Tag Archives: mercy

Advent, the Incarnation and mercy

Saint Athanasius, the great fourth-century bishop and Doctor of the Church, wrote the following in his work entitled On the Incarnation of the Word: “After the Word of God was revealed in the body and made known to us his Father, then the deceit of the demons disappears and vanishes, while men, looking to the true divine Word of the Father, abandon idols and henceforth recognize the true God.”

Abbot Placid Solari, OSB

Abbot Placid Solari, OSB

These words can serve as a starting point for our consideration of the Advent season. In a certain way, Advent is the preparation for our celebration of God’s new creation. When the Word was revealed in the body, the mystery of God’s purpose begins to be made known as he restores his creation and endows it with a yet greater dignity.

Genesis tells us that “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” But we sinned, disfiguring the divine image and losing our likeness to God. But God now reveals the mystery of his purpose, which he had from the beginning to restore, not destroy, his creation. The Word, the image of the unseen God, and the image according to which we were created, takes to himself our human nature so that, in our same nature, he may restore what was fallen.

In absolute love he is obedient to his Father’s will, even to death. By absorbing into himself all the evils of sin and the final enemy, death, and by his wondrous resurrection and ascension in our same human nature, he brings to fulfillment God’s original plan of salvation. Even more, God reveals that he has already raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus!

When the Word of God came among us in our own humanity, he revealed to us our true human nature by his birth, by his life in a family, by sharing the experiences of daily life, by his death in our mortal nature, and by rising to new life. In our Advent and Christmas celebrations, Athanasius tells us that we need to look “to the true divine Word of the Father, abandon idols and henceforth recognize the true God.” The idols and demons of our age would have us turn away from the truth that the Son of God lived among us as a man. They would seduce us to believe that our body is a mere accident with no relation to who we are as a person, to believe that the creation of mankind in the divine image, male and female, is a quaint and outdated myth, and that gender is a malleable social construct.

“After the Word of God was revealed in the body and made known to us his Father,” Athanasius writes, “then the deceit of the demons disappears and vanishes.” Advent is a time for us to renew our confidence in the Father’s wondrous plan of creation and salvation. It’s a time for us to renew our faith and our witness to the truth that Jesus has revealed about the Father — and about our own human nature.

Advent is also a time to marvel at the mercy and kindness of God, who did not abandon us when we were weak and fallen. The book of Genesis — after telling the story of creation and the fall, and outlining the cancerous spread of sin — begins the great story of God’s plan to gather this fragmented community together again. God calls Abraham and promises him descendants more numerous than the stars in the heaven. From among these descendants, after countless centuries of waiting, arose the Son of God, the Savior, in his human nature.

Since such great mercy has been shown to us, our witness to the Truth against the idols and demons of our present age should be tempered as well by great mercy. As the long centuries of preparation for the Christ were often tempered by setbacks and failures, we also must be patient. As we prepare to celebrate the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ our Lord, let us have great confidence that God’s love made visible in us — through the work of the same Holy Spirit which once overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary — will finally cause the deceit of the demons of our day to disappear and the Kingdom of God to be made manifest.

ABBOT PLACID SOLARI, OSB, is Belmont Abbey College’s chancellor and chaplain of Legatus’ Charlotte Chapter.

Lessons from the Jubilee of Mercy

Well, the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy has ended. Does that mean that the Church’s emphasis on mercy ends? No! The year of mercy didn’t introduce new truths but highlighted the importance of old truths that are especially relevant for our day’s challenges. Let’s consider a few of the most important.

Ralph Martin

Ralph Martin

The most important thing to take with us from the year of mercy is a good understanding of what mercy actually is. Even though mercy has been much talked about, there is often a fuzziness about it. Mercy is receiving undeserved favor. Mercy is the gratuitous gift of a love that forgives and goes beyond anything that we could ever deserve or earn. Mercy is undeserved kindness, unearned pardon, unfathomable love, gratuitous gift.

Pope St. John Paul II described it in a particularly profound way: “For mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; it is as it were love’s second name and, at the same time, the specific manner in which love is revealed and effected vis-à-vis the reality of the evil that is in the world” (Rich in Mercy, 7).

In its deepest expression, mercy is the infinite love that rescues us from perishing (hell) and offers us the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life (heaven). Could anything be greater? Does anything deserve more our eternal gratitude and fidelity? Is there anything more important to communicate to others for the sake of their salvation?

