A Day of Light and Roses

By Chris Sparks (Aug 15, 2014)
The third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM) is being held from Aug. 15-19 in Bogota, Colombia, bringing together apostles and friends of the Divine Mercy from around the world. We’ll be sharing insights, images, and news from the Congress as it’s happening, so stay tuned for more, and keep the Congress in prayer!

View our WACOM: Day One photo gallery.

Bogota is beautiful in the way only a city on a hill (or a mountain!) can be beautiful. The light is different here where the mountains bury their heads in the clouds, where heaven feels close enough to touch. There’s a reason why Scripture is full of stories of people going up to the mountains to get closer to God, a reason we’re discovering, I think, at this WACOM each day. Everything seems brighter, more radiant. It’s a daily surprise.

9 a.m.
The lines to get into the Congress site — the gymnasium of the Colegio Agustiniano Ciudad Salitre, a school for children in grades K-11 — are long and cheerful, full of people waving their country’s flag, singing hymns, and breaking out into prayer. Most of the crowd speaks Spanish (hardly surprising in this first WACOM held in Latin America), and so there’s an easy sense of community being formed. Just near by the contingent from the Marian Helpers Center and the Marian Fathers’ apostolates, we meet pilgrims from Aruba, Brazil, and — of course! — Colombia.

An enterprising pair of street vendors see an opportunity and show up offering to sell “Agua! Agua!” (Water! Water!) to potentially thirsty pilgrims. Eventually, one of them discovers the religious purpose of the event and begins advertising his water as “good for blessing!”

As we wend our way into the gymnasium, we’re greeted by the cardinals, bishops, and other dignitaries occupying chairs on the main stage leading the Congress in morning prayer, a regular part of the Liturgy of the Hours. They’re seated behind an absolute explosion of roses and other flowers surrounding an image of Divine Mercy and statues of Our Lady of Fatima and St. Therese of Lisieux (also known, very appropriately, as the “Little Flower”).

A reflection is offered by Bishop Domenico Cancian, F.A.M., a member of the Congregation of the Sons of Merciful Love and bishop of the diocese of Città di Castello in Italy. Observing that the Congress was opening providentially on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, Bishop Cancian said, “She will never cease taking us by the hand and leading us to the love and mercy of her Son!”

Other gems: “We learn mercy both by receiving and giving mercy.”

Citing Pope Francis as the source, Bishop Cancian says, “Being apostles of mercy is the core of the Church’s activity.”

“Our mission: to go throughout the world to announce love.”

10 a.m.
Cardinal Ruben Salazar, the archbishop of Bogota, welcomed the Congress to his archdiocese “on behalf of the pilgrim Church in Colombia.” He’ll be speaking tomorrow on the importance of the Congress and Divine Mercy for healing and reconciliation in Colombia.

Next, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, president of the Congress, offers a “conference” on “The Divine Mercy, Our Mission.” He took an interesting approach to his theme, talking about the costs of mercy and how it often demands that we recognize that simply avoiding telling truths that might cause pain or discomfort isn’t being merciful. Rather, mercy requires truth and justice. You cannot have one without the other, as God Himself demonstrates time and again throughout the Scriptures and all of salvation history. He pointed to the example of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (see Jn 4) as a model of telling the truth with love, in a truly merciful way.

“Jesus has walked a long way; He is thirsty,” said the Cardinal. “She is thirsty, as well, for forgiveness. Jesus talks to her. That’s the way into her heart. He treats her without bias. She thirsts for profound love, profound happiness.” Jesus is honest with the woman, telling her the sad truth of her life, and yet He does so with such love that she becomes a witness to Him, leading her entire town to believe in this Man who had told her everything she had ever done.

Cardinal Schoenborn also highlighted the cost of mercy in the parable of the prodigal son (see Lk 15:11-32), pointing out that when the prodigal son returned to his father and was restored to his place as a son, his elder brother lost half of the inheritance that was originally meant for him. For his younger brother now had the same rights that he had had before: a right to half the property of their father upon the father’s death. Just so, said the cardinal, does mercy and forgiveness place demands upon us all.

He cited the testimony of the Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza from the first WACOM in Rome. Immaculee lost her entire family in the genocide, herself only surviving through the courageous, self-sacrificing mercy of a Protestant pastor. When Immaculee went back to Rwanda and visited the prison where the man who had killed her family was being held, she was offered the option by the guards to take some sort of revenge on the murderer. She chose instead to forgive him.

Father Dante Aguero, MIC, shares some thoughts on Cardinal Schoenborn’s talk and the importance of WACOM.

11 a.m
Claudia Koll, a well-known Italian actress, offered the testimony of her reversion to the Catholic faith. Claudia explained that she had been raised Catholic, but for many years, lived rebelliously, doing whatever she wanted, living only for success. in 2000, during the Great Jubilee of the Lord’s Incarnation, she was invited by a friend to go and make the devotional act of passing through the Holy Door, opened by St. Pope John Paul II.

“My life started changing after I entered that Holy Door,” said Claudia. “I have a very deep relationship with St. John Paul II because he opened and closed that door.”

Two key events happened after making that jubilee devotion.

First, Claudia realized that, though she was acting out love and all its related emotions on the screen, something very different was going on in her heart. “I knew I did not know how to love. I had even waived building up a family because of my work. I began to understand and ask myself if I was happy.”

Secondly, she had a brush with real evil through transcendental meditation and related practices. “One day, I started to live paranormal phenomena,” recounted Claudia. “A sheet of paper wafted from my floor up to my table.”

