Cardinal John Dew
In the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour in Aix-en-Provence, a university city in the south of France, there is a very simple ‘Door of Mercy’. Anyone coming into the Cathedral and wanting to go through the Holy Door has to stoop low to enter. It is a powerful way of reminding pilgrims to ‘Bow down, then, before the power of God, and he will raise you up’ (1 Peter 5:6). Once a person has ‘bowed down’ he or she is then able to stand up tall and straight knowing God in MERCY has welcomed and embraced them. Then they leave the Chapel of Mercy by another door ‒ a normal-sized door that allows them to be themselves before God, welcomed and accepted, clasped and held in the arms of the God of love, the God who looks on us in mercy. I recently had the privilege of stooping low and going through that very symbolic door, and then of watching others come though, smiling and in wonderment that this simple action somehow gave us all a sense of the goodness and love of God.
Here in the Archdiocese of Wellington we too have been performing wonderful simple actions in order to share and show others the goodness and mercy of God. I was just as moved and humbled to see the response in the diocese to the request to build a ‘Mountain of Mercy’ by providing shoes and socks for the young in our communities who cannot afford them. In the days leading up to Sunday 24 July, hundreds of pairs of shoes and socks were delivered to the Cathedral to be given to the needy.
Recently in a wonderful, short video clip, Pope Francis invited the world ‘to be God’s mercy’ (you can view the clip online at: https:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=475tyHQV1aQ). He began by reminding us we all need God’s mercy, and we also need each other’s mercy. The Holy Father went on to say ‘I invite all of you, to be everywhere in the world, a work of mercy’.
I want to thank all those who responded with gifts of shoes and socks to keep the feet of others warm and dry in these winter months. You have truly been ‘a work of mercy’. The initiative to build a ‘Mountain of Mercy’ of shoes and socks came from the Archdiocesan Year of Mercy committee who had spoken about the severity of the cold winter months ahead and decided to appeal to people to donate shoes and socks for the poor and vulnerable for whom this time of year is particularly difficult. These are now being distributed with the wonderful help of the St Vincent de Paul Society to low decile schools for children and students who regularly arrive at school without shoes or socks. Principals have told us this can be up to ten per cent of school rolls. The gifts of mercy are being given to the innocent victims of family poverty in both State and Catholic schools.
This is truly a way of being, as Pope Francis has reminded us so often, an ‘Outbound Church’. Pope Francis said: ‘We men and women, need God’s mercy, but we also need each other’s mercy. We need to take each other’s hand, to take care of each other. So I invite you all to do, everywhere in the world, a work of mercy, one that stays. And don’t be afraid of God’s mercy. Mercy is God’s caress.’
It was a great privilege for me to stoop low and enter through the Door of Mercy in the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour in France, a powerful and humbling experience – a moment of God’s mercy, then see others suddenly standing up tall and straight, realising that they had been touched by the Merciful embrace and clasp of God. However, the afternoon of Sunday 24 July, was even more humbling as I witnessed the wonderful response and generosity of so many of our parishioners as they responded with great love and built a ‘Mountain of Mercy’ of shoes and socks. You have truly been ‘a work of mercy, one that stays’.
I sincerely thank you all and pray that you know the caress of God’s mercy.