The ‘Necessary’ Message

The following is the homily delivered by Fr. S. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, during the Holy Mass that closed the first North American Congress on Mercy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2009. The text below includes Fr. Seraphim’s subsequent expansions and related insights to the original homily:

It appears to me not to be void of significance that the first North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM), which we have just celebrated — following upon the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM), which was held in Rome in April of 2008 under the auspices of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI — should have taken place here, in the host city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, and that, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, of the Patroness of the host country. For it was from this city, more precisely, from the House of Studies of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, located at that time on the corner of Lawrence Street, North East, opposite the former site of the Newman Bookshop, very near to this awe-inspiring house of worship, that the message of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, was first begun to be propagated on this continent in the western hemisphere, hardly two-and-a-half years after the passing into eternity of our Savior’s confidante, the now Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, while most of the religious sisters of her own community had not yet learned that their humble sister of the second choir of their congregation was in any way involved in the matter.

I find it a striking fact, too, that it is Our Lady’s shrines that have played a significant role in the origin, growth, and making public of the revelations concerning The Divine Mercy message and devotion entrusted to the Church and the world through the humble members of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. For it was at the renowned shrine of Our Lady — the Mother of Mercy of the Gate of the Dawn — in the city of Vilnius, now again the capital of Lithuania, that the first image of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, painted under St. Faustina’s directions from the Lord and funded by her spiritual director, the recently-beatified priest, the Rev. Michael Sopocko, was first presented to the faithful during the closing celebrations of the observance of the Holy Year of Redemption on the Octave Sunday of Easter in 1935 (see Diary, 420-422).

It was also the Novitiate Chapel under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception, of the American Province of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass., which housed the first shrine of The Divine Mercy in this country since 1944. Relocated to a larger and beautifully-adorned adjacent edifice at the insistence and generosity of the faithful, grateful for the numerous graces obtained through The Divine Mercy Devotion, the shrine was dedicated in 1960, and on March 20, 1996, it was declared by the Administrative Committee of The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and the National Catholic Conference of Bishops as the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.

And it is here, at the now Basilica of The National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception, that the Feast of His Mercy, designated by our Lord for the first Sunday after Easter, has been annually celebrated since 1990, with ever-growing participation of the faithful, deeply devoted to Jesus, The Divine Mercy.

So, there is a deep connection between the two great mysteries of our faith — The Divine Mercy and The Immaculate Conception — as has been so eminently demonstrated by the presentation of the Marian Father, Donald Calloway, MIC, in the course of the Congress. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, among all of the Virgin Mary’s feasts, was St. Faustina’s favorite. She prepared herself for it several times in an extraordinary way, “… not only by means of the novena said in common by the whole community, but I also made a personal effort to salute [Mary] a thousand times each day, saying a thousand ‘Hail Marys’ for nine days in her praise” (Diary, 1412-1413). On the occasion of that feast in 1935, appearing to Sr. Faustina during Holy Mass, Our Lady said to her: “You give me great joy when you adore The Holy Trinity for the graces and privileges which were accorded me” (Diary, 564).

There had not yet been any pronouncements made on the part of Church authorities regarding the claimed revelations at the time the devotion took root in this country, but devotional prayers and an image representing Jesus, The Divine Mercy, were granted Imprimaturs by several bishops in Poland and by the Archbishop of our country’s Primatial See, the then-Archdiocese of Baltimore-Washington. Within about 10 years from the humble initiative to make the message and devotion known, these had been spread from here to every other continent.

It should not have been surprising that, after nearly 20 years of swift, spontaneous growth throughout the world — significantly through laymen’s grassroots activity — the spreading of the message and devotion should have been halted by order of Church authorities, because this was clearly foretold by the good religious [Sr. Faustina] in the record of her spiritual experiences, kept in obedience to her spiritual mentor’s directive.

There she wrote:

Once, as I was talking with my spiritual director, I had an interior vision — quicker than lightning — of his soul in great suffering, in such agony that God touches very few souls with such fire. The suffering arises from this work. There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago. That God is infinitely merciful, no one can deny. He desires everyone to know this before He comes again as Judge. He wants souls to come to know Him first as King of Mercy. When this triumph comes, we shall already have entered the new life in which there is no suffering. But before this, your soul [of the spiritual director] will be surfeited with bitterness at the sight of the destruction of your efforts. However, this will only appear to be so, because what God has once decided upon, He does not change. But although this destruction will be such only in outward appearance, the suffering will be real (Diary, 378).

The spiritual guide to whom this prophecy was addressed was the Rev. Fr. Michael Sopocko. He was raised to the honors of the altar as “Blessed” a year ago on Sept. 28, 2008. This occurred hardly 33 years after his death, and it stands in contrast to the 300 years it took for Fr. Claude Colombière, S.J. — the spiritual guide of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, through whom our Lord revealed the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart — to be declared a saint. Both priests died on Feb. 15, the day to which their memorial is assigned. In Blessed Michael’s case, it is the day on which St. Faustina celebrated her namesday [the day of her patron saint, St. Faustus].

We must all be aware with what caution Holy Mother Church looks upon private revelations, particularly when through them some action is requested of Church authorities that would affect the Church’s liturgical life or devotional practices. This was certainly the case with the revelations granted to the now “Saint” Faustina.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, mindful in this matter of the Apostle Paul’s warning in his First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:19-21): “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good,” do not treat private revelations lightly. He places them in the category of the prophetic ministry in the Church as he considers verse 18 from the 29th chapter of the Book of Proverbs. That passage is usually translated: “Where [there is] no vision, the people perish.” But St. Thomas prefers the translation that reads: “Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint” (Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae, Q.174, art.6, Reply).

So (after St. Augustine), St. Thomas states: “That is why at every period men were instructed by God about what they were to do, according as was expedient for the salvation of the elect” (Summa, Ibid.), not to proclaim new doctrines (for that would be incompatible with the concept of prophecy), but to offer a deeper understanding of particular revealed truths, or to give guidance to leaders in the Church as to actions they should take in given times and circumstances for the good government of the faithful. For “… divine grace which inspires prophets is, for man, a still more effective means of help. Light from prophecy extends also to the directing of human acts. In this sense prophecy is needed for the ruling of a people, and especially as regards the worship of God. For in this nature is insufficient, and grace indispensable” (Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae, Q.172-the cause of prophecy, article 1 ad 3 and 4).

Saint Peter is quite emphatic about the source of prophecy, saying “… for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the Holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God” (2 Pt 1:21).

The Jesuit Father Karl Rahner was asked by the Father General of his religious order to explain the rationale of private revelations, such as those regarding the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of which the Society of Jesus was the principal proponent. The well-known German theologian pointed out that, “A private revelation as a mission to the Church signifies not so much an Indicative [a declaration] communicating something new … but an Imperative [a command] which, within the concept of a particular situation of the Church, points out a particular course of action from the many possible, according to the universal and public revelation, as the most urgently needing to be realized. … An imperative of this kind is possible because, while in the knowledge [the entire body] of the faith many things at the same time can be true and good, in the action [exercise] of the faith not everything that is true and good can be actuated at the same time, to the same degree and with the same intensity. Hence, the private revelation as a mission to the Church … answers the question as to what is most urgently to be done here and now in accordance with the general principles of the faith” (Theological Investigations, Vol. III, pp.338, 339), and, St. Thomas would add, “according as [is] expedient for the salvation of the elect” (cf. above).

Evidently, we find the message regarding The Divine Mercy extremely necessary for the particular time and circumstances in which the Church and the world find themselves now. We will do well to recall what the now Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, declared in his famous second encyclical, Rich in Mercy:

…[A]t no time and in no historical period — especially at a moment as critical as our own — can the Church forget the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God amid the many forms of evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it. Precisely this is the fundamental right and duty of the Church in Christ Jesus, her right and duty towards God and towards humanity. The more the human conscience succumbs to secularization, loses its sense of the very meaning of the word “mercy,” moves away from God and distances itself from the mystery of mercy, the more the Church has the right and the duty to appeal to the God of mercy “with loud cries” [as Jesus did in the Garden of Olives] (Heb 5:7). These “loud cries” should be the mark of the Church of our times, cries uttered to God to implore His mercy, the certain manifestation of which she professes and proclaims as having already come in Jesus crucified and risen, that is, in the Paschal Mystery. It is this mystery which bears within itself the most complete revelation of mercy, that is, of that love which is more powerful than death, more powerful than sin and every evil, the love which lifts man up when he falls into the abyss and frees him from the greatest threats.

Modern man feels these threats. What has been said above in this regard is only a rough outline. Modern man often anxiously wonders about the solution to the terrible tensions which have built up in the world and which entangle humanity. And if at times he lacks the courage to utter the word “mercy,” or if in his conscience empty of religious content he does not find the equivalent, so much greater is the need for the Church to utter this word, not only in her own name but also in the name of all the men and women of our time (n.15) [emphases, the Pope’s.]

It was non-Catholics who immediately hailed the encyclical as the best document to have come out of the Vatican, while Catholic sources kept a strange silence about it for almost a year, until a religious community under the title of “Merciful Love” sponsored an international congress to examine the subject at its general headquarters in Collevalenza, near the city of Todi, Italy.

The Archbishop, later Cardinal, Paul Poupard, rector of The Catholic Institute in Paris, who was requested to elaborate on the theology of divine mercy at the congress, had a hard time finding adequate material on the subject, even in the latest Catholic Encyclopedia that was just published at that time in Italy and in France, which offered only a few lamentable paragraphs on the word “mercy.” He recalled how, when word spread that the Holy Father John Paul II was about to publish the second encyclical letter of his pontificate in November of 1980 on the theme of the mercy of God, some Catholic theologians in Rome publicly ridiculed the idea saying, “With all the problems going on in the world, doesn’t the pope have anything better to write about than about mercy?” The Archbishop expressed his great astonishment about how this “fundamental axis of our Faith” — that God is Love and Love is Mercy — could have become so obscured for such a long time (Acts of the International Congress: A First Reading of the Dives in Misericordia, The Shrine of Merciful Love, Collevalenza, 26-29 Nov. 1981, pp. 203, 204).

