When Pope Francis formally convoked the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy with the papal bull Misericordiae Vultus, he called mercy “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sins.”
His words evoked a passage in St John Paul II’s Pastores Dabo Vobis; words which are probably familiar to every priest ordained in the last two decades:
The priest should mould his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity.
The parallel suggests that holy priests must somehow embody the Lord’s mercy, not only in our sacramental ministry, but also in our personality and way of life.
It’s with these ideas in mind that I and a good friend of mine, Fr Michael Romeo of the Adelaide Archdiocese, are planning a priests pilgrimage for next year’s Jubilee of Mercy. We will visit the shrines of three canonised priests who really did incarnate divine mercy:
- St John Nepomucene, a fourteenth century Czech priest, who is the first recorded martyr for the seal of confession.
- St Jean-Marie Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, who famously attracted millions to his small country church in France, where he heard their confessions and inspired them to holiness.
- St Pio of Pietrelcina, the twentieth century mystic and stigmatist, who could read souls and affect great conversions from his penitents.
Of course no jubilee year pilgrimage is complete without a visit to Rome’s four papal basilicas, where we will pass through the basilicas’ holy doors which are only open during holy years.
Fr Michael and I are hopeful there may be more priests who’d like to join us on our Jubilee of Mercy pilgrimage. We think that newly ordained priests like ourselves might especially see value in this opportunity for prayer, penance, and formation.
To that end, I’ve set up a website: www.jmpriests.com, which contains details of our itinerary, estimated costs, and information on how to join us. If you know a young priest who might be interested, please send them the link!
And please do keep the trip – and especially its supernatural objectives – in your prayers.