By Cian Molloy - 01 October, 2017
The House of Mercy at 64 Baggot Street in Dublin celebrated its 190th anniversary this week with events including a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin at the church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Ballyfermot.
“The term ‘House of Mercy’ refers not just to a physical building,” said Archbishop Martin in his homily. “It is something more. It is a symbol of the entire charism of Catherine McAauley: a building of welcome for the poor and a building from which mercy is brought in innumerable ways.”
The first foundation of Catherine McAuley is now known as the Mercy International Centre, and it is a multi-purpose building, hosting conferences and providing visitor accommodation. To many, it is the spiritual home of the Sisters of Mercy, and a statue of Catherine McAauley stands at the entrance to the building.
In his homily, Dr Martin said, “As we look back on the history of the followers of Catherine McAuley, we can see that generosity was a real characteristic of its history. The characteristic of mercy is to witness to Jesus whose love has always been superabundant and gratuitous.”
The Archbishop of Dublin then told an anecdote from his time as a senior Vatican official, ” I worked for many years with an extraordinary Vietnamese Cardinal who had spent almost fifteen years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement. Not long after he came to Rome, Pope John Paul II asked him to preach the annual retreat to the Pope and the Cardinals. He went off to work on his texts and while he was working, I was asked by the Secretariat of State to get from him an outline just of the titles of his talks so that they could be inserted into the printed programme.
“I knew when I sent on the list that it would not be long before I would receive a phone call. One of the titles was ‘Jesus was stupid’. You can imagine the reaction that a title like that would evoke within the Vatican. The Cardinal told me to tell those who were anxious about the title to read the parables of mercy in the Gospels. ‘Tell them’, he told me, ‘About the woman who lost the small coin and turned her house head over heels until she found it. What did she do then? She gave a party for all her neighbours that would have cost about a thousand times what the small coin was worth’.”Jesus’s mercy and compassion always go way beyond our categories, so much so, that they make the logic of Jesus look stupid to the meanness and calculation of our narrow minds. The generosity of Jesus knows no bounds.
“In being generous, we become God-like. In being generous, we become like the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ, a God who is always outgoing and loving. Our God is not a God closed in within his divine nature. He reaches out to us, he communicates to us. He reveals who he is by loving us, especially in his giving of himself in Jesus Christ who was prepared even to die out of his love for us.”The archbishop said he hoped the 190th anniversary of the opening of the House of Mercy would be an occasion to learn from the good things of the past.
You can visit the Mercy International Centre in Baggot Street by appointment with two-hour long tours starting at 10am, Monday to Friday. The price of €6 per person includes tea and scones.