And then the voice began to whisper in her ear, claiming to be the spirit of a great actress of former days. It all seemed harmless until one day, when Claudia was speaking on the phone with her agent, she heard the voice saying that she hadn’t hated her agent and encouraging her to hate them.

“And I answered the voice, ‘I am made to love.’ And I knew I did not know how to love,” Claudia continued. “That voice revealed, ‘I am death, and I am come to kill you.'”

Claudia reacted with all the deeply buried instincts of a fallen away Catholic. “I prayed the Our Father and I grabbed a cross I had at home, and I screamed, ‘God, help me.’ And when I screamed with all my strength, God liberated me.”

“I give honor to Jesus Christ.”

The next speaker was Sr. Ifunanya Ugwoha, NES, from Nigeria, who offered a theological reflection on Mary’s role as mediatrix and “Mater misericordiae,” or “Mother of Mercy.” She cited the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, discussing its teaching on Mary’s titles and intercessory role in the life of the Church.

Sister Ugwoha explained that intercession is often understood to mean an act of intervening on behalf of another, but it’s much more than that. An intercessor, she said, is “One who decides to mediate on behalf of others who cannot.”

So Mary is a model for Christians at prayer, interceding for those who do not have faith in Jesus Christ, the Divine Mercy. Sister Ugwoha ended her talk by holding up a rosary and exhorting the Congress to pray it daily, saying, “This is the weapon of the Catholics. Let us entrust ourselves to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. Many times each day, ask our mother to be our advocate.” She closed by leading the Congress in singing a Hail Mary.

Noon
Next up is Martin Hoegger, a Protestant pastor from Lausanne, Switzerland, a leader in the ecumenical movement within the Reformed Church. In his initial remarks, he focused on the Congress opening on the feast of the Assumption. Pastor Hoegger acknowledged that many Protestants have a very different pereception of Mary from Catholics. “However,” he said, “I discovered I love Mary.” This provoked strong applause. “Especially when she tells the servants ‘Do whatever He tells you.'”

Pastor Hoegger focused his remarks on the ancient spiritual practice of lectio divina, or “divine reading,” a classic method of reading and praying the Scriptures that has formed the basis of Christian spirituality for centuries.

He gave the Congress the theory behind the way of praying, preparing them for the break out sessions to be held on Saturday when they’d get a chance to give lectio a try.

Mary, he said, offers us a model for practicing lectio. “She lived with His Word [during all the time in Nazareth] in this way, and that is the reason for me to love Mary.”

Next: Mass.

1 p.m.
It’s always quite a sight to see bishops concelebrating a Mass, let alone cardinals, but add in row upon row of priests as well, and the Mass at WACOM becomes a living icon of the universal Church gathered to worship the Merciful Lord.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, from the archdiocese of Lipa in the Phillipines, served as lead celebrant and gave the homily. He focused, of course, on the Assumption, saying, “It is providential, indeed, it is God’s will that we celebrate the Assumption of God’s blessed mother” on the first day of WACOM. He pointed out that one of her oldest titles, given in the ancient Latin hymn “Salve Regina,” is “Mater Misericordiae,” or “Mother of Mercy.” The mercy referred to here is Jesus Himself.

“Mary is the Mother of Jesus, the One Who is God’s total gift to us and our total gift to God.”

“No words today can describe her who was lifted up to heaven, glorious with her Son, the Divine Mercy,” said Archbishop Arguelles. He ended by praying, “Help us, continue to lead us to deeper union with Christ. Let us be a sign of God”s merciful love for all humanity.”

Next, lunch.

Evening
Well, it was quite an afternoon. The Congress dispersed across the city in buses, going to visit different parishes and seeing the works of mercy they perform in their communities. The bus yours truly embarked on headed south to the parish of Nuestra Senora del Lucero, or Our Lady, the Morning Star.

Man, the difference a drive across town can make.

The Congress is taking place in a more developed section of town, which wouldn’t be out of place in any of a number of American or European cities. The Congress organizers had clearly decided to take to heart Pope Francis’ call to go to the peripheries, to the margins of life. They sent the participants far afield.

Picture to yourself: Roads that have collapsed into dirt, or were never paved in the first place. People who are very neatly dressed walking amidst extensive graffiti. The parish we visited had walls, padlocked gates, and broken glass embedded in the tops of the walls. The pilgrims scooted off the bus and did a quick march down the street to the parish. Inside, there was some beautiful religious art, including images of certain local devotions such as the devotion to the Divino Nino. We were greeted by the “Sisters of St. John the Evangelist,” a group dedicated to works of mercy in the parish. Some parishioners danced for us; we were shown a Powerpoint presentation of the life and ministries of the parish; then a number of parishioners stood and gave their testimonies to the power of God’s mercy working in their lives.

After a brief visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, it was time for photos! Everyone wanted to be in a picture, and the “Juanistas” wanted some shots of food being distributed — a live demonstration of one of the main works of mercy performed at the parish.

Then we motored over to the center of town, were dropped off next to the residence of the president of Colombia, and walked over to the Bogota cathedral. Again: a study in contrasts.

We were greeted by performances by some of the youth of the archdiocese: a concert, some skits, and a lot of clowns wandering around. Some pilgrims stayed in the courtyard; others walked in and took a look at the classically Spanish cathedral, containing an array of gorgeous religious art and beautifully appointed altars. Well worth a visit; well done for God.

