Into the wilderness of mercy

By  Caron Lau, Catholic Register Special
  • July 29, 2016

There is something about welcoming and initiation that connects so much to this idea of mercy. Baptism is first, of course, an introduction and welcoming of a new person into the Catholic community, but it also results in the automatic washing away of all sins. This cleansing, this figurative flood of forgiveness, just given automatically without need for confession or admission of sin or anything, is such a monumental act of mercy. As a baptized-as-an-adult Catholic, it is this act of mercy that’s recently begun to stick out to me, and it’s what’s been on my mind as I travel on this pilgrimage with my group.

Our group was lucky enough to have two near sightings of the Pope before the ceremonies. We had seen his car and his teasingly open window during our walk to our catechesis site in the morning. Once we arrived at the field where the ceremonies were to take place, from our designated site, however, it looked like the Pope was just going to be a tiny speck in the distance. Hope for actually seeing his face seemed slim.

But then the livestream of Pope Francis’ arrival began to play on the screen, and everyone was running to the corners of our assigned square. Once the Pope’s car was finally spotted, well, there was a lot of screaming. There were tears. And (this is a gathering of youth, after all) there were a ton of Snapchat stories being posted in that moment.

Then came an amazing cultural performance, incorporating the countries with participating pilgrims at this year’s World Youth Day. After opening addresses and thank-you’s, the Gospel was read, and Pope Francis began his homily. There is a transcript of the message available at However, the line that stood out the most to me was translated live as, “March into the wilderness of mercy.” Mercy, baptism, all such major acts of forgiveness are not easy. Pope Francis especially emphasized that mercy is not an easy task. It is most definitely an adventure, as is baptism into the Catholic Church. All Catholics enter the Church with this act of forgiveness. Pope Francis is urging us, as Catholic youth, to remember the mercy given to us at our initiation, our welcoming, and to give it back out unconditionally, despite the wilderness that mercy may lead us into.

“March into the wilderness of mercy”