Sometimes because Pope Francis so strongly emphasizes mercy and being non-judgmental, people don’t notice that he is very clear, in harmony with his predecessors, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and scripture, that a response to mercy by way of conversion is necessary for it to be effective.

For example, in the very first paragraph of his inspiring apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, he makes this clear.

“Those who accept His offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness…. I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ… Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.’”

Pope Francis lovingly repeated this basic truth during his first Good Friday Way of the Cross comments at the Coliseum: “In judging us, God loves us. If I embrace his love, then I am saved; if I refuse it, then I am condemned.”

Nowhere is the necessity of responding to mercy with faith and repentance clearer than in the examples of Jesus’ mercy in the Gospels. Here we find Him expecting mercy to result in genuine repentance and a changed way of life going forward. Remember, the Prodigal Son had to make a decision, a change of direction — “I will return to my Father” — which opened up the door of the son’s heart to the mercy, forgiveness, and restoration that the Father was always ready to extend to him.

Remember the woman caught in adultery? Jesus mercifully didn’t condemn her but clearly told her not to sin again. “Neither do I condemn you; go and do not sin again” (Jn. 8: 11). And remember the person who was physically healed after being ill for 38 years? Jesus sought him out afterwards to tell him: “See you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you” (John 5: 14).

The Catechism admirably sums it up: “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit” (#1864).

As we go forward into the new year, let’s remember how great the gift of God’s mercy is and how necessary is it that we respond to it with faith, repentance, and a life that is increasingly characterized by the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy — and, as Legates, sharing this message with everyone we meet.

RALPH MARTIN is a professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and president of Renewal Ministries.

Winding down the Jubilee Year of Mercy

As I was greeting the parishioners after a Sunday Mass recently, one of them approached me and said it was so nice of the Church to change the Mass prayers to incorporate so many references to mercy during this jubilee year. I told her that the Church didn’t change any language in the Mass for this year, but that she now had a heightened awareness of mercy because of the holy year.

Monsignor Michael Billian

She was surprised. Then I thought to myself: “What a hidden gift we have had all along, that this special year dedicated to mercy has helped us unwrap for the sake of our salvation!”

This Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy comes to a close on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Nov. 20. We’ve been offered many lessons and opportunities during this beautiful year. Pope Francis hoped that we would develop in three ways. First, he offered the invitation to come to a deeper theological understanding of mercy, which is concrete and reveals God’s love. He wanted us to learn practical ways to engage in this year by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and celebrating the sacrament of Reconciliation. Finally, he challenged us to answer the call for justice and conversion.

From the very first words of the document announcing the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy — “Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy” — Pope Francis has been calling us to live out the mercy that God constantly extends to all of us. So as we come to the end of this special year, we must ask ourselves: Are we more in touch with the Father’s greatest attribute? Are we more readily generous to share the Father’s quality of mercy with others? Are we prepared to work for justice through the Father’s characteristic of mercy?
Mercy is the way in which God shares his love with us, a love much like that which is shared between a parent and a child, a love that is deep and lasting, a love that renews and refreshes us. The Holy Father teaches us that “the name of God is mercy. There are no situations we cannot get out of; we are not condemned to sink into the quicksand.”

holy-doorMercy is the primary way we receive the Lord and give him to others. As we have developed a renewed understanding of mercy throughout this year, we are truly called to be merciful like the Father. Have we come to an understanding of mercy and found a way to communicate it to others through our words and actions?

One of the most powerful ways we celebrate the Father’s mercy is through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Perhaps you participated in the “24 Hours for the Lord” or went to Confession during one of “The Light is On” opportunities that took place in many dioceses across the country. The Church has made a concerted effort to offer the grace of the sacrament in abundance to all of us. Once we have acknowledged and celebrated this wonderful gift of mercy, we should have felt compelled to engage in the works of mercy so that we could be instruments of God’s love and mercy to those we encountered throughout the year of mercy. During this year, have we celebrated the outpouring of the Father’s mercy through the sacrament and shared the gift through the works of mercy?