Yet about 22 years earlier, there was an effort on the part of individuals in the Vatican to suppress the writings of Sr. Faustina Kowalska together with the devotions based on them. While I was working with an Italian priest, Don Carlo Vivaldelli, on a translation into Italian of Sr. Faustina’s Diary, he informed me that a friend of his from seminary days became a secretary to Pope John XXIII, and from him he learned that a decree was prepared to prohibit forever the spreading of Sr. Faustina’s Diary and the devotion to Jesus, The Divine Mercy, based on the “supposed” revelations recorded in it. Knowing that Pope Pius XII gave signs of being in favor of the writings of Sr. Josepha Menendez of Spain on a similar topic of God’s mercy, the individuals not in favor of the subject awaited the seriously ailing Pontiff’s demise.

The friend described to Don Carlo what followed. On the first day after his enthronement, when the successor to Pope Pius XII entered his office, he sat down at the desk on which an orderly heap of documents was awaiting the new Pope’s review and signature. The Pope made the sign of the Cross and, well aware from experience of Curial practices, turned the pile of documents upside down, and proceeded to examine the documents. The first one he picked up was the proposed “decree” regarding Sr. Faustina’s writings. It was evidently placed at the bottom of the pile so that, perhaps tiring from going over all the preceding ones, the Pope would trust the work of his collaborators, and just sign it. Instead, John XXIII read the document carefully, and shook his head saying, “No, no, no!” And he indicated that this “decree” will not do — the Polish bishops should be consulted for their opinions. The document had to be revised. It became a “Notification,” setting the matter aside until clarifications could be obtained. (Communication between Poland, dominated by Soviet communism, and the Vatican was stopped by the government. Even external telephone communications were intercepted.)

The temporary ban lasted 20 years until further investigations were able to be carried out and a very detailed analysis of Sr. Faustina’s writings was made by a top theologian upon the request of Karol Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Kraków. The verdict was that the writings contained nothing against the Catholic faith or morals; on the contrary, whoever would carefully read them and follow them would reach a high degree of sanctity. As a result, Pope Paul VI rescinded the ban. Exactly six months later, the Cardinal Archbishop of Kraków succeeded him and his short-lived successor, Pope John Paul I, as Pope John Paul II. Thanks to the successful process in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Pope John Paul II was able to beatify Sr. Faustina in 1993 and to declare her a saint in the year 2000. After more than 1,000 years of Christianity in Poland, Sr. Faustina was the first woman born on Polish soil ever to be canonized!

Although all that our Lord assigned to Sr. Faustina to accomplish was finally fulfilled, her work is not finished. In May of 1935, she recorded in her Diary:

A Certain Moment
When I became aware of God’s great plans for me, I was frightened at their greatness and felt myself quite incapable of fulfilling them, and I began to avoid interior conversations with Him, filling up the time with vocal prayer. I did this out of humility, but I soon recognized it was not true humility, but rather a great temptation from the devil. When, on one occasion, instead of interior prayer, I took up a book of spiritual reading, I heard these words spoken distinctly and forcefully within my soul, You will prepare the world for My final coming. These words moved me deeply, and although I pretended not to hear them, I understood them very well and had no doubt about them. Once, being tired out from this battle of love with God, and making constant excuses on the grounds that I was unable to carry out this task, I wanted to leave the chapel, but some force held me back and I found myself powerless. Then I heard these words, You intend to leave the chapel, but you shall not get away from Me, for I am everywhere. You cannot do anything of yourself, but with Me you can do all things (Diary, 429).

The following year, on the Feast of the Annunciation, God’s presence enveloped Sr. Faustina in a special way in the morning during meditation, as she saw the immeasurable greatness of God and, at the same time, the lowering of Himself to His creatures. She recorded:

Then I saw the Mother of God, who said to me, Oh, how pleasing to God is the soul that follows faithfully the inspirations of His grace! [Our Lady could have been referring to her response to the Archangel Gabriel and its consequences.] I gave the Savior to the world; as for you, you have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh, how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for mercy. If you keep silent now, you will be answering for a great number of souls on that terrible day. Fear nothing. Be faithful to the end. I sympathize with you. (635)

What struck me during yesterday’s Vigil Mass were the words of Bishop [William] Lori [the Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and the Episcopal advisor to NACOM] when he related that someone asked him why these days were picked for this Mercy Congress, and whether the planners checked the readings from Sacred Scripture for this Sunday beforehand. The Gospel passage deals with “The Son of Man, at the end, returning with great power and glory” (Mk 13:24-32). This is what moved me to change the direction of this homily and to bring our attention to the eschatological dimension — the matters dealing with the last things — in St. Faustina’s revelations. There we read entries such as these:

Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation [literally — “sheet anchor,” one that can be shot out rapidly — a person or thing to be relied upon in danger or emergency (Webster’s Dictionary)], that is, recourse to My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity. Secretary of My mercy, write, tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near (Diary, 965, 998).

One day, while Sr. Faustina was saying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, she heard a voice that said:

Oh, what great graces I will grant to souls who say this chaplet; the very depths of My tender mercy are stirred for the sake of those who say the chaplet. Write down these words, My daughter. Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them.

In the last year of her life, St. Faustina wrote: “Today I heard the words”:

In the Old Covenant I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy. I replied, “O my Jesus, speak to souls Yourself, because my words are insignificant.” (Diary, 1588).

Nevertheless, our Lord persisted with Sr. Faustina:

Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice. (Diary, 1146)

Our preparation for the Day of our Lord’s Coming should concentrate on putting away all sin. The second reading for this Sunday’s Liturgy, from the Letter to the Hebrews, assures us that by one sacrifice Jesus obtained forgiveness for our sins, and, “when He had accomplished purification from sins, He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high …” (Heb 1:3; 10:12). In the “Tent of Meeting” set up by Moses, and in the Temple in Jerusalem, there was only one seat — the “throne of mercy” upon the Ark of the Covenant, the place where God manifested His presence in the “Shekinah Glory,” Uncreated Light.

The normal position for a priest is standing. He was never allowed to rest sitting down as he went about his ongoing tasks of performing the rites regarding the various offerings for the sins of the people of God. But Jesus, having been “made perfect,” that is consecrated [as per Cardinal Vanhoye’s translation], was declared by God High-Priest of the New Covenant in His own Blood according to the order of Melchizedek. There is significant power in our enthroned High-Priest, for He has accomplished and fulfilled the perfect, once-for-all offering of Himself, as through His death He entered the inner sanctuary in heaven, not made by human hands, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, obtaining eternal redemption (Heb 10:19; 9:12). This is the hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the divine Presence behind the veil — heaven (see Heb 6:19).

By this same once-for-all act, Jesus has “made perfect” forever those who are being consecrated — all who obey Him, who place their faith and absolute trust in Him. With the author of The Book of Revelation (1:5,6) we, too, can call out: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, who has made us into a kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.” For this is why, as sharers in His priesthood, we have the confidence — more exactly, the boldness, the “accorded right” [again, Cardinal Vanhoye’s translation] — to approach the throne of grace at any time to obtain mercy and to find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16), unlike the high-priest in the Old Testament who alone could enter the “holy of holies,” and that, only once a year. But Jesus, “because He remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away, therefore He is always able to save those who approach God through Him, since He lives forever to make intercession for them (see Heb 7:24, 25; Rom 8:34).

Finally, there is an entry in St. Faustina’s Diary (1732) in which the Servant of God John Paul II quoted in part toward the end of his homily during the dedication of the Basilica of the Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Lagiewniki, Poland, near the final resting place of the mortal remains of our Lord’s beloved confidante. St. Faustina recorded:

As I was praying for Poland, I heard the words: I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming.

The Holy Father declared: “Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: from here there must go forth ‘the spark which will prepare the world for his final coming.'”

It was the second part of the Diary entry that the Holy Father quoted, and then he said, “Let this binding promise be fulfilled.” Most of the hearers hardly noticed the word, even though it was pronounced with emphasis. Did the Holy Father, by saying this, intend boldly to hold the Lord to His word?

Pope John Paul II then continued, “This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness!”

This was the challenge that sparked the inspiration for a World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy. When Pope Benedict XVI agreed with the idea and insisted it be held in Rome, it became the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy. From it came the call for regional, national, and diocesan Congresses. It is now up to us, who participated in this first North American Congress on Mercy, to enkindle and spread that fire of mercy to our homes, parishes and communities, in order to prepare everyone around us so that That Day will not catch us unaware nor fill us with fear, but truly be for us the moment when our Lord “will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring the [fullness] of salvation to those who eagerly [on tiptoe] await him” (Heb 9:28).

For Jesus will appear at the parousia (“presence” or “arrival,” as stated in New Testament passages that deal with the Second Coming) as the high-priest reappeared on the Day of Atonement, emerging from the Holy of Holies that He entered to take away sin, “while all the people of the land would shout for joy, praying the Merciful One, as the high-priest … coming down … would raise his hands over all the congregation of God’s People, the blessing of the Lord would be upon his lips, the name of the Lord would be his glory.” This dramatic scene, described in the Book of Sirach, (50:5-11), is what the image of Jesus — The Divine Mercy — commanded by our Lord to be painted by Sr. Faustina, to be blessed on the First Sunday after the Lord’s Resurrection, and solemnly venerated first in the Sisters’ Chapel and then throughout the world — is truly meant to represent.

