The Way Forward by Fr. John Harris

October 1979

When St. Pope John Paul II visited Ireland in October 1979 he laid a challenge before us when he spoke in Limerick: “The Irish people have to choose today their way forward. Will it be the transformation of all strata of humanity into a new creation, or the way that many nations have gone, giving excessive importance to economic growth and material possessions, while neglecting the things of the spirit? The way of substituting a new ethic of temporal enjoyment for the law of God? The way of false freedom which is only slavery to decadence? Will it be the way of subjugating the dignity of the human person to the totalitarian domination of the State?...Ireland must choose.”

Control them with Fear

We know only too well the choices that Ireland has made. Everything the saintly Pope warned us against we did, and are still doing. We are living in a country that is losing its sense of morality. There is no concept of right and wrong, no understanding of respect and decency.
So what are we to do? Is there anything we can do? Is it all hopeless? Some people say to me that we need a good old dose of fear and trembling. They say that the Church should preach hell rather than love. They say that since we have surrounded ourselves in love and mercy no one lives the moral life.

Mercy is the greatest attribute of God

This causes me to wonder that maybe we have lost all belief in God and in the power of His love. To be immersed in the love of the heart of the merciful Jesus is the deepest reason for living a good life. Again to quote from the Diary: “Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of my hands are crowned with mercy”. We need the preaching of the merciful Jesus, Divine Mercy. As Jesus revealed to Saint Faustina in the Diary: “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to my mercy” (Diary 300). There is always hope since the human heart can never be totally destroyed – it always desires to be loved and for mercy; it seeks the merciful Jesus. People will only stop living sinful lives when they know they are loved and being called to love in mercy.

Do not tire of proclaiming My Mercy

Pope John Paul II, the greatest evangeliser of the 20th century, believed that what the world needed now was to hear the Gospel anew and that the most effective means of this new evangelisation was the preaching of Divine Mercy. In the Diary we hear Jesus say to St. Faustina: “My daughter, do not tire of proclaiming my mercy. In this way you will refresh this heart of mine, which burns with a flame of pity for sinners. Tell my priests that hardened sinners will repent on hearing their words when they speak about my unfathomable mercy, about the compassion I have for them in my heart. To priests who proclaim and extol my mercy, I will give wondrous power; I will anoint their words and touch the hearts of those to whom they will speak” (1521)

True Satisfactions and Joy

This is the message that we must continue to witness to modern Ireland, even if it doesn’t want to heard. We must become missionaries of mercy that Pope Francis is calling for. Pope Benedict, speaking to the Irish Bishops in October 2006, said that they must help us their people “to recognise the inability of the secular, materialist culture to bring true satisfactions and joy. Be bold in speaking to them of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments. Remind them that our hearts were made for the Lord and that they find no peace until they rest in him”.

Saint Francis de Sales

Saint Francis de Sales advised Catholics: “If you love God heartily, my child, you will often speak of Him among your relations, household and familiar friends, and that because "the mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment." . . . we are told that when St. Francis uttered the Name of the Lord, he seemed to feel the sweetness lingering on his lips, and could not let it go. But always remember, when you speak of God, that He is God; and speak reverently and with devotion, - not affectedly or as if you were preaching, but with a spirit of meekness, love, and humility; dropping honey from your lips (like the Bride in the Canticles) in devout and pious words, as you speak to one or another around, in your secret heart the while asking God to let this soft heavenly dew sink into their minds as they hearken. And remember very specially always to fulfill this angelic task meekly and lovingly. . . It is wonderful how attractive a gentle, pleasant manner is, and how much it wins hearts”.

‘Us or Them’ Mentality

We must be very careful to speak and act only in the light of the Gospel. We must not take on the language and reactions of the world that does not know the Risen Lord. It is so easy to descend into the language of force, hatred, the language and attitude of “them-or-us” used so freely in politics. As Pope Benedict has reminded us, it was the One who was crucified and not those who did the crucifixion that saved the world. The world is saved by the self-sacrificing love of Jesus on Calvary; the human person is saved by love and mercy, not by fear and shame. Fear may stop us for acting badly, but only for a time; it is only love that will give us the freedom to do great things and to live the life of holiness. Love gives life. And our Blessed Lord has said “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full”.

Be always merciful as I am merciful

The means of the new evangelisation is not through big dramatic acts of mass conversions, but by individuals leading others to know Jesus. This is the new evangelisation and it is happening all over Ireland and in the Church. And we are called to be part of it. The new evangelisation is about loving one another and bringing others to the source of that love the merciful Jesus. “Be always merciful as I am merciful. Love everyone out of love for me, even your greatest enemies so that my mercy may be fully reflected in your heart.” (Diary 1695)

The Sea of Hatred and Fear

So we are called to be apostles of mercy; to speak words of peace and reconciliation in our families, not to add to the sea of hatred and fear all around. Never to be discouraged by one’s own sins or the sins of others. But always to speak only words that seem to come from God. Pope John Paul’s challenge to the Irish people has now changed. His challenge to us in Limerick in 1979 we did not accept. However his call to preach the Divine Mercy is even more urgent now than it was back in 1979.

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St. Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland

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Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland



You can pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with the Sisters of Merciful Jesus everyday at 3pm via the webcam in St. Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny, Donegal, Ireland.