So, after a full day, it’s time (mercifully!) to shut down for the night and get ready for the morning. There’s much, much more to come.
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Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

‘What I Saw’

Recently, the Church celebrated the third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM) in Bogota, Colombia. A congress is a Vatican-approved initiative in the life of the Church that focuses on a particular aspect of the faith. The Mercy Congress 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.

Around 1,200 people from over 40 countries attended WACOM from Aug. 15-19, sharing teaching on Divine Mercy, testimonies about the power of God’s mercy in their lives, and fellowship amongst missionary disciples of Divine Mercy, all coming together to coordinate their efforts across the globe.

Missed WACOM? Here, some of the founding members of the Marian Fathers’ Divine Mercy Apostolates share what they saw, heard, and experienced this year in Bogota.

Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC: John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy

Dr. Bryan Thatcher, MD, Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM):

Dave and Joan Maroney, Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM):

Marie Romagnano, RN, Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy:

Historic Congress Set to Open

The third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM) will be held Aug. 15-19, in Bogota, Colombia, and registration is still open.

The Congress will offer the opportunity “to study, to reflect on, to celebrate the message and reality of the richness and power of God’s mercy,” says Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, in the video below. “[God’s mercy] is the very core of our faith and our hope and our life.”

Father Kaz, a member of the Congress’ organizing body, invites you to Bogota for what will surely be an historic event:

To register, visit the official Congress website at WACOMColombia.org.

According to WACOM General Secretary Fr. Patrice Chocholoski, Pope Francis has taken a personal interest in the Congress, particularly since it’s being held in the Holy Father’s home continent of South America. Following the consistory to create new cardinals in February, 17 cardinals presented the Holy Father with a letter about the Congress, and “he got directly involved in WACOM III,” Fr. Patrice said.

The upcoming Congress is being backed by an impressive list of cardinals from around the world, including Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap, archbishop of Boston; Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow; Rubén Cardinal Salazar Gómez, archbishop of Bogotá; Francis Cardinal Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments; Marc Cardinal Ouellet, PSS, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Audrys Cardinal Backis, archbishop Emeritus of Vilnius; Philippe Cardinal Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon; Josip Cardinal Bozanić, archbishop of Zagreb; George Cardinal Pell, archbishop of Sydney; Franc Cardinal Rodé, CM, prefect emeritus of Congregation for Religious; and many others.

Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, continues to serve as Congress president.

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

P. M – Aug 7, 2014

Good to hear of this ; hope the churches and people there would be open to the graces through the Image and be dleivered from the scourge of greed and poverty !
Hope may be in Oklahoma city too , there could be a large Vilnius image like in Chicago , to esp. deliver those who want to side with the agent of death, destruction and hatred !
May the Fatherly gaze of the image help many to know to whom they are to belong and avoid the occasion of bringing ecil unto even untold generations !

Hope there would be enough in Ok.city to already do prayer marches around, calling on the holy angels and God’s mercy , on the living and departed, esp.children murdered through abortion , ancestors of native Americans etc , in lives of all of whom and their families, there still might be enemy claims and its related effects , at many levels !
St.Faustina and St.John Paul 11, pray for us all !
Mother Mary, take over !
Abba Father , help us to know Your goodness and power, through Your Holy Church ,in Your Son and The Spirit , to love and adore You more, as we entrust us and all in our lives, living and deceased . to Your mercy !

Next Stop: Colombia

Registration has opened for the third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM), to be held Aug. 15-19, in Bogota, Colombia.

To register, visit the official Congress website at wacomcolombia.org.

Meanwhile, according to WACOM General Secretary Fr. Patrice Chocholoski, Pope Francis has taken a personal interest in the Congress, particularly since it’s being held in the Holy Father’s home continent of South America. Following the consistory to create new cardinals in February, 17 cardinals presented the Holy Father with a letter about the Congress, and “he got directly involved in WACOM III,” Fr. Patrice said.

It’s not clear to what extent the Holy Father is involved in the plans and if he will address the Congress, either in person or via satellite. Pope Benedict opened the first WACOM in 2008 with Mass in St. Peter’s Square. He addressed the second WACOM through his Angelus, which was broadcast from Rome to WACOM attendees in Krakow, Poland, in 2011.

The upcoming Congress in Colombia is being backed by an impressive list of cardinals from around the world, including Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap, archbishop of Boston; Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow; Rubén Cardinal Salazar Gómez, archbishop of Bogotá; Francis Cardinal Arinze, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments; Marc Cardinal Ouellet, PSS, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; Audrys Cardinal Backis, archbishop Emeritus of Vilnius; Philippe Cardinal Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon; Josip Cardinal Bozanić, archbishop of Zagreb; George Cardinal Pell, archbishop of Sydney; Franc Cardinal Rodé, CM, prefect emeritus of Congregation for Religious; and many others.

Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, continues to serve as Congress president.

“Once again we will gather together people from around the world to deepen our faith in, and awareness of, the Merciful Jesus and to bring the Divine Mercy message into the daily life of the Church and the world,” said Fr. Patrice.

The structure of the Congress will be similar to the previous: five days of talks, testimonies, workshops, and festivals.

The Congress will use as its inspiration what has become the master plan for the New Evangelization in Latin America, the so called “Aparecida Document.” Written under the guidance of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), the document stems from the Fifth General Assembly of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Brazil in 2007.

On behalf of the 17 cardinals, Congress invitations have been sent to dioceses throughout the world. The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, who played a major role in the first two WACOMs, are serving a supporting role for the upcoming Congress. For instance, they crafted the English-language letter sent to dioceses.

The Marians had originally planned to organize a pilgrimage to the Congress. Instead, the Marians recommend that those who wish to attend make their own travel arrangements. However, the Marians do intend to organize those who arrive in Bogota from North America into a delegation, if participants are amenable.

“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,” said Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians’ Provincial Superior in the United States and Argentina. “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.”

For more information, visit wacomcolombia.org.

‘Announce the Divine Mercy to All Mankind’

Father Patrice Chocholski, World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM) general secretary, took some time out of his busy schedule at the Congress to discuss what WACOM is and how the whole Church is called to proclaim Divine Mercy.

Now, Father, you’ve played a role in organizing all of the Congresses?
The diocese of Bogota completely organized the Congress. As the WACOM secretariat, we invited the people. We know the delegations from all over the world, so we invited them, we motivated them. We invited also all those who have a talk or testimonies because we got to know them all over the world, but we are very grateful to the archdiocese of Bogota that offered the priests, helped to be the local organizer. We are very grateful also to all the laypeople, about 200 volunteers, that have been doing their best to organize the Congress. We are in charge also of the future of the congresses, so this is more or less our duty on this.

Where do you see WACOM’s place in the life of the Church?
WACOM wants to be an answer to the universal call to the Divine Mercy John Paul II gave on August 17-18, 2002. It was a universal call to the universal Church and also to the world, and so we feel the duty to answer this call with the whole church. We had a first Congress in Rome in 2008. Pope Benedict presided at the first Mass of the Congress. Then we were in Krakow in 2011 [where] St. John Paul II, St. Faustina [lived]. And now it is the Third World Congress. We are no longer in Europe; we are in a country where mission is first, and so this fits with the goal of John Paul II that Divine Mercy may become the paradigm of evangelization. Pope Francis, who always speaks in terms of mercy, wanted to participate to this Congress. He could not because he was already involved with Korea, but he sent his message to Cardinal Schoenborn as president of WACOM, to the Archbishop of Colombia. It is a very beautiful message in which he speaks of all the saints as an image of the Divine Mercy incarnated with the help of the unique incarnated Word, Jesus, and he calls us once again to mission. So it is very special, this Congress. It will help humanity, human kind of the third millennium, to walk in the light of Divine Mercy according to the prophecy of St. John Paul.

What has been the highlight for you of this congress so far?
Reconciliation through mercy. The world will not find peace if it does not turn itself to the Divine Mercy, the mystery of mercy, and then mission. Reconciliation and mission.

What would you say to all those Divine Mercy followers who couldn’t be at WACOM? What message would you send them?
I invite you to do the same in your country, in the United States, in your diocese, in your parishes. Be in contact with those who participated, because it is a kind of model. In the morning we have good conferences, good talks with content, we have good testimonies, we have joyful celebrations, and then in the afternoon, we go outside because mercy’s going outside to visit the poor, to visit everybody, and to bring the Divine Mercy, to announce the Divine Mercy to all mankind.

A Third Congress Will Convene!

The third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy will be held Aug. 15-19, in Bogota, Colombia. The Congress is expected to draw thousands of people, including many cardinals, and will include testimonies, lectures, street celebrations, Holy Masses, and missions.

“Once again we will gather together people from around the world to deepen our faith in, and awareness of, the Merciful Jesus and to bring the Divine Mercy message into the daily life of the Church and the world,” said Fr. Patrice Chocholski of Lyon, France, general secretary of the Congress.

The structure of the Congress will be similar to the previous: five days with talks and testimonies in the morning, workshops and mission in parishes in the afternoon, and festivals in the evening. Speakers will include Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, president of the Mercy Congress, discussing “Divine Mercy, Our Mission”; Cardinal Rubén Salazar, Archbishop of Bogota, addressing “Mercy at the Service of Reconciliation and Peace in Colombia”; and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland. Mass celebrants will include Msgr. Alapati Mata’eliga, archbishop of Apia, Samoa-Oceania; Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Lyon, France; and Msgr. Ettore Ballestrero, Apostolic Nuncio to Colombia.

The Congress will use as its inspiration what has become the master plan for the New Evangelization in Latin America, the so called “Aparecida Document.” Written under the guidance of former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), the document stems from the Fifth General Assembly of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Brazil in 2007.

As with the two previous Congresses — the first in Rome in 2008 and the second in Poland in 2011 — the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception are deeply involved in the planning, and will be organizing a pilgrimage for Marian Helpers and all who wish to attend the Congress. (We will provide updates as more information becomes available.)

“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,” said Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians’ Provincial Superior in the United States and Argentina. “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.”

We will continue to post updates on the plans at mercycongress.

‘The Light for Humankind’

Father Patrice Chocholski, general secretary of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, addresses Congress organizers in Krakow, Poland, before the close of the five-day Congress in October.

By Felix Carroll (Feb 20, 2012)
Only four months since the historic second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Poland, organizers are already gearing up for the third World Congress, planned for Bogota, Columbia, in 2013 or 2014.

In a recent video, Fr. Patrice Chocholski of Lyon, France, general secretary of the Congress, extends his gratitude to the more than 2,000 people from around the world who attended the Congress, held on the grounds of the convent where St. Maria Faustina Kowalska lived.

“Divine Mercy,” says Fr. Patrice, “is becoming the light for humankind in the third millennium.”

He describes the message of Divine Mercy as “our treasure. … So let’s give it to all people so that they may be more conscious, more aware and more motivated by the mystery of the love of God.”

