Mercy is at the heart of our charism and it can give inspiration and perspective to our education. It is not only the heart of our spiritual experience but can be a key of a privileged interpretation of our educational activity. A need for mercy is in the heart of every young person and also of each one of us. It is the expectation of recognition, of free love, of receiving trust, forgiveness and encouragement and support in the growth. To capture this expectation (and to recognize it in us) helps us to give a positive tone to our educational action and opens us to the personal, free, present and merciful love of God.
We feel that the words of Pope Francis on mercy resonate particularly significant in our heart of educators animated by the Murialdine charism. “I believe that this is the time of mercy” – says Francis in the recently published book– interview, resuming what he had said on July 28, 2013, a few months after the start of his pontificate, during the return trip from Rio de Janeiro. “I said then, and I am more and more convinced that this is a kairos, our age is a kairos of mercy , an appropriate time.» . Mercy, for Francis, is the form to be taken by the witness of the Church, first of all called to show wounded humanity, “her mother face”, thus giving shape to the attitude shown by St. John XXIII at the beginning of the Council ( October 11, 1962): “the Bride of Christ prefers to use the medicine of mercy rather than embracing the rigor of weapons.» .
But it is not just a pastoral strategy. Not even just a call to bear faithful witness to the merciful love of the Father (for us of the Murialdo Family, by prolonging the experience of Murialdo). It is also, and first of all, to recognize the appeal to mercy, written in the heart and in the flesh of our contemporaries and in ourselves. It is about seeing the wounds of humanity, in the persons we approach and in ourselves, and see in them an expectation of mercy.
We are not used to look at the current cultural context with the key of mercy. Nevertheless an expectation of mercy is present and perhaps especially in youth.
We usually read the realities of young people by highlighting the needs (evident or hidden, explicit or to be brought out) of values, of authenticity and of sense of God. These are interpretations that highlight the lack of something, we are likely at times conveying the idea that life counts only to the extent that it is filled (by values, by meaning, by the sense of God), as if it was worthless for itself. It would be as life was not already full of gifts, it would not possess a treasure already, albeit hidden in earthen vessels (cf. 2 Cor 4.5). The cultural context does its part, marked as it is by competitiveness, performance anxiety, from the requirement of having to prove something or always to live up to the expectations. To fall, to stumble, to reveal the fragility and weaknesses is not permitted! And the wounds of the inevitable falls have to be hidden, and are reasons to be ashamed of. Everything seems to contribute to the distrust of himself and the flight from one’s self. .
The educational and pastoral approach, when it relies on what is missing, and when it emphasis too much the values that give meaning to life, shifts the attention of the young man from himself, he does not recognize the need of reconciliation with oneself, with the fragility and wounds , and risks fueling the flight from oneself . The call or the waiting for mercy is not a lack to fill. It is rather the constitutive instance of the living, to recognize
the gifts that we have inside, to see that what seems weakness is actually strength .
It is the need not be ashamed of one’s wounds and falls, in order to be able to start again. It is the desire to forgive one selves or to be reconciled, accompanied by the perception that we cannot do it alone. And therefore it is a desire, hidden and often never declared, to be forgiven, to be loved as one is; It is thus a waiting for mercy.
The exquisitely educational gesture is always a gesture of sincere recognition of the gifts present in the youngster and at the same time a provocation to responsibility, that is, the invitation to the youngster to make available what he possesses. It is a gesture of absolute gratitude but also of a sincere reception. It is a gesture that dislodges: offering mercy that the other does not think he deserves; ability to receive a gift that the other does not think he has. So education is free from the logic of the law, of the calculation, of judgment, and it introduces an air of confidence, of gratuitousness, of mercy. Faith gives support, confirmation and encouragement. It is first and foremost inspiration, breath, thrust to position himself with sincerity in life: from the position of the right (so the lack thereof) to be received as a gift (i.e. recognition), from jealously in guarding it for himself to the offering and to grace. The ego claims to be the owner (in need of something to fill himself ), but he can never erase the debt for the gift received and the call to responsibility that flows through it. We are born already in debt, already loved and by grace. We are forever in debt of love. In this position, one feels loved by God in person, at this moment :by an infinitive (unreachable, incomprehensible), free (not provided), merciful love.
-Can you recognize the need for mercy in the young people you meet? How does it manifest? Do you also recognize it in you educator?
-Are the educational relations in the sign of trust, recognition of the gifts, the feeling of being unconditionally loved? Confidence, generosity, positivity, compassion emanate in the institute , in the educational community?
-What gestures or signs could support an educational action in the name of mercy? Greater attention to the poorest? A greater patience with the toughest guys? And which other signs?
1.Il nome di Dio è Misericordia. Una conversazione con A. Tornielli, Piemme, LEV – Piemme, Città del Vaticano – Milano, 2016, 22.
2. Ibid., 22.
3. Benedetto XVI aveva indicato nella «crisi di fiducia nella vita» la matrice della «crisi dell’educazione» (Lettera alla Diocesi e alla città di Roma sul compito urgente dell’educazione, 21 gennaio 2008).
4. Cf. ESBP 26, sulla vulnerabilità.