This image fulfills in a supreme manner all that our Holy Father Benedict XVI describes in his work: The Spirit Of The Liturgy, with regard to “art ordered to divine worship.” He declares:

The images of the history of God in relation to man do not merely illustrate the succession of past events but display the inner unity of God’s action. In this way they have a reference to the sacraments, above all to Baptism and the Eucharist, and in pointing to the sacraments, they are contained within them. Images thus point to a presence; they are essentially connected with what happens in the liturgy. Now history becomes sacrament in Christ, who is the source of the Sacraments. Therefore, the icon [image] of Christ is the center of sacred iconography [the art of “writing” sacred images, for they are illustrations of sacred Scriptures]. The center of the icon of Christ is the Paschal Mystery: Christ is presented as the Crucified, the risen Lord, the One who will come again and who here and now hiddenly reigns over all. Every image of Christ [note: ordered to divine worship!] must contain these three essential aspects of the mystery of Christ and, in this sense, must be an image of Easter. … But whatever happens, one aspect can never be completely isolated from another, and in the different emphases [whether of the Passion, the Resurrection or of the Return] the Paschal Mystery as a whole must be plainly evident. An image of the Crucifixion no longer transparent to Easter would be just as deficient as an Easter image forgetful of the wounds and the suffering of the present moment [emphasis mine]. And, centered as it is on the Paschal Mystery, the image of Christ is always an icon of the Eucharist, that is, it points to the sacramental presence of the Easter mystery.

I know of no other image of Christ that clearly exhibits every element described by the Holy Father than that of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, revealed in an apparition to St. Faustina with the command: “Paint an image according to the pattern you are seeing” (Diary, 47) — a command like that given by God to Moses: “You shall erect the Dwelling [sanctuary] according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (Ex 26:30). When the Jews demanded of Jesus, “What sign do you show to us, since You do these things,” that is, cleansing the temple, Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Saint John comments, “But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (Jn 2:18-21).

The very first entry in St. Faustina’s Diary is a poem that begins with the statement: “O Eternal Love, You command Your Sacred Image to be painted …” (1). The next stanza declares: “O sweet Jesus, it is here [that is, in this image] You established the throne of Your mercy,” a reference to the most important item in the sanctuary that Moses was commanded to construct and furnish according to the pattern in heaven seen by him on the mountain — the Ark of the Covenant with its golden lid, the Mercy Seat.

It was upon this lid — “beaten” out of one mass of gold (the gold representing divinity and utter sinlessness/holiness; the beating calling to mind verse 3 of Psalm 129: “The plowers plowed on my back; They made their furrows long”)— that the blood of propitiation was sprinkled as the atoning sacrifice which, “taking away our sins, turns aside God’s wrath.” Saint John emphatically states: “[Christ] Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 Jn 2:2; Jn 1:29) [Our Lord inserted a part of this passage in the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy.] The Body of Jesus, then, is the perfect temple of God as well as the real propitiatory, sprinkled with His own precious Blood for our redemption (Rom 3:25). The red and pale “Rays of Mercy,” emanating from the Lord’s pierced side in The Divine Mercy image, are the illustration of Christ’s consecration as High Priest through what He suffered in loving obedience to His Father and out of compassionate love for us sinners — to whom He eternally united Himself through the Incarnation. It is also the illustration of the priestly ministry He shares with those who obey Him to bring forth much fruit in the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father.

The Letter to the Hebrews (8:3) indicates what the priestly ministry is as it declares: “For every high-priest is constituted to offer gifts and sacrifices.” It, therefore, encourages believers who have been given a share in Christ’s priesthood: “Through Him therefore let us continually[emphasis mine] offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, fruit of lips professing His name” (13:15). We do precisely that when at our Lord’s invitation — and even command — we pray in particular the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, which is strictly connected to the Eucharistic Sacrifice: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly-beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. For the sake of [out of regard for] His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

From all the forgoing, it becomes evident that our one need is to know Jesus better, to come to the knowledge of the higher truth concerning Him in His heavenly priesthood, who “had in all things to become like His brothers so that He might become a merciful and worthy of faith High Priest for the things of God in order to expiate the sins of the people; for in what He suffered Himself, having been tested, He is able to those being tested to offer help” (Heb 2:17-18). The author of Hebrews continues: “For we do not have a High Priest unable to suffer with our weaknesses, but [One] tested in all things in like manner without sin. Let us approach therefore with accorded right to the throne of grace so that we might receive mercy and find grace for timely help” (4:15-16); “let us approach with a true heart in fullness of faith with hearts sprinkled pure from a wicked conscience; and with a body washed by pure water let us maintain unmoved the profession of the hope — for faithful [is] the one who promised — and let us consider each other for the stimulation of charity and noble works, not deserting our gathering, as [is] a custom for some, but encouraging, and the more so in proportion as you look at the approaching Day” (10:22-25; translation endorsed by Cardinal Vanhoye).

We can readily understand then why our Lord insisted that a particular prayer “must be clearly in evidence” (Diary, 327) on the image He commanded to depict Him and to be signed: “Jesus, I trust in You!” It is the short form of the prayer He taught St. Faustina: “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of Mercy for us, I trust in You!” (Diary, 47, 327). The Blood and Water gushing forth from the area of His Heart is also the symbol and expression of His personal, priestly, atoning self-offering out of love for us, making Him worthy of our unbounded trust to save us to the uttermost by His being faithful to His divine promises. That is why in the Polish language, in which Jesus stated that prayer, the final “You” is in the singular number, and why the name of Jesus — “Yahweh is salvation” — is a legitimate and significant stand-in for the “Blood and Water” in the signature on The Divine Mercy Image.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, during his “Queen of Heaven, rejoice,” address at noon on Divine Mercy Sunday of 2006, His Holiness Benedict XVI, commented on the Gospel reading of the day, saying:

The Evangelist further recalls that on the occasion of both his appearances — the day of the Resurrection and eight days later — the Lord Jesus showed the disciples the signs of the crucifixion, clearly visible and tangible even in his glorified Body (cf. Jn20:20,27). Those sacred wounds in his hands, in his feet and in his side, are an inexhaustible source of faith, hope and love from which each one can draw, especially the souls who thirst the most for Divine Mercy.

In consideration of this, the Servant of God John Paul II, highlighting the spiritual experience of a humble Sister, St Faustina Kowalska, desired that the Sunday after Easter be dedicated in a special way to Divine Mercy; and Providence disposed that he would die precisely on the eve of this day in the hands of Divine Mercy. The mystery of God’s merciful love was the center of the Pontificate of my venerable Predecessor. Let us remember in particular his 1980 Encyclical Dives in Misericordia, and his dedication of the new Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow in 2002.

The words he spoke on the latter occasion summed up, as it were, his Magisterium, pointing out that the cult [worship]of Divine Mercy is not a secondary devotion but an integral dimension of Christian faith and prayer.

The German translation of this latter paragraph renders it rather thus: “… the worship of Divine Mercy is not a second-rate devotion but an integral dimension of a Christian’s faith and prayer.”

May our Lord’s declaration: “Mankind will not experience [or enjoy] security so long as it does not turn with trust to the Fount of My Mercy” (Diary, 300, 699 — a more literal translation) spur us on to make His Divine Mercy message and devotion an integral factor of our Christian lives.

Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, served as vice-postulator in North America for St. Faustina’s canonization cause. He lives on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass., where he holds the title of “Fr. Joseph, MIC,” director of the Association of Marian Helpers.

Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC – Dec 3, 2009

Magnificent! Thank you Fr. Seraphim. I am sorry I missed it!

Humble servant of God’s Love and Mercy – Dec 1, 2009

O most sweet Jesus, our hearts either rejoices in You or are tormented for You, but use us for Divine Mercy’s end.

May devotion to Divine Mercy be in every contrite hearts. Long live Jesus, Mercy Incarnate and the Divine Paradise!

ics – Nov 26, 2009

Praise, Glory, Thanks and Adoration to the Tri-une Almighty God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. LORD JESUS CHRIST, “King of Mercy”, have mercy upon the souls who did not have an opportunity to the Divine Mercy Chaplet.Nothing is impossible to You Almighty Eternal Father Who always waits for our genuine repentance and return to Your fathomless mercy and love. To love is to trust and to embrace Your mercy and to be merciful always. Let every breath be words inspired by Your mercy: Jesus, I love You. ” JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU “.

Robert Allard, Director, Apostles of Divine Mercy – Nov 25, 2009

I thank the Lord for Fr. Seraphim who has been graced with great insight in the revelations of Divine Mercy. His words bring great comfort and assure us of God’s love and mercy for all those who trust in Jesus. I wish that all priests could here these inspired words.

Carole – Nov 24, 2009

What a powerful treatise! Thank you, Fr. Michalenko for your devotion to this work. I pray the message be preached from all pulpits. May the Holy Spirit prepare us all to hear this word.

God love and bless you and all who toil in this vineyard.

Jim – Nov 23, 2009

A fantastic writing. No doubt, this is the time for God’s mercy – the duty to spread this message continues with us through our actions, words, and deeds.

A Continent Shifts Toward God

By Dan Valenti (Nov 15, 2009)
For a momentous day in the life of North America, in a development guaranteed not to register on any man-made instrument, the continental axis tilted to God. The full impact of this historic day will not be known for years, but we do know this: the resulting good for an entire hemisphere will be both immeasurable and profound.

Even among the most jaded of conference goers and by the high standards of veterans of similar gatherings, the first-ever North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM) was a spectacular success — as God measures it, certainly, and, yes, even as man does.

In the nation’s capital, Ground Zero for political contention and cultural war, mercy was afoot. The first-ever North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM) was at hand.

Radiance, Pouring Through Her Eyes
On Nov. 14, 2009, in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., mercy found a home in the receptive hearts of more than 700 pilgrims. From all walks and circumstances they came — from California to Massachusetts, from Minnesota to Texas, from New Brunswick, Canada, to Puebla, Mexico — thirsting to intensify their love of Divine Mercy, craving to learn more, and on fire to spread it to others.