View Fr. Patrice’s video:

The Congress, on Oct. 1-5, gathered Divine Mercy apostles from 69 countries to the outskirts of Krakow, where the “spark” of the modern Divine Mercy movement was lit with the revelations of St. Faustina in the 1930s.

The Congress underscored two truths: the urgency of the Divine Mercy message for the Church and the world, and the fittingness of the metaphor that defines its spread, from “spark” to “flame” to “wildfire.”

For five days, it was standing-room only inside the Basilica of Divine Mercy, a mere several hundred feet away from the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy where Jesus told St. Faustina, “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy” (Diary of St. Faustina, 300). Jesus told St. Faustina that His mercy message to her — a reinforcement of the Gospel call to turn away from sin, turn in trust to His mercy, and share His mercy with others — stands as the “spark” that “will prepare the world for My final coming” (Diary, 1732).

Among the highlights of the Congress were:

• Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, president of the Mercy Congress, called for St. Faustina to join the ranks of only 33 other saints who have been declared Doctors of the Universal Church. His Eminence announced that on behalf of the Congress, a formal request has been made to Pope Benedict XVI to bestow upon St. Faustina the distinguished ecclesiastical title of Doctor of the Church. Signatories of the request include prelates who attended the Congress — Cardinals Stanislaw Dziwisz, Audrys Juozas Backis, Stanislaw Rylko, Joseph Zen, Franciszek Macharski, and Philippe Xavier Barbarin.

Congress organizers, Cardinal Schonborn and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, pushed for drafting this formal request believing St. Faustina’s teachings of the mystery of God’s mercy — and the influence her Diary has exerted all over the world — make her eminently qualified for the title.

• Cardinal Dziwisz announced plans to found an international academy in Krakow that will serve for theological and pastoral formation on Divine Mercy.

• Inspired by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, through the person of the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC (Marian provincial superior in the U.S. and Argentina), Cardinal Schonborn announced that on behalf of the Congress representatives, a letter was sent to the Vatican proposing that the Divine Mercy message be placed at the center of the “New Evangelization” call from the Holy Father.

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen “New Evangelization” as the theme for the next world Synod of Bishops this October at the Vatican. He said the theme reflects a need to “re-evangelize in countries where Christian faith and practice have declined, and where people have even moved away from the Church.”

Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, who worked with Fr. Kaz to draft the proposal to the Holy See, says the proposal offers Divine Mercy “as a way to help people assimilate the truth of the faith, so that it becomes more deeply rooted in their hearts.

“God is infinite mercy,” says Fr. Michael, director of the Association of Marian Helpers. “We know it with our heads but not in our hearts. Divine Mercy provides us with many evangelistic tools — the Image, which is art; the Diary of St. Faustina, which is personal testimony; the Chaplet, which is personal prayer; the Three O’clock Hour of Great Mercy, which is meditative; and the Feast of Divine Mercy, which is Church-wide — to accomplish this.”

Father Kaz says the Marians have recognized “the need to expand our evangelization efforts to parishes. Our goal is to make the message of Divine Mercy more known, so that it may affect a deeper renewal in the Church worldwide. We see that wherever Divine Mercy is embraced, it produces greater love for the Lord, increased participation in the Sacraments, Eucharistic Adoration, adult faith-formation, and greater involvement in works of mercy.”

For more Mercy Congress news, visit mercycongress.org.

The Congress Conclusion is Conclusive

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, president of the Mercy Congress, is clearly pleased.

The five-day World Apostolic Congress on Mercy concluded today with an entrustment of the world to Divine Mercy here in Lagiewniki, Poland — the place where St. Faustina received her Divine Mercy revelations.

Jesus promised St. Faustina that from Poland “will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1732). Jesus has honored this promise by lighting upon her soil the “spark” through His revelations to St. Faustina.

Through deep, long breaths — or sighs of relief — from millions around the world, that spark 70 years ago has grown into flames that have brought the light of God into dark times.

Now, let’s focus on today. We’ve got some things to talk about …

+ + +

The author, Fr. Steven Payne, OCD, wrote in 2002 about this obscure and humble nun. He describes her “limited education,” saying she “never wrote a treatise or published an article,” and what she did write displayed an “imperfect literary style.” Yet, he writes, no one would have guessed that she “would soon take the world by storm and go on to become the most popular saint of modern times — ranked alongside Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.”

If you guessed St. Faustina, you’re incorrect. Payne is writing about the 19th century French cloistered Carmelite, St. Therese of Lisieux, in his book St. Therese of Lisieux: Doctor of the Universal Church. But it’s amazing to consider the similarities between the two saints — not just in terms of their backgrounds, but also the impact they each have made upon the Church and the world.

At the conclusion of the second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy today, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, president of the Mercy Congress, called for St. Faustina — this lowly Polish nun who barely had three years of schooling — to join the ranks of St. Therese and only 32 other saints who have been declared Doctors of the Universal Church.

More to the point, His Eminence announced that on behalf of the Congress, a formal request has been made to Pope Benedict XVI to bestow upon St. Faustina the distinguished ecclesiastical title of Doctor of the Church. Signatories of the request include prelates here at the Congress — Cardinals Stanisław Dziwisz, Audrys Juozas Backis, Stanisław Ryłko, Joseph Zen, Franciszek Macharski, and Philippe Xavier Barbarin.

Congress organizers, Cardinal Schonborn and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, have pushed for drafting this formal request believing St. Faustina’s teachings of the mystery of God’s mercy — and the influence that the her Diary has exerted all over the world — make her eminently qualify for the title.

