Tag Archives: pope francis

Missionaries of Mercy

Pope Francis has recently called for an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which will start on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2015 and end on the Feast of Christ the King, November 20, 2016.  Click here to read the proclamation in Pope Francis’s Apostolic Letter, “Misericordiae Vultus” (The Face of Mercy).

It’s very readable, so I won’t summarize all of its points here, but I would like to highlight one intriguing initiative, the “Missionaries of Mercy,” priests who will be sent out to dioceses throughout the world.

In the Pope’s words:

During Lent of this Holy Year, I intend to send out Missionaries of Mercy.  They will be a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom 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.[18]

Fascinating!  I immediately looked up what sins could be absolved only by the Holy See, and learned there are five:

  1. defiling the Eucharist
  2. attempting to assassinate the Pope
  3. as a priest, breaking the seal of confession by revealing who has sought penance and why
  4. offering  of absolution by priests to their own sexual partners
  5. directly participating in an abortion, such as by funding it, and later seeking to become a priest or deacon

Of course, as a baptized layman, I should not be so distracted by this that I lose sight of my own responsibilities during this Year of Mercy.  The Pope was pretty clear about that too, and among other things, he encourages us to rediscover the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy during the Jubilee.   He lists them, in case we’ve forgotten them:

The corporal works of mercy:

  1.  to feed the hungry,
  2. give drink to the thirsty,
  3. clothe the naked,
  4. welcome the stranger,
  5. heal the sick,
  6. visit the imprisoned, and
  7. bury the dead

 and the spiritual works of mercy:

  1. counsel the doubtful,
  2. instruct the ignorant,
  3. admonish sinners,
  4. comfort the afflicted,
  5. forgive offences,
  6. bear patiently those who do us ill, and
  7. pray for the living and the dead.

As it turns out, we’ve all been challenged to be “Missionaries of Mercy.”


Misericordiae Vultus” (The Face of Mercy). April 11, 2015, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco_bolla_20150411_misericordiae-vultus.html, accessed on April 14, 2015.

Pope Francis presents Bull of Indiction of Jubilee of Mercy, Vatican Radio, April 11,  http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/04/11/pope_francis_presents_bull_of_indiction_of_jubilee_of_mercy/1136108, accessed on April 14, 2015.

Vatican Reveals Sins Only Pope Can Forgive, Nation Post, January 16, 2009, http://www.canada.com/story.html?id=d9e2cfc6-182d-4afc-9e0f-9708f1bea4f9, accessed on April 14, 2015.

Seven Gifts

On Wednesday, June 11, 2014, Pope Francis concluded a series of talks he began in early April at his Wednesday General Audiences on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  While the Holy Spirit is certainly not limited to gracing us with only seven gifts – one recalls for example the many charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit – the Church has long reflected on the gifts bestowed on the Messiah mentioned Isaiah 11:2-3.

“And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear.”

The gifts are classically listed as:  Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that they make us “docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit”  and that they “complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.” [CCC 1830-1831]  “Docile” in this context means “teachable” and “obedient.”

I have found the Pope’s words on these gifts to be short, provocative, and well worth my time.  Check them out.

1)  Wisdom, April 9, 2014

2)  Understanding, April 30, 2014

3)  Counsel, May 7, 2014

4)  Fortitude, May 14, 2014

5)  Knowledge, May 21, 2014

6)  Piety, June 4, 2014

7)  Fear of the Lord, June 11, 2014

Star Gazing for God

I’ve always been fascinated by science, especially astronomy, so when I encountered Psalm 19 in my morning prayer recently, it struck home:

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4 (Vg. 18)

Our ancestors got a hint of the glory of God by looking up at the cosmos with nothing but their naked eyes, but these days we have sophisticated satellites and telescopes.  Did you know that even the Vatican has its own observatory and astronomers?   Yup.  In fact, the first Vatican observatory was founded around 1774!   The current Vatican Observatory is headquartered at at the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, although its research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group, is hosted  by the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona in Tucson Arizona.

Here’s a short clip of Pope Francis visiting the Vatican Observatory in July of 2013: