During a penitential service at St. Peter's Basilica on 12 March 2015, Pope Francis announced this liturgical year as the Extraordinary Jubilee Holy Year of Mercy, thus inviting all followers of Christ to become ‘Missionaries of Mercy’.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella said the motto for this jubilee, “Merciful like the Father,” “serves as an invitation to follow the merciful example of the Father who asks us not to judge or condemn, but to forgive and to give love and forgiveness without measure.” To join in the celebration of the Year of Mercy, you might consider running this ‘Rediscovering Mercy’ session in your local parish community during Lent, or at another suitable time.
About this resource
This resource focuses upon the concept of mercy and its connection with justice. Throughout the New Testament, Christ is shown to be the ultimate model of love (Caritas) and mercy in his solidarity with those on the margins of his society and with all of humanity. As Christians, it is our relationship with Christ that inspires us to love others and to act when we see them denied justice. “Love — caritas — is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace.” (Caritas in Veritate, 1)
Participants will also be encouraged to reflect on the many other charitable and missionary organisations within the Catholic Church which strive to express the merciful love of Christ.
‘Rediscovering Mercy’ is a programme that brings participants into a space to rediscover God’s sacrificial love for them and for the world. It is also an opportunity to see how they are being called to love others in their own family, community and indeed the world around them.
Facilitating the sessions Ideally, there should be two facilitators for this session. There is no ideal number of participants, but a maximum of 15 course participants is recommended.
It is also possible to divide this session into two shorter sessions, to give greater time for discussion and reflection. Simply finish the first session after Stage Four: Reflection and begin the second session with Stage Five: Meditation on Jesus, the woman and the Pharisee.
Preparation Facilitators should be at the venue to set up at least an hour in advance, and to ensure the room is warm and comfortable. The prayer space will be the focus of the room, with chairs arranged in a circle. If you decide to use the film a data-projector and computer will be required.
Where possible, the room should be spacious enough to allow for movement of chairs for discussion purposes but also small enough to create a prayerful atmosphere. It is also helpful if lights can be dimmed in the room, if showing the film.
Resources needed for this session:
Flip-chart and markers.
Handout with prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy (Handout one)
Handout with points on Catholic Social Teaching. (Handout two)
Copies of case study for group-work. (Handouts three, four, five and six)
Ball of wool/string for web exercise.
For the prayer space: cloth, large candle, small bowl with essential oil for use during blessing ritual; seven small candles (unlit).
A bible for the Scripture reading (Luke 7:36-50)
Litany of the senses prayer cards & pen for each participant (Handout seven)
Small piece of card for each participant to write their intended ‘Act of Solidarity’
All handouts are available at the end of this resource. StageOne:Introduction(5mins) Welcome everyone to the session and encourage the group to introduce themselves to one another, if they don’t already know each other. Then introduce the theme of the session:
This session will look at Catholic Social Teaching, the Church’s teaching on social issues; it will reflect on the practical outcome of this teaching in CAFOD’s work, and consider how this is a sign of mercy and compassion in our world. It will also be an opportunity to reaffirm our Christian mission to “act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8) and to pray and reflect on the theme of mercy and compassion in our world.
Give out Handout one – the prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy. As the session begins, invite one of the participants from the group to light a large candle in the prayer space and another to read aloud the prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy:
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and restore sight to the blind. We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of
Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen. Stage Two: The global Church – Thoughts on Catholic Social Teaching (10 mins) The presentation begins with a quotation from Joyce Rupp:
“Compassion includes awareness, attitude and action. A deeper and clearer look at compassion, the central quality of Christ, enables us to accompany the hurting ones of our personal lives and the larger world with loving kindness.”
Give out Handout two - Points on Catholic Social Teaching
Mercy/compassion is a core value in Catholic Social Teaching. The facilitator gives a short input on Catholic Social Teaching, based on the handout, and can also use the animated video available on the CAFOD website if desired.
Further resources on Catholic Social Teaching are available on the CAFOD website. (http://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Catholic-Social-Teaching)
Invite participants to buzz in small groups their response to the presentation of Catholic Social Teaching.
