Holy Year of Mercy – My Pilgrimage Part 1

Featured Image Photo Credit: Kristin McCarthy, 2016, Sanctuaire Saint-Annne-de-Beaupré, Beaupré, Quebec, Canada

Pope Francis declares this the Holy Year of Mercy beginning December 8th 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which will close on November 20th, 2016, on the Solemnity of Christ the King. In many ways, I have benefited from this Jubilee year, but I feel there is so much more to gain. This summer I set out for Quebec, thinking I was going on a 10 day sight seeing camping trip. To my surprise, this holy year led me on a grace filled pilgrimage to five of Quebec’s shrines: St. Francis Xavier Mission in Kahnawake, where St. Kateri is buried, the Canadian National Shrines of St. Joseph’s Oratory (L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal) , Saint Anthony’s Hermitage (Ermitage Saint-Antoine de Lac-Bouchette), Sainte Anne de Beaupré (Sanctuaire Saint-Annne-de-Beaupré), Our Lady of the Cape (Sanctuaire Notre-Dame-du-Cap) and the Quebec Provincial Shrine of Notre Dame Cathedral (La Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec) in Quebec City. Each destination was extremely different than the last, yet each has a Holy Door of Mercy, “…through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope.” (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus Bull of Induction 3) I crossed the threshold of 5 Holy Doors of Mercy this summer, each having their own unique characteristics. I invite you to follow my posts as I take you on my Quebec Shrine Tour during this Holy Year of Mercy. I also encourage you, my readers, to take advantage of those Holy Doors that are near you before they close.

As I travelled from shrine to shrine, I began to ask myself, what is mercy? And, what am I being asked to do during this Holy year? The most straightforward answer I can come up with is this: Mercy is forgiveness. It is compassion. I am being asked to open my  heart and pardon those who have hurt or wronged me. But, thankfully, I am not to do this alone for Jesus is with me.

In Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis uses several parables to illustrate God the Father’s love for His children, never giving up on us and always forgiving us—mercy everlasting.  

In reply to Peter’s question about how many times it is necessary to forgive, Jesus says: ‘I do not say seven times, but seventy times seventy times’ (Mt 18:22). He then goes on to tell the parable of the ‘ruthless servant’, who, called by his master to return a huge amount, begs him on his knees for mercy. His master cancels his debt. But he then meets a fellow servant who owes him a few cents and who in turn begs on his knees for mercy, but the first servant refuses his request and throws him into jail. When the master hears of the matter, he becomes infuriated and, summoning the first servant back to him, says, ‘Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ (Mt 18:33). Jesus concludes, ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart’ (Mt 18:35)”. (Mis. Vultus 9)

Jesus tells us mercy is not only an action of His Father, but of us as well.

Thus, Merciful like the Father, is the “motto” of this Holy Year. God wants each of us to be with him. We only need to look to Him and He will come to our aid. Open yourself to the goodness that God can bring you. Ask for His mercy and offer His mercy to those around you.

Pope Francis goes on to say,

“In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return. He comes to our aid whenever we call upon him. What a beautiful thing that the Church begins her daily prayer with the words, “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me” (Ps 70:2)! The assistance we ask for is already the first step of God’s mercy toward us. He comes to assist us in our weakness. And his help consists in helping us accept his presence and closeness to us. Day after day, touched by his compassion, we also can become compassionate towards others.”  (Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus 14)

When you stare mercy in the face, who do you see? Perhaps this is an invitation from Jesus to walk the road of forgiveness. He will either walk right along side you, or carry you if your burden is too great.