Francis and Vincent on Mercy

by | Mar 24, 2013 | Pope

A comparison of Pope Francis and St. Vincent on mercy

Pope Francis views morality as response to God’s mercy .

Christian morality is not a titanic effort of the will, the effort of someone who decides to be consistent and succeeds, a solitary challenge in the face of the world. No. Christian morality is simply a response. 

It is the heartfelt response to a surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy (I shall return to this adjective). The surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy, using purely human criteria, of one who knows me, knows my betrayals and loves me just the same, appreciates me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me, and expects from me. This is why the Christian conception of morality is a revolution; it is not a ‘never falling down’ but an ‘always getting up again.’

From a 2009 interview

He told his biographers that he changed his life when, at 17 years of age, he started a day of student celebrations by going to confession. “A strange thing happened to me…It was a surprise, the astonishment of an encounter…This is the religious experience: the astonishment of encountering someone who was waiting for you… God is the one who seeks us first.”[135]

Responding to Jesus’ mercy is also found in his papal motto: Miserando atque eligendo. The phrase is taken from a homily of St. Bede, who commented that Jesus “saw [St. Matthew] the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: ‘Follow me'” (italics added to refer to English translation of the Latin motto).[35] Coincidentally the Gospel reading for the Sunday he was scheduled to give his first public address was on Jesus’ forgiveness of the adulteress woman. This allowed him to discuss ideas such as: God never wearies of forgiving us; hearing the word mercy, this word changes everything; mercy is beautiful; never tire in asking for forgiveness.[136]

  Value of Mercy according to Vincent de Paul (recently translated from a Spanish study)

Among some of my favorite quotes from this study

  • Vincent did not invent mercy or compassion or charity … rather he incarnated in himself the mercy, the compassion and the charity of Christ and practiced these in his everyday life.
  • Where there is great suffering and pain and need Vincent’s mercy becomes more obvious. While others spoke about the poor in theory, Vincent reached out to and encountered the poor in a direct way.
  • Mercy, according to God’s desires, has no limits and in fact, if it is like God’s mercy, it embraces everyone. Therefore, it is the distinctive duty of priests to procure mercy and to be merciful to criminals … it is not your intention to defend crime but rather to practice mercy (CCD:VII:443).
  •  I worry about our Company, but to tell you the truth, not so much as I do about the poor. If we need to, we could ask for help from our other houses and appeal to the vicar in the parishes. But where can the poor turn? Where can they go? This is my worry and my sorrow (Abelly III:117).
  • So then, if there are any among us who think they’re in the Mission to evangelize poor people but not to alleviate their sufferings, to take care of their spiritual needs but not their temporal ones, I reply that we have to help them and have them assisted in every way, by us and by others, if we want to hear those pleasing words of the Sovereign Judge of the living and the dead, “Come, beloved of my Father; possess the kingdom that has been prepared for you, because I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was naked and you clothed me; sick and you assisted me.” To do this is to preach the Gospel by words and by works, and that is the most perfect way; it is also what Our Lord did, and what those should do who represent Him on earth, officially and by nature, as priests do (CCD:XII:77-78).

Outline with links to full article


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