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Year of Mercy – The Power of Forgiveness


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 18/08/2016

Sharing mercy with others, will always include, in a very special way, the process of forgiveness. Mercy and forgiveness belong together. Forgiveness means my arms are open, my home is open, and most of all, my heart is open. When we forgive each other, we prove that there is a love present in our world, that is stronger than any sin or hurt. Jesus gets on this forgiveness thing, and He just won’t let it go. Everywhere Jesus goes, He either teaches about forgiveness or He offers it to someone. Zacchaeus. Peter. The woman at the well. The woman caught in adultery. When Jesus teaches His followers to pray, He tells them to ask for forgiveness and for the strength to forgive other people. Every place you open the Gospels, Jesus is sounding the bugle of forgiveness. The truth is obvious: Jesus, very simply, is all about forgiveness. So much so that His first sermon is just one word, “Repent!” as He makes it plain that we need forgiveness. And His last words are uttered to the Father from the cross on behalf of the soldiers below. In other words, forgiveness provides the first and last word of Jesus’s entire ministry. That alone teaches us how very important forgiveness is to our God. And how important it should be to us. Forgiveness will transform you and your relationships once you release its power into your life. You will find a new and higher level of living and of relationships. Read this inspirational text from Father Mike Schmitz, from Dynamic Catholic: Grudge holding is not one of our most attractive traits. For years, I carried around with me all the people who had hurt me or disappointed me. Like a wheelbarrow full of grudges, resentments, and wrongs to be righted. They went with me everywhere I went, as if I were some kind of supernatural scorekeeper who could track all the wrongs done and remember them in case they were needed at a moment’s notice. That is when I was forced to find the key. A key to let me out of the prison cell of past hurt and wrongs so that I could live in the present and move toward the future. I discovered that the key is forgiveness. One of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is to forgive willingly. How? Three steps:

  1. Acknowledge that there has been an offence. It is necessary. There is something to forgive.
  2. What has this person cost me. In front of Jesus add it up.
  3. Then say: I am not going to make you pay me back.

Mercy – know what you owe me, but I release you from your debt. In justice you owe me – mercy says I release you from your debt. You will be set free by becoming a person of mercy. “Forgiveness isn’t an event, it is a process.” Knowing that forgiveness is a process and not just an event reveals why it is so difficult to forgive. We want it to be over and done with in a single moment, but in reality it takes a serious emotional and spiritual commitment. While difficult, there are few skills more important in life than forgiveness. There isn’t a person on the planet that hasn’t needed to give forgiveness. To help us forgive, we need to be aware of two incredibly simple but transformative truths about forgiveness. The first is, order matters. The three-step process on how to forgive is incredibly helpful, but perhaps the most important part about the process is in adhering to the order. Here is the order:

  1. Acknowledge that there is something to forgive.
  2. Count precisely what an individual has caused you.
  3. Don’t say it’s ok or what they did doesn’t matter. Count the cost and then make a decision to release them of their debt.

Skipping one of these steps or trying to do it in a different order would be to your detriment. Think about it this way. About ten years ago, my dad decided to teach me how to change an electrical socket. He unscrewed the front casing and told me the first step is to pull the socket out from within the wall. The immediate result was a sharp electrical shock that caused my dad to jump back in pain. He looked at me with a sheepish grin and said, “first step, turn off the power!” Order seriously matters when changing an electrical outlet, and order seriously matters when trying to forgive others. The second truth is that forgiveness frees both the forgiven and the forgiver. Withholding forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Those who are unwilling to forgive are burdened by an unshakable misery. This is a fate that robs us of the joy and the peace we so desperately seek. Go to Jesus, acknowledge the debt, count the cost, and forgive willingly. Remember, this is a process. Perseverance will relieve you and those who need forgiving of the burden you carry. Let’s look at the example of Peter, who betrayed Jesus. So how in the world did this Peter become the rock of the Church, Saint Peter? Because of one defining moment. A moment of extraordinary forgiveness. A turning point in which forgiveness unlocked the door of Peter’s past and prepared the way home to God’s future. Forgiveness turned the bolt and opened a new path. This defining moment of Peter’s life gives us insight into the very heart of God. A God who sees more in us than we see in ourselves. A God who is willing to forget the past and invite us into a bold, divine future. All by issuing a single power, the one most powerful word in the English language and the defining word of the Christian faith. Forgiveness. When Jesus returns to His disciples in His resurrected form, Peter and some of the disciples have been out fishing and are having a fish fry on the shore of the lake. When Jesus returns, He calls Peter over to the side. It is hard, perhaps even impossible, to imagine how Peter felt as he made his way over to Jesus. A walk of shame. With all the memories of his failures and cowardice still bouncing in his cranium, Peter stands before Jesus, his Lord. You remember the conversation: “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs.” A second time. “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Tend my sheep.” And again. A third time. Just as Peter had fallen asleep three times at the garden, and denied Jesus three times, now Jesus three times looks beyond the past and offers Peter a future. “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep.”  Say this prayer today: “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy”. (From the Saint Francis Prayer)