Pope Francis’ final call for this jubilee was that of justice and conversion. At first glance, many people have the sense that justice and mercy are opposed to each other, but the truth is that these virtues are two sides of one coin. Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us that justice is the will to render everyone their due and mercy is the compassion in our hearts for another person’s misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help them. While we may sense a moment of mercy outside of justice, the long-lasting effects of mercy cannot penetrate our lives or world without justice. Have we found a way during this jubilee to invite both of these gifts into our lives and the world?

The outpouring of God’s mercy does not stop when this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy ends, nor does our opportunity and duty to participate and share God’s mercy. Rather, the gift of this year has been a springboard to a way of life where we proclaim with all our being that God loves us and wraps us in his mercy so that we can share this precious gift with the world.

MONSIGNOR MICHAEL BILLIAN is the chaplain of Legatus’ Genesis Chapter and pastor of Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Toledo, Ohio.

What are indulgences?

The issue of indulgences is an area of difficulty for many people. In fact, it was one of the sparks that started the tragic blaze of the Protestant Reformation, a blaze that incinerated the cultural and religious unity of Christendom starting back in the 1500s.

Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC

An indulgence is simply a specific manifestation of God’s grace — one that the Church offers to us as a concrete way to show our love for the Lord and for our neighbor. An indulgence can only be attained with the intention of attaining it. So, if I were to lift my mind to God in the midst of my workday, I wouldn’t receive an indulgence for doing that unless I consciously intended to receive it. Through prayer and sacrifice, we become channels of God’s grace, and an indulgence is a manifestation of that grace.

In the first centuries of the Church, Confession and penance were much more public than than they are now. It wasn’t until the sixth century that Irish monks really began to popularize individual, private confession. Until that era, it was more common for Christians who had fallen into grave sin to make their confession in front of the bishop and the entire congregation — and to be assigned a visible penance.

For example, a public sinner might be required to wear some kind of penitential garb and stay at the back of the church during Mass for six months or even an entire year.

Even during those early centuries, however, the practice of indulgences was emerging. For example, if a believer caved in under pressure of persecution and publicly denied his faith, it was considered the grave sin of apostasy. If that believer repented, he would be given a hefty penance. But that penance could be lessened if he visited a future martyr or confessor who was imprisoned for their faith. He would get this holy person to sign an affidavit by which he would express his desire to apply the merits of his sacrifice to the believer’s penance. He then would bring this document to the bishop and some or all of his penance could be remitted.

After the period of the Roman persecutions, obtaining this kind of remission of penance through the merits of the saints continued. Thus, the practice of indulgences emerged. Until recently, the relative value of the different indulgences was still expressed by correlating them to certain amounts of days. This harkens back to the early Church and its public penances, which were assigned for specific periods of time. Today this method of expressing the relative value of indulgences has been simplified. Instead of specific numbers of days, we just have partial or full (plenary) indulgences.

FR. JOHN BARTUNEK, LC, is a former professional actor who became a Catholic priest in 2003. This column is printed with permission from his book Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions (Servant Books, 2014).


Catechism 101

An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance and charity.

Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1478-1479

A Call To Mercy

Mother Teresa
Images Books, 2016
384 pages, hardcover $25

Published to coincide with her canonization, this new book of unpublished material offers the new saint’s profound, yet accessible wisdom on how we can show mercy and compassion in our day-to-day lives. Compiled and edited by Fr. Brian Kolodiejckuk, MC, the postulator of her canonization cause, the book presents profound insights on how we can show compassion in our everyday lives.

Subtitled Hearts to Love, Hands to Serve, the book is not only a lovely keepsake, but a living testament to the teachings of a saint whose ideas are important, relevant and incredibly necessary in the 21st century.

Order: AmazonBarnes and Nobles

Suggestions for the Year of Mercy

We are in the early stages of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, in which we are being asked to receive the Father’s mercy so we can bestow it upon others.

Bill Bowman

As well as being purposeful ourselves in living many acts of mercy this year, we in business have additional opportunities to reach people to let them know of the extraordinary gifts of this Jubilee Year. One of the best ways to receive God’s mercy is to make a good Confession — and to commit to a regular Confession schedule going forward.

What can we and our companies do to direct the mercy of the Father to others? Here are some suggestions. Pick three or four and live them well — and enlist members of your family to join you!

Pray and offer a small sacrifice so that a particular family member or friend will return to the Church. That usually only requires them to go to Confession. Invite and then go to Confession with them.

