Tag Archives: Year of Mercy

Year of Mercy points the way to heaven

Let’s face it, we all want to go to heaven. That’s one destination with no downside. The harps. The white fluffy clouds. A mega-buffet 24/7 and all the champagne you can drink, right?

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Patrick Novecosky

I hate to burst your bubble, but heaven is far better than that! It’s an unending praise and worship session before the Father’s throne. Jesus, of course, is at his right hand and the Holy Spirit is everywhere. It’s eternal ecstasy beyond anything possible on this planet.

Now that I’ve placed you (figuratively) before the throne, let’s talk about how to get there. That’s the tricky part. Sort of. Jesus is the gate to heaven. He said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” How to get to heaven through Jesus? The clearest answer is in Matthew where Jesus talks about how he will gather “all nations” before him (that’s us) and separate the sheep from the goats.

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me’” (Mt: 25:34-36).

Jesus makes it abundantly clear that if we don’t care for those in need and put others first, we will not enter heaven. And I don’t read any exceptions into his mandate.

Living in an affluent part of the world in the 21st century, I often ponder how this passage applies to me. I can’t fly off to India and work with the poor. There are very few destitute people living close to me. I am, however, defending “the least among us” in every possible way and tending the flock God gave me — my own children — and instilling in them the importance of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

In this Year of Mercy, I’m taking Jesus at his word. I yearn for heaven, but I know it isn’t “earned” by works. He opened heaven for me. I’m doing works simply out of love for him, and that’s what he asks of each of us.

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

Living with the end in mind

I attended a number of funerals this past Lent — and we as a country experienced the tremendous loss of a truly heroic Catholic and Supreme Court justice: Antonin Scalia.

Tom Monaghan

When I attend funerals or contemplate the loss of someone like Justice Scalia, I cannot help but wrestle with my own mortality. Of course we all know intellectually that we are going to die and that it’s a question of when, not if. But do we really live like we are going to die? By which I mean: Does it affect our day-to-day decisions?

The traditional Ash Wednesday prayer when we are marked with the sign of the cross is, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). The Church obviously wants us to keep this in mind. Many of the great saints also exhorted us to be mindful of our final end. Saint Bonaventure wrote, “To lead a good life, a man should always imagine himself at the hour of death.” We often see pictures of saints with a skull on their desk. While at first glance this might seem morbid, this was to remind themselves that this world is not their ultimate end.

In 21st century America, the whole reality of death is almost hidden. With all the advances in medicine, we can be made to feel like we will live forever. Of course no one would ever say this outright, but we might be tempted to live with this underlying principle. Youth, health, strength, beauty are all good things, but our culture idolizes them almost to the point of denying that we will die one day.

When we think or talk about running our businesses and making goals, whether we do so consciously or not, many of us use “Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind,” made famous by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is exactly what the Church teaches us when we’re encouraged to contemplate our final end.

We are in the Year of Mercy, as declared by our Holy Father. However, unless we understand that we need mercy, seeking or receiving mercy is not going to mean a whole lot to us or to those around us. However, when we really do a thorough examination of conscience and get in touch with our sinfulness and our need for God’s mercy, that’s when we can truly seek and receive it.

TOM MONAGHAN is Legatus’ founder and chairman.

Living in the Spirit of Mercy

This month, a little more than halfway into the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we celebrate Pentecost. We know that on the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was made manifest to the disciples who were gathered together in the upper room

Fr. Mark Reeves

We commemorate that great event every year, knowing that the Holy Spirit comes into the world to fill us with grace and to guide our lives. The Spirit reminds us what it is to be a member of the Body of Christ, impels us to live our lives in harmony with Jesus Christ, and offers us the grace to do so.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we have been called to reflect on God’s Mercy in our lives. It is through the Spirit’s power that we experience the effects of God’s mercy. In the busy-ness of our lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit is present in our world. When we examine the state of the culture, it’s easy to presume that He has simply abandoned us. That impression cannot be further from the truth. The Spirit is right in our midst. In fact, the Spirit dwells in our hearts.

If you think that the Holy Spirit has left us to fend for ourselves — to deal with the likes of suffering, famine, terrorism, war and injustice — think again. He has not abandoned the world; although, perhaps to some extent, the world has abandoned Him.

While we are certainly not masters of our own destiny, we are cooperators with the Holy Spirit’s grace. He instills God’s grace into our hearts and impels us to act upon (and in concert with) that grace. Any impression that the Spirit has abandoned us is easily dispelled by a clear understanding of our role as cooperators with the grace the Holy Spirit has given us. That role might be active or contemplative. The story of Martha and Mary makes that clear to us.