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Year of Mercy – Seeing people in a different light


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 08/08/2016

Mercy in our lives means that we see people in a different way. It means, for example, that we don’t just look at the outward appearances of people; we try to catch a glimpse of their hearts, and look a little bit deeper. If we really want to get to know people better and more accurately, then we have to look deeper into their souls. Jesus revealed the mercy of God in many ways. And his way of showing mercy is the only true measure for our ideal of Christian living. If we want to see people in a more positive light and in a better light, then we have to able to understand people more. People make mistakes, very often, because deep down they are searching for love, or they’re searching for happiness or fulfilment in their own lives. How many sins, how many false opinions, how many ideologies, how many prejudices are, at the end of the day, all about the search for happiness, or the search for a liberating love that has never been experienced. Christian, merciful love empowers us and makes it possible that we can look beyond peoples mistakes, and with a generous and open heart, see them in a positive light. If we are able to see other people in a better way, then we can also apply this to ourselves. Here we come to the beauty and the necessity of the Sacrament of Mercy – Confession. This is a wonderful short meditation from Father Mike Schmitz, from Dynamic Catholics, about forgiveness and confession: How hard is it to forgive others? We can’t forgive because we don’t allow God to forgive us. What is confession? There are things that you have done that has taken your heart from my heart. You have hurt other people. Give me another chance to love you, says God. Then we can give mercy to others. We can become agents of mercy. Several years ago, as I stood in line for the sacrament of confession about to confess for the umpteenth time a sin I couldn’t seem to quit, I began to fear that God’s mercy was running out. I didn’t doubt that God would pardon a person who turned to him after a life of the most heinous sins imaginable. What I did doubt was that he would continue to forgive me. How many times have I said, “I will never do this again,” only to return to that sin like a dog to its vomit (see 2 Peter 2:22)? At that moment, by God’s grace, no doubt, I was reminded of the incident in the Gospel of Matthew when Peter approached Our Lord with a question: Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22) Now Jesus did not mean that Peter was to forgive his brother 490 times and then no more. No, rather, “seventy times seven” signified perfection and consistency. It then occurred to me, if God’s forgiveness is not like that—perfect and consistent—then Jesus was commanding Peter to act in a way that was contrary to the nature of God. The truth is, God is infinite in all of his attributes. In fearing that God’s mercy was slowly evaporating, I was unintentionally making God in my image. If you have ever been tempted to doubt God’s mercy as I did, or if you’re tempted to do that now, please ingrain the following words from St. Claude de la Colombiere into your brain: I glorify you in making known how good you are towards sinners, and that your mercy prevails over all malice, that nothing can destroy it, that no matter how many times or how shamefully we fall, or how criminally, a sinner need not be driven to despair of [God’s] pardon.  .  It is in vain that your enemy and mine sets traps for me every day. He will make me lose everything else before the hope that I have in your mercy. Regardless of where you have been or what you have done, be at peace. The same God who forgave Moses the murderer, Rahab the prostitute, David the adulterer, and Peter the denier will forgive you. All you have to do is seek that forgiveness with a contrite heart. The only sin God won’t forgive is the one you will not ask forgiveness for. God’s mercy is infinite. His forgiveness is infinite.