Only the Pope has the authority to declare someone a Doctor of the Church, Cardinal Schonborn noted. It’s not clear if Pope Benedict XVI has any plans to bestow St. Faustina with the title, but he’s proven to be a strong advocate of St. Faustina’s revelations, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI, after praying the Angelus Sunday, addressed a message the Mercy Congress, making reference to the Congress’ theme and to St. Faustina. In a translation posted by zenit.org, he said, “Dearly beloved, reinforce your trust in the Lord through common reflection and prayer so that you will take effectively to the world the joyful message that ‘mercy is the source of hope.'”

Saint Therese was the last woman to be given the title, and that was in 1997, under Pope John Paul II.

Maybe Cardinal Schonborn was giving a big hint of his intentions on Day One of the Congress when his talk veered entirely from the one printed in the original “Congress Book.” He was scheduled to speak of the history and development of the Mercy Congresses. Instead, he spoke of the spirituality St. Therese.

All week long, attendees and clergy speculated whether the topic would be addressed during the Congress

What does it mean to be a Doctor of the Universal Church? Pope John Paul II described a Church Doctor as one whose writings not only conform with revealed truth, but that also shed “new light on the mysteries of the faith.”

For instance, St. Therese sheds light upon the “little way” — of seeking holiness in the ordinary and the everyday. Many say that St. Faustina, whose Diary includes a series of personal revelations she received from Jesus Christ in the 1930s, sheds light on the progress of the mystical life of the soul and gives an unparalleled understanding into the mystery of Divine Mercy.

Cardinal Schonborn’s announcement was met with a loud cheers today in the standing-room only Basilica of Divine Mercy, by the thousands of Congress attendees who bear witness to the profound influence the Diary of St. Faustina is having on the life and teaching of the Church.

“Her Diary, written in simple language, helps us to comprehend how God proceeds with souls,” says Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, who served as vice-postulator of St. Faustina’s canonization cause. “And it gives us a richer understanding of the relationship between mercy and love and the notion of merciful love as the source and ultimate reason for the whole of salvation.”

An Addendum:
Father Patrice Chocholski of Lyon, France, general secretary of the Congress, just stepped in the hotel lobby [it’s 9:30 p.m., and the hotel next to the sisters’ convent is the only place with WiFi]. He sat with me. I asked him about this proposal of St. Faustina being named a Doctor of the Church. Here’s what he has to say :

Her being named a doctor will be a good way to discover what is universal and deep in her teachings. It will be a work for ourselves to understand her better and to understand God better.

When Jesus said through her to “speak of My mercy” to everybody, by her becoming a Doctor will help build a new paradigm for the new millennium. We are in a new world, a new age, and we need to help a hurting world understand God. Of course, He’s the Alpha and the Omega, but [through St. Faustina and the message of The Divine Mercy] we can discover God’s face as the face of God and the face of man, and this is a project for all of humanity: to grow to become His face in the world.”

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We’ll soon provide the full text of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz’s closing remarks.

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Okay, as for announcements today, let’s review:

1.) Entrustment of the world to The Divine Mercy. Check.

2.) The request from this Congress to the Holy Father asking that St. Faustina be named a doctor of the Church. Check.

But there are three more announcements.

3.) By the grace of God, there will be a third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, and more than likely it will take place in Bogota, Columbia. In the meantime, there’s talk of another gathering in Krakow. No dates have been set.

(“We’ve received a very serious invitation from the [Conference of Catholic] Bishops in Columbia,” Cardinal Schonborn said last evening in a meeting of Congress organizers, “and I think we should really consider this … I think this is where we should consider.”)

4.) Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz announced plans to found an international academy in Krakow that will serve for theological and pastoral formation on Divine Mercy.

And then there’s:

5) Inspired by the Marians, through the person of Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC (the Marians’ Provincial Superior in the United States and Argentina), Cardinal Schonborn announced that on behalf of the Congress representatives, a letter has been sent to the Vatican proposing that the Divine Mercy message be placed at the center of a “new Evangelization” call from the Holy Father.

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen “new evangelization” as the theme for the next world Synod of Bishops in Fall 2012. He said the theme reflects a need to “re-evangelize in countries where Christian faith and practice have declined, and where people have even moved away from the Church.”

Proposals for topics must be submitted by November. This proposal will be sent in time for consideration.

“This is an amazing achievement from this Congress,” says Fr. Patrice.

It’s one achievement among many, he notes.

“I really rejoice that the Bishops and Cardinals have reached an agreement on a common project,” he said, referring not only to the Synod, but the institution of World Apostolic Congresses on Mercy as a whole, including the dozens of national Congresses held in the last two years.

“We are agreeing as a Church the need to present Divine Mercy to the world,” Fr. Patrice said, “otherwise people are afraid of God or have no idea who God is. … This is a communion, a communion of Bishops and Cardinals in agreement that Divine Mercy is an official mission of the Church — not just of devotional groups, who are very important, not just certain parishes, but the whole Church.

Here another quote from Fr. Patrice during our hotel lobby interview:

We received the call to Divine Mercy through John Paul II. We received the mission through Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Schonborn.

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Allow me to share some thoughts from Fr. Kaz at the conclusion of the Congress:

He says the effects of this historic gathering cannot be underestimated:

Hearing the talks, celebrating, singing — you’re renewed in the faith. You see the people here, and you see how they’re nourished. They’re filled with fire. The fire has been set, and now its light is reaching more and more hearts in more and more places around the world. Divine Mercy is a grassroots movement, as Fr. Seraphim says. Congress attendees have so much joy, and it shows, and their joy is contagious. When you see their enthusiasm and joy, that brings encouragement and hope to others, and this consoling message exponentially grows from there.

