Teresa Peterson, Senior Director of Communications for the Diocese of Orlando interviews Missionary of Mercy, Third Order Regular of St. Francis Father Anthony Aarons, TOR, on the Year of Mercy.
The Missionaries are serving individual diocesan Bishops within their particular country to give missions or facilitate specific initiatives organized for the Jubilee, with a particular attention given to the Sacrament of Penance.
What is your role as a Missionary of Mercy?
Pope Francis wanted us to do two things in particular, to preach mercy and to be the face of mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Penance. We should, as Missionaries of Mercy, carry the penitent on our shoulders. We have to be like Jesus and carry those lost sheep on our shoulders.
You were at St. Peter’s Basilica, for a special ceremony on Ash Wednesday to receive this mandate to be a Missionary of Mercy. Can you describe that experience?
That was the part that I was looking forward to more than anything else, to be able to celebrate Mass with the pope in St. Peter’s Basilica. During the time of giving the ashes one of the master of ceremonies came down and said all priests on this row are being asked to be concelebrants. I was not expecting to be in the presence of the pope, and there I was just few feet from him concelebrating Mass with him. This was a great feeling.
What does God’s mercy teach us?
The Mercy of God exists! The mercy of the Lord is everlasting and is renewed every morning. Coming to realize that I received that mercy means that I’ll become a person who will share that mercy with others; with the family, at home, at school, wherever we are love binds us together. If we show love then we’ll be showing mercy! And when we are showing love, we are showing Jesus to the world!
How important is the Sacrament of Penance in this Year of Mercy?
The Sacrament of Penance says that although someone has sinned and may have sinned gravely, yet the person can come back, knowing that through that very gesture of showing up for the Sacrament of Penance, healing and forgiveness will take place. It’s a great sacrament and that’s what Jesus wants us to do, to bring about reconciliation in the world.
What would you say to someone who has being away from the Sacrament of Penance for a while and is hesitant to come back?
Recently in one of the parish missions I came across a person who had not been to confession for over fifty years. All I would say to anybody, it does not matter how long you have been away because in the sight of God a thousand years is like one day. Come back whenever you can. Come back now, God will be waiting for you with open arms and the priest who is ministering in the mercy of God will be there to welcome you with that gesture as well.
What would you say to someone who hasn’t been to Church or participated in Mass for a long time?
People are nervous about coming back because they feel ashamed, but we in the community should be so welcoming and we should receive them as if they were there last week. We have to be out there letting people know that they can come back without judgement.
Can you list three things that people could do to be more merciful?
- Listen to others
- Treat others with respect
- Love , Love, Love
To hear a podcast of Father Aarons’ interview, visit https://www.orlandodiocese.org/yom-missionaries-of-mercy