Find the churches that offer adoration and get into the habit of stopping for five or 10 minutes to pray for the spiritual health of your family and those in your company.

Tell a friend how important they are in God’s eyes — that if they were the only person on earth, Christ would have suffered and died for them. Show them the incredible dignity they have before God!

Identify the Jubilee Holy Doors in your diocese (every diocese has
at least one). Take your children or grandchildren with you, and explain to them what it is. You can each obtain a plenary indulgence by walking through the door and fulfilling the other conditions (detachment from all sin, Holy Communion, Confession, and prayers for the Pope) within a few days of the visit.

Establish the habit of praying the family rosary, perhaps after the dinner dishes are done. Have the family agree on a merciful intention for each night’s rosary.

Remember those in the hospital or at home who should receive the Anointing of the Sick. Get involved and make it happen! Others close to that person may not realize the importance of this sacrament.

Spread the faith by starting a group to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church or by teaching CCD to those difficult middle school students.

Remember your friends who need a gentle “fraternal correction” to get them back on track. Don’t assume someone else will do it.

Pray for a mother you know who has had an abortion. Remind her that any priest can forgive that sin in the Jubilee Year.

Tell people in your company or business unit that we’re in a Year of Mercy. Most everyone likes Pope Francis so they’ll probably accept the idea. Encourage small groups to come up with ideas for living mercy in your organization. Then ask each to commit to doing a small number per day.

When you’re interrupted at work, welcome it. Give that person your full attention until the matter is presented or resolved.

Ask yourself several times a day: “How can I help this or that person succeed at work?”

Praise a colleague’s comment during a meeting. Bite your tongue so as not to criticize another’s comment.

Ask those who report to you how things are at home. Then give them the time to explain, and see if giving them some time off or letting them work from home would help ease the pressure.

Ask the spouses of your employees what changes in the work environment would improve their family life. Pick and implement two or three and let them know they were heard.

Simply pray for people at work two or three times during the work day. Pray that God’s will for them be accomplished.

Don’t interrupt a colleague. Listen to the whole answer before offering a comment.

Remember that to direct God’s mercy to others, we first have to receive that mercy ourselves. Ask God for his mercy and then for help to extend it to those in need.

BILL BOWMAN is a member of the advisory board at the School of Business and Economics at The Catholic University of America. He is president and CEO of Core Values Group LLC in Boston.

Separating the sheep from the goats

There’s an old adage: If you’re not moving forward, you’re going backwards. This is certainly true in business, but it’s also true in other aspects of our lives.


Patrick Novecosky

Business people know this saying all too well. Growth is essential to the bottom line. Legatus itself strives to grow in order to bring the Gospel to as many souls as possible — but also because if our growth were stagnant, we’d still lose members through death, illness, and dozens of other reasons.

Similarly, we strive to grow in our relationships. My wife is my best friend. We’ve known each other for 15 years, but we’re still getting to know each other — and growing in our understanding and appreciation for each other. My children are complex beings whom I strive to know better as they age and mature.

Why should our relationship with Jesus — God himself who is infinite — be any different? At Mass a couple of days ago I heard Matthew’s gospel in a completely new way. Jesus was talking about his return in glory when he separates the sheep from the goats (Mt 25:31-46). The sheep will go to heaven and the goats to hell.

Jesus doesn’t have it in for the goats. The goats willingly chose hell because they opted not to listen to the Master’s voice — they chose themselves before others. Surprisingly, they were shocked when Jesus said he didn’t know them.

The sheep were also puzzled when Jesus assures them they had, indeed, done his will: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?” Jesus replied: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

That got me thinking: Am I a goat? Am I going the extra mile to care for the sick and imprisoned, the thirsty and hungry? After Mass, I returned to work and started editing the Faith Matters column. Bam! It was like being hit across the head with a 2×4 — a rough awakening to know that my eternal salvation hangs on making this gospel passage part of my life.

It’s clear that my primary focus is to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of my wife and children. That’s first. But God is also calling me — and all of us — in this Year of Mercy to ask: “What more can I do? How can I serve Jesus in the poor and needy?” And grow we must. Our eternal destiny depends on it!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Mercy and the problem with evil

One of the most pressing questions confronting anyone searching for truth is why, if an all-knowing, all-powerful God exists, does he allow great evil — or any evil — to exist.


