The following are some of the reflections by the President of the North American Congress on Mercy, Fr. Matthew R. Mauriello, who served as master of ceremonies for the two-day event, Nov. 14-15:
The Prayer for the Opening of the North American Congress on Mercy
Almighty God, heavenly Father,
Your unbounded mercy is our great hope.
We praise You, O God, for You so loved the world that You sent Your only Son to be our Savior.
We ask Your pardon and mercy upon us as we acknowledge our sinfulness and the times we have not trusted in You.
We thank You, O Lord Almighty, for this wonderful day in which we have the opportunity during this Congress to learn more and more about Your mercy and put it into practice in our lives.
We ask You, Heavenly Father, to bestow Your abundant blessings upon all present, our speakers and participants. Be merciful to us this day and every day.
May we become more closely conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, Your Son, in union with Mary, our Most Holy Mother.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
In His Opening Message
Father Matthew mentioned how appropriate it is that the Mercy Congress take place during the Year of the Priest since it is through the instrumentality of the priest that the Lord dispenses His Mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He said:
When Jesus was criticized for eating at the house of St. Matthew, He responded, “the healthy do not need a physician but the sick do, I have not come here for the righteous but for sinners, it is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.” The Church is not a museum for saints, but a clinic for sinners.
The word “mercy” comes from the Latin word Misericordia. It is from the two word roots miseria and cordia. Miseria means misery, pain, sorrow, and cordia means heart. And so it means to take another’s pains to heart: to feel their pain and sympathize with them.
The word “compassion” comes from two Latin words: cum meaning with and passiomeaning suffering, like the Passion of our Savior that we contemplate on Good Friday. Here we see the compassionate person as suffering with another in their pains. This should then spur us on to action.
The Lord talks about this in the Gospel of St. Matthew when He talks about the final Judgment. The King says, “Come, blessed of My Father, enter the kingdom prepared for you for I was hungry and you gave Me to eat, thirsty and you gave Me to drink,” and the list continues. The just then reply: “Lord when did we see You hungry and feed You or thirsty and give You to drink or attend to You in Your needs?” And the King will reply, “Whenever you did it to one of the least ones, you did it to Me.”
This is what we are called to do. Learn of the Merciful Lord and put it into practice in our lives. This is the purpose of the Congress to which so many of you have come from far and near.
Mercy, Our Hope
(This “theme song” for the Mercy Congress was written by Fr. Matthew and Fr. Anthony Dandry and is sung to the Tune of O Jesus, We Adore Thee)
Lord Jesus, King of Mercy
We place our Trust in Thee
Our Hope and our Salvation,
Please hear our humble plea.
1. You saved your chosen People,
Their foes went in the sea
Your Mercy was upon them
And set the captives free. (Refrain)
2. Our Light and our Salvation
No peril shall we fear
Our Hope in times of danger
Shows proof that You are near (Refrain)
3. You give us strength to prosper
There’s nothing without You.
Your Gospel gives us guidance
In what we say and do. (Refrain)
4. You reach out to all sinners
When they are far away
Bring back into Your Sheepfold
All who have gone astray.
5. We sinners need Your mercy
We give as we receive
By deeds done with compassion
We show that we believe (Refrain)
6. Dear Mary, Queen of Mercy
O, please our Mother be
Our Advocate and Helper
We give our Hearts to thee. (15) (Refrain)
Reflection during Eucharistic Adoration, Nov. 14
Father Matthew said:
We are in the month of November in which we honor all the saints. This is our destiny to live our lives in the love and friendship of the Lord and be joined to Him one day in heaven.
Perhaps you recall this question from the Catechism from your First Holy Communion. “Why did God make you?” The answer is, “God made me so that I can know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him forever in heaven.” This is the goal of our Christian life: to live a holy life throughout this earthly pilgrimage and arrive at the destination in heaven.
My personal goal is to be a “canonizable” saint. No, I do not want to be recognized by the Church, but rather want to live a life of heroic virtue, to do good and avoid evil the best I can and abide in the grace of the Lord. So many have done it, and God shows no partiality: All are invited to holiness. We need heroic virtue to do this: one of the ingredients of sainthood.
Jesus tells us in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of St. John that He is the Vine and we are the branches, and we need to be connected to Him to have His life within us. We are to abide with Him for “apart from Him we can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). This is the way to grow in holiness. Is it easy? No. But it is possible. In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wrote, “I can do all things in Him who gives me strength.”
Today, in the presence of our Lord — truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — we are like the chosen apostles, Peter, James, and John on Mt. Tabor. We say, as they did, “Lord it is good to be here.” Jesus gave them a foretaste of heaven on that mountaintop. He was going up to Jerusalem to undergo His suffering and death and wanted to give them courage that all would be well. They saw in advance the glorification of His triumph.
Like the apostles who wanted to build three booths, we, too, must go down the mountaintop and resume our lives with its own crown of thorns and crosses, but we have a glimpse and foretaste of heaven in the presence of the Lord and at every Holy Mass where we unite ourselves to Jesus, the Way the Truth, and the Life. His victory is ours as well, and with Him all things are possible. He can help us live a life united to Him in this world and to have our true goal of becoming saints so that we may be with Him one day in the kingdom of heaven.
The Mercy Congress concluded with Holy Mass in the Basilica’s Crypt Church. At the end of Mass, Fr. Matt told NACOM attendees:
First and foremost, I wish to offer words of thanksgiving to the Lord for His aid in promoting the work of spreading the message of His bountiful mercy. We of the NACOM committee had asked the Lord that we may be His instruments in spreading the message: “Mercy: Our Hope.” Learning it and living it.
Thanks in particular to the Blessed Mother Mary. We put all under her mantle and maternal protection and asked her to help us in promoting the message of her Son’s love and mercy.
Gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for continuing the work of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. He opened the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy April 2-6, 2008, and told us to continue to spread the message of the Lord’s mercy.
It is like we brought the lit torch, just like the Olympics, begun in Rome, to us here in North America, and from the North American Congress on Mercy in Washington, D.C., then to each parish and diocese.
Special thanks to Fr. Patrice Chocholski, the general secretary for the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, who came from Lyon, France, to show his support. Just as Fr. Patrice offers his support and presence throughout the world, so I, too, as the North American Coordinator, offer my presence, when possible, to help in regional and local conferences and congresses on the mercy of the Lord.
Father Matthew, president and coordinator for NACOM, is the pastor of St. Roch Parish in Greenwich, Conn.