The Catholic University of America

Dec. 7, 2015

CUA to Begin Year of Mercy with Penance Service

Though the Catholic Church’s Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is set to begin on Tuesday, Dec. 8, The Catholic University of America will begin its celebration one day early with a night of prayer and reconciliation.

The Office of Campus Ministry will host an Advent Evening of Reconciliation beginning with an advent penance service at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 7, in Caldwell Chapel. The evening will continue with confessions in all residence halls from 8 to 10 p.m.

According to Rev. Justin Ross, associate chaplain for liturgy and worship, 25 priests will come to campus to assist with the ambitious confession schedule. Though the University often hosts confession in residence halls, it is very rare to have the sacrament available in every hall on the same evening, he noted.

Father Ross said he believes the night of confession will be a campus-wide moment: a way to help spiritually prepare students for the jubilee year, in which Pope Francis has asked the world to reflect on giving and receiving mercy.

“One of the components of reconciliation that can often get lost in individual confession is that communal dimension of the mercy of God, that sin is not strictly personal and private and that we can understand it in the context of relationships,” Father Ross said.

“Sin is stretching or breaking relationships, whether it be my relationship with God or my relationship with other people, or my relationship with myself. This is an opportunity to recognize that, ‘I’ve stretched or broken relationships and I need the mercy of God to repair those relationships.’”

Father Ross has encouraged students to attend the Mass for the Immaculate Conception at noon on Dec. 8, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. During the Mass, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and University chancellor, will open the Holy Year Door of Mercy.

Throughout the rest of the Year of Mercy, Father Ross said Campus Ministry will continue to host service and ministry opportunities for members of the CUA community, including participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Jan. 18 and providing hospitality for out-of-town visitors prior to the March for Life on Jan. 22.

“Pope Francis has really stressed the importance of sharing mercy within the context of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy,” Father Ross said. “We are relooking at things we’ve done in those contexts and thinking about how many other things we can do this year.”

For students interested in participating in the Year of Mercy, Father Ross suggested they consider the ideas of encounter and intentionality.

“By choosing to be intentional about participating, you’re going to have opportunities to encounter God in new ways, to encounter one another in new ways, and to do that through the lens of mercy,” he said. “To look at the world through that set of eyes opens us up to remembering our shared life together on this planet, that all people are our brothers and sisters, and that we can understand the challenges we face as a society in a different way because there’s a sense of solidarity with us.”



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