Patrick Novecosky

Volumes have been written about the problem of evil. The answer is simple, yet complex. The simple answer is one word: love. God gave us the incredible gift of free will—the ability to freely choose him or to freely reject him. He loves us that much. He could have pre-programmed us to adore him, but that’s not what love is.

The answer is complex because God’s gift of free will has incredible consequences. One of them is great evil like the Holocaust of World War II or the abortion holocaust of our day — nearly 60 million American babies murdered since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Free will gave us men like Hitler, Mao, and Stalin — and atrocities like those committed by ISIS.

When confronted by such evil, we cry to God, begging him to stop evil dead in its tracks. The way I look at it, He gives us two responses. “I did stop it — at the Cross.” Christ’s death and resurrection stopped evil dead. Satan is one day closer to his end now than he was yesterday. The second response is the tougher one: “You do something about it.” Faithful Christians are called to be leaven in the world. We’re called to break the cycle of hatred and revenge. We’re called to help Jesus stop evil dead. We’re called to end evil regimes by force if necessary. But most of all, we’re called to mercy.

Jesus told St. Faustina in the 1930s that she was to prepare the world for his final coming. He also told her that this is the time of great mercy. So it’s no surprise that Pope St. John Paul II called the day he canonized her the greatest day of his life. And it’s no surprise that Pope Francis is following in the footsteps of his predecessors by calling a Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Lent is a great time to start flexing our “mercy muscles.” This jubilee year has a twofold call: Confession and pilgrimage. During Lent, let’s focus on forgiveness. Start by going to Confession a few times — maybe every other week. Then listen. Ask God to show you where you can forgive, where you can heal broken or rocky relationships. Ask him to show you where you need to forgive yourself. Then watch evil begin to flee because Satan hates humility.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

Pope Francis’ mission of mercy

Some days I think I have a tough job as the father of five children and editor of an important monthly magazine for Catholic business leaders. But what if Jesus Himself appeared and gave you this task: “Prepare the world for my return”? Now that would be a tough job!

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

During a series of visions, which began in 1931, the Lord asked St. Faustina Kowalska to have an image painted as she saw him. This Divine Mercy Image graces many Catholic churches around the world today. But less known is the fact that Jesus told her, “You will prepare the world for my final coming.”

In the late 1960s, the archbishop of Krakow asked his top theologian to examine Faustina’s writings, which were popular but not yet approved by the Church. Shortly after they were authenticated 10 years later, that archbishop was elected bishop of Rome. Needless to say, Pope St. John Paul II recognized the truth contained in Jesus’ revelation to this simple Polish nun.

Why would Jesus ask her to prepare the world for his return? Because now is the time of mercy! We don’t know when Jesus will make his final return, but it’s clear that right after we draw our final breath, we’ll meet him face-to-face. Will we meet our just judge or our Merciful Savior? That’s up to us, actually. We choose our destiny by how we live our lives here and now.

John Paul knew this well. Long before his death, he became known as the Pope of Mercy. Not surprisingly, Pope Benedict XVI continued to unpack the theology of God’s mercy in his writings and addresses, and Pope Francis has hit the “mercy accelerator” since his election more than two years ago.

“Do not be afraid to look into [Jesus’] eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to his merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls,” Pope Francis said in his message for World Youth Day 2016, to be held next summer in Krakow — the home of Faustina and John Paul II.

World Youth Day will be one of the most significant events during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which begins on Dec. 8. Why a Year of Mercy? Because Jesus wants to lavish his mercy right now on a world so blighted by sin. Just scan today’s headlines and you’ll see what I mean.

The truth is that we can all take part in the job given to St. Faustina only 80 years ago. Give yourself completely to Our Merciful Savior and let others know that hope can only be found in Him!

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.


Fr. Mitch Pacwa SJ
Our Sunday Visitor, 2015 
128 pages, $9.95 paperback

The Church’s Year of Mercy begins in December. What a better time to prepare than this summer when you’ll have time to kick back with a good book? Father Pacwa’s study guides have become legendary — especially in parish study groups. This one is no exception.

Subtitled A Bible Study Guide for Catholics, this book explores Israel’s long, slow struggle to experience mercy. By looking carefully at their experience of turning away and returning to God, we begin to understand that God’s love, shown through His mercy, is more powerful than sin. Perfect for group study or personal reflection.

Order: Amazon