I mention to Fr. Kaz how sometimes Divine Mercy gatherings seem like “preaching to the choir.” And if that’s the case, the choir is getting bigger.

He says:

Yes. It’s no longer a little tiny choir. It’s a multitude of choirs singing everyplace, and these choirs are multiplying …

… Jesus understands the misery of our brokenness, the misery of sin, the misery of hopelessness, and the feeling of being rejected and not loved. Mercy is that healing balm that restores the dignity of the prodigal son, the prodigal daughter. They’re happy now, and they’re welcomed; they’re forgiven and they’re loved.

As for the Congress and the new initiatives it has spawned (re: the Synod and Faustina/Doctor of the Church) “it’s a dream come true for me,” says Fr. Kaz. With regards to the Marian Congregation, which began spreading the Divine Mercy message and devotion in 1941, Fr. Kaz says, “God is blessing us. He has been inspiring us to inspire others.”

Father Kaz says:

For us, we sense the heart of John Paul; we sense the hearts of Cardinals Schonborn and Dziwisz. Their happiness, inspiration and hope comes from the same Source. When you feel God’s love in your heart and know that same love is present in another person’s heart, this is how you create the community of the faithful with a common love and common mission.

Father Kaz also notes the great efforts of the Sisters from St. Faustina’s congregation, the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. He suggests a reason why the Lord chose a nun from that Congregation through which to spread the Divine Mercy message and devotion:

The Sisters’ mission since their founding has been to minister to young women who have become stuck in a life of moral brokenness. The Sisters have had the very difficult task to help them overcome their spiritual, moral and social conditions. I think this may be why God chose them. This is the paradigm of their mission: To show these young women the heart, to love them. There’s no condemning them; only loving them. It’s love that makes a person whole. There’s no other way. There’s no spiritual healing outside of love. If you love, love heals, and God’s love heals completely. He knows us. He knows we’re messed up. “Yes, but I love you,” He says. “I want to bring you back.” And once you’re brought back, you realize you are broken because you know yourself now, and you know God and His love for you. You know that you are forgiven, you’re loved. To discover God is to discover love, healing and wholeness.

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Look who else is at the Congress. Meet the Marians’ dear friend, Purisima Narvaez:

‘Fire’ is the Optimal Word

Allow me to encapsulate the essentials of this historic gathering:

Upon a small hilltop on the outskirts of Krakow, Poland, the “spark” of the modern Divine Mercy movement was lit with the revelations of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s.

Nearly 2,000 Divine Mercy apostles from 69 countries gathered in October on this small hilltop for the second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, an historic event with potentially major repercussions. The Mercy Congress underscored two truths: the urgency of the Divine Mercy message for the Church and the world, and the fittingness of the metaphor that defines its spread, from “spark” to “flame” to “wildfire.”

For five days, from Oct. 1-Oct 5, it was standing-room only inside the Basilica of Divine Mercy, a mere several hundred feet away from the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy where Jesus told St. Faustina, “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy” (Diary of St. Faustina, 300). Jesus told St. Faustina that His mercy message to her — a reinforcement of the Gospel call to turn away from sin, turn in trust to His mercy, and share His mercy with others — stands as the “spark” that “will prepare the world for My final coming” (Diary, 1732).

The Joy: It Shows
A spark needs fuel, oxygen, and the proper conditions for a chemical chain reaction. In the case of the Divine Mercy movement, the fuel consists of the countless lost souls searching for meaning. The oxygen consists of the evangelization efforts of those transformed through the mystery of Divine Mercy and the special gift God gave us through St. Faustina. A chain reaction is inevitable.

“The fire has been set, and now its light is reaching more and more hearts in more and more places around the world,” said Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians’ Provincial Superior in the United States and Argentina. “Congress attendees have so much joy, and it shows. When you see their enthusiasm and joy, that brings encouragement and hope to others, and this consoling message exponentially grows from there.”

Fire — purifying fire — there’s no better way to describe it.

“What’s in my heart — and what’s on the heart of everyone here — is to get this spark of Divine Mercy out into the world,” said Purisima Narvaez, a Marian Helper from Glendale, Calif., who joined a Mercy Congress pilgrimage led by the Marians.

Is There a Doctor in the House?
The bells tolled at the Basilica of Divine Mercy and in churches throughout Krakow, as the Congress commenced on Oct. 1. Five days later — on the Feast Day of St. Faustina — the impact of the event became clear.

Attendees in the Basilica roared with applause when Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, president of the Mercy Congress, called for St. Faustina to join the ranks of only 33 other saints who have been declared Doctors of the Universal Church. His Eminence announced that on behalf of the Congress, a formal request has been made to Pope Benedict XVI to bestow upon St. Faustina the distinguished ecclesiastical title of Doctor of the Church. Signatories of the request include prelates who attended the Congress — Cardinals Stanislaw Dziwisz, Audrys Juozas Backis, Stanislaw Rylko, Joseph Zen, Franciszek Macharski, and Philippe Xavier Barbarin.

Congress organizers, Cardinal Schonborn and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, pushed for drafting this formal request believing St. Faustina’s teachings of the mystery of God’s mercy — and the influence her Diary has exerted all over the world — make her eminently qualified for the title.

“Her Diary, written in simple language, helps us to comprehend how God proceeds with souls,” says Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, who served as vice-postulator of St. Faustina’s canonization cause and who helped lead the Marians’ Mercy Congress pilgrimage. “And it gives us a richer understanding of the relationship between mercy and love and the notion of merciful love as the source and ultimate reason for the whole of salvation.”

