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A Year of Mercy with Pope Francis

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The Pope Returns to Rome

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By Chris Sparks (Sep 28, 2015)
The Holy Father has returned to the Vatican, and Philadelphia is gradually getting back to normal. A few news items, and a few observations at the end of a markedly successful papal visit.

First, of interest to all devotees of the Divine Mercy: This morning, the Holy See released Pope Francis' message for World Youth Day (WYD) 2016. Dated Aug. 15, 2015, the Solemnity of the Assumption, the message focuses on the fact that WYD falls within the upcoming extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in the home of St. Faustina, the "humble apostle to Divine Mercy," and St. John Paul II, the Great Mercy Pope.

The Holy Father discusses how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament notion of a "jubilee," a time for captives and slaves to be set free, debts to be forgiven, and all to be reconciled with the brethren and their neighbors.

He calls on all the youth to take the months till WYD 2016 to focus on a different work of mercy in each month. (For a practical guide to the works of mercy, check out 'You Did It to Me' by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC.)

Second, on the flight home from the U.S., the Holy Father once again held an impromptu news conference, taking questions on things like the right of public officials to conscientious objection (think Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses under her own signature and was jailed as a result; her name was never mentioned at the press conference); the upcoming synod on the family and the issue of communion for the divorced and remarried; and the issue of the walls being erected in various nations to attempt to hold back the tide of refugees and immigrants across the world.

For anyone who thinks the Holy Father doesn't hold to the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage, well, this press conference should put you at ease.

And he had some beautiful words om forgiveness:

If a person has done wrong, is conscious of what he has done and does not say sorry, I ask God to take him into account. I forgive him, but he does not receive that forgiveness, he is closed to forgiveness. We must forgive, because we were all forgiven. It is another thing to receive that forgiveness. If that priest is closed to forgiveness, he won't receive it, because he locked the door from the inside. And what remains is to pray for the Lord to open that door. To forgive you must be willing. But not everyone can receive or know how to receive it, or are just not willing to receive it. What I'm saying is hard. And that is how you explain how there are people who finish their life hardened, badly, without receiving the tenderness of God.

Thirdly, as is his usual practice, the Holy Father visited the icon of Our Lady, Salus Populi Romani, in the Basilica of St. Mary Major after he landed in Rome to place flowers at her feet and thank her for a successful trip. Again: this is a very, very deeply Marian pope, firmly devoted to the Blessed Virgin and conscious of her role in safeguarding and propagating the faith throughout the world.

Now, the reflections.

It's been an immense visit, and an immense success. I heard from several people that they now know why, in God's Providence, the Holy Father took the name "Francis." It's not just about the humility or the poverty, they said, but about St. Francis of Assisi's call from God to go and rebuild the Church, which was falling into ruin at the time.

Pope Francis is building the Church, not by repudiating his predecessors or changing the faith of the Church, but rather through fidelity to their legacies and to the fullness of the faith. He is making plain to us all what should always have been obvious: Catholicism doesn't fit in its entirety on the left or the right side of the political spectrum. To be Catholic is to always be a stranger in a strange land in this life, journeying always to our eternal homeland in heaven. If you are completely comfortable in this life, the Holy Father continues to remind us, you are being unfaithful to God and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Blessed are those who mourn, say the beatitudes, those who hunger, those who suffer, those who labor, for the kingdom of heaven will be theirs. Blessed are those who are not fully at home in a fallen world, not prospering without noticing the sufferings and the needs of their neighbors.

In his address before Congress, the Holy Father He reminded us of the Golden Rule, laying it out as a model for our political life and for all of life. Here, he seemed to say, is the path to bringing both justice and mercy to bear at one and the same time, for both are utterly necessary in order to overcome evil. Here is the way forward: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

And Congress leapt to its feet and applauded.

And Speaker Boehner resigned the next day, only the most obvious of the impact of the papal visit on the U.S.

The ripple effects will continue for some time to come. All the papal speeches, homilies, and other comments will repay repeated reading. Everyone should take up his call in his address to Congress to emulate Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Servant of God Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. Study the lives and works of the newly canonized St. Junipero Serra, St. Katharine Drexel, St. John Neumann, and all our other American saints and blesseds. Learn more about each great American. Read their writings and speeches. See what model of American life they present, separately and together.

And then try to begin to live it, especially through loving families and healthy family life, through learning the Church's teaching on marriage and the family (and then living it!).

Another part of the Franciscan heritage offered for our contemplation through Pope Francis is the quote so often attributed to St. Francis, summing up so much of his life's work: "Preach the Gospel at all times; if necessary, use words." Live love, and then your words will bring the fire of the Holy Spirit to the hearts of men.

Let's listen to this Holy Father, this preacher of the mercy of God, in order to be confirmed in our faith, guided according to the mind of the Church, and enabled to live our lives in the Spirit of God more fully, now and going forward. Let's be joyful evangelizers, sharing the Good News of God's merciful love with all our neighbors, and show the world the face of mercy.

Let us, in short, be who we were baptized to be. Then all shall be made new.

That's it for me for right now. Are you a Marian Helper? Did you attend the papal visit? Have Francis' words or deeds during the papal visit touched your heart? Share your stories with us in the comments section below!

Visit here for all papal visit coverage.

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coco - Sep 29, 2015

Pope Francis visit was exactly what our country needed. He brought God and hope for a brighter future to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. God Bless the Holy Father. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!