Fr. Vincenzo BORDO tells of a special initiative for the Holy Year of Mercy.
Having been challenged and encouraged repeatedly by that “dear old man” Pope Francis, we could not resist being drawn into his ideal world. “Leave your comfortable and lovely churches and go into the dirty and dangerous outskirts of humankind. Seek out the sinners, the rejected, the marginalized, the least ones in our society and bring them the mercy of God.”
With this spirit, the Pope has opened the Jubilee Year and the “Door of Mercy” in every diocese so that everyone would be able to cross the threshold and receive the grace of pardon and hope for a better life. Guided by his words, we too have gone out of our beautiful Center that does so much good (every day we serve 550 meals to the poor), to learn that there are further places to explore, other than the miserable situations we were already caring for and helping: the homeless. So in order to go even farther, toward those outskirts that no one ever reaches, we bought a bus.
We equipped it for every contingency, and in the cold winter nights, we went into the dangerous hinterlands of the city where we discovered a new and more dramatic form of poverty: STREET KIDS. Little boys and girls, teenagers and youth who, because of violence, bullying, abuse, have to leave their homes and get by as best they can in the brutal nights of the off-limits areas of the “good life:” night clubs, discotheques, karaoke’s, betting and gambling halls, beautiful clothing, big cylindered cars, drugs….dazzling districts with their colored lights and attractive with their offer of easily attainable happiness, but a lethal stranglehold for those who are too young and lacking in life experience.
And while Francis has opened the Holy Door in Rome, with the authorization of the bishop, we have invented a “Holy Door.” The door to our bus has become the “Door of Mercy.” In fact, those who go through the “Holy Door” of the Jubilee receive jubilee indulgence. But whoever goes through the “Holy Door” of our bus is invited to practice all the Works of Mercy for those whom we meet on the street. It is a door meant to “make holy” those who enter it.
Just as the 1,200 missionaries of Pope Francis are going through the streets of the world bringing to everyone the gift of reconciliation, the love of God and His infinite mercy, as we drive our bus, we bring into the hinterland of our city the “Holy Door of Mercy” to invite everyone to cross this wonderful threshold that leads to doing the good and beautiful and to committing oneself to helping the least of the least, the children abandoned by their own parents and by society and who are being lured by the underworld.
This and our jubilee…not made of prayers to be recited while sitting comfortably in a nice church smelling of incense, but of life lived alongside the dispossessed. It consists of deeds and works of mercy practiced in nasty and inhuman areas of our cities. Isn’t this perhaps the spirit of Pope Francis? Isn’t this what he is inviting us to do and what he himself does in his travels?
This “dear old man”, who is much livelier and enthusiastic than many young people, is there shouting for dear life that Christianity is not so much a beautiful and charming morality to practice or so many prayers to be recited by rote or solemn ceremonies, but a living person present among us: Jesus, a person to love and follow along the way of merciful love through the streets of life.