On the Year of Mercy Print
Bishop Morlino's Letter
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Dec. 03, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
year of mercy diocese of madison door of mercy
Bishop's Letter

“I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!” -- Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 5

“We serve to ensure that all individuals throughout the 11-county diocese are graciously invited every day to meet the person of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, face to face and be changed by Him.” – Mission Statement of the Diocese of Madison

To the faithful of the Diocese of Madison,

In calling for an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has issued a call meant not only to urge a return to the Almighty, but also to reinvigorate and inspire those of us who try to live lives as followers of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Holy Father has also unintentionally, but not surprisingly, endorsed our own diocesan “mission.”

The Holy Father begins his Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae Vultus, with the following words: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith.” In carrying out our diocesan mission of “inviting others to meet the person of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, face to face, and be changed by Him,” we are inviting them to meet the face of the Father’s mercy -- to meet mercy incarnate. This invitation is one which is tied up in a challenging realization with regard to who God is and who “I” am, and it should be a profound and even startling invitation for each woman and man who lives in, and grapples with, a world that is nearly completely lacking in mercy.

Our world and our culture offer a great deal of lip-service to certain notions of tolerance and license, but these notions are grounded in a premise that truth is what you make it, and is subject to change, if public opinion is swayed to agree on the matter. Absent a grounding in the Truth and a foundation in humanity’s authentic encounter with mercy itself, all attempts at justice and mercy are mere shadows, structures built on sand. To experience mercy and to grant mercy, individuals and cultures must be anchored in the Truth and in a recognition of sin and repentance.

Our call to the world around us is not, “Come! We’ll tolerate you (for now), no matter who you think you are!” Our call and invitation is, “Come and meet the One who knows you better than you know yourself, who knows your sin, and who welcomes you home, with the tenderest embrace of mercy.”

The only remedy to the scarcity of mercy in our culture is to begin preaching mercy, truth, and love – and the One who is the face of all these things, Jesus Christ!

In this Year of Mercy, what we are offering (and what we are being offered) is an invitation to an extraordinary time of grace, so that we might return to the Father who desires our every good, our joy, and our peace, and so that we might make known the face of the Father’s mercy.

Living the Year of Mercy

Even as we invite others to encounter the face of the Father’s mercy, we must return to the Father once more ourselves. This is the life of the Christian disciple; it is a life of pilgrimage and of constant return, until we finally can reach our heavenly rest.

For centuries, the notion of our heavenly pilgrimage has been lived out in the Church by the means of spiritual journeys to concrete places in the here and now. In particular, during Jubilee Years the tradition is for there to be Holy Doors to which the Christian pilgrim makes prayerful journey and passing through, an act which is graced with a Plenary Indulgence. (There are many resources for coming to a greater understanding of indulgences, and some of those will be available within the diocese during the Holy Year, but very basically, indulgences are a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven.)

In addition to the primary Holy Door or “Door of Mercy,” which is at St. Peter’s Basilica, in Rome, Pope Francis has established other Doors of Mercy around the world. In the Diocese of Madison, Jubilee Doors of Mercy will be opened at the two sites of the Cathedral Parish (those are Holy Redeemer Church and St. Patrick Church) in Madison. Additionally, a Door of Mercy has been designated for the Schoenstatt Founder Shrine on Madison’s east side.

Pope Francis has granted a Plenary Indulgence to all who make pilgrimage to and prayerfully pass through one of these Holy Doors and fulfill the other necessary conditions for receiving an indulgence. With regard to these other conditions, Pope Francis says, “It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world” (Letter of Pope Francis on the Jubilee of Mercy).

In that the Holy Father emphasizes “first and foremost,” the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in the Diocese of Madison the priests are going to do their part to make the Sacrament even more accessible. In discussing the matter with our priests and our Pastoral Council, I have decided that in the Seasons of Advent and Lent, during the Year of Mercy, there will be additional times for Confession available at every parish with a resident priest, on Tuesdays from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. (with the exception of the Tuesday of Holy Week, during which time the Diocesan Chrism Mass traditionally is celebrated). During the rest of the Year of Mercy, I have asked each priest to determine and publicize on their own, two hours of additional time for Confession -- in addition to the usual parish times.

In addition, in order to underscore even further the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in our encountering the face of the Father’s mercy, each confessional in the diocese will be marked with a sign that reads, “Behold the Door of Mercy.” These “mini doors of mercy,” will bear their own spiritual import as I am granting a Partial Indulgence within the Diocese of Madison and to the faithful under my jurisdiction, to all those who, within the Holy Year, depart the threshold of the confessional, having faithfully confessed their sins and received the absolution of the priest. This Partial Indulgence will also be extended to the homebound and those otherwise unable physically to visit a confessional, but who faithfully confess their sins and receive the absolution of the priest.

It is my intention that these Doors of Mercy are bi-directional, such that our experience of this Year of Mercy within the Diocese of Madison involves both our own reentry into the house of the Father, our spending time contemplating the face of God’s mercy, and also our actively going out, to meet our sisters and brothers where they are, offering mercy to them, and inviting them to encounter the face of the Father’s mercy themselves.

I join Pope Francis in hoping that “the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God!”

We must provide a witness to the Truth of Jesus Christ and reveal Him as the authentic incarnation of mercy, so that all people might know true mercy, hope, and peace.

The way in which all of us, in our families, in our parishes, and in our personal lives, demonstrate mercy and invite others to experience mercy, will need to be worked out, and we all should be working actively through the year to find new ways to do so. However, our starting place remains the same: each of us must pass through the Door of Mercy anew, and spend time and energy contemplating the face of God’s mercy. I pray that you will join me in doing just that!

Asking the Lord’s abundant blessings as we come upon this Year of Mercy (which begins December 8), I am,

Faithfully yours in the Lord,

Most Reverend Robert C. Morlino
Bishop of Madison