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The Year of Mercy: What It Is, and Why It Matters

October 17, 2017

By: Katie Heller

If you ask an average person on the street to describe Pope Francis in one or two words, you will probably get variations of the same response: authentic, witness, inclusive, or servant. Pope Francis’s pontificate has reminded the world what a sincere witness of “love your neighbor” looks like.  He’s showed us how to honor and serve the poor, welcome back sinners, extend mercy to those outside the Body of Christ, and call our Christian brothers and sisters to an authentic, unreserved witness of Christ to the world.

It’s no surprise that Pope Francis would promulgate, for the Roman Catholic Church and all Christians, an extraordinary jubilee of mercy. He reflects that now, more than ever, our world needs mercy:

“In this way we will strengthen in ourselves the certainty that mercy can truly help in the edification of a more human world. Especially in our time, in which forgiveness is a rare guest in the spheres of human life, the call to mercy is made more urgent, and this is so in every place: in society, in institutions, at work and even in the family.”

Francis sees a vital need in our world, wrought with war, violence, terrorism, and uncertainty, for a desperate outpouring of mercy. He wisely knows that our world cannot receive mercy if we, as followers of Christ, don’t first receive and be transformed by God’s mercy. 

Here are a few FAQs about the Year of Mercy:

What is the Jubilee of Mercy?

With its roots in the Old Testament, the calling of a jubilee in the Catholic Church started in 1300 and was celebrated every 100 years. Over the years, the frequency has increased, and now, a jubilee is called every 25 years, the last one by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Jubilees called between the 25 year mark are called “extraordinary.” Traditionally, a jubilee celebration is about one year in length and has a particular spiritual focus. This year, rooted in Luke 6:36, Pope Francis directed the faithful to focus on the virtue of mercy. 

When does it happen?

Most holy years span the length of the liturgical year.  The Year of Mercy began December 8, 2015 and ends November 20, 2016.

Who is the Year of Mercy for?

Although many aspects of the Year of Mercy relate directly to Catholics, the Year of Mercy is for all Christians. Every Christ-follower can find edification in striving to be more merciful and extend mercy to those around them.

What’s the point?

The goal of the Holy Year of Mercy is simple. It’s a sacred time for the faithful to draw nearer to Jesus and grow in holiness through the perfection of the virtue of mercy. It’s also a time of penance and pilgrimage, a spiritual journey to “be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Where can I get more information?

  • Learn more about the tradition of a jubilee year
  • Download the Year of Mercy App for daily prayer and reflection
  • Visit the official Year of Mercy website
  • Read the Official Year of Mercy Papal Bull of Indiction
  • Purchase Pope Francis’s new book on mercy

Over the next year, I want to invite you to journey with me in rediscovering God’s mercy. In a series of blog posts, we’ll reflect together on examples of mercy in Scripture, give tangible suggestions of ways to live mercy every day, and offer quick prayers and reflections to contemplate how God might be calling us deeper into a life of mercy.


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