When Pope Francis announced a Holy Year — an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy — beginning on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and to conclude on the Solemnity of Christ the King, 20 November 2016, I wanted to declare a “Time-Out!” Inside, I’m protesting: “Slow down! What’s going on? What happened to time?”
The latter question reminded me of the speed of life lived:
“When as a child I laughed and wept, time crept.
When as a youth I dreamed and talked, time walked.
When I became a full grown man, time ran.
And later as I older grew, time flew.
Soon I shall find while travelling on, time gone.”
[Inscription on the clock in Chester cathedral.]
At the beginning of the Year of Consecrated Life on 29 November 2014, the vigil for the first Sunday in Advent, Pope Francis selected three aims of the Year for Consecrated Life:
1. To look to the past with gratitude.
We have a beautiful graced history in which God called individuals to follow Christ more closely, to incarnate the Gospel into a particular way of life, to read the signs of the times with the eyes of faith and to respond creatively to the needs of the church and the world.
2. To live the present with passion.
We strive to listen attentively to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church today, to be interiorly united to Christ – “For to me to live is Christ” [Phil 1:21]. The radical living of the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience empowers and witnesses to such a loving response. This loving response inspires in our hearts the desire to live in unity to be men and women of community.
3. To embrace the future with hope.
Amidst the many uncertainties, the call is to practice the virtue of hope, the fruit of our faith in the Lord of history, who continues to tell us: “Be not afraid … for I am with you” [Jer. 1:8].
In our diocese we have kept these three aims before us in celebration and pastoral planning.
However, rather than allow us to quietly conclude the Year of Consecrated Life on 2 February 2016, Pope Francis “jumped the gun” and declared a Holy Year — an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy — beginning on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and to conclude on the Solemnity of Christ the King, 20 November 2016.
As a result we have an overlap of the “Years.” What’s behind all of this?
Pope Francis explains: “I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which for too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.
We recall the poignant words of St. John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: ‘Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity… The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.’ Blessed Paul VI spoke in a similar vein at the closing of the Council: ‘We prefer to point out how charity has been the principal religious feature of this Council… the old story of the Good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the Council… a wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity. Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honoured, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed… Another point we must stress is this: all this rich teaching is channelled in one direction, the service of mankind, of every condition, in every weakness and need.’”
The documents of the Council are a compass guiding the ship of the Church in our time. The Second Vatican Council is the starting point for a new relationship between the Church and the modern age in order to show our world the requirements of the Gospel in all its greatness and purity proclaiming that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” By his words, actions and his entire person he reveals the mercy of God. Pope Francis describes the mercy of God as his loving concern for each of us. “He desires our well-being and he wants to see us happy full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.” [MV 9]
In keeping with the Year of Consecrated Life and the orientation of Pope’s Francis call for an Extraordinary Year of Mercy, I invited the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Merciful Jesus to establish a Calgary Novitiate at The Ranch in Balzac. Unfortunately, they were unable to do so. After consultation and prayer, I decided to establish a juridic person, the Public Association of the Christian Faithful in the Diocese of Calgary, the members will be known as Sisters of the Community of Divine Mercy. Sr. Katrina Le and Sr. Annunciata Cornelio will formally transition to this new community on November 15, 2015. They are both a contemplative and active community, and they profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Their mission is to share in the work of redemption by glorifying and pleading for Divine Mercy for the whole world as witnessed by the life of St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II.
Our prayer is to look at the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion, and to embrace the future with hope.
☩ Frederick Henry