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by Fr. Timothy Armbruster, C.PP.S.
What does the movie Monsters, Inc. have to do with the Year of Mercy? Just ask any of the students at St. Francis Xavier School and they will tell you. When you open a door, what do you have to do? You have to step through it; you have to do something. Do you always know what’s on the other side? No. Could it be something fun? Yes! Could it be something scary? Yes! But in order to find out what’s on the other side of the door you must first step through it. Just as with the Holy Door for the Year of Mercy we are invited to step through and enter into the graces of this Year of Mercy.
Monday, Feb 22 through Thursday, Feb 25, I journeyed with the students of St. Francis Xavier School in St. Joseph for their annual Lenten all school retreat. It is a tradition that began when I was first there as Associate Pastor. It is a half-day retreat for each grade level ending with Mass on the afternoon of the last day. Each year we focus on a different theme and this year’s theme was the Year of Mercy. From a video by Fr. Mike Schmitz, we drew upon his three challenges of becoming Missionaries of Mercy. First, is to take other people seriously. Second, is to take the sufferings of others personally. Third, is to focus and do what you can, not what you can’t. With those points in mind, we talked about as students, how they could do things to live out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Each of them came up with a few different ideas.
As part of their school Lenten project, they have once again chosen to support and participate in the Heifer International Project. Heifer International is a charity organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities. The money that is raised is used to purchase livestock and seeds that are given to families to care for and raise them. In return, the family receives the produce from the animal to use to feed the family or to sell. The families are encouraged to share their animal off-springs with other needy families. It is a way for families to help themselves live a better life. A calendar is included that each day gives some information about the recipients and suggests something to do each day. For example: Got milk? If you have chocolate milk in your fridge put in 15 cents. If you have white milk, 20 cents. In the past, the students have raised enough money to purchase chickens, cows, and other livestock. On the included informational DVD, we watched a clip entitled, “Everyday Heroes.” It featured a seven-year boy who lives high in the Andes Mountain who has never seen a tree. As he spoke, he had the biggest grin you could possibly imagine. He spoke of herding alpacas that they had received. He also spoke of how proud his father and other parents were to watch their children play soccer. What a difference the gift of animals has made in each of their lives and in their community. He even invited us to join him for his birthday celebration on October 28.
In this Year of Mercy, we are called to be the face of mercy to others. In stepping through the Holy Door of Mercy, we are called to do something. We ask ourselves, “What can I do?” and not focus so much on what I can’t do. What door do we need to step through next?