Although life is a splendid adventure, we all struggle, failing to love at times, and even grievously harming others. Jesus was clear about transcending an “eye for an eye,” punishment-based form of justice towards a healing, restorative justice that challenges us to even discover how we might “love our enemies.”
The Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), which serves the leadership of the Catholic men’s religious orders in the United States (including the La Salette Missionaries), urges Congress and our society to support the present bi-partisan criminal justice reform efforts. With the present Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, this is an apt time to respond.
Pope Francis has been very clear on this issue saying: “I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.” For example, he has called for the end of life without parole as a “hidden death penalty” and for the abolition of the death penalty itself.
CMSM President Very Rev. Jim Greenfield, OSFS, says,
“Perhaps stronger than Pope Francis’ words are his actions. His frequent visits to prisoners in Italy including his recent visit to a Philadelphia prison during his trip to the United States dignifies incarcerated women and men with the power of human love and esteems them greatly.
The choice of the pope to spend time with prisoners alongside his visits with our president, Congress, and international leaders at the United Nations re-humanizes imprisoned people whenever our society may forget or—worse—hate them. Certainly, the Gospel impels us to do more for anyone behind bars."
Let us reflect on the mercy and compassion of God as revealed in Scripture and at La Salette. We are invited to live it between ourselves and to witness it to the people of God. As St. Paul reminds us:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction” (2 Cor 1:3).
Following the example of Mary at La Salette, we look at the reality of the today's world through the eyes of God. We often realize the forces of death in a world too often without mercy and, at the same time, we hear our God, wounded by these oppressions, calling for a generous measure of compassion.
Today's world can be very hostile. It unhesitatingly sacrifices everything on the altar of the ‘god of business'. Economic profit determines the life of people as well as social and political alliances. It engenders the domination of some countries or classes of people; dependence and misery for others.
The current process of globalization of the economy, with its totalitarian characteristics, privileges the few who become wealthier while the many become destitute.
In this process of “progress”, community and solidarity, justice and peace, life and human dignity are all destroyed. Wars, dictatorships, the trade of arms and drugs, forced migrations, genocide, oppression of minorities, racism and socio-religious discrimination, corruption and social violence cause sufferings that cry out for compassion.
I took the commuter rail into Boston's South Station to visit a sick uncle. While traveling between buildings to connect to the Red Line subway line, I passed a man dragging a wheeled suitcase very slowly down the corridor. He was black, maybe 75, and had his right hand held up, feeling for the door to the outside that gaped before him.
I asked where he was headed and learned he was also trying to connect to the Red Line, though travelling in the opposite direction. "Well," I said, "I'm not exactly sure how to get there. But between the two of us, we should be able to find it!"
Gradually, it became more and more clear that this man could hardly see at all. When I guided him to the ticket booth, with its bright window beckoning, he stood off to the side, facing a dark, blank section of wall. Wow, I thought. He can't even distinguish light from dark!
After helping him buy his ticket, I guided him down several flights of stairs (battling with my own unfamiliarity with the station) and managed to get him on what I hoped was the right train. I bid him a happy new year and used signs to hint about his impairment to his fellow travelers.
“The Name of God is Mercy” is the title of a new book… released in 86 countries on… January 12th, 2016, in which Pope Francis reveals his vision of God’s mercy in a series of interviews with Vatican reporter, Andrea Tornielli. Several extracts were made available by the publisher, Edizioni Piemme...
“The Pope is a man who needs the mercy of God,” the Holy Father says in the book-length interview.
“I said it sincerely to the prisoners of Palmasola, in Bolivia, to those men and women who welcomed me so warmly. I reminded them that even Saint Peter and Saint Paul had been prisoners. I have a special relationship with people in prisons, deprived of their freedom. I have always been very attached to them, precisely because of my awareness of being a sinner.”
