Quasimodo’s Hope and Mercy


This last day in the Octave of Easter marks the twentieth anniversary of the proclamation of this Sunday as dedicated to the Divine Mercy by Pope Saint John Paul II – and a blessed one to all our readers – formerly, and still, the Second Sunday of Easter, and, in the usus antiquior, Quasimodo Sunday, named so after the first verse of the entrance antiphon taken from the first letter of Saint Peter, 2:2: Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite (Like newborn babes, seeking pure spiritual milk).

‘Quasimodo’ was also, of course, the name of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo’s fictional bell ringer, so named for as an abandoned foundling, he was found on this Sunday outside the great Gothic cathedral, inside of which he spent the rest of his life, until his fateful meeting with Esmerelda.

The ‘pure spiritual milk’ may be seen as that very mercy of God, sought for by our own repentance, our contrition, our hope. For even God cannot forgive an unforgiving heart, and we must seek and be open to forgiveness and mercy in order to find them.

Today is the also the fifteenth anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI to the papacy, which seems in on sense like aeons ago, a different era. I recall watching the election, a group of us, students and teachers, in the rectory, and the palpable joy when Josef Ratzinger’s name was announced. His own octave of years in the papacy did much good, shoring up any number of things which will stand us in good stead, regardless of what winds have blown, and will perhaps blow even stronger.

At some point, read over his 2008 encyclical Spe Salvi, whose central message asks where our hope really resides: In the things of this world (hyparchonton), as befits secular pagans, or in the things beyond this world, in the hope that goes beyond earthly hope (hyparxis), in the promise of Christ, eternal life, beatitude, life with God forever, all that transcends the vicissitudes of this life. The paradox of Christianity is that the less we have to hope for in this life, the more we are prompted to hope in the next. The poor shall indeed inherit the kingdom of God.

So fret not. The victory is won. All we must do is trust in the divine mercy, and, as Blessed Julian of Norwich prayed, all manner of things shall be well.