Fr. Roger J. Landry
Putting into the Deep
September 30, 2016
By far one of the most helpful resources for the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is a series of nine short books prepared by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization — the Vatican department in charge of coordinating the Holy Year — and published in English by Our Sunday Visitor.
The books constitute a prayerful novena that accessibly lead readers to understand, receive, and practice different aspects of God’s mercy. Written by nine different authors, they focus on the Psalms and Parables of mercy, mercy in the Fathers of the Church and in the writings of the Popes, mercy expressed in corporal and spiritual works, mercy received in the Sacrament of Penance, mercy celebrated in Mass and the other Sacraments, and how fruitfully to live the Jubilee Year in the opening, closing and prayerful entering of Jubilee Doors.
The most powerful book in the series, however, was written by a Carmelite priest, Fr. Antonio Sicari, and is entitled The Saints of Mercy. It has 15 short chapters broken down as to how the mercy of God was expressed in the lives of those saints who, to quote Pope Francis in his letter beginning the Jubilee Year, “made divine mercy their mission in life” (MV 24). It shows us the many ways in which God through his mercy can and wants to change our life for the better, and through that metamorphosis, begin to change the world.
The first chapter is dedicated to the joy of announcing God’s mercy and focuses on St. Faustina Kowalska, the 20th century Polish saint whose diary announced to the world God’s burning desire to share his merciful love with us and our great need to receive that gift.
The second chapter ponders the gratitude we should have for God’s mercy, exemplified in the life of St. Therese of Lisieux. Although her spiritual director didn’t believe she had ever committed a mortal sin, St. Therese nevertheless praised God all the more for having “prevented” her from sinning by removing from her path “with a love of ineffable foresight” the things that would have caused her to fall. Her thanksgiving helps us to grow in appreciation.
In the third chapter, we encounter two heroic ministers of God’s mercy, St. John Vianney and St. Leopoldo Mandic, both of whom spent decades hearing 12 hours of confessions or more a day.
In Chapter 4, we read about three familiar saints who showed God’s mercy for the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters: St. Vincent de Paul, St. Damien de Veuster, and St. Teresa of Calcutta.
Chapter 5 covers the saints who gave their lives caring for the sick and suffering: St. John of God, St. Camillus de Lellis and St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo.
Chapter 6 features those who brought God’s mercy to children, especially St. John Bosco and St. Jerome Emiliani.
The seventh chapter highlights those who used their blessings of position and wealth to care for those with less: St. Elizabeth of Hungary; Blessed Vladimir Ghika, the Romanian prince and martyr, who spent all he had in making a “liturgy of love” toward Christ in his neighbor; and Servant of God Friedrich Joseph Haass, a German doctor who cared untiringly for prisoners’ physical and spiritual needs in Russia.
In Chapter 8, we ponder Divine Mercy expressed in those who cared for those on the margins: St. Martin de Porres, St. Katharine Drexel, Servant of God Dorothy Day and, someone most Americans won’t know, Servant of God Ettore Boschini, who died in 2004 and devoted his life to the homeless, beggars, prostitutes, alcoholics and drug addicts in Milan.
In the ninth chapter, we turn to St. Peter Claver and Venerable Marcello Candia who brought God’s mercy to faraway lands.
In the tenth, we zeroes in on a saint who brought a true revolution of mercy, St. Albert Chmielowski, in a context in which so many were brainwashed to think of revolution in Leninist terms.
Chapter 11 focuses on a merciful and manly spiritual father, Blessed Titus Brandsma, and Chapter 12 on a mercifully self-giving spiritual mother, St. Gianna Beretta Molla.
Chapter 13 looks at the spousal love of Blessed Elizabeth Canori Mora, whose mercy toward her gambling, wayward husband led her to extraordinary spiritual depths, and who shows us the help giving by the Sacrament of Marriage to love one’s spouse as Christ has first loved us.
Chapter 14 details the story of the mercy of a child toward parents in the life of Blessed Laura Vicuña. Among all of the book’s inspiring stories, this for me is the most unforgettable.
After the death of her dad, Laura’s mother, to support her family, began to cohabitate with a healthy landowner properly nicknamed “the bad cowboy,” who branded Mrs. Vicuña with a red-hot iron so that everyone would know whose mistress she was. Eventually the lascivious cowboy set his sights on the ten year-old Laura; when she refused, he scourged her mother on a post. Laura, imitating the Good Shepherd’s love, resolved that she would give her life to save her mother’s, and offered herself to the Sacred Heart before the tabernacle. Eventually her resistance led the rancher to beat her violently to the point of death. From her deathbed in 1904, she told t her mother, “For almost two years, I have offered my life for you for your conversion, so that you might return to [Jesus]. Will you not give me the joy of seeing you repent before I die?” Her mother, pierced to her soul, repented and promised to separate, something that allowed Laura to die happy. When people at her funeral called the 12 year old, “Laura, virgin and martyr,” her mother replied with tears, “Yes, virgin and martyr for me.” Even a robot would shed tears reading this story of merciful, filial love.
The final chapter is dedicated to the greatest saint of mercy of all, our Mother of Mercy, sweetness, and hope.
In the 52 days that are left in the Jubilee of Mercy, I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the resource of these nine short books, especially The Saints of Mercy, which are all geared toward helping us to make divine mercy our mission in life and thereby become candidates for the chapters of similar volumes in subsequent merciful jubilees.