As the sun begins to set on the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy which ends November 20th 2016, 2 legionary priests, Fr Martin Connor, LC and Fr Kenneth LeBlanc LC, share their reflections on what the Year of Mercy has been for them.
- This year of mercy has been full of so many experiences, teachings and ways to grow in knowing how Christ loves us and extends his mercy to us in the midst of a tumultuous time in history. What highlights stand out to you, as a priest, a minister of Mercy to the Church?
Fr. Martin: I personally witnessed a number of occasions when just the mere bringing of people together in ‘community’ or in ‘family’ was a source of merciful outpouring and healing! In other words, because we are relational beings such simple family realities “feed” us and unite in ways that the secular world does not and CANNOT!
Fr. Kenneth: I noticed many more confessions than usual, maybe twice as many as before. Because of the Year of Mercy, many people have decided that it is time to go back to confession.
- The Holy Father has been very present to the Church throughout this year, keeping us focused on mercy, leading us with word and example. Is there anything he has said in this past year that particularly inspired you?
Fr Martin: 2 quotes from Pope Francis stand out to me:
“The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church.” Amoris Laeticia 31
“To be evangelizers of souls, we need to develop a spiritual taste for being close to people’s lives and to discover that this is itself a source of greater joy.” Joy of the Gospel 268
Fr Kenneth: “God never ever tires of forgiving us! …The problem is that we ourselves tire, we do not want to ask, we grow weary of asking for forgiveness. He never tires of forgiving, but at times we get tired of asking for forgiveness.” Angelus address, March 17, 2013
“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up.” – Interview with AMERICA magazine, Sept 19, 2013
- The experience of mercy is something very personal in each heart, and yet also something we share as a Church. What do you see as the lasting significance of this year of Mercy?
Fr Martin: “We begin to realize God’s mercy “internally” inside us once we have experienced it “externally” through experience, i.e. mission, service project, etc.…. The apostolate brings us to know “interiorly” what God is doing with us.”
Fr Kenneth: “I love that Pope Francis says we have to accompany people, take them where they are at, give them hope in their hearts. Without hope, no one will ever want to take the road up. We need to give souls an experience of Christ so that they start knowing that it is possible to change, to be forgiven, etc. To be a facilitator of this and then, with time, watch the Holy Spirit touch their hearts little by little, and enlighten their spirit on God’s wonderful plan for their broken lives.”
- In a way it’s going to be sad to see the end of this special year when we have been so aware of the closeness of Christ’s merciful Heart. How do we go on from here after the Extraordinary Jubilee is over and the Holy Doors have been sealed once again? How can we live in a way that shows this jubilee has changed us in some way?
Fr Martin: Create any excuse at all to bring people together and just be present: break bread, pray together, play together, be in family.
Fr Kenneth: We can live it into the future by continuously seeking this experience of mercy and then fighting to please that Merciful Heart with my life, with my way of being toward others. To seek to be an instrument of mercy for other souls who do not know Him.
Fr Martin Connor LC was born in Baltimore MD and grew up near Annapolis, one of eight children, the last two of which are Legionary priests. He entered the Legionaries of Christ in 1990 after graduating from Boston College. Ordained to the priesthood in January 2001 in Rome with his brother, Fr John Connor LC. Currently, Father Martin resides in the Atlanta, GA LC community where he serves as the Chaplain to the RC Men’s Section and the RC Atlanta Local Director.
Fr Kenneth Leblanc LC was born and grew up in Rogersville, New Brunswick, a small town in Eastern Canada. He entered the Legion of Christ at the age of 18, and completed preparation for the priesthood in the United States, Canada and Rome. He was ordained a priest on December 24, 2002 in Rome. He is currently stationed in the Houston, Texas area.