The meaning of mercy is hard to pin down, but a reasonable definition of mercy might be: pity or compassion from the heart. It’s not a stretch to say that, since the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, he is the means by which God the Father bestows his mercy upon us — and the means through which we are prompted to convey his mercy to others.

The Spirit’s gifts provide further insight. Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord are all gifts of the Spirit by which God’s mercy is bestowed upon us — or through which He impels us to offer God’s mercy to others.

With this understanding, we can say that we truly live in the spirit of mercy. As Christians, we are often reminded that we must give what we receive. That’s certainly true of God’s mercy. We have an obligation to share God’s mercy with the world, beginning in our families — and extending our reach throughout our community to the ends of the earth. That’s what Jesus did, and I suspect he wants us to do the same.

The Holy Spirit impels us to convey God’s mercy to one another, to be instruments of God’s mercy. If we want to change the world, we might think about ways in which we can offer God’s mercy to others. God’s mercy will change the culture. Compassion from the heart will go a long way to moving our imperfect world toward divine perfection.

Through God’s mercy, we are moved from the imperfections of this world to fullness of life. The Lord’s miracles are examples of that movement. Recall that, in his mercy, the Lord extended his hand and gently touched a leper, moving that leper from imperfection to fullness of life. His disease no longer marginalized him. Instead, Jesus healed him. He was reintroduced into his community and restored to the fullness of life which God the Father intended from the beginning. His life was transformed by a divine act of mercy.

The Holy Spirit impels us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps — to be as he is and to do as he does. In particular, to offer one another his mercy — compassion from the heart. Do we have the courage and conviction of our faith to do that? It’s certainly a challenge for each of us, but it’s a challenge that we cannot turn down.

If we want to change the culture for Christ, let’s be sure to offer to one another the mercy we have received in abundance through life in the Spirit. That’s what Jesus did. It worked for him; it will work for us.

FR. MARK REEVES is an attorney, architect and priest of the Archdiocese of Miami. He is the chaplain of Legatus’ Miami Chapter.

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.

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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.

33 Days to Merciful Love

Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC
Marian Press, 2016
124 pages, paperback $14.95

In this stirring sequel to the best-selling 33 Days to Morning Glory, Fr. Gaitley uses the same 33-day format. Subtitled A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy, his new book takes readers on a journey with one of the most beloved saints of our day — St. Therese of Lisieux — and concludes with a consecration to The Divine Mercy.

During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, there’s no better time to deepen your prayer life by consecration to Our Lord’s Divine Mercy, led by the Little Flower herself.

OrderAmazonMarian Press

Let’s make this a merciful Lent

We’ve entered that special time of the liturgical year when we, as followers of Christ, seek to experience an intense spiritual renewal. It should be a time of grace and conversion for each of us.

Fr. Robert Rippy

Medieval Europeans saw Lent as a time for prolonged prayer, severe bodily discipline and generous almsgiving. From this history, we can see the origins of our three traditional Lenten practices — prayer, penance and almsgiving. While these practices need to be maintained, we also need to focus on repentance and baptism.

Lent helps us and catechumens to be better disposed to celebrate the great paschal mystery. The Rite of Election, the scrutinies, and catechesis lead catechumens to the sacraments of initiation. As followers Jesus, we need to listen more intently to the Word of God and devote ourselves to prayer to prepare ourselves, through a spirit of repentance, to renew our baptismal promises at Easter.

A good way for us to listen intently to the Word of God is to attend daily Mass during Lent. The first readings allow us to reflect on God’s covenant with his people, his promise and gift of the Suffering Servant, and his call to repentance and conversion. The Gospel readings help us to reflect on the major events in Jesus’ life and ministry — his temptation and his transfiguration. After reflecting on the readings, we must ask ourselves: “How am I going to apply them to my life?”

In grade school the good sisters used to make sure that we were giving up something for Lent. They also reminded us that it had to be something that we liked. As a child, I wanted to give up Brussels sprouts (I hate them), but was reminded that wasn’t a good idea. We must look into ourselves to understand what foods, drinks, habits, etc., are controlling us. Therein lies the problem. We should be controlling these things and not vice versa. During Lent we need to rid ourselves of things that pull us away from God rather than bringing us closer to Him, but don’t set the bar so high that at the end of Lent we lament not achieving our goal.

Lastly, during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are given a wonderful opportunity to grow closer to the Lord, experience his mercy, and put mercy into action. How many of us remember the corporal and spiritual works of mercy? Corporal: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, burying the dead. Spiritual: admonishing the sinner, instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving all injuries, praying for the living and the dead. Just think for a moment how you can put these works of mercy into practice in your daily life!

