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A personal, joyfilled encounter

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

May 4, 2016

As part of our celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy, the North Country Catholic sponsored a special Holy Year Pilgrimage to many holy sites in Italy.

In our diocesan paper, you’ve read articles and seen some of the photos of our wonderful journey.

Each day began with Father Douglas Lucia leading us in prayer as we set out for a place whose sacred history would inspire and renew our faith. 

As we entered many beautiful places of worship through Holy Doors, the bond of faith between the pilgrims became stronger and energizing.              

This bond became even more palpable at the Wednesday General Audience when we were blessed to be in the presence of Pope Francis as his message of God’s tender mercy and forgiveness stilled the attentive crowd of thousands.

I was particularly humbled as I met this successor of St. Peter for the first time.  The Holy Father was beaming as I approached him after the prayer concluded.  (No I didn’t tell him a joke in Italian!)

As I shook his hand, I thanked him for his prophetic leadership and humble witness of Christ.  I assured him of the prayerful support of the faithful of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. 

My first impression was that I felt like I was the only person in the vicinity.  He seemed totally focused on our encounter - no distractions, no looking to see who was next to meet him. 

I couldn’t help but think that this would be so characteristic of each of our encounters with Jesus - so personal, so focused.  Similarly, each of us is the only person that Jesus sees.  That’s the face of tender Mercy! 

While the Pope handed me a Rosary that he had blessed, I came away from that encounter with so much more. 
The Holy Father affirmed for me what our Divine Encounter with Jesus is like - so personal, joy-filled and affirming. 

This occasion was also a challenge for me in my Episcopal Ministry - to give my whole attention to all those whom I meet, to be totally present to each person, something not always easy in an oftentimes too busy world.
While we were participating in our Jubilee Pilgrimage to Italy, Pope Francis promulgated his long-awaited Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of Love.

In his plea on behalf of the family, he presents a challenging, yet joyful message.  Our Holy Father is truly Christ-led, Christ-fed, and Hope-filled.  May that be said of you and me, as well.

bishop pope francis

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