TEMPE — The doors of mercy were certainly opened to students at one school — at least symbolically.
They walked through mock “Doors of Mercy” at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and even made a mini set in art class to ultimately enhance the prayer area of their home. The mini doors opened to the Divine Mercy image.
Students also learned about and discussed mercy in age-appropriate ways with parent volunteers in the classroom. Some joined their family for a Parent Summit Night Sept. 30 addressing the same theme. Every activity supported the “Mercy Unites Us” effort that the school’s faith formation committee hoped would further connect faith life at school and home.
For sixth-grader Madeline Pabst, creating a set of mini doors of mercy reminded her of her own walk through the official Doors of Mercy at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral earlier this year. Her family of eight, including four younger siblings, took a pilgrimage there.
“It felt really cool to walk through them and know that God’s mercy was washing over me,” Pabst said while tracing the Divine Mercy image.
She described mercy as “God’s compassion to us when we do something wrong or when we sin. When He does that, it’s just so beautiful, so amazing,” Pabst said.
One of her younger brothers articulately read the parable of the Prodigal Son early on during the Parent Summit Night. Bill Marcotte, a parishioner at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, offered a reflection based on it. The Gospel passage was close to his heart because he once had portrayed the prodigal son — only a modernized version — during a retreat his junior year at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center just up the road.
The parable illustrates how intimate Jesus wanted to be with His children, in spite of their sin.
The son’s true happiness wasn’t found in fun or friends, but in his father’s house.
The most amazing part, Marcotte said, is that his dad had been waiting, searching and looking out on the horizon for the first glimpse of his son’s return. At last, it happens.
Year of Mercy — The final weeks
Ways to wrap up the Year of Mercy:
➤ Read about God’s mercy
➤ Grant mercy to those who have hurt you
➤ Bring others to receive God’s mercy this year
➤ Practice each of the Works of Mercy. Review our “Missionary of Mercy” series for ideas.
“He races to hug him — runs — that was unheard of in Jewish custom,” Marcotte said. “It demonstrates the connection between repentance and joy.”
Even though Catholics might be slow to admit sin, “God’s mercy runs to us and runs fast.”
But that only illuminated one side of mercy and the Divine Mercy image has two distinct colors pouring from it. Catholics are also called to show mercy toward one another.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel students do that routinely with the vulnerable in the community through its monthly “Works of Mercy” campaign. They collect hygiene items, food and other necessities for St. Vincent de Paul, Maggie’s Place and other outreaches.
“Thinking about people who are in need makes me sad and I want them to feel happy,” sixth-grader Paula Parian said about why she supports the monthly collections.
Marcotte challenged older students and adults to go even deeper. The parable, which is also referred to as the parable of the merciful father, details the older son’s reaction to his brother’s return. The elder son could only focus on his brother’s sin.
“As disciples of Christ, it calls us to … change our views of those in need of God’s mercy … and to imitate His mercy in outreach to them,” Marcotte said.
That’s a message Brina Sauer took away from the school’s latest “Mercy Unites Us” effort. It reminded her of Pope Francis’ call to be a person of mercy. The mom of fourth-grade twins and two younger students at Our Lady of Mount Carmel faced the reality of that call when she walked through the Holy Doors of Mercy in Sedona last spring. She took the pilgrimage with friends.
“It was a very moving moment. I felt like I was my family’s ambassador,” Sauer said, “feeling that empowerment that God infuses you with to share His mercy with others.”