- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) - Concepts of mercy are central to observances of the Christian faith. It is regularly spoken of, preached on and sung about in church, and acted out in myriad ways.

In Luke 6:36, Jesus says “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

But in the coming year, after a declaration by Pope Francis in April of what has been dubbed the Holy Year of Mercy, Catholics around the world will give special attention to the role of mercy in their lives and in their parishes.

“It’s basically a year that we celebrate God’s mercy for us,” said the Rev. Marty Goetz, pastor of SS. John and Paul parish in Burlington.

The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy opens with a special Mass to be celebrated at the Vatican, and in pilgrimage churches throughout the Catholic world.



The Hawk Eye (https://bit.ly/1mbalsc ) reports that, locally, that church is St. Paul the Apostle in Burlington. A symbolic “holy door,” providing a spiritual connection to the Vatican, will be opened there during the 11 a.m. Mass and will remain open throughout the jubilee.

By declaring a special year of jubilee, Pope Francis has set mercy at the heart of Catholic teaching throughout 2016. The jubilee year ends Nov. 20.

“One of the themes of the pope,” Goetz said, “is that God is very loving; that God is very merciful. God never tires of forgiving us. We’re the ones that get tired of going to God.”

Though a central idea of the faith, the added emphasis presents an opportunity to concentrate on forgiveness, receiving God’s mercy and sharing that mercy with others, Goetz said. Among the ways to accomplish that goal, he said, will be through homilies centered on the notion “that we are to be a people of mercy.”

Each Catholic parish will observe the Holy Year of Mercy in its own way with special events, masses or projects. As a pilgrimage church site, St. Paul will be open for prayer and reflection by visitors from throughout the Keokuk Deanery - a subdivision of the Diocese of Davenport that includes parishes in Des Moines, Lee, Henry and Van Buren counties. There are nine pilgrimage sites across the diocese.

At St. Paul, the sanctuary will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays throughout the jubilee year for people to offer prayer and reflection. Special prayer sheets will be available at those times. Expanded confessional hours also will be added.

People who make a pilgrimage to the church, Goetz said, “when they leave, dedicate themselves to be merciful with others. You enter into prayer to ask God for help to be merciful.”

Every Catholic is asked to make a pilgrimage during the year. Non-Catholics, many of whom have become interested in the church since Pope Francis began his papacy, also are welcome to come learn more about the Catholic faith.

Welcome as well are those who have drifted from the church and are feeling themselves called by the pope’s example to return.

At St. Paul, a weekend of special events, including a special Friday mass led by Bishop Martin Amos, is planned for the beginning of April at St. Paul. The annual Faith Festival sponsored by SS. John and Paul each summer at Crapo Park also is likely to take on mercy as its theme. Other plans for the year still are in the works.

“We’re just going to try to bring an attitude of mercy into the parish,” Goetz said.

That will mean, he said, living the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Those include feeding the hungry, providing drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, visiting the sick and the imprisoned and burying the dead; and also instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing the sinner, bearing wrongs patiently, granting forgiveness willingly, comforting the afflicted and praying for the living and the dead.

“It’s a call to action,” Goetz said. “Very, very much so.”

That action will take place inside and outside the church, so the church, he said, can “become a face of mercy” in the broader community. The work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, based at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, to provide food to people in Burlington who might otherwise go hungry is one example of how the parish already puts mercy into action.

The Holy Year of Mercy has given the diocese the opportunity to recognize a significant early figure in the development of the Catholic church in the Upper Midwest. The Rev. Samuel Mazzuchelli, whom Goetz described as the “first missionary in our part of Iowa” and who also was a noted church architect, founded several parishes in eastern Iowa, including St. Paul the Apostle in Burlington in 1840.

Four of the seven churches are in the Diocese of Davenport, and each is among the nine pilgrimage sites. The original St. Paul church, according to a parish history, was replaced with the present-day building at Fourth and Columbia streets in 1892.

Mazzuchelli came to the United States from Rome in 1829, settling first in Ohio then being sent on to Galena, Ill., in 1835. From that post, he began a period of church-building that started with St. Raphael’s Cathedral in Dubuque and went on to include churches in Iowa City, Muscatine, Davenport and Burlington.

Catholics taking part in the Holy Year of Mercy, Goetz said, are able to continue the missionary legacy of Mazzuchelli.

“We are all missionaries of mercy,” he said, “by how we live, by how we speak, by how we act.”

The full text of Pope Francis’s call for a Holy Year of Mercy can be read at tinyurl.com/p6y6etx.

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Information from: The Hawk Eye, https://www.thehawkeye.com

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