What I love about Pope Francis is that he is so approachable and practical. His smile is infectious, his love genuine, and he is not afraid of talking about his own experiences and relationships. So, when Pope Francis announced the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the theme for World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, we knew he understood and experienced mercy in his own life.
The best way to understand mercy is to experience it. When asked how to practice mercy Pope Francis says, “Look, reading the Beatitudes will do you some good. And if you want to know what practical things you must do, read Matthew 25, which is the protocol by which we will be judged. With these two things, you have a plan of action: the Beatitudes and Matthew 25.”
Helping youth, children, and their families experience mercy is achieved by sharing our own examples and granting mercy to others. The pilgrims at World Youth Day will experience mercy in the sacrifices their chaperones and leaders have made to accompany them. They, in turn, will need to be merciful with each other as they sacrifice comfort, sleep, and the familiarity of their lives at home. They will hear about mercy in the catechetical sessions and be lavished with God’s mercy as they celebrate the sacraments with the global young Church. They will have a mountaintop experience that can only be fulfilled when they return home to witness God’s mercy in their everyday lives.
At home, in the parish, and school, we need to do as Pope Francis suggests, and follow the Beatitudes and Works of Mercy. Mercy must become a deliberate habit. Just as Pope Francis is a global model of mercy, we must be the local, on-site practitioners. Asking for and giving forgiveness must be spoken aloud in our communities and homes. Praying for others and doing the works of mercy must be named and praised. We must be intentional, bold, and unashamed to say we are people of mercy because of Jesus, who showed us the ultimate mercy.
We need to make sure we have the tools to help us achieve communities of mercy and the skill to use them creatively. In RCL Benziger’s Be My Disciples series, every chapter contains a Disciple Power, a virtue of fruit of the Spirit that, when practiced, creates a life of mercy and discipleship. Using these virtues as a focus each week, as well as looking for and rewarding the Disciple Power in practice, can create an atmosphere of mercy. RCL Benziger’s Stories of God’s Love Kindergarten program will now have an additional online lesson for a virtue each week that can be practiced by our littlest disciples and their families. Our Family Prays, a resource for family ritual and prayer, gives creative prayers for families to pray together. The more we pray together, the more mercy we experience. And, the wonderful Family Life series intentionally focuses on family faith and morality to help build families of mercy and love.
Any of these resources, and much more, can be previewed at RCLBenziger.com. But, when all is said and done, we also need to have infectious smiles and show genuine love so that our children, youth, and families will truly know God’s mercy and spread it even further.
Catherine Becker is a sales representative for RCL Benziger, serving parts of the Midwest including Southern Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Memphis, Jackson, Evansville, St. Cloud, Boise, and Honolulu.
Cathy Becker holds a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and is a nationally Certified Lay Ecclesial Minister. She has served as a Youth Ministry and Catechetical Leader in Springfield, Illinois, Rockford, Illinois and Greensboro, North Carolina, where she has developed and directed elementary, adult, and adolescent ministries including RCIA. She is currently the chair of the NFCYM/NACYML National Certification Commission. Cathy has been an adjunct and author for the Center for Ministry Development and Benedictine University in Springfield, Illinois. She resides in Springfield with her husband Joshua and three daughters who are, as a family, at the core of her vocation and joy.Sign Up for Our E-Newsletter!