We had the good fortune last month to spend a few days on pilgrimage in Rome. We took part in the pilgrim walk from Castel Sant'Angelo through to the Door of Mercy at Saint Peter's Basilica and once inside, were allowed through the barrier to pray around the altar above the tomb of St Peter.
We were also lucky enough to pass through the Holy Doors at the basilicas of Saints John Lateran and Maria Maggiore. Walking through these Holy Doors and participating in this pilgrimage made me think of what we, as a team, have been doing in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Focusing on the Year of Mercy has been a popular choice for our retreat days and mission days at the high schools we visit. Through these days, we have been able to consider with the young participants how best to lead merciful lives as well as exploring the mercy shown to us by God.
In particular, we have looked at the Corporal Acts of Mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. We have given examples of ordinary people who have carried out acts of mercy, perhaps without even realising it, in order to inspire the young people to do all they can to be merciful to others. We have also asked them to think who would be their face of mercy. This could be someone who acts as an inspiration to them or someone who shows mercy to them personally.
Throughout Lent, the team travelled to St John Fisher, Wigan; St Mary’s, Brownedge; St Gregory’s, Warrington; St Bede’s, Ormskirk; St Julie’s, Liverpool; St Mary’s, Crosby; St Edmund Arrowsmith, Ashton-in-Makerfield; and Holy Cross, Chorley. At each school we laid on Reconciliation services for different year groups, presenting the pupils with the chance to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. During these the team spoke about the mercy that God shows us and offered testimonies about mercy being revealed to them in their lives. More than 1,200 confessions were heard in this time – who said no one wanted the Sacrament of Reconciliation any more?
Alongside our work with schools, we have been asking what this year means to us as a team. In January we took time out to join Liverpool Hope University's CathSoc on retreat in Freshfield. It was an opportunity to think more deeply about mercy: where it appears in the scriptures and where we can see it in works of art. In our community prayer times, meanwhile, we have challenged ourselves to be 'merciful like the Father'.
As well as our Roman pilgrimage, we also joined the rest of the St Helens Pastoral Area on a pilgrimage to our own Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool, passing through the Holy Door there and taking part in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Mass. It has been a busy six months, but it is far from over ...
• Nightfever – Adoration, praise & worship and Confession from 7–9.30pm on 2 July at Blessed Sacrament Shrine, Dawson Street, Liverpool
• Life & Soul – Monthly prayer and praise gathering at 7pm on Thursday 9 June and Thursday 7 July at St Mary's, Lowe House, St Helens
• Youth Alive – Lourdes and World Youth Day departure Mass at 6.30pm on 10 July at St Mary’s, Lowe House
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