The message of mercy communicated six years ago is being put into action as the country mobilizes to help Ukrainians.
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In 2015, in anticipation of World Youth Day, Cardinal Stanislas Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, wrote in a message: “young people will be asked to reflect on the theme of mercy as an ideal of life and a criterion for the credibility of our faith.” The theme for the World Youth Day 2016 was mercy and as Cardinal Rylko suggests, mercy will show forth our faith.
When he greeted the crowds of hundreds of thousands of young people gathered in Krakow, Pope Francis said, “A merciful heart can go out and meet others; it is ready to embrace everyone. A merciful heart is able to be a place of refuge for those who are without a home or have lost their home; it is able to build a home and a family for those forced to emigrate; it knows the meaning of tenderness and compassion. A merciful heart can share its bread with the hungry and welcome refugees.” These words of Pope Francis exhorting young people to be the youthful face of mercy echoed in a packed Jordan Park, in Kraków.
When I heard those words in Krakow six years ago, they were deeply moving. But looking back on them now as I stand at the Polish-Ukrainian border, they seem prophetic. There was a powerful way that God, six years ago, in his infinite mercy, was preparing Poland to meet the needs of today.
This theme, announced and lived in a special way six years ago in Poland is being activated in Catholic networks across the country.
Solidarity is being lived. This deeply Catholic movement which opposed Communism in Poland had at its core the two principles from St. Paul: 1) carry one another’s burdens and 2) overcome evil with good. World Youth Day offered participants extraordinary fraternal benefits. It was a chance for pilgrims and volunteers alike to forge friendships and extend their networks. Today these networks are being activated across Poland.
The message of Divine Mercy which Jesus gave to the Polish sister St. Faustina was at the heart of the World Youth Day 2016 experience. This message is not merely a theological message, it is a message of action. Jesus asked St. Faustina not only to pray at the three o’clock hour and remember the act of love of the Son‘s sacrifice to the Father, but also to do an act of mercy on a day she would not normally do one and unite that act to Divine Mercy.
“Mercy,” said Pope Francis to the throngs of young people in Krakow. “Let us together repeat this word: mercy,” the pope asked. Three times the ocean of young people swelled crying out “Mercy.” “Once more,” encouraged the pope, “so that the whole world can hear you!” Here in Poland, the Church is crying out to the world once more: mercy, mercy, mercy!