By Dennis Sadowski
Catholic News Service

KRAKOW, Poland (CNS) — Tara Gouldring never thought of herself as a missionary to others.

But the 18-year-old from Birmingham, England, decided it’s not such a strange idea after hearing Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, during a morning catechetical session July 28 during World Youth Day.

“It’s inspiring to see God’s mercy in so many ways and how I can bring it into my life and how (to) love people even though they do you wrong,” Gouldring told Catholic News Service.

“You can start with prayer for people who need help and hope to help more from there,” she said.

Bishop Caggiano’s talk at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church focused on the idea that anyone can become a missionary of mercy by showing compassion, love and a caring attitude toward anyone who is suffering.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., speaks to World Youth Day pilgrims at Sacred Heart Church in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., speaks to World Youth Day pilgrims at Sacred Heart Church in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

He took the 150 young people in the church, most from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, back to the days before he became a priest. He was a sales representative for a major publisher in New York City, and on his way to work every morning he saw a homeless man in a plaza along the Avenue of the Americas. For weeks, he said, he ignored the man.

“I was so self-absorbed it took me two months to realize this was a man there. I would literally step over him,” the bishop said.

Soon, he began giving the man $1 every day.

“I thought I was giving him what he needed. I thought I was doing something good. I thought I was an OK Catholic,” he said.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., speaks to World Youth Day pilgrims at Sacred Heart Church in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) See WYD-MISSIONARIES-MERCY July 28, 2016.
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., speaks to World Youth Day pilgrims at Sacred Heart Church in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Today, he realizes he was being far from merciful.

“My friends, that may be good enough for the world, but that’s not good enough for Jesus Christ. That is not what we are being called to do. We are being called to more than that,” Bishop Caggiano explained.

Then, dressed in the traditional bishop’s cassock, waist sash and zucchetto, he got down on his knees and acted out how he should have responded.

“You get down on your knees and put your hands under them and you bring them close to you and you lift them up,” he said. “And the smell of the sheep is when your heart and their heart are so close that they touch.”

Acting with mercy can occur toward anyone at any time, as long as it is done to follow the example of Jesus, he said, suggesting that World Youth Day 2016 can be the start of merciful actions on the part of everyone attending the six-day celebration of faith.

“Is it easy? No. Is it going to be something you and I will fail at? Yes. Are we going to learn from failure? Yes, because Christ will love us,” Bishop Caggiano said.

The bishop, who was the U.S. bishops’ episcopal liaison for World Youth Day, called on each member of the audience to become a missionary of mercy one person at a time.

Bridget Phiri of Wolverhampton, England, prays at Sacred Heart Church in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Bridget Phiri of Wolverhampton, England, prays at Sacred Heart Church in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bridget Phiri, 20, of Wolverhampton, England, said she saw herself in Bishop Caggiano’s story of giving money to the homeless man in New York.

Related reading

Man quenches a thirst for the water of life: ‘They hunger for what is empty in their souls and their spirits. They feel nobody listens to them. I want to bring compassion.’

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to attend the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony in Blonia Park in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to attend the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony in Blonia Park in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Youthful face of mercy can change the world, pope tells young people

“Instead of just handing people money, I should get up and give them a hug and make them feel like they’re a person too, like they’re accepted in society. Something more physical than just giving them some coins and walking by,” she said.

“I think I need to re-evaluate how I look at things now and how I act toward people who are homeless or less fortunate,” Phiri said.

Seminarian Toby Duckworth of Birmingham, England, laughs with other World Youth Day Pilgrims at Sacred Heart Church in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Seminarian Toby Duckworth of Birmingham, England, laughs with other World Youth Day Pilgrims at Sacred Heart Church in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

It comes down to letting God flow through each person’s action, concluded Toby Duckworth, 21, of Streetly, England, who will enter the Venerable English College in Rome as a seminarian in August.

“The challenge is to go beyond what the world sees as mercy. To go beyond even what we as human beings think is merciful. To me that is constant challenge, always, everywhere,” Duckworth told CNS.

Returning home to England and elsewhere, pilgrims will find it difficult to go beyond their normal circles, he acknowledged. But such work is never easy. The challenge is “be Jesus to others,” he said.

Meet Missionaries of Mercy in the Diocese of Phoenix

4 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry this may be bad advice. Some of these people are mentally disturbed. You enter their space and they may become violent. Besides, where did Jesus do this in the Gospels?

  2. “Then, dressed in the traditional bishop’s cassock, waist sash and zucchetto, he got down on his knees and acted out how he should have responded.

    “You get down on your knees and put your hands under them and you bring them close to you and you lift them up,” he said. “And the smell of the sheep is when your heart and their heart are so close that they touch.”

    Nah. I wouldn’t advise a young girl to do that to a drunken, foul-mouthed homeless man in San Francisco – unless, of course, she’s dressed as a traditional bishop in a cassock.

  3. I showed this to a good Catholic friend who is in the medical field. With regard to this comment: ” “Put your hands under them and you bring them close to you…and the smell of the sheep is when your heart and their heart are so close that they touch”?!
    I thought her reply was very prudent:
    “..this is wrong in so many ways….. disrespectful and intrusive of normal personal boundries, …. not to mention the health risks…. Hepititis, HIV, TB, etc…. or about having some young person too close to an older person who could well have mental illness or substance abuse…. Really need special training to work around homeless folks… Yes, there are many ways of works of mercy, but this seems ill informed….

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