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January 4, 2016 | Volume 91 Number 5

ARTICLES

photo: Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo holds the Book of the Gospels during the rite of blessing the Holy Door at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Dec. 20. His action symbolically marked the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy throughout the diocese after Pope Francis proclaimed the celebration throughout the world; (Photo by Conrad Ruble)

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo holds the Book of the Gospels during the rite of blessing the Holy Door at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Dec. 20. His action symbolically marked the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy throughout the diocese after Pope Francis proclaimed the celebration throughout the world. (Photo by Conrad Ruble)

God’s mercy must be extended by us to all

“With our eyes fixed on Jesus and His merciful face,” Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo marked the solemn beginning of the Holy Year of Mercy by opening the Door of Mercy at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart Sunday, Dec. 20, just prior to the 11 a.m. Mass.

A holy door has been used since the 15th century as a ritual expression of conversion. Pilgrims and penitents pass through it as a gesture of leaving the past behind and crossing the threshold from sin to grace.

But the door has meaning only when the believer associates the door with Christ. Jesus is the Door!

In the words of Pope Francis: “There is only one way that opens wide the entrance into the life of communion with God: this is Jesus, the one and absolute way to salvation.”

In the Old Testament are the words of Psalm 118:20: “This is the door of the Lord where the just may enter.”

The occasion drew attention to the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, a worldwide celebration of Christ’s merciful love for all men, women and children.

In his homily, Bishop DiLorenzo spoke of the effect the American Civil War had on the culture of Virginia and how mercy and forgiveness was lacking as the war ended.

“When people come to this area, especially if they’re from the Northeast, they find a change of culture exists,” he said. “Some are surprised at the residue from the American Civil War.”

During this war which divided North and South, there was a lot of inhumanity toward other human beings, but in those battles, there was sin on both sides and not all disagreements were resolved.

“In the aftermath of the Civil War, there was a need for mercy, compassion and forgiveness,” Bishop DiLorenzo said.

“All these people were angry, they had lost family members,” he said. “There was a lot of rage, a lot of anger and inhumanity on both sides.”

President Abraham Lincoln challenged the American people in his second inaugural address (March 4, 1865) to show “malice toward none and charity to all.”

“We as the Church pick up on that theme,” Bishop DiLorenzo said. Lincoln, too, understood that man’s inhumanity to man was sinful and even thought that the battles in which many lives were lost was possibly a punishment from God.

“We don’t believe this, but Lincoln did,” Bishop DiLorenzo said. The 16th President felt that there would be a recompense or accountability for the sins of people on both sides.

With the Year of Mercy being offered to Catholics, there is an emphasis on God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is something all people should want, Bishop DiLorenzo said.

“Do you want this forgiveness that is being offered to you and we answer yes,” he asked rhetorically.

But this answer of “yes” must be extended by showing forgiveness to others.

“God makes it clear that it is more than just me,” the Bishop said. “What was shown to me by God has to be offered to others.”

photo: From left, John Christian, Mark Kowalski and Miguel Melendez stand before Bishop DiLorenzo and are accepted as candidates for admission to Holy Orders.

From left, John Christian, Mark Kowalski and Miguel Melendez stand before Bishop DiLorenzo and are accepted as candidates for admission to Holy Orders.

In showing mercy and forgiveness, he said such basic human needs such as education, health care, food, clothing and shelter should be made available to all people. But in making these available to others, Christians have to acknowledge this is God’s loving will for each person. He emphasized that sometimes we have to instruct others that this is God’s loving will.

The Bishop acknowledged that forgiveness is hard for some. People who are angry and negative find it is not easy to forgive others they feel harmed them.

“It may take years to feel differently about that anger,” Bishop DiLorenzo said, “but the hope would be that they want the best interests of others.”

His message of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness led to the transition to the Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Orders to three men in formation to the priesthood.

John Christian, Mark Kowalski and Miguel Melendez all came forward as their names were called.

By doing so, “they are saying to you — the community of the faithful — ‘Here I am, send me,’” Bishop DiLorenzo said. “They are seriously ready to prepare to be servants.”

Through the priesthood, Jesus is made present in the seven sacraments.

“They are giving themselves for all of us, to help us,” the Bishop said, adding thanks to the three young men’s families “for bringing them up to who they are today.”

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