As Catholic businessmen and women, would it be appropriate to incorporate the spiritual works of mercy into your everyday business life? Ask yourselves: Do I instruct the ignorant? Counsel the doubtful? Bear wrongs patiently and forgive all injuries? The corporal works of mercy give each of us the opportunity to practice almsgiving by feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, and providing shelter to the homeless. Let’s find new ways to improve our spiritual lives this Lent. Many graces can come to us if we but open our minds and hearts to the Lord.

Let us keep before our eyes the words of the prophet Isaiah: “All who are thirsty, why spend your money for what is not bread; come to the water! You who have no money, heed me, and you shall eat well. Come, receive grain and eat; you shall delight in rich fare. Come, without paying and without cost, come to me heedfully. Drink wine and milk! … So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (Isa 55:1-3, 11). May your Lent be fruitful and may you experience the great mercy of our God!

FATHER ROBERT RIPPY  is the rector of the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Va., and chaplain of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter.

Building a Culture of Life in the Year of Mercy

In the first book of Scripture, we read how God selflessly shared of himself so we could have the privilege of enjoying paradise. Only God has the vast imagination to create with uniqueness, pouring selfless love into each stroke of his masterpiece.

Fr. John Parkes

Fr. Stephen Parkes

God made the crown jewel of creation — the human person — in his own image and likeness (Gen 1:26)! As descendants of Adam and Eve, we each share in the gift of life bestowed upon us when God (with our parents as co-creators) breathed life into our soul.

As part of my summer reading, I ventured into Pope Francis’ recent encyclical Laudato Si. The Holy Father encourages us to take responsibility for all God has created — for all of life. Above all, though, we must remember to uplift the dignity of each human person, especially those who are most vulnerable.

Pope St. John Paul II coined the term “Culture of Life” during his visit to the United States in 1993. He encouraged a deeper appreciation and respect for all human life from conception to natural death. As the saint of our day, John Paul condemned the Culture of Death, a term that needs no explanation. All we have to do is watch or read the news for a litany of vile and violent acts. However, as Catholic Christians, we have a responsibility, not an option, to reject death and promote life. It’s with this spirit that we celebrate Respect Life Month each October — a time to focus on our individual call as disciples to build a Culture of Life. Here are a few suggestions:

The power of prayer can never be underestimated. When it comes to matters of life, we must pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17). As people of hope, we must guard against burnout in prayer. Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, known for her Little Way, said: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven.” Pray from the heart for a greater respect for life at all stages — from conception to natural death. Pray from the heart for those who, at this very moment, are considering an offense towards life through abortion or another violent action. Pray from the heart for those who have been affected by poor decisions in the past, that the mercy of God will embrace them and bring about sincere conversion. Please consider setting aside a day of the week or month to offer a Holy Hour for life. Perhaps you can make an extra effort to attend Mass on First Friday and offer your time and sacrifice in thanksgiving for life?

We build a Culture of Life through advocacy and education. We must be a voice for those in our world whose voices aren’t heard because no one is listening. Are you inspired to march at a local abortion clinic or prison where an execution is about to occur? If not, your silent witness of prayer while sitting on the curb may also be effective. Perhaps you are inspired to support life through visiting residents in a nursing home, engaging the forgotten of our disposable society in a dialogue of respect. An act of presence, care or concern for the marginalized and forgotten is an act of love. It’s also important that we teach the next generation and beyond — children and grandchildren — to support pro-life politicians and leaders and to be vigilant in protecting the sanctity of life. Parents and grandparents help define the culture of their family. Does yours follow a Culture of Life?

Finally, we must be cognizant of the example of our own actions. How can we respect (and protect) life we don’t see if we fail to respect and protect the lives that we do see? The manner in which we treat our fellow human beings — whether they’re a part of our inner circle of familiarity or not — is a witness and is proportionate to our support of all human life. There is no material cost to practicing courtesy, kindness and patience throughout our day at work and at home, yet can be priceless in our relationships.

Pope Francis has declared a Holy Year of Mercy — beginning Dec. 8 and ending Nov. 20, 2016 — with the theme “Be Merciful Like the Father.” If “God looked at everything he had made and found it very good” (Gen 1:31), then we also must see the life He created and find it good — and in need of our constant prayer, advocacy and witness. This month, please commit to building a Culture of Life by being loving and merciful like the Father and by following His Son’s example.

FATHER STEPHEN PARKES is pastor of Annunciation Catholic Church in Altamonte Springs, Fla., and chaplain of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter.