This past Sunday, the Holy Father reached out to another group needing to hear of the love and mercy of Jesus. In a beautiful Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, with 1,000 prisoners present, Pope Francis extended the medicine of mercy and hope to those who are incarcerated.
He said in his homily on Sunday, “Hope is a gift of God. We must ask for it. It is placed deep within each human heart in order to shed light on this life, so often troubled and clouded by so many situations that bring sadness and pain. We need to nourish the roots of our hope so that they can bear fruit; primarily the certainty of God’s closeness, despite whatever evil we have done.”
It is this hope that opens the heart to the healing balm of God’s mercy. As I often mention to inmates, “Your prison cell can become a monastic cell, where isolation, fear, hatred, regret, remorse, even confusion and despair can be turned into an oratory, filled with prayer and the love and presence of Jesus.”
In the last several years, I have taken the opportunity to visit the prisons in Green Bay and in Oshkosh to celebrate Mass with the inmates. Last week, I was able to celebrate the Mass for the first time with the inmates of Redgranite Correctional Institution. What a beautiful experience it has been this past year to explain the great medicine that is the merciful love of Jesus! The receptivity among the inmates of all three facilities has been genuine and appreciated.
Throughout this Year of Mercy, I have had the unique privilege to extend the special blessing of Pope Francis and the indulgence of the Jubilee Year of Mercy to those who would be otherwise unable to pass through one of our holy doors in the diocese. In a few minutes of personal exchange with Pope Francis last February, he encouraged me to press forward in this outreach.
I want to thank the priests, deacons, diocesan and parish personnel who consistently provide religious services and holy Masses to those who cannot leave their confinement; it is important that we go to them. Jesus said, “When I was in prison, you came to visit me.”
May this Jubilee Year of Mercy, now in its last official days, instill an abundant flow of oceans of God’s mercy to all of those whose hearts are broken, confined, hardened and lost. May the merciful love of the Father and Jesus continue to flow abundantly by the power of the Holy Spirit!