How much did they already know?
Does anything surprise them?
As far as they know, how does the work of CAFOD and that of any other Catholic organisations they can think of demonstrate Catholic Social Teaching in action in the world, locally and globally?
Ask the whole group
Does it answer any questions about why such organisations engage in the work they do e.g. supporting people to make a living, responding after an emergency such as an earthquake or cyclone, supporting those living with or affected by HIV, or working towards equality?
Based on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching are there areas that you would like to see them working in, that they’re not currently?
What, to you, should be the priority areas of focus for these organisations given the current needs that you see in the world or your community and based on these principles of Catholic Social Teaching?
Give out handouts three, four, five and six Four case studies, each illustrating the work of one of CAFOD’s partners will be explored in pairs. Invite individuals to select one of the handouts then allow them time to read and become familiar with the story.
Then, in pairs, explore the following questions......
How did the story make me feel?
When I hear stories like this, how do I usually respond?
Have I any role to play in this story? Does my community have a role to play?
Where is there compassion in this story?
Highlight the factors which led to the poverty/injustice in this story?
What is your response to the agency’s role in the situation?
Ask four different people to read the different case studies out loud to the group. Then choose one story to focus on. Welcome feedback from the pairs who discussed it, then open the discussion to the wider group. Use the story to draw out some key points:
The compassion at the heart of the story: in the neighbours’ responses to people in need; in the practical work of the organisations; in the ‘unseen’ people who contribute to the Church’s work through donations/campaigning
Being ’merciful’ calls us to be open to transformation: of our own lives, that of our communities and of our world
The causes of poverty and injustice are multi-dimensional. In two of these stories, climate change, flooding or drought contribute to poverty, along with destruction of the environment
Issues affecting people here in England and Wales, like asylum seekers and refugees, are the consequence of injustice and poverty in other parts of the world
Social justice work, the work of ‘mercy’, involves addressing the causes of poverty, not only addressing the symptoms
Our part of the world contributes to poverty and injustice e.g. unfair trade, climate change, oppressive governments etc. but it can also be involved in seeking solutions to poverty and injustice. Social justice involves eco-justice and trade justice
Bringing about a more just and fair world begins with each of us e.g.: being more conscious of choice which affect the environment; of our consumption; of our waste; of choosing fair-trade products and conflict-free goods
“An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affects us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries. Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan.” (Pope Francis, Laudato Sí’ #164)
Stage Four: Reflection(15 mins) The ‘Web’: Invite all to stand and pass a ball of string/wool back and forth around the group, so as to create a ‘web’ shape.
(This works best in a group of eight or more. For a smaller group, the facilitator can prepare a web in advance from wool/ string, or draw a web on a large sheet of paper and invite participants to note the connections).
Invite participants to stand, the facilitator reads the following reflection:
Catholic Social Teaching’s vision of a just and peaceful world is dependent on each of us recognising our place in the web of relationships in the world of which we are part.Weareallconnectedtooneanother.Ifonepartofthewebisdamaged,itcollapses.Ifourbrotherorsisterinanotherpartoftheworldis suffering,wejoinwiththemintheirsuffering.Iftheearth isdamaged,thenwearealldamaged.Thecompassionatelifeiscommunitylife,locallyandglobally.RelationshipwithChristisrelationshipwithourbrothers andsisters.
Ask participants to share a word, phrase or image which they feel best reflects the work undertaken by CAFOD, and the other Catholic organisations that have been reflected on today. Once each participant has shared this, they pass the wool to another person within the circle. When the web is fully formed, and everyone has contributed to the exercise, pause to pray and to think of this network, and all who are involved in it.
Gently place the ‘web’ in the prayer space and invite participants to pray aloud in their own words, for people or situations in the world, where compassion and mercy are needed.
Stage five: Meditation on Jesus, the woman and the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-40; 44-47)(20-25 mins) Invite participants to listen to the Gospel of Luke 7:36-39; 44-47.Extend an invitation to one participant to read the following passage of Scripture...