Where are the Doors of Mercy?

Catherine Gorman from our Theology Programme reflects on the Doors of Mercy, where they can be seen in our world and how we can open them to others.

Refugees being directed at a barrier checkpoint, on their way to cross the Greek-Macedonian border.A couple of weeks’ ago I walked through the Door of Mercy at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark with CAFOD colleagues from all around the country. We were praying for refugees and migrants, forced to leave their homes in search of a better life. And as we heard the stories of our brothers and sisters from around the world, intertwined with Scripture, Catholic Social Teaching and prayers, we were moved – imagining ourselves in their shoes, and recognising the need for God’s mercy in our world.

Download our Year of Mercy refugee pilgrimage resources

As Pope Francis has said: “By crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.” (Misericordiae Vultus #14)

As we passed through the door, I had a real sense that I and my colleagues were truly (re)committing ourselves to share God’s mercy with others, a sense that has stayed with me since.

Continue reading “Where are the Doors of Mercy?”

Step into the Gap Peru – Fiona sees the Year of Mercy in action

Fiona has written from her Step into the Gap visit to Peru about how she is seeing the corporal acts of mercy in action in CAFOD’s work:

Fiona at Lake Parón
Fiona at Lake Parón

During this Year of Mercy, we are called to act upon the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. And so, while in Peru, I’ve been reflecting on the corporal acts in particular. It seems that they don’t need to be taken literally, as I’d first thought. I thought I’d take this time to focus on CAFOD partner CEAS who we’ve had the privilege of spending time with during this trip. They are the organisation for social action set up by the Peruvian Bishops’ Conference.

Learn more about the Year of Mercy

‘Welcome the stranger’

Of all the corporal acts of mercy, I find that ‘welcoming the stranger’ is a particularly challenging one. It’s God’s call for us to put the faith and trust we have in Him into a complete stranger’s hands. It can be difficult to open our hearts—let alone our homes—to people that we know nothing about. Still, families have been doing just that—and more!—for us gap year volunteers here in Peru. The relationship built between CAFOD partners such as CEAS and the local community has enabled this faith and trust to exist.

‘To clothe the naked’ Continue reading “Step into the Gap Peru – Fiona sees the Year of Mercy in action”

Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Love is an Open Door of Mercy

Danielle Storey is one of CAFOD’s gap year volunteers. Here she writes about how the work of our partners in Zimbabwe is one way of showing the mercy Pope Francis has called for in this holy year:

Danielle is seeing CAFOD's work in Zimbabwe
Danielle is seeing CAFOD’s work in Zimbabwe

We’ve learnt so much after just two weeks spent in Zimbabwe that no book could have ever taught us. The people we’ve met so far are just amazing. With the help of CAFOD partners and their inspirational volunteers we have witnessed the true loving mercy of God in action; as the local priest said in his homily this week, the work of God is alive and active.

As Pope Francis has announced this year as the Year of Mercy, we are encouraged as a worldwide family to have compassion and share our love unconditionally with our sisters and brothers, no matter how hard that may be: “let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven”. The volunteers here put their all into helping children who have been orphaned and people who are living with disabilities, sickness, or are disadvantaged, all the while struggling themselves to earn money and feed their own families. They do it because they have love to share, they open their hearts to others because there are no labels in the eyes of God – we are all equal and everyone deserves that love. As one of the Shamware Dzedu, the friends of Mavambo, said, “Volunteers want to give everything; song, heart, power.” Continue reading “Step into the Gap Zimbabwe – Love is an Open Door of Mercy”

Sr Karen: Why I’m travelling to Paris with CAFOD for climate change action

Sr Karen d’Artois OP is a Dominican nun from the Archdiocese of Westminster. She’s part of a delegation of CAFOD campaigners travelling to the UN ‘COP21’ meeting in Paris, calling on world leaders to agree to action on climate change to prevent people in the poorest communities being pushed deeper into poverty.

Sr Karen joined tens of thousands of people marching through London for action on climate change
Sr Karen joined tens of thousands of people marching through London for action on climate change

I learned very young, when I was aged 10, that politics isn’t a ‘spectator sport’.