Susan Buck of Silver Springs, Md., works in human resources for the executive branch of the federal government, attached to the White House. Her journey to NACOM marked an action point, one of no return:

“I know very, very well the depths of God’s mercy and forgiveness of God,” she says. “He forgave me for a very bad sin when I didn’t think forgiveness was possible. Now I want to turn away from mistakes of the past and learn more about how I can extend mercy in my life going forward, to all that I meet. That’s why I came. To prepare myself for what only God knows.”

Susan said she had a strong and undeniable feeling “that tremendous graces would be coming to us [pilgrims] through the speakers at this Congress if we are open to them.” Asked mid-way during the day if that had in fact been borne out, she smiled, pouring radiance through her eyes.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Oh yes.”

‘She Spoke Directly to My Heart’
Susan referred particularly to the witness of Theresa Bonopartis, who described the utter sense of loneliness and abandonment that haunted her when, as a teen, she aborted a baby boy — a saline abortion in which the baby burns to death in the womb. An existential and spiritual dread pressed upon her soul for years, until she found the courage to take God up on His promise to forgive even the most heinous of sins and the most despicable of sinners. That forgiveness led to reparation and to the establishment of a life of ministry to other women and men dealing with post-abortive trauma.

“She spoke directly to my heart,” Susan said of Bonopartis. She also said she’s now ready to take action to help others, in the way the NACOM testimonials spoke about.

“I came to hear stories of mercy,” she said, adding that she trusts the experience will result in a direction for how she might begin to minister to others. Susan Buck, you see, had just demonstrated the prime prerequisite God places upon his agent of mercy: become open and available. That’s all.

Fly on instruments, using God as your radar. Be willing to serve, and let God handle the rest. He will handle the guidance, direction, resources, and problem solving. The key is trust, as it says in the signature line under the image of The Divine Mercy: “Jesus, I trust in You.” The devil is most assuredly NOT in these details.

“I’m glad that they are having this Congress,” Susan said. “I feel privileged to be here. It’s obvious this is the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Verbal Tapestries
Each witness wove verbal tapestries on the central theme of God’s mercy. Speakers included:

• Father Matthew Mauriello, Congress president, who served as master of ceremonies.
• Dr. Scott Hahn, author, who gave the keynote address.
• Dr. John Bruchalski, MD, founder and director of Divine Mercy Care, which performs spiritual and corporeal works of mercy in northern Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
• Kellie Ross, co-founder and director of Missionaries of Our Lady of Divine Mercy in Manassas, Va.
• Sister Lucille of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, Bronx, N.Y.
• Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, superior of the house of studies for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
• Father Patrice Chocholski, Lyon, France, lecturer and theologian and general secretary of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, who gave a concluding reflection.
• The Most Rev. William Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., NACOM’s episcopal adviser and principal celebrant of Holy Mass that concluded the day.

Who are We? Who is Anyone?
Where faith is required, doubt will be present, for the condition of faith presumes the probability, the potential presence, of doubt. The speakers at the North American continent’s first-ever Congress of God’s mercy witnessed to what had become for them an experiential truth: God’s love for us is not a trick of the imagination, nor is it wishful thinking on steroids. God’s love is real.

The speakers reported of an experience so joyful and profound that they had no choice but to get out into the world and begin sharing it with others, in word and mainly in action.

In the witnesses who spoke on this day, and in the lives of those who heard them, mercy is not an idea. It’s an action. It’s not fluff but a pragmatic and intelligent response to an undeniable inner desire all people share, one roughly suggested by the word “spirituality.”

Who are we, who is anyone, not to believe the truth of what they say?

Be a part of the discussion.

Humble servant of God’s Love and Mercy – Dec 1, 2009

O Most Sweet Jesus, we trust that You will hasten the joyful day when the Limitless Love and Inexhaustible Mercy that is in the Triune God is in all hearts. O Lord, our contrite hearts rejoice in You or are tormaneted for You, but use us for Divine Mercy’s end.

SUSIE B AUSTRALIA – Nov 19, 2009

THANK GOD FOR THAT AND PLEASE GOD HELP US TO KEEP TRUSTING IN YOUR SON JESUS,AMEN.

‘Our Great Hope’

The following are some of the reflections by the President of the North American Congress on Mercy, Fr. Matthew R. Mauriello, who served as master of ceremonies for the two-day event, Nov. 14-15:

The Prayer for the Opening of the North American Congress on Mercy

Almighty God, heavenly Father,
Your unbounded mercy is our great hope.

We praise You, O God, for You so loved the world that You sent Your only Son to be our Savior.

We ask Your pardon and mercy upon us as we acknowledge our sinfulness and the times we have not trusted in You.

We thank You, O Lord Almighty, for this wonderful day in which we have the opportunity during this Congress to learn more and more about Your mercy and put it into practice in our lives.

We ask You, Heavenly Father, to bestow Your abundant blessings upon all present, our speakers and participants. Be merciful to us this day and every day.

May we become more closely conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, Your Son, in union with Mary, our Most Holy Mother.

We ask this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

In His Opening Message
Father Matthew mentioned how appropriate it is that the Mercy Congress take place during the Year of the Priest since it is through the instrumentality of the priest that the Lord dispenses His Mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He said:

When Jesus was criticized for eating at the house of St. Matthew, He responded, “the healthy do not need a physician but the sick do, I have not come here for the righteous but for sinners, it is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.” The Church is not a museum for saints, but a clinic for sinners.

The word “mercy” comes from the Latin word Misericordia. It is from the two word roots miseria and cordiaMiseria means misery, pain, sorrow, and cordia means heart. And so it means to take another’s pains to heart: to feel their pain and sympathize with them.

The word “compassion” comes from two Latin words: cum meaning with and passiomeaning suffering, like the Passion of our Savior that we contemplate on Good Friday. Here we see the compassionate person as suffering with another in their pains. This should then spur us on to action.

The Lord talks about this in the Gospel of St. Matthew when He talks about the final Judgment. The King says, “Come, blessed of My Father, enter the kingdom prepared for you for I was hungry and you gave Me to eat, thirsty and you gave Me to drink,” and the list continues. The just then reply: “Lord when did we see You hungry and feed You or thirsty and give You to drink or attend to You in Your needs?” And the King will reply, “Whenever you did it to one of the least ones, you did it to Me.”

This is what we are called to do. Learn of the Merciful Lord and put it into practice in our lives. This is the purpose of the Congress to which so many of you have come from far and near.

Mercy, Our Hope
(This “theme song” for the Mercy Congress was written by Fr. Matthew and Fr. Anthony Dandry and is sung to the Tune of O Jesus, We Adore Thee)

Refrain:
Lord Jesus, King of Mercy
We place our Trust in Thee
Our Hope and our Salvation,
Please hear our humble plea.

Verses:
1. You saved your chosen People,
Their foes went in the sea
Your Mercy was upon them
And set the captives free. (Refrain)

2. Our Light and our Salvation
No peril shall we fear
Our Hope in times of danger
Shows proof that You are near (Refrain)

3. You give us strength to prosper
There’s nothing without You.
Your Gospel gives us guidance
In what we say and do. (Refrain)

4. You reach out to all sinners
When they are far away
Bring back into Your Sheepfold
All who have gone astray.

5. We sinners need Your mercy
We give as we receive
By deeds done with compassion
We show that we believe (Refrain)

6. Dear Mary, Queen of Mercy
O, please our Mother be
Our Advocate and Helper
We give our Hearts to thee. (15) (Refrain)

Reflection during Eucharistic Adoration, Nov. 14

Father Matthew said:

We are in the month of November in which we honor all the saints. This is our destiny to live our lives in the love and friendship of the Lord and be joined to Him one day in heaven.

Perhaps you recall this question from the Catechism from your First Holy Communion. “Why did God make you?” The answer is, “God made me so that I can know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him forever in heaven.” This is the goal of our Christian life: to live a holy life throughout this earthly pilgrimage and arrive at the destination in heaven.

My personal goal is to be a “canonizable” saint. No, I do not want to be recognized by the Church, but rather want to live a life of heroic virtue, to do good and avoid evil the best I can and abide in the grace of the Lord. So many have done it, and God shows no partiality: All are invited to holiness. We need heroic virtue to do this: one of the ingredients of sainthood.

Jesus tells us in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of St. John that He is the Vine and we are the branches, and we need to be connected to Him to have His life within us. We are to abide with Him for “apart from Him we can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). This is the way to grow in holiness. Is it easy? No. But it is possible. In St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wrote, “I can do all things in Him who gives me strength.”

Today, in the presence of our Lord — truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — we are like the chosen apostles, Peter, James, and John on Mt. Tabor. We say, as they did, “Lord it is good to be here.” Jesus gave them a foretaste of heaven on that mountaintop. He was going up to Jerusalem to undergo His suffering and death and wanted to give them courage that all would be well. They saw in advance the glorification of His triumph.

Like the apostles who wanted to build three booths, we, too, must go down the mountaintop and resume our lives with its own crown of thorns and crosses, but we have a glimpse and foretaste of heaven in the presence of the Lord and at every Holy Mass where we unite ourselves to Jesus, the Way the Truth, and the Life. His victory is ours as well, and with Him all things are possible. He can help us live a life united to Him in this world and to have our true goal of becoming saints so that we may be with Him one day in the kingdom of heaven.

Closing Comments
The Mercy Congress concluded with Holy Mass in the Basilica’s Crypt Church. At the end of Mass, Fr. Matt told NACOM attendees:

First and foremost, I wish to offer words of thanksgiving to the Lord for His aid in promoting the work of spreading the message of His bountiful mercy. We of the NACOM committee had asked the Lord that we may be His instruments in spreading the message: “Mercy: Our Hope.” Learning it and living it.

Thanks in particular to the Blessed Mother Mary. We put all under her mantle and maternal protection and asked her to help us in promoting the message of her Son’s love and mercy.

Gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI for continuing the work of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. He opened the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy April 2-6, 2008, and told us to continue to spread the message of the Lord’s mercy.

It is like we brought the lit torch, just like the Olympics, begun in Rome, to us here in North America, and from the North American Congress on Mercy in Washington, D.C., then to each parish and diocese.

Special thanks to Fr. Patrice Chocholski, the general secretary for the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, who came from Lyon, France, to show his support. Just as Fr. Patrice offers his support and presence throughout the world, so I, too, as the North American Coordinator, offer my presence, when possible, to help in regional and local conferences and congresses on the mercy of the Lord.

Father Matthew, president and coordinator for NACOM, is the pastor of St. Roch Parish in Greenwich, Conn.

How Do Mercy and Judgment Fit Together?

The following homily was delivered by the Most Reverend William E. Lori, STD, Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., on Nov. 14, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C. Bishop Lori served as Episcopal Advisor for the North American Congress on Mercy.

Introduction: 2012?
You may have seen advertisements for a movie released only yesterday entitled 2012. That is the year the Mayan calendar is said to end, and also the year when scientists and other experts conclude that the world itself will end. A series of natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions and typhoons unfold before our eyes as the world collapses on all sides and as we follow the epic adventures of a few people seeking to escape the encircling doom.

Ah, but happily, no one but the heavenly Father knows the day and the hour when human history will end and the Son of Man will come in glory. And isn’t it the case that the inspired words of today’s Scripture readings vastly outpace the special effects of the movie 2012 in describing “earth’s closing thunders”? After all, these readings are not fictional but the revealed Word of God. And they tell us not merely about impending natural disasters but rather alert us to the eternal significance of the end of time.

More than a description of natural disasters will have an end, the revealed Word of God speaks of the Day of Judgment in which our eternal destiny will be sealed. The Book of the Prophet Daniel says: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake: some shall live forever … others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. …” In tonight’s Gospel passage from St. Mark, Jesus Himself speaks about what will come to pass at the end of time: “… the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky. …” And amid that cosmic upheaval, Jesus, the Son of Man, will come in power and glory to gather the elect, those who shall be saved, from the four winds.

All the Ways of the Lord Are Mercy and Truth (Ps. 24:10)
Those of you gathered for this National Congress on Divine Mercy may now want to ask those of us who planned this event a question: “Didn’t anyone check the readings for this Sunday before scheduling an event dedicated to the mercy of God?” “Could there be a set of Scripture readings more likely to prompt us to fear the judgment of God rather than to trust in His mercy than the ones that were just proclaimed?” “Wouldn’t it make more sense to reflect on a Gospel passage like the Prodigal Son or the shepherd who goes after the lone lost sheep?”

And the answer to those questions is, “Yes, of course, it would be easier to base a homily about mercy on such passages rather than readings on Christ’s second coming ‘to judge the living and the dead.’ But these readings have been given us not to make it easy on the homilist but rather to help understand more fully the gift and mystery of God’s mercy … to see how mercy and judgment fit together.

Now, in Psalm 24, verse 10, we read: “All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth.” How prone we are to set mercy and truth in opposition to one another, to see forgiveness and judgment as diametrical opposites. To do so, however, is to introduce the divisions of our hearts into the indivisible and merciful Heart of the Triune God, and at the same time, to short-circuit the Church’s teaching on Divine Mercy.

Indeed, the mercy, the loving kindness of God, is so great it can never be measured. The reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus, Mercy Incarnate, poured out His life for us for the forgiveness of our sins. Every time we worthily participate in Mass, every time we go to Confession we encounter the power, the beauty, and tenderness of the Father’s mercy revealed and poured forth by Christ and communicated through the Holy Spirit. God, indeed, is “rich in mercy” as Pope John Paul the Great taught us so well.

Yet mercy would not be mercy if it merely absolved us of responsibility for our sins while allowing us to continue wallowing in them, without any changes in how we think, speak, or act; without a change in the depth of our heart! The mercy of God does not absolve us of responsibility for our actions because to do so is to rob us of our human dignity. Mercy is not the misguided love of careless or overly indulgent parents who allow their children to run wild under the rubric of kindness.

No, the Lord’s mercy is imbued with wisdom and truth. As Pope John Paul II taught in his encyclical on the Mercy of God: “… The willingness to forgive, which is inextricably bound up with merciful love, ‘does not cancel out the objective requirements of justice … In no passage of the Gospel does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence toward evil, toward scandal, toward injury or insult” (14).

Mercy Transforms and Gives Hope
Yes, the mercy of God seeks to forgive, to calm, to soothe, to heal — but it also seeks to rescue us from the misery of a sinful way of life and to transform us, body, mind, and spirit, into the likeness of Jesus, the Son of Man, who will come to judge the living and the dead. If the mercy of God did anything less, it would not be truly merciful because it would not correspond to our innate longing for His love and still less would it correspond to the call to holiness and the vocation to love given us in Baptism.

To be sure, the Lord does not merely set high ethical standards, turn us loose, and then judge us harshly when we fail. On the contrary, the Lord constantly knocks at the door of our heart, constantly seeks to walk with us on our journey through life, speaking to us words of spirit and life, filling us with His sacramental presence, and helping us through the Holy Spirit to choose what is good and true, to keep great the commandment of love (so as to become poor in spirit, lowly, humble, single-hearted, prayerful, and merciful). Indeed, the Lord seeks to give us His mercy, forgiveness, and strength more earnestly than we ask for it!

All of which leads us back to the prospect of the Last Judgment. In his encyclical, Spe Salvi(Saved by Hope), Pope Benedict XVI teaches us that the Final Judgment is “a setting for learning and practicing hope.” He says that “… the image of the Last Judgment is not primarily an image of terror but rather an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope.” “Is it not also a frightening image?” he asks. And he answers: “I would say it is an image that evokes responsibility … (44).” We who are gathered in this great basilica share the mercy of God, a mercy which fills our hearts with hope, a hope which causes us to live differently, to choose what is right, what is good, what is true — even as we seek God’s help in time of weakness.

Thus, we approach the particular judgment with hope and await the Second Coming of Christ in joyful hope — as we say at every Mass! — confident that the penetrating gaze of the Just Judge will cleanse our hearts from any remaining impurity so that we might be capable of being filled with the love of God in the communion of saints.

As we hasten on our way, let us ask Mary, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, the Mother of Mercy, our sweetness and our hope, to pray with us and to pray for us.

‘I Couldn’t Fathom What I Had Done’

Theresa Bonopartis, director of Lumina, a post-abortion referral service that operates under the auspices of Good Counsel Homes founded by Christopher Bell and Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, was one of the many inspiring speakers at the North American Congress on Mercy on Saturday, Nov. 14. The following is her testimony:

“We are to show to those in need His goodness to ourselves …”

This phrase at Mass speaks to my heart. It reminds me of the despair, the grief, the pain of abortion from which Christ delivered me. It reminds me also of my duty to give hope to those still suffering, to help point the way to a place of shelter and peace in the heart of Jesus. And so, I relate my experience — unique and personal, but not unlike the stories of many other women. But this story is not, finally, about me. It’s about our good and merciful God … always there, wanting to forgive us and to make us whole again.

* * *

At 18 I honestly believed I was the only one not having sex. I gave in to peer pressure and slept with someone I was seeing occasionally. I remember vividly the day I phoned the doctor for my test results and learned I was pregnant.

After months of denial, I was nearly four months pregnant, so I knew the answer long before the word “positive” was uttered. I was overwhelmed by a range a feelings: happiness at the thought of a child growing within me, but also fear of telling my parents — the reason I had “denied” it for so long.

I immediately told the father of the child, and we decided to get married. Although we planned to tell our parents together, I blurted the truth to my mother and father. Their reaction took me by surprise. Shocked, angry, and disappointed, they told me to leave the house and forget that I was their daughter.

In retrospect, their reaction was understandable. They believed that premarital sex was wrong and thought it would be a disgrace to have a child out of wedlock. At least, I thought, my parents were practicing Catholics and would never ask me to abort my child. I left the house with no job, no money, no home, and nowhere to turn, feeling utterly abandoned and alone. It wasn’t long before the baby’s father and I broke up. Still, I was certain I would not get an abortion. I wanted my child.

A friend’s mother invited me to stay in their home. I had no idea how I could support the baby and myself, and things began to feel hopeless. During this period, my father sent several messages urging me to have an abortion. He even offered to pay for it. I refused. But as I began to feel more desperate, I decided, finally, to let the abortion happen. I shut down my feelings and went through the motions, functioning more like an observer in a surreal world than someone in control.

Thirty years later, I still can’t remember how I got to the hospital. But I do remember being alone in the hospital room when a doctor entered, and I’ll never forget the sadistic look on his face as he injected saline into my abdomen.

No one explained to me the baby’s development or what the abortion would be like. I had no idea what was going to happen. I lay there just wishing that I could die. I could feel the baby thrashing around as his skin and lungs were burned by the saline. He was dying. Labor began. After 12 hours of labor, alone in the room, I gave birth to a dead baby boy.

I looked at his tiny feet and hands. All I wanted to do was pick up my son and put him back inside of me. I couldn’t fathom what I had done. I rang for the nurse. She came in, picked up my son and dumped him in what looked like a large mayonnaise jar, a jar marked 3A. Then she left the room and I was alone again, filled with hatred for myself. The thought of death seemed comforting. My downward spiral had only just begun.

After the abortion I flew to California to spend time with my sister and her family so I could get my bearings again. I wasn’t the same person anymore. I went through the motions of daily living, but I had no desire for anything. At night, in the room I shared with my 2-year-old niece, I’d lie awake asking God over and over again to forgive me.

Three months later I returned to the New York area. Although I was not in contact with my father, my mom would slip out to meet me occasionally. Still trying to run away from myself, I moved to Florida. During my two years there, I called my dad and we began speaking again, although never mentioning my abortion.

