Waving white cloths and the flags of their homeland, Catholics representing more than 15 nationalities greeted Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley as he entered the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Saturday to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
A jubilee is a special year of celebration in the church. Pope Francis launched the Year of Mercy in December, calling on Catholics to embrace a spirit of forgiveness and compassion.
“Compassion is not an instinct,” O’Malley said to the more than 1,400 ethnic Catholics who filled the Cathedral. “Compassion is a conquest. It means putting someone else’s pain center stage and forgetting about our own troubles.”
O’Malley spoke after walking in a prayerful procession with ethnic parishioners from across the Archdiocese of Boston through the streets of the South End, that paid special devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Some parishioners carried pictures or icons of their country’s devotion to Mary — Our Lady of Lourdes in France, Our Lady of Knock in Ireland, Our Lady of Guadelupe in Mexico, among others.
“Mercy for us means that something wrong will be forgiven, and Mother Mary is the one who gives you that,” said Ferdinand Paldo, a native of the Phillipines who now lives in Dedham.
His wife and 10-year-old daughter took part in the procession.
“We always tell to our daughter that praying is the best thing to do to overcome all trials, no matter how difficult life is,” he said.
Brazilians, Cape Verdean, Latinos, Iraqi, Kenyan, Polish and other ethnicities took part in the procession. “It’s just beautiful to see so many nationalities coming together,” said 28-year-old Leiri Bocanegra, a Latina from Natick, who volunteered at the event.
When she woke up to rain on Saturday morning, Bocanegra worried that not many people would turn out for the multi-cultural celebration. Happily, the cathedral was standing room only.
“Their devotion to Mary knows no boundaries,” she said, looking around her.
The service was held on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday of the Easter season. Parishioners entered the cathedral through the Holy Door, a special entrance designated for Catholics to walk through during the jubilee year. Cathedrals around the world have been asked to designate a holy door.
O’Malley cited the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of St. Luke.
“The Good Samaritan was practicing many works of mercy by helping the wounded stranger on the side of the road, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, welcoming the stranger,” O’Malley said. “He’s also practicing the spiritual works of mercy by forgiving those who despise him because he’s a Samaritan.”
“There was a cold war going on between the Samaritans and the Jews,” said O’Malley. “And so for Jesus to present the Samaritan in the role of a hero was certainly very jarring to Jesus’s audience, who had to be willing to risk being taught how to love by someone who was considered an enemy.”
Nicole Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.