Studying Politics at university, I realised the same about my Catholic faith. That belief inspired my vocation as a Dominican Sister: to bring together faith and politics in the quest for truth.

To me, the idea that ‘faith has no place in politics’ is rubbish! Faith, in some form, is the basis of every person’s thinking and acting. Jesus criticised the unjust political and social circumstances of his day and appealed for change: he called it the Kingdom of God. As a follower of Jesus, I’m called to help build that Kingdom — where justice and opportunity are within everyone’s reach.

Learn about Pope Francis’s Encyclical

The Climate Summit in Paris is a chance to speak up for planet Earth and the goodness of creation. It’s at risk from our reckless behaviour and misuse of resources. Faith and politics aren’t opposites; they depend on one another. My Catholic faith is the foundation of my politics and activism, and politics informs my faith. Continue reading “Sr Karen: Why I’m travelling to Paris with CAFOD for climate change action”

Climate change: The Laudato Si’ challenge

Paul Kelly CAFOD supporter at laudato Si' dayPaul Kelly is a CAFOD supporter in the Lancaster diocese. He will be travelling to Paris in December 2015 as part of a supporter delegation at the time of the UN climate talks.

With the UN Summit on Climate Change due to start in Paris in a week’s time, it couldn’t have been better timing for a CAFOD study day on the Encyclical letter Laudato Si’.

Sign our petition to world leaders in response to Laudato Si’

As a CAFOD supporter, and member of the Lancaster Diocese Faith and Justice Commission Environment Group, I travelled from North-West England for the event, held on Saturday 7 November in Westminster Cathedral Hall.

Journey with us

The opening prayer litany set the tone: “If you are asking questions such as: What is the purpose of my life in this world? What is the goal of my work and all my efforts, then journey with us;” “If you think we were made for love and therefore that gestures of generosity, solidarity and care can well up within us, then journey with us.” Continue reading “Climate change: The Laudato Si’ challenge”

Laudato Si’: a personal reflection

Kathy McVay is a CAFOD supporter from Sacred Heart parish, Bristol. Kathy reflects on her experience of reading Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’.

A song of praise

Laudato Si’ is a paean to God’s creation: humankind, other forms of life on earth, the earth itself, our whole planet. And it is a plea to all people to stop destroying it.

Like the majority of scientists (Pope Francis has a background in chemistry), the Holy Father fears that we are destroying our planet, chiefly by creating climate change. He believes that it is a very real threat to poorer countries who are trying to develop, and also to our children and grandchildren.

This interconnectedness between humankind and the elements is a theme that runs throughout the encyclical.

Pray for our earth

The climate is a common good 

Chapter one is partly a factual account of what is happening to the earth; pollution and climate change, waste and the throwaway culture, the issue of water, the loss of biodiversity. He links these issues with a decline in the quality of human life, the breakdown of society, and global inequality. Continue reading “Laudato Si’: a personal reflection”

Who do you say I am?

This reflection and prayer, based on the gospel for Sunday 28 June, Matthew 16:13-19, were written by Matthew Sanderson, who is the Executive Assistant to the Director of CAFOD.

“Who do you say I am?”

Matthew Sanderson on a recent trip visiting CAFOD projects in El Salvador
Matthew Sanderson visiting CAFOD projects in El Salvador

What were your first thoughts of God? What did you imagine God to be? For me, God was a figure sat on a cloud with a beard, or someone who wagged his finger from on high. As I have grown up, so too has my answer to the question ‘Who do I say God is?’

For me, God is love. That is who I say God is.

Last week saw the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’. Pope Francis is clear that God made us all out of love and to love.

Reflect on Pope Francis’ encyclical

We are reminded in the encyclical that “the entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us” (Laudato Si’ section #84). I am reminded of this when I see the rolling countryside of the Yorkshire Dales.

What’s more, the special love of the Creator means each human being is “conceived in the heart of God” (#65). As children of God, we have an inherent dignity, not because of anything we have done, but out of God’s love for us.

We can reflect God’s love for us in our daily lives as “we were made for love” (#58). By remaining in God’s love, may we come to know the Lord more and more each day.