When I returned to the area, I found a job and outwardly things seemed fine. But nothing was as it seemed. I tried hard not to think about who I was and what I had done. When I thought about my dead child, I would become depressed and despairing. Desperate to be loved, I became involved with the man I would marry, even though he was emotionally and psychologically abusive to me.

Two years later I was thrilled to be pregnant with our first child. But I was also afraid that God would punish me for the abortion, that something would be wrong with my child. I prayed constantly that the baby would not have to suffer for my sins, and was immensely relieved when he was born healthy.

The marriage began to fall apart soon after the baby’s birth. My husband was abusing alcohol and we were arguing all the time. We tried counseling to salvage our marriage. Knowing that my abortion was at the root of my problems, I told the counselor about it. He told me to just forget about it. It was in the past. I could not make him understand that the abortion was very much in the present because I was living with the consequences every day.

For a while my husband stayed sober, and I became pregnant with our second child. By the time I was to give birth, however, his addiction was again full-blown. The night our second child was born, I did not expect my husband to be there. By the time he got home, I was well along in labor and we barely made it to the hospital in time.

The birth of my son was anything but joyous. I didn’t know how I was going to care for two children, living with someone addicted to alcohol. Unlike the husbands of mothers around me, my husband did not show up the next day; he was recovering from a hangover. I lay alone in a hospital room, but this time my child was alive.

Soon after I brought the baby home, my husband overdosed and had to be rushed to the hospital. The incident helped me to begin breaking the cycle. During his two-week hospital stay, I began to enjoy my children for the first time. I didn’t have to worry about where he was or what he was doing. I gave the children my full attention. I promised myself that I would not let them grow up in an abusive home, and that if he didn’t straighten out, the children and I would begin a life for ourselves.

I kept my sanity by praying and reading the Bible. My husband stayed sober for two years before it began all over again. The day my older son, then four, told me to hide in the closet when he saw his father coming home, I knew we would have to leave.

For myself, I may well have stayed in that abusive relationship forever, but I did not want the boys to experience abuse. One day when my husband was drinking again, I took the children and walked out the door. Once again I found myself with no job, no money, no home. This time, thank God, I had my children.

My sister took me in to her already full apartment, and with my family’s help (in this crisis I had their full support), I began to get my life together. Shortly after I walked out, my husband ended up in rehab, so the boys and I were able to move back into our apartment. I found a job. Within a year or two I returned to school to train as a substance abuse counselor. My family helped me both financially and by helping to care for the boys. I could not have made it without them.

After graduation, one of my teachers offered me a job. I thought I had finally gotten it together. Little did I realize how fragile this new life was.

By this time I had grown in my spiritual life and had a relationship with God, even though I did not truly know Him and still kept a distance from church. I still suffered from depression, entertained thoughts of suicide and had very low self-esteem; the fact that I had been one of the few from my class offered a job did not raise my self-esteem.

In time, as I struggled with my personal problems, my professional work began to suffer. I experienced “burn out.” It was devastating to have worked so hard to achieve what I had and then become unable to function. I realize now that it was God’s way of drawing me closer to Him.

I quit my job and struggled to stay out of the hospital. My dad supported the kids and me. I just moved through life. Every day it was a challenge just to get out of bed and take care of the boys. I did, however, begin attending Mass again, sitting in the back of the church, certain that everyone knew I had had an abortion, certain that the walls would come crashing down on me. But I went, listening for some word of hope that I could be forgiven for my terrible, “unforgivable” sin.

By then my older son was seven and ready to make his First Penance. At a meeting for the parents, a priest talked about God’s mercy and His desire to forgive any sin, even the sin of abortion. I remember thinking: Can this be true? Did I hear him correctly? Will God really forgive abortion? That evening I left with the first inkling of hope I had known in 10 years.

It took time and courage, but I decided to contact that priest and ask him to hear my confession. Scared and nervous, I made my first confession in many years. The priest was gentle, trying to make it as easy as he could for me. He showed great empathy and support. At last, I was on my way home.

I began to see the priest regularly for spiritual direction. At first, all I could see was darkness. It was an effort to do the things he asked, like examining my life, because I was sure I would uncover only what a terrible person I was. But I was tired of the depression and desperate enough to try. I felt sorry for my children who had a mom who cried a lot and simply couldn’t cope with life. I wanted more for the three of us. And so I prayed, went to Mass every day and spent time before the Blessed Sacrament. I needed so badly to trust in this God I had been told was so good.

Still I could not forgive myself. I continued to struggle with depression. I would beg Jesus for healing. I felt bad that I had not reached full healing, and my confessor’s eyes showed his own sadness over my continued struggle. I understand now that the fullness of healing must come in God’s time.

One night I felt depressed and suicidal again, but despite these feelings, I also somehow felt a deep trust in God. I didn’t want the children to see me crying again, so after putting them to bed, I closed myself in the bathroom, crouched on the floor, and repeated over and over, “Jesus, I trust in You.”

I don’t know how many hours I did this, but well into the night I had an experience that changed my life. I experienced being on the cross with Christ. But instead of experiencing suffering, I felt love so intense that it was capable of taking away that pain. I felt His love wash away my sin and I knew my healing was complete.

I have never since felt the despair of abortion, only the profound love and forgiveness Christ gave me. I’ve watched my life be transformed, miraculously, as I’ve been privileged to help countless women and men suffering from abortion’s aftermath. Christ’s love transformed not only my life, but the lives of those I love.

Before my mother died, I learned that my abortion had caused her great suffering, although she had never told me. One day when we were watching TV, abortion was mentioned. She said, “Well, sometimes it’s all right to have an abortion.” I said, “Mom, it is never all right.”

God gave us this moment of grace. She told me that my abortion was her sin and that she would take it to the grave with her. I was able to comfort her, telling her that we both bore responsibility for it. I told her that I forgave her and asked her to forgive me. After that, my mother went to confession to the same priest I had seen for direction, and she felt that her terrible burden was lifted.

Most difficult was telling my children. I felt that God was calling me to speak out about abortion, but I knew I couldn’t unless my children knew first. I was terrified they would hate me. It took me years to muster the courage. By now I was active in the pro-life movement and they had been brought up to respect human life.

I planned to tell them many times, but each time I backed out, afraid to say the words. Finally one day I knew I was being given the grace to talk to them. How can I describe that day? I trembled as I told them of how our lives had come to be as they were. If not for my abortion, they would not be living in a fatherless household or seeing the strained relationship between my father and me.

The boys wrestled with their feelings. They were angry at me. They grieved for the brother they never knew. They felt guilty for surviving. It took time, a lot of talking, and the grace of God, but they understood finally why things were as they were, and why I had spent years crying. They grew closer to God, and we grew closer to one another.

I didn’t speak publicly right away. The boys needed time to deal with their feelings and cope with the loss of their brother before I would do that. I was even resigned and at peace with the fact that the day might never come. But a few years later, they gave me their blessing. To say I am proud of them is an understatement. They have become great advocates for life.

I’ve now worked for some years with the Sisters of Life, conducting Days of Prayer and Healing for those suffering abortion’s trauma. I am grateful to be able to stand alongside the Sisters at the foot of the cross and minister to these children of God, and blessed to watch them be transformed by His love and forgiveness. I have witnessed countless miracles of His mercy and am convinced that God is marshaling an army of once-wounded women and men to dispel the lies of abortion.

The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, tells of words spoken to her by Christ:

Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than asked. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy.

I know that this is true.

Jesus I trust in You.

Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Alina – Jan 2, 2010

When I read inspirational stories like this, I say THANKS to GOD for allowing me and my seven siblings to breath and live. This story makes people to know that it is possible to rise up from ashes.

Will You, Too, Say Yes?

“She’s dying,” said Kellie Ross, of this baby girl in June in a hospital in Bouake, the Ivory Coast. Kellie learned the mother could not produce milk to nurse her baby and had no money for food. “This is why we are called to come to the Ivory Coast,” said Kellie of her group, Missionaries of Our Lady of Divine Mercy, which was touring the west African country.

Plans for the North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM) are taking shape. Above, members of NACOM’s executive committee meet on July 20-21 with representatives of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where NACOM will be held in November. Top, from left: Fran Bourdon, executive director of the Association of Marian Helpers; Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, Marian director of evangelization and development and Congress vice president; and Fr. Michael D. Weston, the Basilica’s director of Liturgy. Bottom, from left, Gina Shultis, the Marians’ marketing and communications manager; Fr. Matthew R. Mauriello, president and coordinator for NACOM; and Fr. Vito A. Buonanno, rector of the Basilica.

Plans for the North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM) are taking shape. Above, members of NACOM’s executive committee meet on July 20-21 with representatives of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where NACOM will be held in November. Top, from left: Fran Bourdon, executive director of the Association of Marian Helpers; Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, Marian director of evangelization and development and Congress vice president; and Fr. Michael D. Weston, the Basilica’s director of Liturgy. Bottom, from left, Gina Shultis, the Marians’ marketing and communications manager; Fr. Matthew R. Mauriello, president and coordinator for NACOM; and Fr. Vito A. Buonanno, rector of the Basilica.

Screams, wails, and whimpers ricochet off the concrete floor in a walled-off compound where the mentally ill are quarantined. The place is filthy. Bodies that have no reason to get up, stay down.

Kellie Ross is on bended knee speaking with a boy — one of dozens of tragic cases she encounters during a 12-day Divine Mercy mission in June in west Africa. He’s 8 years old and completely out of place here among the older, clearly sick, patients. His ailment? Epilepsy, a common chronic neurological disorder that’s easily treated and that many children grow out of.

But here in the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), where Kellie and her group of missionaries are spreading the message of mercy in a poor, war-torn land, there are no medications available for epilepsy. That means that this boy’s epilepsy is cause for him to be kept quarantined with the mentally ill in dark rooms, on hard floors, surrounded by bare walls, and amidst the horror of screams, of wails, and of whimpers.

