“Virgin of Mercy”, Piero della Francesco, 1460-62 Museo Civico, Sansepolcro.
Friday is the Church’s day of prayer for those who have suffered abuse, but the word “those” might suggest distancing. Not so! There is no “us” and “them” – only “us”. The panel above was commissioned by Sansepolcro’s Confraternity of Mercy. With great devotion to the Virgin of Mercy, they gave themselves to prayer, penance, the care of the sick and of the dying. The reality of abuse probably wasn’t something that Piero and the other good citizens of Sansepolcro c. 1460 would have named. Piero places us beneath the Virgin who looks down in sorrow and compassion for our wayward world. Behind her is the gold of the heavenly glory for which we hope, whilst her outspread mantle offers shelter from all that might assail us in this earthly life. Isn’t it rather like the apse of a Church with the men on one side and the women on the other? Every stage of life and status is hhere, except that of childhood. But abuse steals childhood away, and ever since the world began, people have gone to their graves having lived lives that might look okay, (as if it didn’t happen), but inwardly marked by the heaviest of burdens. Let us pray for those who have suffered in this way both outwith and among us, and that our Church may learn to open her arms much wider and learn to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God.
The Catholic Chaplaincy serves the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.
The Catholic Chaplaincy is also a parish of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh (the Parish of St Albert the Great) and all Catholic students and staff are automatically members of this parish.