This Year of Mercy, young people have been rediscovering the meaning of our mission to be signs and instruments of God’s loving mercy. From mercy-filled events in parishes, to teenagers’ initiatives, to the emphasis on “apostles of mercy” such as St. John Paul II and St. Faustina Kowalska, this jubilee has offered the world’s youth opportunities to experience and share mercy.
Around the U.S., young people have heeded the call to practice works of mercy. In the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, about 830 young people participated in 160 service projects while reflecting on the corporal works of mercy at the diocese’s annual summer work-camp.
During this jubilee year, the diocesan youth ministry office encouraged youth “to recognize mercy shown to us through the love and goodness of Christ … (which) commands that we share that mercy with others.”
In New York, high schoolers said they participated in the Year of Mercy by incorporating patience and reflection into their daily lives, which led them to be more helpful to others, ask for forgiveness and be more forgiving.
The beautiful opportunity of this Year of Mercy was that it gave us assurance of God’s welcoming love while calling us to get out of ourselves to serve others.
Pope Francis recently said that to genuinely try to imitate God’s mercy, one can practice “giving” and “forgiving.”
Students from the campus ministry at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., pursued both. They cleaned up a playground in Camden during the Mother Teresa Diocesan Day of Service. They also focused on the spiritual works of mercy by attending a talk on forgiveness, said a campus ministry coordinator.
With extra opportunities to partake in the sacrament of reconciliation at some parishes, the jubilee also was a chance to reflect on a simple fact: We are called to show mercy to all those we encounter, but we cannot do this if we do not first know mercy ourselves.
Measure of Authenticity
“As you can see, mercy does not just imply being a ‘good person’ nor is it mere sentimentality. It is the measure of our authenticity,” Pope Francis said when he invited the youth to join him for World Youth Day.
Mercy also involves banishing indifference with concrete, little steps. Two home-schooled students from the Diocese of Portland, Ore., did this by collecting towels for homeless families, according to The Catholic Sentinel, the diocesan newspaper. The eighth-graders set up a mini foundation called the “Friends of St. Francis” and reached out to parishes, which yielded 520 donated towels.
When I read about these two school girls, the words of Pope Francis during World Youth Day echoed in my head: “To say the word ‘mercy’ along with you is to speak of opportunity, future, commitment, trust, openness, hospitality, compassion and dreams.”
With the Year of Mercy heading to an end, young people continue to find opportunities to be merciful to others. This jubilee gave us the chance to realize that, as the pope says, to be “merciful like the Father” is not just “a catchphrase, but a life commitment.”