Kellie is hugging him. Tearfully, she kisses the disfigured flesh where his left hand used to be, now burnt to the nub after he fell into a fire during a recent seizure.

‘Mercy: Our Hope’
What’s a prayerful wife, mother, and small-town Catholic humanitarian from the suburbs of Virginia doing here in the Ivory Coast, 7,000 miles from home?

Inspired by Marian Helper magazine back in 2005, Kellie is following the Lord’s call to spread His Divine Mercy. Her response to His call — saying yes — is what organizers for the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM) on Nov. 14-15 hope to duplicate a hundredfold.

With NACOM — two days of talks, celebration, and worship at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. — a “demand” from Christ, and a “mandate” from Rome, will be writ large in North America.

To register for NACOM, visit mercycongress.org.

Jesus told St. Faustina, “I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it” (Diary of St. Faustina, 742).

The Holy Father, too, has made mercy a “mandate.” At the conclusion of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI told the thousands of Congress participants from all around the world, “Go forth and be witnesses of God’s mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world.”

“The Holy Father inspired all of us to bring the message of mercy to our own lands,” says Fr. Matthew Mauriello, president and coordinator for NACOM. “So this November, in Washington, D.C., we will carry that spark from Rome to our own country, much in the same way the Olympic torch is carried from country to country. We will take that spark from Rome and bring it back to our own dioceses, our own parishes, and our own homes.”

The Congress’ theme — and timing — couldn’t be more appropriate. In a land reeling from a financial and moral crisis, where families are struggling and fearful, amidst the fighting of two foreign wars, the episcopal advisor to NACOM, the Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., has declared that the theme for the Congress will be “Mercy: Our Hope.”

“The Congress will help people come to know God as a God of mercy who can cure us from our brokenness, our sinfulness, and our fears,” says Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, Marian director of evangelization and development and Congress vice president. “We will share how He wants us to do the same for each other — to carry each others’ crosses — in a world in desperate need of His profound gift of mercy.

“By giving to others out of our love for God,” he says, “we create opportunities for God’s greatest miracles — for others and for ourselves.”

To help others experience the miracle of God’s mercy at NACOM, Fr. Kaz says the Marians are organizing a bus pilgrimage to the Congress, with pickups in Albany, N.Y., and Springfield, Mass. Call 1-800-462-7426 for information.

Mercy for North America
Dynamic speakers will unpack the theme “Mercy: Our Hope” at NACOM. (See the schedule.)

On Saturday morning, Nov. 14, Dr. Scott Hahn, who is renowned for his talks on Scripture and the Catholic faith, will give a presentation on Divine Mercy in Scripture entitled “Lord, Have Mercy.”

Doctor Hahn is a professor of Theology and Scripture at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Hahn is author of the bestseller on the Eucharist, The Lamb’s Supper, and many other bestselling books.

Also on Saturday morning, Theresa Bonopartis — who has been involved in post-abortion work and counseling for 20 years — will address the Congress on the topic “Where Mercy Meets Faithfulness,” touching on how God not only healed her from an abortion but radically changed her life.

She is director of Lumina, a post-abortion referral service that operates under the auspices of Good Counsel Homes founded by Christopher Bell and Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR.

On Saturday afternoon, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, will speak on the topic “The Virgin Mary: Mother and Mediatrix of Mercy.”

The U.S. Vocation Director of the Marians, Fr. Donald is well known for his love of the Blessed Virgin Mary and his dramatic conversion story. He is the author of Purest of All Lilies: The Virgin Mary in the Spirituality of St. Faustina.

Magnifying His Mercy
At the Mercy Congress, Kellie will be among those giving a testimony of mercy — explaining how she has been saying yes to the Lord ever since she found herself leafing through a copy of Marian Helper magazine in 2005.

An article had caught her attention that discussed ways people can help the Marians spread Divine Mercy. The article included an image of The Divine Mercy, showing a magnifying glass over the Heart of Jesus.

Through the group she founded, Missionaries of Our Lady of Divine Mercy, a ministry of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Bristow, Va., Kellie has radically reordered her life and priorities to magnify the Lord’s mercy.

“I remember reading the Diary where Jesus says, ‘I demand from you deeds of mercy,'” Kellie says. “I thought, ‘Wow, He demands it. It’s not a request. He demands deeds of mercy, and there’s no excuse.”

That became the motivation for her ministry. Her eyes were opened to the suffering around her. Men and women going hungry in Washington, D.C. No excuses. Children in northern Virginia without clothes and food and school supplies. No excuses. People living without God and their souls in jeopardy. No excuses.

These are the people the Missionaries have been serving — thousands of them — through their House of Mercy in Manassas, Va.

“We have to help,” says Kellie. “We cannot keep living under the assumption that other people will help.”

Saying Yes
So in April, when His Excellency Marie-Daniel Dadiet, Archbishop of Korhogo, Cote d’Ivoire, paid an unannounced visit to the House of Mercy during a trip to Washington, D.C., and asked Kellie, “Will you help my people? They are suffering,” there would be no excuses.

She said yes.

In June, the Missionaries toured the Ivory Coast, visiting hospitals, schools, and orphanages. They opened a House of Mercy in Korhogo. They are now organizing cargo containers filled with necessities for the people there.

Why west Africa? Because children have been orphaned. Because 40 percent of the infrastructure of the country was destroyed by the civil war that lasted from 2002-2007.

No excuses.

Kellie said yes to The Divine Mercy. Now, you have a special opportunity at NACOM to say yes to His mercy — the healing balm for our own broken and hurting continent of North America.

To register for NACOM, call 1-800-462-7426 or visit mercycongress.org

Read Felix Carroll’s series on the Missionaries of Our Lady of Divine Mercy’s journey in the Ivory Coast at thedivinemercy.org/Africa.

An Explosion of Mercy

By Dan Valenti (Nov 14, 2009)
At one time deep in the recesses of the North America’s past, in what is now Yellowstone National Park, an enormous volcanic eruption caused a collapse of land that buried the continent in a foot of ash.

Recently, geologists sent divers into Yellowstone Lake. They observed a bulge in the lakebed that has been measured at more than 100 feet. More ominously, the bulge has been pulsating. When it goes off is a matter of time — it might not take place for millennia. Then again, it could happen tomorrow.

A Movement and Message, Building and Building
What has this to do with the first-ever North American Congress on Mercy that took place Nov. 14-15 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.?

Think of the word “eruption,” which we can define as an explosion from accumulated energy that breaks out of confinement to be released in an instant.

That is what pilgrims witnessed at NACOM, an explosion of mercy.

The energy of God’s mercy has been building ever since the fall of humankind as portrayed in the Genesis parable of the Garden of Eden. Like the volcanic activity at Yellowstone, eruptions of mercy have been noted throughout humanity’s history on earth.

In our time, Divine Mercy as a message and movement has been steadily building since the early 1930s, when an uneducated, young Polish nun — Sr. Faustina Kowalska — dutifully obeyed the order of her spiritual director to keep an ongoing diary of her mystical communications with Jesus. Our Lord revealed Himself to Sr. Faustina, today St. Faustina, as The Divine Mercy.

The message of Divine Mercy, recorded in the spiritual classic The Diary of St. Faustina rapidly spread, in spite of a Papal ban for 20 years from 1958 to 1978. Today, it has become what some call the fastest-growing grassroots movement in the history of the Church.

Holy Ash, Wide and Far
For the North American continent, the eruption of mercy at NACOM has sent holy “ash” wide and far. It remains to be seen if the entire continent becomes covered, but the early reports are promising. Much of this has to do with the setting for NACOM.

The national basilica, dedicated 50 years ago, is the continent’s largest church, and its enormity provided perfect conditions for this explosion of mercy to occur. What we have today and going forward, is a loosening of the grip evil has over North America.

Does that sound grandiose? So be it. What pilgrims witnessed over two historic days in Washington, D.C. was a basilica of grandeur serving as a catapult to launch an awareness of God’s mercy, afresh, in North America. The continent has been given yet another spiritual opportunity.

It is hard to think of this happening anywhere else except at, in, and from America’s church.

On first glance at this structure, one notices the 108-foot dome, made of polychromatic tile dominated by a lovely shade of turquoise blue with yellow and red accents. On a more sustained examination, the building’s Romanesque-Byzantine design stands out, symbolizing the harmony of the spiritual traditions and presence of West and East. Seventy chapels can be found inside the grand structure, which is made entirely of stone, brick, tile, and mortar. Amazingly, the basilica was built without a single steel structural beam. There is also no framework or columns.

Blown Away
The energy of God’s mercy produces hope that doesn’t disappoint. Sure, we are human. We are tangential beings who fall short of God’s absolute perfection. Nonetheless, all will be okay if we accept the mercy of God, offered unconditionally and freely.

Albert Einstein rocked our conception of reality when he produced his famous equation E=MC2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared). If a similar scientific genius could devise a corresponding formula for Divine Mercy, she would write it DM=ML(I)2 (Divine Mercy equals measureless love times infinity squared).

Oh, what an exciting way to be blown away!

What the Lord Wants From Us

In a letter that, in no uncertain terms, links the North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM) with the revelations of St. Faustina Kowalska, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Austria, has defined NACOM’s goal as spearheading a new missionary front in the name of The Divine Mercy.

Cardinal Schönborn, president of the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM), held in Rome last year, addressed his letter to participants and planners of NACOM, which was celebrated Nov. 14-15 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. [Learn more.]

In his letter, Cardinal Schönborn quotes the words of Pope Benedict XVI upon the close of WACOM when the Holy Father called the participants to “go forth and be witnesses of God’s mercy.”

“Since this remarkable event with thousand of believers from all over the world,” Cardinal Schönborn writes, “we are witnesses to how Divine Mercy is spreading throughout the world.”

