Misericordes sicut Pater!
I’d heard it before. I sang along with it before. But I didn’t get consumed by the official hymn for the Year of Mercy until a Saturday Year of Mercy event with Cardinal Timothy Dolan at a Marian shrine — Our Lady Help of Christians — about 40 miles outside Manhattan in April. The archbishop of New York had just returned from a Jubilee Year pilgrimage to Rome and his first trip to Iraq, visiting Christians who had been forced to leave their homes, now living on Church property in Kurdistan. After hours of meditation and confessions, Mass broke out with this hauntingly powerful prayer.
Translated, Misericordes sicut Pater! is “Merciful like the Father!”
Forgive me, but I felt a little bit like the man at the end of the infamous Twilight Zone episode. “‘To Serve Man’ ... it’s a cookbook!” he exclaims. “Misericordes sicut Pater!” is a command I seemed to be hit over the head with in the most tender of ways!
Be merciful like the Father! It’s a recipe for eternal life. And he gives us himself in his mercy to make it possible.
Interspersed throughout the mercy hymn is “In aeternum misericordia eius” (“His mercy is everlasting”). You sing it again and again in thanksgiving.
This Holy Year of Mercy is an opportunity for conversion. It’s also a reminder of who we are and who we need to be.
I warn you: That hymn, if you haven’t noticed already, is an earworm of a song. But even if it doesn’t get stuck in your head, you might just consider letting it become the background music to your life.
It was not only in my head, but it seemed to propel me as I entered the beckoning Holy Doors of the Cathedral of Sts. Simon and Jude in Phoenix. If you go to the website of the cathedral, there’s a calendar of events, and each day — today, tomorrow — is an opportunity to pilgrimage.
I happened to be in town to give a talk, and the people I encountered on a weeknight in the adoration chapel in Phoenix sure seemed to know what this “his mercy endures forever” business is all about. For the time I was there on a Monday night, it was frequently an overcapacity, overflowing crowd. That’s really how it always should be — at every tabernacle of the world.
A man knelt up close in a posture that witnessed to trust. Men and women — many sitting with Spanish Bibles and praying softly in Spanish (often to Our Lady — most taking the rosaries from around their necks to pray; they keep her close to their hearts, so her son will always be). They were so clearly there for strength and relief.
Once again, I thought of the mercy hymn and where it works on our Easter and Pentecost living. The third verse of the hymn, which can be found on the website for the Year of Mercy (www.im.va), goes like this: “Let us ask the Spirit for the seven holy gifts … Fount of all goodness and the sweetest relief … Comforted by him, let us offer comfort … Love hopes and bears all things.” (I’ve removed the references to the hymn’s repeated lyric “in aeternum misericordia eius,” but you won’t forget that reality, will you?).
Remembering that last bit from the well-known passage on love from Corinthians, I saw husbands and wives and thought: These words weren’t just for the wedding day for them. This is real. This is enduring. This is the only way to fly — to flourish in his love.
Misericordes sicut Pater!
We need to sing by how we live our lives. Going to his beckoning arms in the sacraments will make it so.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).