Books

A pithy guide to the Year of Mercy

Abounding in Mercy
edited by Daniel Cronin,
St Pauls, £8.95

Canon Daniel Cronin has asked a number of well-known Catholics how they see the Year of Mercy. Their answers are brief, pithy and personal. This little book could be taken day by day, article by article, for personal reflection and prayer. The editor has performed a useful service in casting his net wide, as he did for the Year for Priests some years ago.

Quite a few of the contributors, such as Lord Patten and the composer Sir James MacMillan, have been inspired by the teaching and example of Pope Francis on mercy, but also by the clarity of Pope Benedict, for whom mercy is a frequent theme. There is, they see, a continuity in the teaching of two popes of contrasting personality. That is the continuity of the Church, and it comes from facing the
challenge of Scripture, calling us again and again to mercy and compassion.

Other contributors, from their involvement in charities such as the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), lay the emphasis on the experience of mercy, in ourselves in the form of forgiveness and acceptance, and through ourselves to others in the form of compassion.

It is not enough just to think about mercy, but to “do the truth in charity”, in St Paul’s words. Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, founder of the SVP, saw that this was the way to put flesh on the faith of university students in Paris after the rationalist onslaught of the French Revolution.

“The best lesson,” he wrote, “would be to show them the salutary spectacle of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his wounds in the persons of poor people”.

We learn mercy from our encounter with people; we learn it from pictures too. Sister Jane Livesey, Superior General of the Congregation of Jesus, points out the profound effect on Pope Francis of a painting, Caravaggio’s Call of Matthew in the French Church of St Louis in Rome.

That painting gave resonance to his motto, drawn from St Bede, Miserando atque eligendo, “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon”. There is plenty of good material here for daily reflection as we enter the Year of Mercy.