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The Mary Prayer


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 15/08/2015

Recently ordained, Fr. Larry arrived at his first pastoral assignment. He would never forget that first night. He was just dozing off when he heard a voice. “Get up, Father. Someone at 55 Water Street is in desperate need of you.” There was nothing mysterious about the voice. He knew that. In those days, long before electronics, there was a speaking tube that ran from the front door up to the bedroom. There was a megaphone at both ends. If there was an emergency during the night, the caller would speak into the megaphone. His or her voice would be heard upstairs. It was so bitterly cold! He ran down the stairs, pulling his bathrobe around him. The frigid wind had drifted the snow waist-high against the door and the side of the building where the outdoor end of the tube and megaphone hung. There was no one there. He knew that voice was real. He dressed as fast as he could, took his little black bag and plunged into the midnight blizzard. It seemed like hours before he found the house. It was dilapidated and obviously deserted. Still, driven by the urgency of the message he had heard, he knocked and then pounded on the door. There was no answer.  The rear door was ajar, but stuck. He pushed it open finally and stepped inside. In the white glare of moonlight seeping through the dirty windows, he could see a man’s body huddled on what had been the kitchen floor. Fr. Larry knelt beside him. The man was dressed in rags. He was a tramp. The smell of stale beer was almost nauseating. The old man was conscious. He was trembling in the cold. Father wrapped him in his overcoat. He was able to hear his confession. He gave him Holy Communion and anointed him. Afterwards, he told the dying man how he happened to be there. Then he asked the man, “You must have done something special in your life to gain this kind of extraordinary intervention. What was it?” “No. Nothing,” the man mumbled. “I’ve never done anything. I’ve wasted away my whole life — never did anything for anybody…” “But you must have done something,” Fr. Larry persisted. The old man just shook his head. “Nothing.” “I’ll get help.” Father started toward the door. As he reached it, he heard the man say, “Well, there might have been one thing…, ‘cept I don’t like to talk about it, ’cause, I didn’t do it well or nothing.” “What was it?” Fr. Larry whispered. “Aw Father, I don’t like to mention it, `cause I did it when I was drunk, sometimes in bars, making fun of it. I’d do it when I’d go to sleep under bridges with other guys…but I did it all these years….badly though….” “What? What did you do?” “When I was a little kid, my mum told me that if I’d say the ‘Mary Prayer’ every day as often as I would think of it, I wouldn’t die alone…that I wouldn’t die without having a priest to confess to and to give me the Last…Oh Father, I’m dying, ain’t I? And what my mum said was true.” He smiled. Then he sighed, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, please, now and at the hour of my death.” Then he went home to his Mother, both of them. “The Mary Prayer.” What a simple, hope-filled petition of love! For all of us. Everyday. As often as we think of it.

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A Priest’s Courage of Faith


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 01/09/2014

I was reading William F. Buckley’s Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith and came upon this story relayed by the late actor David Niven about a disaster at sea and the sacrifice of a priest. “David Niven told the engrossing story (I had never heard it) of a single episode in the chaotic flight from France after Dunkirk in 1940. One motley assembly, ‘Royal Air Force ground personnel who were trapped, Red Cross workers, women, ambulance drivers and, finally, the embassy staff from Paris with their children — by the time they got to St. Nazaire at the mouth of the Loire, there were over three thousand of them and the British government sent an old liner called the Lancastria to come and take them away, with three destroyers to guard her. They were just pulling up the anchor when three dive bombers came. The destroyers did what they could, but one bomb hit, went down the funnel and blew a huge hole in the side, and she quickly took on a terrible list. In the hold there were several hundred soldiers. Now there was no way they could ever get out because of the list, and she was sinking. And along came my own favorite Good Samaritan, a Roman Catholic priest, a young man in Royal Air Force uniform. He got a rope and lowered himself into the hold to give encouragement and help to those hundreds of men in their last fateful hour.’ ‘Knowing he couldn’t get out?’ ‘Knowing he could never get out, nor could they. The ship sank and all in that hold died. The remainder were picked up by the destroyers and came back to England to the regiment I was in, and we had to look after them, and many of them told me that they were giving up even then, in the oil and struggle, and the one thing that kept them going was the sound of the soldiers and the priest in the hold singing hymns.’” Winston Churchill hid the news of the deaths of possibly more than 7,000 men from the public as it might have damaged morale. He reportedly said, ‘The newspapers have got quite enough disaster for today, at least.’ Although the sinking of the Lancastria may be the worst maritime disaster in Britain’s history with more deaths than the Titanic and Lusitania put together, it has not been truly recognized as such. Such stories serve to inspire and, I think, force us to question ourselves. When I hear a story like this I am terrified at the lack of my own faith.

