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Allow the Year of Mercy to open and soften your heart

Before we know it the Year of Mercy will be upon us. “O, happy fault!”

Pope Francis strongly desires that this Extraordinary Holy Year be celebrated in all the dioceses of the world. He says the call is “to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action” (Misericordiae Vultus, 3). The theme is “Merciful Like the Father,” taken from the Gospel of St. Luke (6:36).

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Usually Holy Years celebrate anniversaries of some kind, but this is the first one to celebrate an attribute of God — his mercy.

Just as Pope Francis will be opening a Door of Mercy on Dec. 8 at St. Peter’s in Rome, so each diocese, on Dec. 13, the third Sunday of Advent, is asked to open a Door of Mercy at its Cathedral. Walking through the door will offer the faithful an opportunity to gain a plenary indulgence and to open the doors of their own hearts to the mercy of God.

Let’s be creative in approaching the Holy Year. I asked our Duluth Area Catholic Schools to consider having a Door of Mercy in their school buildings. What incredible lessons can be taught to our young people about God’s mercy.

At our Presbyteral Council meeting in November, the priests will have an opportunity to discuss other churches in addition to our Cathedral to designate as pilgrim sites. The hope is to extend the opportunity to participate in the Holy Year as widely as possible. We will also discern the work of the “Missionaries of Mercy.” Missionaries are priests invited to give missions and celebrate the Sacrament
of Confession.

Mercy will penetrate so many of the activities and celebrations of the upcoming year. It has been suggested that parishes offer additional times of celebration for the Sacrament of Confession. New books have been written emphasizing the parables of mercy, the saints in mercy and mercy in the teachings of the popes. A hymn has been composed and a prayer written by the Holy Father for the Jubilee Year.

The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year. I am excited to be able to accompany our youth during World Youth Day in Krakow, the home of the Divine Mercy Shrine and the shrines of St. John Paul II and St. Faustina. A number of our priests have planned pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Rome and various Catholic shrines throughout the world. I’m sure some bus tours could take shape and provide opportunities to see local shrines as well.

Our Holy Father, spiritual father that he is, knows that the world needs to encounter the love of God as manifested in his Divine Mercy. Our hearts have become anesthetized, hardened. We need to experience the love of God where we are hurting to soften our hearts again.

May God bless us with his Divine Mercy!

Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Duluth.