Mercy Mondays

“Blessed are the Merciful…” Preparing for World Youth Day 2016

By Darius Villalobos | Monday, February 29, 2016

I was blessed to be able to travel last week to Kraków, Poland in preparation for World Youth Day 2016. Our Familiarization trip took us to the beautiful city that has history and architecture that inspired us, both in our civic and faith lives. We also visited pilgrimage sites like Wadowice, Saint John Paul II’s home town; Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, the Polish monastery and convent meant to bring the Holy Land to those who cannot travel there; and the Divine Mercy Shrine, where Sister Faustina lived and committed the work of her community to the Divine Mercy devotion.

I also was able to travel to Oświęcim, better known as Auschwitz, where we know some of the worst acts of the Holocaust during World War II took place, creating a stark contrast between places where God’s presence seems so real and vivid with a place where God seemed absent.

I think Pope Francis was intentional in making the theme for this upcoming World Youth Day be the passage from Matthew’s Gospel, “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Bringing WYD to the home diocese of St. John Paul II, who founded the WYD pilgrimages, was not only about celebrating the amazing gift that JPII saw in the young Church, but also bringing forth those gifts for the betterment of the entire Catholic community. The theme of mercy was embodied by this saint who taught us to forgive our enemies, to share God’s love for others, and to not be afraid to take up the challenge of doing something meaningful by sharing our faith.

These places, where hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims will visit this summer, will help to tell the story of God’s continued love and mercy in our world, and how God has continued to find ways to reveal that love and mercy throughout time. However, a place like Auschwitz will also remind us what happens when we lose the ability to be merciful, and worse, to recognize God’s presence in others and ourselves. As hard as it was to be in the remains of this death camp, it was a reminder of what can happen when we lose the ability to extend mercy or love in our world and how terrible it can be when we do that as a community or society. The reality that Auschwitz reminds us of is a difficult one to grasp, but it is something that we need to remember so that we do not repeat the same mistakes.

I am excited that World Youth Day 2016 will be in Kraków, Poland and more excited that the theme, “Blessed are the merciful…” can continue to challenge us to not just pray for mercy but to live mercy in our daily lives and to bring God’s mercy wherever we go. I hope you can join us!

Mercy Challenge

Mercy means extending God's love for us to others, even those who have wronged us. Sometimes this is a small hurt; someone cut you off in traffic or ate your leftovers without asking. But sometimes, there are big hurts that may be hard to forgive: spreading an especially terrible rumor of gossip or an offense against the dignity of a human person. Forgiveness is not easy, but a necessary step in helping us get in right relationship with God, others and ourselves. Reach out to someone that you need to forgive and that may need your forgiveness. Try your hardest to authentically extend mercy and forgiveness to them. They may not be ready to accept it, but make the effort so you know you have tried to extend God's love to others. Who knows, you may end up receiving that same love and mercy in return!

Darius Villalobos is the Director of the Young Adult Ministry Office for the Archdiocese of Chicago.