March 27, 2017

Mercy must become a verb in the lives of the faithful

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Lessons in the appreciation of our English language were revived during a recent learning encounter of a spiritual nature.

“A verb is a doing word” was one of the first summaries that I learned when beginning studies of parts of speech in schoolrooms long ago.

Memories were sparked last month while listening to addresses by three Australian speakers to a potential world-wide audience through the latest e-Conference emanating from the Broken Bay Institute (BBI).

Mercy: A Way of Being in the World was the title of the event held four weeks ago, and we are now an equal period away from what is designated as the conclusion of Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy on the Feast of Christ the King, Sunday 20 November.

“Compassion for people is our greatest civilising strength and the vision we see from Pope Francis is quite rare in this world. His leadership requires a response,” said Phil Glendenning, the director of the Edmund Rice Centre and president of the Refugee Council of Australia.

He joined with the archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge in suggesting that the word “mercy” be considered as a verb – a doing word – rather than being a noun which simply describes what is embodied in that quality.

Speaking of the pope’s vision and dream of mercy, Archbishop Coleridge said it should be recognised that the real credential of the Catholic Church and more broadly people across the globe should lie in mercy.

“The covenant of God … is a community of mercy in a merciless world. Find the hungry one, the thirsty one, the naked one, the sick one, the one who is infinitely strange and the one who is seemingly imprisoned by the power of death. Look to the Crucified and understand what you see,” the archbishop said.

Expanding on this theme, Sr Veronica Lawson RSM completed the trio of speakers: “In the Church we have buildings and meeting places. If we could open them a little more for us to engage one another, the paradigm would shift and make us a much more merciful world and a more merciful Church”.

Questions emailed for the panel to consider acknowledged the hopes of some Australians that future changes could eventually lead to our nation being more prepared to address a history and culture that lacked mercy due to convict cruelty and ‘terra nullius’ and which may lead to overturning the refugee policies of our political parties.

A more sympathetic note came from one viewer who warned we should not “beat ourselves up about what we don’t do” but recognise the positive sentiments expressed in the writings of St Paul, and the correspondent called for the recognition and acknowledgement of mercy already at work in our lives, families, and parishes.

A total of 12 e-Conferences have been presented in association with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and this one coincided with an announcement that BBI has been officially accredited as a Higher Education Provider by the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency, which is Australia’s independent national regulator of the higher education sector.

Now to be named “BBI – the Australian Institute of Theological Education” it can review a history stretching over almost 40 years which has seen more than 1,000 people either graduating as Master of Theology or gaining Graduate Certificates. Online courses are allowing students to become involved whether they’re in urban centres or remote regional areas.

One of Institute’s greatest achievements has been the now annual e-Conferences which deliver talks interspersed with breaks to allow viewers the opportunity to reflect on and discuss the thoughts of presenters.

Topics have covered general themes of faith along with issues specific to various times, such as the 50th anniversary of Vatican II in 2012; analysing the role of religion as a catalyst for either violence or peace; and Pope Francis “Following the Ministry of St Peter”.

Embracing the theme of this Jubilee Year offered views on mercy in action as a living quality which is able to continue being embraced by everyone who wants to see it in operation – regardless of their language or of their understanding of the word as a part of speech.

DVDs are available on the BBI website.

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