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It’s Time to Start Praying!


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 29/08/2014

It’s Time to Start Praying for Autumn Synod! As the summer winds down and we move into autumn, we need to turn our prayers and reflection to the meeting of the world’s bishops that Pope Francis has called for October 5-19 in Rome. The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.” Strengthening families and restoring the family as the natural center of society is a top priority of our Holy Father. Family is the essential foundation for each of our lives. Family is where we learn our name and where our personalities and values are formed. It is where we learn how to pray and how to share our thoughts and emotions. It is where we learn how to give love and receive love and how to make sacrifices and live with our differences. Family is where the young and the old know their dignity and worth and where they share their lives and take care of each other, especially in times of weakness and vulnerability. The family is also the foundation that every society is made from and the natural bond that holds every society together. And family is the natural form of the Church, in which we discover our identity as children of God and brothers and sisters to one another. Yet we know that families face many challenges today. Many are struggling. Many are burdened by poverty, violence, sickness and other difficulties. Many families are hurting and broken.

As Pope Francis has said, in our times, “the family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis.” There is widespread confusion over the meaning of marriage and family and our obligations to children in our society. Our society’s growing secularism and emphasis on individualism and a consumer lifestyle are making it harder for people to make commitments and form lasting relationships. More and more in our culture, family is not valued or is taken for granted. So this Synod is important. We need to pray for the bishops and our Holy Father as they prepare to consider the great question of the family in our time. We need to think not only about the challenges we face. Those challenges are real and we must confront them. But the key to true renewal is for us to rediscover the natural beauty and joyful simplicity of marriage and family in God’s plan for our lives and our society. (more…)

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Dream of Heaven


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 25/08/2014

I dreamt that I went to Heaven and an angel was showing me around. We walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with angels. My angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, “This is the Receiving Section. Here, all petitions to God said in prayer are received.” I looked around in this area, and it was terribly busy with so many angels sorting out petitions written on voluminous  paper sheets and scraps from people all over the  world. Then we moved on down a long corridor until we reached the second section. The angel then said to me, “This is the Packaging and Delivery Section. Here, the graces and blessings the people asked for are processed and delivered to the living persons who asked for them.” I noticed again how busy it was there. There were many angels working hard at that station, since so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth. Finally at the farthest end of the long corridor we stopped at the door of a very small station. To my great surprise, only one angel was seated there, idly doing nothing. “This is the Acknowledgement Section,” my angel friend quietly admitted to me. He seemed embarrassed. ”How is it that there is no work going on here?” I asked. “So sad,” the angel sighed. “After people receive the blessings that they asked for, very few send back acknowledgements.” “How does one acknowledge God’s blessings? “I asked. “Simple,” the angel answered. Just say, “Thank you, Lord.” “What blessings should they acknow-ledge?” I asked. “If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep  you are richer than 75% of this  world. If  you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and  spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8%  of the world’s wealthy. If  you woke up this morning with more health than  illness. You are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day. If you have never experienced the fear in battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the  agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation…  you are ahead of 700 million people in the  world. If  you can attend a church without the fear of  harassment, arrest, torture or death you are  envied by, and more blessed than, three billion  people in the world. If you can hold your head up and smile, you are not the norm, you’re unique to all  those in doubt and despair…” “Ok,” I said. “What now? How can I start?”

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The “U” in Jesus


by Fr Duncan McVicar on 18/08/2014

Before U were thought of or time had begun, God stuck U in the name of His Son.

And each time U pray, you’ll see it’s true, You can’t spell out JesUs and not include U.

You’re a pretty big part of His wonderful name, For U, He was born; that’s why He came.

And His great love for U is the reason He died.  It even takes U to spell crUcified..

Isn’t it thrilling and splendidly grand, He rose from the dead, with U in His plan?

The stones split away, the gold trUmpet blew, And this word resUrrection is spelled with a U.

When JesUs left earth at His Upward ascension, He felt there was one thing He just had to mention.

“Go into the world and tell them it’s true That I love them all – Just like I love U.”

So many great people need him just like U, Don’t they have a right to know JesUs too?

It all depends now on what U will do, He’d like them to know, But it all starts with U.

Will U pass it on. When Jesus died on the cross he was thinking of you!

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