“Every time I go through the gates into a prison to celebrate Mass or for a visit, I always think: why them and not me? I should be here. I deserve to be here. Their fall could have been mine. I do not feel superior to the people who stand before me. And so I repeat and pray: why him and not me? It might seem shocking, but I derive consolation from Peter: he betrayed Jesus, and even so he was chosen.”
I don’t remember the deaths of the Churchwomen of El Salvador, but I do “remember” them. I was born in 1978, so I was only two and a half years old when Sr. Dorothy Kazel, Sr. Ita Ford, Sr. Maura Clarke, and
I will never be able to say where I was, what I was doing, or my reaction to that event. However, I will forever “remember” their witness, their willingness to say “yes” to the needs of their brothers and sisters, to say “yes” to Christ’s calling. Throughout my formation as a lay Catholic—as a teacher, minister, and advocate, I have been blessed with opportunities to remember the lives and witness of these four women.
Today in El Salvador, hundreds of Salvadorans along with others from across the world have gathered to commemorate their lives. Included in this group are students from John Carroll University and Fr. Robert Niehoff, S.J., John Carroll’s president. Sr. Dorothy Kazel, a native of Cleveland, earned her graduate degree from John Carroll in 1974, and has an endowment for Latin American studies at the university named in her honor.
Fr. Niehoff and I started at John Carroll on the same day in 2005—of course, he had the role of president and I was just a campus minister. I remember walking across campus with him during his first few days. I explained that I had been tasked with leading students to the annual vigil at the gates of Ft. Benning to call attention to the role of U.S. policy and training in the deaths of people like the four Churchwomen.
Editor: This is a summary version of Pope Francis’ Misericoria Vultus, explaining the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. See the full text.
Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him… (MV, #1). We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy… Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us… Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness (MV, #2).
…I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective. The Holy Year will open on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception... When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive… On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope… a similar door may be opened at any shrine frequented by large groups of pilgrims, since visits to these holy sites are so often grace-filled moments, as people discover a path to conversion… (MV, #3).
Editor: Mindful of our own La Salette, Fr. Bob Susann, ministering at the Orlando International Airport, we share a presentation by Fr. Michael G. Zaniolo, STL, President of the National Conference of Catholic Airport Chaplains given during the XIV World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains on April 11, 2010.
Nazareth is a central point of reference for the Blessed Virgin Mary in the unfolding drama of our salvation in Jesus Christ. It is also, as I hope to demonstrate, an inspirational and formational resource for the mission, ministry, and life of airport chaplains and pastoral agents…
In Mary’s journey, Nazareth is a place of departure. From Nazareth, Mary goes to Elizabeth her cousin. From Nazareth, Mary goes with Joseph to Bethlehem and even to Egypt. From Nazareth, Mary goes with Jesus and Joseph to Jerusalem.
From Nazareth, Mary goes to follow her son in his public ministry. In her life story and in her journey of faith, the holy house of Nazareth is truly a point of departure. That same place is a point of arrival. She returns to Nazareth from Egypt. She returns to Nazareth from Jerusalem. Whether she departs or arrives, this holy place where the Word was made flesh becomes a center, a focal point of her journey and pilgrimage of faith…
Even small donations help us to continue to Make Mary's message known.
Our Community: The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette are deeply rooted in the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette which occurred near the hamlet of La Salette in southeastern France on Sept. 19, 1846. The Missionaries were founded in 1852 by Bp. Philbert de Bruillard, Bishop of Grenoble, France, and presently serve in some 25 countries.
Our Province: The Province of Mary, Mother of the Americas, was founded in 2000AD and is one of several provinces in the congregation. The members of this Province serve mainly in the countries of Canada, the United States and the Region of Argentina/Bolivia.
Our Mission: Our La Salette ministry of reconciliation responds to the broad vision given by Mary at La Salette as well as in response to the needs of the Church. As reconcilers, we together with the laity take seriously Mary’s mandate: “You will make (Mary’s) message known to all (her) people.”