Saturday, 19 November 2016

Bishop Richard Reflects on the Jubilee of Mercy as Year Ends

Bishop Richard at Closing of Holy Door at Arundel Cathedral on 13 November
In July last year in A&B News Bishop Richard shared his aspirations for the Jubilee of Mercy. Now, with the year concluding, he reflects on what actually happened and how, individually, we should never close the Door of Mercy.

Where and when did it all begin?

The Opening of the Holy Door on 13th December 2015 saw a Cathedral filled with people, fine music and a real sense of celebration and anticipation at the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy.  The beautiful celebration and real sense of joy that the Jubilee had begun gave new meaning to Gaudete Sunday.  We were joined by Bishop Martin Warner of Chichester, together with the Dean of Chichester Cathedral – a wonderful gesture of openness to the message of Pope Francis that Christians must adopt the way of Mercy as a lifestyle. 

The other Holy Doors across the Diocese – at Christ the King, Weybridge, Mayfield School and at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation – together with the Cathedral have seen very significant numbers of pilgrims.  Of particular note has been the Diocesan Pilgrimage to West Grinstead, where over 400 people gathered for a day of prayer, reflection and the celebration of Mass.  Later in the year, a more reflective day at Mayfield School brought people together for Mass and the opportunity to explore the practice of Lectio Divina.  School Pilgrimages have brought young people from all over the Diocese to the Cathedral, making their way through the Door of Mercy and rejoicing in the gifts of the Jubilee Year. 

The Shrine at West Grinstead has welcomes a greater number of pilgrimages during this Jubilee Year than in past years and thanks go to Fr. David Goddard and his family for the wonderful hospitality they have given to all who have found their way to the Shrine.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff and students at Mayfield School, for the historic chapel there has welcomed children from the schools of East Sussex during the course of the Jubilee.

What benefit did pilgrims get in this unique Year of Mercy?

All who have taken pilgrim journeys through these Holy Doors have benefited from the Holy Year Indulgence – a particular outpouring of the Father’s Mercy to those who seek Him with a sincere heart.  The Indulgence is intimately linked to the Sacrament of Penance and the numbers availing themselves of this Sacrament, during the ’24 Hours for the Lord’ in particular, have been tremendous.  This alone has been a testimony to the timeliness of this Jubilee Year and I am sure the experience of ’24 Hours for the Lord’ will continue in the years ahead.

Pope Francis has called the Church to be open to popular piety and early in 2016, the copy of the Image of Our Lady of Consolation began its travels around the Diocese.  This very simple process proved to be a very helpful focus for parishes, schools and prisons and I do believe it drew everyone in our Diocesan family together in prayer.  With all those who wished being able to take home a stand-up Prayer Card, brought this prayer to Mary, the Mother of Consolation, into the heart of our families.  They have been welcomed in prison cells, too, where Pope Francis has told inmates that, for them, the door of the cell is the Door of Mercy.

Now that we are at the end of the Jubilee Year, is this the end for us all?

The Jubilee Year will, I firmly believe, leave the Diocese with some important legacies. Not least of these is our continuing response to the Refugee Crisis.  Although this began before the opening of the Holy Door, the very fact that the work has taken off as it has is, surely, an outpouring of Mercy by so many across the Diocese.  In thanking everyone for the wonderful response, this work must continue, firmly rooted in our recognition of the dignity of the human person that is so much a part of the lifestyle of Mercy.

A further legacy of the Jubilee Year will be the renewed interest in the practice of Lectio Divina.  The events for the younger people of the Diocese brought over 350 together to reflect on the Scriptures.  Such evenings have already been arranged for next year – this time four of them in order to better accommodate people.  Thanks go to Jack Regan and the many catechists across our parishes who have worked together to make these events possible.

A team of Redshirts, following their experience in Lourdes and wishing to offer some service to parishes have initiated ‘RedTour’.  Started in a small way, this will be another fruit of the Jubilee Year, enabling our young people to become yet further engaged in the life of our Diocesan Family. 

As I write these few words, the ‘closure’ of the Holy Door approaches.  Even though the Jubilee Year is drawing to a close it must, surely, never be possible to ‘close’ the Door of Mercy.  The new ways in which so many have engaged with God’s Mercy during this year will continue to bear fruit.  The Holy Door provides us with a way of reflecting on the Door of our Minds and Hearts and that Door must never close.  Our minds and hearts must remain open to the gift of Mercy that the Lord seeks to give us and, having received His Mercy, we must open our hearts to others. If, as I believe to be true, the family that is our Diocese has found afresh the wonder of Mercy, then we must, as Pope Francis has called us to be, people for whom Mercy is a lifestyle. 

Article by Peter Burholt

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