back into sin” (The Face of Mercy, 22).
What is the Door of Mercy?
The Door of Mercy is a special entrance door that is opened at the cathedral of a diocese at the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy, as a sign of God’s opening a new pathway to salvation. This door is a symbol of God’s mercy, open to welcome everyone into the compassion of God’s love that Christ proclaimed.
How are Parishes to celebrate the Year of Mercy?
Parishes are to celebrate the Year of Mercy in the following ways, among others:
(i) Have special days of reflection and action, to reflect and act on the Corporal Works of Mercy
(ii) Celebrate the “24 Hours for the Lord” in your parish – that is, full day celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and Eucharistic Adoration
(iii) Organise seminars on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy
(iv) Make a Pilgrimage to the “Door of Mercy” opened in the Cathedral
(v) Organise visitation programmes to hospitals, nursing homes and prisons, etc. and offer material assistance to the inmates as well as to others who are in need of help in your parish community and outside it
What are Parishes expected to do during a Parish Pilgrimage to the Door of Mercy?
(i) On arrival at the venue for the pilgrimage, parishioners taking part in a Parish Pilgrimage are expected to conduct themselves in the spirit of penance and sacrifice proper to pilgrimages
(ii) They should participate actively in the programme for the pilgrimage which should include the following, among others:
· Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
· Devout recitation of the Holy Rosary (20 decades) with meditation on the mysteries
· Procession through the Door of Mercy accompanied with psalms and hymns
· Say the Divine Mercy Chaplet
· Holy Mass
· Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee Year of Mercy
· Prayers for the Pope’s intention
(iii) While passing through the Door of Mercy, each pilgrim is to say this personal prayer in solemn silence: “Lord, May I be Merciful as God our Father”.
What are the Spiritual Benefits of taking part in a Parish Pilgrimage to the Door of Mercy?
Members of the faithful who make a pilgrimage to the Door of Mercy and pass through it with devotion during the Year of Mercy gain a plenary indulgence if all the requirements for gaining the indulgence are fulfilled.
What is an Indulgence?
As defined in the Code of Canon Law (can. 992) and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1471): “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints”.
In general, the gaining of indulgences requires certain prescribed conditions and the performance of certain prescribed works.
An indulgence is either partial or plenary. While partial indulgence remits only part of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, plenary indulgence effects full remission of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has been forgiven.
What is a Plenary Indulgence?
As defined above, a Plenary Indulgence is the indulgence which “effects full remission of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt have been forgiven”
What are the conditions for gaining a Plenary Indulgence?
To gain indulgences, whether plenary or partial, one must be a Catholic, not excommunicated or in schism. It is necessary that the faithful be in the state of grace at least at the time the indulgenced work is completed.
A plenary indulgence can be gained only once a day. In order to obtain it, the faithful must, in addition to being in the state of grace:
· perform the indulgenced work;
· have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;
· have sacramentally confessed their sins;
· receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required);
· pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff (one “Our Father”, one “Hail Mary” & one “Glory Be”).
Personal Obligations for Celebration of the Year of Mercy
(i) Repent of your sins and have a conversion of heart. The greatest sin imaginable is not too great to be forgiven if the sinner is truly repentant.
(ii) Go to Confession regularly to purge your soul of all sins and defilements that your prayers may be acceptable to God.
(iii) Forgive from your heart all wrongs done to you by others.
(iv) Be merciful to others just as you want God to be merciful to you. God wants us to extend forgiveness and love to others just as He does to us.
(v) “Do not judge, and you shall not be judged; do not condemn, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you shall be forgiven…” (Luke 6:37)
(vi) Completely trust in Jesus. “When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain within itself, but radiates them to other souls” (Our Lord’s words to St. Faustina – Diary 1074).
(vii) Refuse to retaliate. Merciful people don’t hold a grudge or try to even the score. They let it go, give whatever happened to God, and forgive.
(viii) Don’t turn away from someone in need. When we do so, we are in fact turning away from Christ himself.
(ix) Live the message of Divine Mercy by genuine practice of the temporal and spiritual works of mercy.
(x) Practice Divine Mercy devotions including saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Novena to the Divine Mercy in preparation for the feast of Divine Mercy (Divine Mercy Sunday).
(xi) Participate actively in the liturgical and devotional practices in observance of the Year of Mercy prescribed by the Pope and the Bishop of your Diocese.
(xii) Participate actively in your parish pilgrimage for the Year of Mercy.
(xiii) Participate actively in the Seminars, Workshops and Talks for the Year of Mercy organised at Parish and Diocesan levels.
(xiv) Cultivate little acts of kindness. Therefore, let us seek to sow, let us seek to scatter, little seeds of kindness everywhere we go.
(For more information please contact: Prof. Michael Ogunu – email@example.com; +2348035020068).
Copyright © Professor Michael Ogunu 2016
Version: 12th April 2016