By Christina Galeone
SPENCER – Are you ever reminded of God’s mercy when you think about the Easter Bunny? Father Michael Broderick, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Rutland, is. As part of a recent talk he gave at Mary Queen of the Rosary Parish, he delighted the crowd by sharing an anecdote about a young child named Jake. When he asked Jake, during a Mass, how a rabbit became the Easter Bunny, the child came to the conclusion that the bunny saw Jesus, and “his DNA changed.” Father Broderick added, “We all become different when we encounter Jesus.”
Throughout the April 27 presentation, which was sponsored by Mary Queen of the Rosary’s Spiritual Life Committee ministry, Father Broderick spoke of how encountering Jesus through his mercy changes us. He further explored that mercy and the mercy we give to others.
In “A Celebration of the Year of Mercy” talk, he also spoke about his appointment by Pope Francis to be a Missionary of Mercy for the Worcester Diocese. The missionaries are “to give missions or facilitate specific initiatives organized for the jubilee, with a particular attention given to the sacrament of reconciliation. The Holy Father will grant these missionaries the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.”
After leading the crowd of 50-60 attendees in the “Prayer for Mercy,” Father Broderick recommended that people read the Pope’s book, “The Name of God is Mercy.” He explained that through this jubilee year, Pope Francis wants us to experience the warm, “maternal” side of the Church, which is a reflection of God’s love. The priest went on to encourage everyone to reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. He also explored the artwork that was created to symbolize the Holy Year of Mercy, and he emphasized the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation. He said when we bring our sins to God by going to confession, God gives us grace by “bowing down” to our level and forgiving us, entering into our suffering.
Likewise, he explained that mercy doesn’t happen when we look down on each other.
“When you have a friend that’s suffering and you go take care of them, you’re in solidarity with them,” said Father Broderick. “You’re not walking into the house saying ‘I’m here to take care of you. Aren’t I nice?’” He added, “What you’re doing is you’re walking in and entering into their pain and life.”
While he encouraged everyone to be humble, just as Jesus humbled himself to save us, he later spoke about his own humbling experience of gathering, on Ash Wednesday, at St. Peter’s Basilica with about 800 priests from around the world who had also applied and been chosen to be missionaries of mercy. He recalled that as Pope Francis instructed them (with translations being transmitted into their headphones) on how to be missionaries, he felt like he was part of Pentecost. He shared that he was astonished when the Pope referred to them as his “brother priests.” He said Pope Francis also reminded them to be kind to people in the confessional and to remember they’re also sinners. He said celebrating Mass with Pope Francis was an “extraordinary” experience.
He ended the talk by reminding everyone to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
“You may have some private devotion, but that faith is always in action out in the world,” said Father Broderick. “In other words, to be merciful, you have to enter into someone else’s life.”
Suzanne Lamoureaux, the head of the Spiritual Life Committee, agrees. In fact, while Father Broderick was speaking, she and the head of the church’s food pantry left their seats to help a person who was in need and had come to the church on a day when the pantry was closed. They happily helped the woman by giving her the information she needed and by sharing with her a large assortment of the committee’s refreshments. Mrs. Lamoureaux, who enjoyed Father Broderick’s exploration of the official Holy Year of Mercy artwork and the fresh perspective he offered, said, “Being a Spiritual Life Committee member, I feel we have to feed the body and the soul.”
Yolanda Moore, who originally suggested to Mrs. Lamoureaux that Father Broderick give the talk, was happy the presentation was so well received. “I thought it was wonderful,” she remarked. “I was thrilled to put his name in. I knew everyone would enjoy listening to him. He didn’t disappoint. That’s for sure!”
Another committee member who had the same reaction is Marie Delongchamp. She said, “It gives us a lot of good ideas. Everything was so interesting. I think we needed to know a little more about mercy.”
Leonne Perreault, who is a parishioner at Annunciation Parish in Gardner, said the morning presentation reminded her of “an old-fashioned Communion breakfast.”
“It was helpful. It was encouraging,” she said. She added that it made her view the Pope as a coach encouraging his team to come together in loving God. She noted, “Everybody is in this together.”