My second revelation on my WYD pilgrimage, as obvious as it is, given the theme, is that I came to Kraków to be healed. I don't mean any deep spiritual wounds, or hidden childhood traumas… I'm blessed enough not to have any, although I know there are many here who came to heal those deep wounds. No, I mean the little daily ones. The small sins, frustrations, and harms we give and take that build up over time. Sort of a spiritual death by 1000 cuts.
Yesterday Karen and I took part in the Pilgrimage of Mercy. We were blessed to pray before the relics of St. JPII, then we walked from his church to the sanctuary of the divine mercy, praying the chaplet along with 15 meditations on mercy. We finished by entering through the doors of mercy, praying before the original Divine Mercy image, then participating along with thousands of others in the sacrament of reconciliation.
In the evening we got to listen to Bishop Robert Barron speak about why the cross was needed to Christ to break through the heavy weight of sin and heal the world. He taught us that the hard work of forgiveness is to face our sins, attack them head on, and let Christ defeat them. Never have I experienced this more than at confession in the fields of reconciliation in front of St. Faustina's sanctuary. A wonderful priest heard my confession then spoke some of the most profound, but simple words I've ever heard. He told me that everything I confessed, he also confessed, and maybe even more seriously. He went on to pray my penance with me before absolution.
Never have I experienced a confession like it, but his actions lived out Bishop Barron's words so perfectly. We are broken people, but broken people possess the divine power, through the cross, to heal broken people. We only need the courage to share our brokenness and enter into mercy with one another.
Right now the world needs mercy so badly. We are dying a death by 1000 cuts. Today I listened to Archbishop Mafi of Tonga refer to the harm global warming is doing to the people his small nation. Two days ago we heard the tragic news of the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel. Mass shootings are so common in the US we barely register all of them. Terrorism around the world continues. Young people are more disenfranchised than ever. The list goes on. It's hard not to despair. However, the truth Fr. Barron referred to gives us the power to do something, because as Jesus was broken on the cross to heal us, we are broken people who can heal broken people.
In his Hardcore History series, Dan Carlin refers to a time when the Roman Empire faced a nearly existential threat because soldiers who were converting to Christianity were refusing to fight. They believed so much in peace that they simply couldn't take up violence even against their enemies, and the army was falling apart because of only a handful of courageous and merciful peacemakers. There are over 1,000,000,000 Catholics in the world today, and countless more people of good will across the faiths and world views. As Pope Francis said today, change is possible. If a few hundred soldiers laying down their arms can shake one of the great empires, what can hundreds of thousands of merciful, broken, peacemakers do in our world today?
I'll finish with this thought. When Pope Francis car was stopped in a crowd and many were approaching, there was great fear of an attack, but he had the courage to be not afraid, to see into the crowd, and reach out to touch and bless a child among them (thank you Bishop Barron for the anecdote).
St. JPII, pray for us to have courage. St. Faustina pray for us to be people of mercy.
- Ryan Fox