An introduction to the Year of Mercy


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Think about the moments during Mass when we ask for or celebrate God’s mercy. It starts with the Introductory Rites. We prepare ourselves to properly listen to the word of God by celebrating God’s mercy. The word “mercy” appears in many Scripture readings, in the Eucharistic prayers and in the Lamb of God. When we receive the Eucharist we receive the ultimate gift of a merciful God.

Logo for Holy Year of MercyWe’ll have plenty of opportunities to reflect on mercy in the coming year, both as a receiver and a giver. On Dec. 8, Catholics around the world begin a yearlong journey of mercy when Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica for the Extra­ordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

The day coincides, intentionally, with the Solem­nity of the Im­mac­ulate Con­ception of Mary. She is the vessel through which mercy takes flesh.


“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 instills hope,” Pope Francis said in the document announcing the special year. He believes the world needs at this time to gaze more attentively on mercy. A jubilee year denotes a time of blessing and forgiveness by God.

Bishop Mar­tin Amos will celebrate Year of Mercy opening liturgies on Dec. 7 at Sacred Heart Church in Newton (7 p.m.) and on Dec. 8 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport (5:30 p.m.).

He will open the cathedral’s Holy Door on Dec. 13, at 9 a.m. Later that afternoon, at 3 p.m., Bishop Amos will lead a Communal Penance Liturgy at the cathedral. Pope Francis chose the Dec. 13 date — the third Sunday in Advent — for the opening of Holy Year Doors at cathedrals around the world. These churches and other designated churches, will serve as pilgrimage sites for those not able to travel to Rome.

A pilgrimage, the pope says, is a sign that “mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice.” He prays that it will be a source of conversion. The Davenport Diocese has designated these churches in the diocese as pilgrimage sites:

• Clinton Deanery: Jesus Christ Prince of Peace, 1105 LaMetta Wynn Dr., Clinton.
• Davenport Deanery: Sacred Heart Cathedral, 422 E. 10th St., Davenport.
• Grinnell Deanery: St. Mary Church, 726 218th Place, Pella.
• Iowa City Deanery: St. Mary Church, 201 Short St., Nichols.
• Keokuk Deanery: St. Paul Church, 508 N. 4th St., Burlington.
• Ottumwa Deanery: St. Mary of the Visitation Church, 216 N. Court St., Ottumwa.
• Churches in the diocese built by Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, OP, also serving as pilgrimage sites: St. Anthony Church, 417 Main St., Davenport; St. Paul Church, 508 N. 4th St., Burlington; St. Mary Church, 228 E. Jefferson St., Iowa City; and St. Mathias Church, 215 W. 8th St., Muscatine.

Details about the pilgrimage sites and availability for tours, Mass and confession are available on the diocesan website at See the Year of Mercy page.

Each of the diocese’s six deaneries has been encouraged to celebrate a special liturgy to commemorate the Year of Mercy. Some plan to offer communal penance liturgies. It is through the sacrament of reconciliation that people “touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true inner peace,” Pope Francis says.

Listings for communal penance liturgies may also be viewed on the diocesan website’s Year of Mercy page.

During Lent, the Holy Father will send out Missionaries of Mercy, priests granted the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See. Several diocesan priests have expressed an interest in this ministry, Bishop Amos said.

Corporal and spiritual works of mercy will be emphasized as well during this Year of Mercy as a way to “reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty,” Pope Francis observed. The corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. The spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.

The granting of indulgences is also a practice of a Jubilee Year, Pope Francis said. He noted that it becomes indulgence on the part of God, through the church, to reach the sinner and free him or her of every residue left by the consequence of sin. This indulgence enables the sinner to act with charity and grow in love rather than fall back in sin.

In a world where millions of refugees are fleeing from war and terrorism, and religious intolerance is growing, Pope Francis trusts that this Year of Mercy will foster encounters and dialogue with Judaism, Islam and other noble religious traditions.

“The Church,” the Holy Father said, “is called above all to be a credible witness to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

We will explore the elements of the Year of Mercy in future articles in The Catholic Messenger.

Here are some examples of how diocesan parishes and schools plan to observe the Year of Mercy:

• St. Joseph Catholic School-DeWitt is featuring a monthly lesson and activity highlighting the different aspects of mercy and how the students can live out mercy in their daily lives.
• Prince of Peace Catholic School in Clinton is planning to focus on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy throughout the year. They’ve already focused on shelter the homeless and pray for the living and the dead.
• St. Mary Parish-Pella, as a pilgrimage church of the Year of Mercy for the Diocese of Davenport, will host a prayer service noting the opening of its Door of Mercy.  The parish will open its Door of Mercy at the beginning of the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Dec. 13.
• Regina Junior/Senior High School in Iowa City picks a theme every year around which to build prayer services and activities. This year, the school is focusing on the Year of Mercy. Each class decorated their classroom door with this theme in order to bring to life the concept of opening the Holy Door, as Pope Francis will do in Rome. Classes used biblical quotes or quotes from popes, saints, etc. They used illustrations as well.
• St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf assembled a Year of Mercy planning committee, which implemented Bill Huebsch (Twenty-Third Publication’s) Medicine of Mercy process to develop ideas. The committee has established 10 goals to undertake in the Jubilee Year including offering two Lenten performances by American actor Frank Runyeon Feb. 26 and 27. Also, each parish committee has been asked to reflect on corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
• Holy Family Parish-Dav­enport’s faith formation committee is meeting with All Saints Catholic School to introduce ideas for incorporating the Year of Mercy into student life. Some of the ideas include making a presentation explaining the Year of Mercy to the students, equipping teachers with posters and door signs and arranging monthly lessons and service projects focusing on the corporal works of mercy and the spiritual works of mercy. Additionally, the parish is offering a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat Center July 9 and a Parish Homecoming Sept. 18.
• Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish-Muscatine has printed a bulletin insert with confession schedules as well as other steps parishioners can take to receive God’s mercy on a regular basis. The insert also includes examples of ways Catholics can share God’s gift of mercy through corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Fathers Troy Richmond and Hai Dinh also encourage parishioners to forgive those who have caused them hurt or pain and reach out to friends and family who have fallen away from the Catholic faith.

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