The declaration of the Holy Year of Mercy has generated an unparalleled vitality in the Church around the world. The global acceptance of the Pope’s theme of mercy has not only well penetrated the ministry of the Church but also, in a considerable manner, manifested in the very life of the Church. The theme mercy is not something particularly new to the Church. The merciful face of God and the corporal and spiritual works mercy are at the core of the faith and ministry of the Church from its very beginning.
Pope Francis’ exhortation of ‘being a merciful church’ is intrinsically connected to the charism and the minisrty of the order of St. Camillus. Article #8 of the constitution of the Order states “Camillus, himself a recipient of mercy and tempered by the experience of suffering, following the example and teaching of the merciful Christ, was called by God to assist the sick”. This article in the beginning of the constitution explains beyond any doubt, two aspects of mercy, namely, accepting God’s mercy in our lives and being merciful to others.
The word ‘mercy‘ and the ‘works of mercy’ appears repeatedly in the constitution (Articles 7,9,10,12, 15,34,42,76,125) and general statues (# 8,20) of the Order and explicitly expose the importance of the theme mercy in life and the ministry of the Order. In order to understand the depth of the’ charism of mercy towards the sick, we need to look at the first constitution Camillus himself wrote in 1599 , which states , “ if someone inspired by our Lord would like to exercise the works of mercy, physical and spiritual, according to the spirit of our Institute…..”. The corporal and the spiritual works of mercy stand as the primary purpose and the fundamental charism of the “new school of charity of St. Camillus”. For Camillus, religious life was a powerful way of following the Lord, if only one is able to carry out the works of mercy in a profound manner.
Camillus wanted all servants of the sick to see the suffering face of Jesus in the sick person, so that the sick in their turn may see the merciful face of God in one who serves them. This mystery of spiritual encounter is found in the prayer Pope Francis wrote for the Jubilee year of mercy – “you are the visible face of the invisible father, of the God who manifests his power in the world by forgiveness and mercy”.
As we move forward in reflecting and living in the spirit of the Holy Year of Mercy, various institutions and ministries of the Order of St. Camillus strive to achieve, in ways and means suited to our times, the original vision and mission of our founder, St. Camillus. On the St. Camillus campus, it is a God given opportunity to revitalize our commitment to the needs of those whom we serve.
By Fr. Naveen Pallurathil, MI