By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Being merciful is remembering, celebrating and passing on God’s lavish love and compassion, according to Father Charlie Landry, pastor of St. Gabriel Church in St. Gabriel.  

Father Landry, who grew up in Napoleonville and whose family was actively involved in St. Anne Church, learned lessons early on about mercy.  

He vividly remembers his grandfather’s advice when his family bid him farewell before he boarded a train in New Orleans for the trip to Minnesota to attend seminary to begin formation to join the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Redemptorists. 

“He said, ‘Don’t forget to tell them where you come from,’ ” said Father Landry.  

Father Landry, who became a Redemptorists Brother in Aug. 1, 1968, said his grandfather’s words underscore how important it is for people to remember their roots and share the mercy and love God has given to them with others.  

He said, “I know how much the Lord has been merciful in my life, how can I not do the same for others?”  

Father Landry also learned important lessons about mercy in action from Bishop Stanley J. Ott, who ordained on Feb. 5, 1983 as a Redemptorists priest.  

In 1990, when Father Landry visited his father after he had open-heart surgery at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, his father said, “You’ll never guess who visited me last night. Bishop Ott.”  

Father Landry later realized that the bishop frequently visited people in the hospital. 

When Father Landry served at St. Joseph Cathedral with Father Frank Uter, he had another glimpse of the bishop’s mercy in action during a quarterly dinner hosted for the community.  

“I was at one table and (the bishop) was at another. He came over and tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Charlie, come see.’ We then went into the kitchen of the parish hall and he said, ‘You put on this apron, and I’ll put on this apron, and we’ll serve dessert.’ ”  

Another powerful lesson about mercy in action for Father Charlie was when Bishop Ott received the Golden Deeds Award in 1992.  

Father Landry, who visited Bishop Ott when he was on his deathbed in the hospital, was moved by the bishop’s profound response, which was recorded for an awards ceremony banquet he was unable to attend because of his illness. He said, “I don’t know why I’m receiving this, because I’ve only done my duty.”  

“When the taping was done, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” said Father Landry.  

People can also learn a lot from Pope Francis, who declared a Year of Mercy beginning on Dec. 8, 2015 and focuses his mission on social justice and mercy, said Father Landry.  

He noted the pope said in his March 17, 2013 angelus address, “A little mercy makes the world a little less cold and more just.”  

In his March 31, 2013 Easter message the pope said, “God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore the life to dry bones (cf Ez 37:1-14). Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of his mercy …”  

The ultimate model of mercy is Jesus, said Father Landry, whose favorite images of Jesus include the Sacred Heart and Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He said people can learn about merciful love by reading Jesus’ parables.  

He noted that in St. Luke 15:11-32, Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, the father prayed and waited for his son to come to his senses when he asked for his inheritance and squandered it in a foreign land. And when the son returned destitute, his father lavishly forgave him and treated him with mercy.  

In St. John 8:1-11, the parable of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus told the men who set her up in order to “get to him”: “Let he who is without sin be the first one to cast a stone,” said Father Landry. When they turned and left, Jesus told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”  

There is also the ominous parable of a king who forgave a huge debt a servant owed him, and that servant abused another servant who owed him a much smaller debt and had him thrown in prison. The king found out and said, “You wicked servant. I have canceled all the debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” That servant was then tortured and put into prison until he could pay the entire debt.  

“People of mercy are those who give people second chances,” said Father Landry, who has been in prison ministry for the past 17 years of his priesthood.  

Furthermore, people striving to live mercifully shouldn’t be concerned about “having their names in light” and don’t need to have big theological discussions, said Father Landry.  

“Part of the journey is the little stuff we do along the way. We do little things along the way and we’re developing the qualities of mercy,” said Father Landry.  

He gave the example, “You go to a wake or when something happens to a family. You don’t say a word, and later on they will say, ‘Thank you. I needed your presence there.’ ” 

In essence, people of mercy serve as God’s instrument of grace, according to Father Landry.  

“I remember that all I am doing is giving to someone what’s been given to me from God … I always remember where I come from,” said Father Landry.