HARTFORD – Mercy is a point of emphasis in this jubilee year of the Catholic Church. To that end, Pope Francis sent forth Missionaries of Mercy to spread the word and encourage the faithful to live a merciful life and seek forgiveness for their transgressions.
One of those special missionaries, Archabbot Lambert Reilly, a Benedictine priest, concelebrated a Mass April 10 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph with its rector, Father James A. Shanley. Archabbot Reilly is one of 125 priests in the United States chosen by the pope for this task during a special ceremony at the Vatican on Ash Wednesday.
The 82-year-old prelate didn’t seek the special designation but was nominated by the Archbishop of Indianapolis and approved by the Vatican. Archabbot Reilly said he is quite familiar with the Archdiocese of Hartford, having visited the Apostles of the Sacred Heart in Hamden several times. He also led retreats and parish missions at various churches.
He is retired as the archabbot of St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana.
“I’ve been coming to this archdiocese for 15 years,” he said. “I have had more than half of the American bishops on retreat” including Archbishop Leonard Blair and Archbishop Emeritus Daniel Cronin.
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter Rosazza spent a sabbatical at St. Meinrad.
Archabbot Reilly is pleased to be spreading the word of mercy and said the church needs to focus more on that topic. He wants to see many more people benefit from the mercy that is available to them through the sacrament of reconciliation.
“There are a number of people who are afraid to approach the sacrament. The only sin that can’t be forgiven is the refusal to be forgiven,” he said.
“We speak of mercy as being God’s best face. It is totally of God. Mercy is love’s best face,” he added.
He further described it as love pushed to the wall. During his homily, he emphasized that even the Twelve Apostles were prone to weakness and sin and needed to seek forgiveness.
The key is that those who wish to receive mercy must first give it to others, including those they may deem unworthy of such a gift.
“If we want mercy, we must give mercy,” he said.
Archabbot Reilly said a jubilee year is the perfect time for Catholics to, as he put it, get their heads on straight.
The Missionaries of Mercy are empowered by the pope to forgive several serious sins that, until now, only the Holy See could forgive, such as willful desecration of the Eucharist and a confessor’s breaking of the sacramental seal.
Archabbot Reilly professed vows as a Benedictine monk in 1956 and was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1959. From 1995 to 2004, he served as the eighth abbot and fifth archabbot at Saint Meinrad. Following his resignation as archabbot, he returned to his work of preaching and retreats on issues of spirituality and prayer.
He has conducted parish missions throughout the nation and has been a frequent retreat master for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in the United States and India. He knew the late nun well.
Archabbot Reilly is also an educator. He taught Latin and education courses at St. Meinrad College, Mount Sacred Heart College in Hamden and Penn State University. In the 1970s, he served as principal of St. Elizabeth High School in Pittsburgh and was a consultant to the Office of Education in the Diocese of Peoria, Ill.
He is also an author. Archabbot Reilly wrote Because There Is Jesus (Abbey Press, 1997), a collection of his homilies and conferences, and Latin Sayings for Spiritual Growth (Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2001), which offers spiritual reflections on some of his favorite Latin sayings and New Testament quotes.