Lord, we give thanks for your love and the world around us. We pray that we continually realise that we were made for love. Amen.

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Oscar Romero lives on in the people of El Salvador

Denise is Diocesan Manager in Brentwood. She visited El Salvador in 2004 for the 15th Anniversary of the Martyrs of El Salvador. To mark the beatification of Blessed Oscar Romero, she tells us how his legacy lives on in the people of El Salvador.

Denise from Brentwood
Denise, Diocesan Manager in Brentwood, visited El Salvador and was witnessed how Romero’s legacy lives on

When I first knew I would be visiting El Salvador I read a few books about the country – most recalling the conflict and the work of Romero and the Jesuit priests. I felt I was concentrating on the past and not finding out about the country now. It soon became clear that the conflict and Romero is still so entwined in daily life, that you couldn’t split the past from the present or the future.

Download prayers to celebrate the life of Blessed Oscar Romero

This is an excerpt from my diary, reflecting on a visit to where Romero was assassinated, the chapel of The Hospital of the Divine Providence

“We are welcomed into the small museum housed in the rooms Romero used when staying at the hospital. Shown around by a sister who had ministered to Romero after he was shot, it is sobering to meet people who so nearly lost their lives but for fate and to be part of history. Continue reading “Oscar Romero lives on in the people of El Salvador”

Flame2: Expressing our faith this Lent

Nathaniel and Remi are CAFOD young leaders and students at St Joseph’s College, Reading. They tell us about their experience at Flame2.

Nathaniel and Remi with other CAFOD young leaders at Flame2
Nathaniel and Remi with other CAFOD young leaders at Flame2

As we progress through the season of Lent, it is important that as Catholics we take the time to reflect on how we can contribute to our community.

The CYMFed Flame2 event at Wembley Arena earlier this month was an opportunity to reflect along with thousands of other young Catholics. You could feel the presence of God in the hearts and minds of everyone as we gathered to kindle the flame of Christ.

Aged 11-18 and want to express your faith?

As we took to our seats, the event roared into life with uplifting and exciting music by liturgical dancers and double-Grammy award winning songwriter Matt Redman. Thousands of pinpoints of light from the mobile phones of the audience shone around the arena, as everyone joined together in musical worship.

Lighting the flames of our faith

CAFOD had prepared a series of lunchtime activities for us as young leaders to use to engage and inform people. During the balloon challenge, participants were asked to race each other to inflate the balloons the fastest, not knowing that one of the balloons had a hole pierced through it. The balloon with the hole symbolised how not all of us have equal opportunities in life, because many people are born into areas which are disadvantaged by the climate, resources or political systems. CAFOD young leaders also contributed to getting #Flame2 trending on Twitter, by sharing photos of activities and of friends wearing the One Climate, One World heart costume. Continue reading “Flame2: Expressing our faith this Lent”

International Women’s Day: “There won’t be peace without inclusion or equality”

Carmenza Alvarez, human rights defender
Carmenza Alvarez, human rights defender with Women’s Initiative for Peace. (Credit: Mark Chamberlain)

Carmenza Alvarez is a human rights defender in Colombia and works for an organisation supported by CAFOD and Caritas, Women’s Initiative for Peace. The role is a dangerous one, in 2014 alone 614 human rights defenders were attacked and 55 killed.

For International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March, Carmenza discusses inequality and being trapped in the middle of a fifty-year conflict. She recently spent time in Europe as part of a joint CAFOD, Caritas Colombia, ABColombia and EC project, which sought to help protect human rights defenders in Colombia, with a particular focus on land restitution claimants, women and minority groups.

Please pray for equality and peace

“In 1991 I was working in a restaurant. It was in an area frequented by the left-wing revolutionary group, FARC. My son was at school and studying. When he finished for the day, a group would come for him and supposedly take him to play football.

“One of the visitors to the restaurant, after about two months of this, came up to me and said, ‘Sister, I’m going to tell you something. They’re preparing your son for war. Save him.’ Continue reading “International Women’s Day: “There won’t be peace without inclusion or equality””