He adds, “The Lord wants us to do these works of mercy. Jesus Himself calls us to deeds of mercy, by words and by prayers.”

Through NACOM — two days of presentations, concluding with Holy Mass — planners sought to sure up an apostolic beachhead in which the zeal of WACOM can take root and flourish in North America.

To that end, in his letter, Cardinal Schönborn quotes from St. Faustina’s spiritual Diary, in which the Polish nun records the extraordinary revelations she had in the 1930s that have sparked the modern Divine Mercy movement, including the Mercy Congress itself.

The passage is the following:

I suffer great pain at the sight of the sufferings of others. All these sufferings are reflected in my heart. I carry their torments in my heart so that it even wears me out physically. I would like all pains to fall upon me so as to bring relief to my neighbor. (1039)

“In these words,” Cardinal Schönborn writes, “we find the true love of Christ that must inspire our humanity today. How many souls have been consoled by the prayer ‘Jesus, I trust in You,’ which Providence intimated through Sr. Faustina!

“Let us pray to the Lord that our heart may be merciful so that we feel all the sufferings of our neighbors,” Cardinal Schönborn continues. “Let us begin to trust in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. Then we can bear all our own sufferings to the merciful Lord.

He added that Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina “as a gift of God to our time” — a gift that keeps on giving.

“She can help us to have a living experience of the depth of Divine Mercy and to bear witness to it among our brothers and sisters,” Cardinal Schönborn writes. “May the message of Divine Mercy, which is the message of light and hope, spread throughout the world: Jesus, I trust in You!”

The letter, dated Oct. 7, was read aloud at NACOM, which was one in a series of continental congresses across the globe that serve as a prelude to the second World Mercy Congress, set for Krakow in 2011.

A Church congress is a Vatican-approved gathering focusing on a particular aspect of the faith. NACOM aims to bring greater awareness of — and participation in — the mercy of God as a source of hope, healing, and renewal for all people, all creeds, all families, all communities, and all nations on all continents.

Cardinal Schönborn himself, served as the master of ceremonies for WACOM. During the five-day-long congress last year, he often invoked the Holy Spirit and asked those gathered to allow Jesus, The Divine Mercy, to transform their lives so that they could, in turn, transform the lives of others, particularly those in greatest need of God’s mercy.

“The mystery of Divine Mercy is merciful love, which seeks intervention in our lives,” he said at one point.

Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Humble servant of God’s Love and Mercy – Dec 1, 2009

O Most Sweet Jesus, we trust that You will hasten the joyful day when the Limitless Love and Inexhaustible Mercy that is in the Triune God is in all our hearts.

O most sweet Jesus, our contrite hearts either rejoice in You or are tormented for You, but use us for Divine Mercy’s end.

[email protected] – Nov 13, 2009

This is beautiful! I pray the Lord continues to inspire you and you give us more. May mother Mary continue to be our advocate. Seminarian Lawrence from Uganda.

Mrs Stanley W (BonnieAnn M) Stevens – Oct 31, 2009

Let us remember to pray for the many marriages that suffer, due to a person’s inability to forgive himself or herself when a marriage suffers from
infidelity. These marriages are truly able to re ameliorated through the Divine Mercy.

S. Sullivan – Oct 30, 2009

Thank you. This was very inspirational!!

Were You There? Share Your Thoughts on This Historic Weekend of Mercy

Did you attend the North American Congress on Mercy on Nov. 14-15? Or the Divine Mercy Networking Forum on Nov. 13?

We invite you to share your thoughts and reflections on these historic events!

Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC – Dec 3, 2009

I was blessed to be able to participate along with my community, the incredible staff at the Marian Helper’s Center, the Mercy Ministries associated with the Marians and my parents and sister. I was filled with peace as a result of the Congress. My parents and sister were also very glad they had attended. The following weekend. I attended the Asian Congress in Manila – another blessing! And I was able to share some ideas from the North American Congress there.

Br. Michael Gaitley, MIC – Dec 2, 2009

One memory from the Mercy Congress sticks in my mind: The hard work of the lay staff and volunteers who support the Marians. They gave their all to make the Congress a success. The Marians are blessed to have such dedicated help.

Kim – Nov 30, 2009

This Mercy Congress was my own private “spark” that has ignited my life to receive God’s mercy and to spread it to through words and deeds with those people who are a part of my life.

I particularly loved the Divine Mercy Networking event on Nov. 13, sponsored by the marians. I met so many people who have turned their lives around — the greatest sinners who have come to know Jesus as our merciful Lord. Very inspiring! Thanks to all those who helped put this congress together.

DAN VALENTI – Nov 24, 2009

As a writer, I am privileged and blessed to cover events like this. “Like this,” I say? Actually, I would be hard pressed to come up with an analogous happening. I’ve covered many conferences and gatherings, but NACOM was (is) unique. This brought mercy to a continental level. From Mexico, Canada, and the United States they came — a qualified band of pilgrims taking seriously their obligation to be people of goodness and compassion. I’m certain they lifted the spirits of a continent.

A writer doesn’t “cover” an event like this. He uncovers it to reveal the stories. Blessings to all those who attended.

Sandra, Anna, Maria – Nov 24, 2009

Thank you to all involved with the wonderful Divine Mercy Congress in D.C. What a blessing! What a grace! Not only was in beautiful and holy surroundings, but what was talked about and taught was absolutely AWESOME!

It was certainly not a cooincidence that the Congress took place in between the House of Representatives and Senate voting on the healthcare bill and in the actual city in which all of this was taking place.

I felt a deep sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit and our Beloved Pope John Paul II and of course St Faustina. What a blessing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To also be present at the Basilica in the octave of the Jubilee was an additional THRILL and GREAT & MERCIFUL BLESSING from GOD! Thank you again.

The Pre-Congress meetings were wonderful and it was evident that the work you put into and the prayers offered were answered. We can not wait for the next National Congress.

God bless you all and THANK YOU AGAIN!

Sandra Maola
Anna Ianni
Maria Vozza

Susan – Nov 24, 2009

Dear Editor,

Please pass on my deep thanks to all who organized the
NACOM.

Last year I attended the first World Congress on Mercy in
Rome. I left with a sense of deep peace, but a feeling that
there was more.

This past weekend I attended the NACOM in DC and I left completely filled!! Thank you, thank you!

As a mother, to leave my family is a big deal for me. This congress was so well organized, peaceful, joyful, prayer-filled, and informative. I can’t say enough.

Those who greeted, directed, spoke, and assisted were the most joyful and helpful people I have had the pleasure to meet.

My sincerest thanks to all! They certainly used the gifts God gave them. My cup was overflowing. God is so good! (and Merciful!)

Peace,
Susan Kinnane

What’s Now and What’s Next?

By Dan Valenti (Nov 14, 2009)
As globetrotting general secretary of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM), Fr. Patrice Chocholski should have trouble keeping his time zones straight. From Madrid to Washington, D.C., from Africa to Asia, Fr. Patrice has been attending each of the continental congresses that have proceeded as an extension of the first WACOM, conducted in April last year in Rome.

Father Patrice gave the concluding reflection of the historic first North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM), Nov. 13-14, held in the nation’s capital at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

‘A Source of Renewal’
In an interview before his address to the Congress, Fr. Patrice of France said that NACOM has become “a source of renewal for the Church in North America that the Holy Father has been following closely, given the continent’s importance for the universal Church in focusing the world’s attention on God’s mercy.”

He said that, as general secretary of WACOM — commissioned by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of the Archdiocese of Vienna, Austria, acting for Pope Benedict XVI — “my first duty is to be present at each of the national and continental congresses that will lead up to Krakow in 2011.” The reference was to WACOM II, scheduled for Krakow, Poland, again under the direction of Cardinal Schonborn.

“The national and continental congresses serve as an important bridge [between WACOM I and II],” Fr. Patrice said. “It is wonderful to see the different expressions of creativity in the different congresses, as each interprets this key mission in a unique way, yet still expressing the universal value of God’s mercy. God’s love for us is at the heart of the Christian message.”

Father Patrice said he was most impressed by the North American Congress on Mercy, especially for its theme of “Mercy: Our Hope.”

“This hope is essential to the Christian mission of evangelization. There is no doubt that the North American Congress has taken on a leadership role in the growth of Divine Mercy in the United States, in Canada, and in Mexico.”

Praise for NACOM President
He praised the direction of Fr. Matthew Mauriello, NACOM president. “Father Matthew brings a style of exuberance that is [infectious]. I commend Bishop [William] Lori for his choice of Fr. Matthew to lead this effort.”

Expanding on the key role of NACOM in the Pope’s efforts to spread God’s mercy to the world, Fr. Patrice said, “I have the feeling that in North America, Divine Mercy is helping to grow the Catholic faith and better integrate it into the daily life of people. The message of mercy has credibility. Even those who are not Catholic or Christian — even those who may not have faith at all — hunger for love.”

He said that the evangelization that is behind both WACOM and the national and continental congresses around the world must, however, be done “first and foremost out of a spirit of love. In being here in Washington for [the first NACOM], it is apparent to me, and there can be no doubt, that such love is present. It is being done out of love, and only out of love. This is beautiful to witness.”

Church Needs to ‘Reconnect’
Father Patrice concluded by emphasizing the need for the Church to “reconnect” to those faithful who have been driven away by the unfortunate events of the recent past” (a reference to the child abuse scandal). He said the continental and regional congresses that lead up to Krakow 2001 are playing “a key role” in this effort.”

They are doing so “by bringing credibility to what we profess, which is a message of love, of life, of justified hope, which is only possible because of God’s mercy for the human race,” he said.

Be a part of the discussion.

MaryS – Nov 30, 2009

Father ,thank you for your time for the Filipinos people, you gave as an inspirations the 3 days events of AACOM was one of the most memorable one meeting our Asian brothers and sisters. This bridged us into one family of the Divine Mercy as Mama Mary acts as our intercessory God bless .