An Official Mission’
The conclusion of the Mercy Congress included two more news items. Cardinal Dziwisz announced plans to found an international academy in Krakow that will serve for theological and pastoral formation on Divine Mercy. In addition, inspired by the Marians, through the person of Fr. Kazimierz, Cardinal Schonborn announced that on behalf of the Congress representatives, a letter was sent to the Vatican proposing that the Divine Mercy message be placed at the center of the “New Evangelization” call from the Holy Father.

Pope Benedict XVI has chosen “New Evangelization” as the theme for the next world Synod of Bishops in Fall 2012. He said the theme reflects a need to “re-evangelize in countries where Christian faith and practice have declined, and where people have even moved away from the Church.”

“This is an amazing achievement from this Congress,” said Fr. Patrice Chocholski of Lyon, France, general secretary of the Congress. “We are agreeing, as a Church, the need to present Divine Mercy to the world, otherwise people are afraid of God or have no idea who God is. … This is a communion, a communion of Bishops and Cardinals in agreement that Divine Mercy is an official mission of the Church — not just of devotional groups, who are very important, not just certain parishes, but the whole Church.”

“Mercy as the Source of Hope” was the theme of the Congress, which included an entrustment of the world to The Divine Mercy, theological presentations, testimonies, Holy Masses, missions, and a special greeting from Rome from Pope Benedict XVI.

After praying the Angelus Sunday, Oct. 2, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a message the Mercy Congress, making reference to the Congress’ theme and to St. Faustina. “Dearly beloved,” he said, ” reinforce your trust in the Lord through common reflection and prayer so that you will take effectively to the world the joyful message that ‘mercy is the source of hope.'”

To show appreciation to the Marians for their pivotal role as official promoters of the Divine Mercy message and devotion since 1941, Cardinal Dziwisz presented Fr. Kaz with a first-class relic of Blessed John Paul II, known as the “Great Mercy Pope,” which will be displayed at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass.

“It’s a drop of his blood on cloth,” said Fr. Kaz. “It’s an extraordinary gift for our Shrine. Alongside St. Faustina and her confessor, Blessed Michael Sopocko, we have a relic of the third great promoter of Divine Mercy.”

The Congress follows in the heels of the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy held in Rome in 2008, an event called for by Pope Benedict XVI to perpetuate the work of Blessed John Paul II.

By the grace of God, there will be a third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy. More than likely it will take place in Bogota, Columbia. In the meantime, there’s talk of another major Divine Mercy gathering in Krakow. No dates have been set.

Day Four: We Turn to the Great Mercy Pope

Today, most of the talks and activities turn to the life and spirituality of Pope John Paul II, whose name is nearly synonymous with Divine Mercy. Following testimonies and Holy Mass here in Krakow, we’ll travel to his home town, Wadowice, where there will be an ecumenical prayer on Market Square for the intercession of Blessed John Paul II “for the mercy to the world.”

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5:30 p.m.

Just a half block away from a house at 7 Koscielna Street where the future Vicar of Christ, Blessed John Paul II, was born and raised. Bands are playing, a choir is singing, and hundreds have gather in the town square of Wadowice. Fittingly, it’s an ecumenical prayer ceremony, gathered together Lutherans, Evangelicals and Eastern Orthodox.

“John Paul formed lasting friendships here [in Wadowice] with people from many faiths, people with whom he remained close to throughout his pontificate,” says Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Krakow and former secretary to Blessed John Paul II. Town dignitaries and Church officials are assembled upon a makeshift stage in front of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the church where Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope, was baptized, confirmed, served as an altar boy, and prayed in front of its miraculous image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Led by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the gathering prayed for the intercession of Blessed John Paul II. “We pray to our beloved friend to hear our prayer — to pray through the Merciful Lord for mercy upon the world, ” said Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.

Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus has just spoken to the assembly. He announced that The Knights — the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal organization, with more than 1.8 million members — has purchased the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. The large structure is located near the campus of the Catholic University of America and the Marian Scholasticate.

“Our intention is to transform the Center into the Shrine of Blessed John Paul II,” Mr. Anderson said. “I am grateful to the Archbishop of Washington, His Eminence Donald Wuerl, who has recently designated the Center as a Diocesan Shrine, and it is out intention at the earliest practical date to request that the Center be named the National Shrine of the United States devoted to Blessed John Paul II.”

Cardinal Dziwisz then announced that he will be presenting the Knights of Columbus with a first-class relic of the late Holy Father after the conclusion of the Congress tomorrow.

“It is indeed an honor to receive a relic of Blessed John Paul II,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “This relic will be given a place of honor in Blessed John Paul’s shrine in the United States, and will serve as reminder to all of those who visit it of the saintliness of Blessed John Paul.”

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2:55 p.m.
I missed the train this afternoon to Wadowice, Pope John Paul II’s hometown, where the Congress attendees were gathering to pray for the intercession of the Church’s new blessed — for mercy to the whole world. Thanks to a group of merciful Nigerian Divine Mercy apostles, room was made for me on their bus.

We were traveling on a narrow road in the countryside when we came upon a terrible accident. In the middle of the road was a mangled automobile. To the side, by the guard rail, was a mangled motorcycle. A young man, probably on his early 20s, lay facedown in a pool of blood, clearly dead. The sirens sounded as the ambulance arrived. Our bus was directed around the accident. It was now 3 o’clock. We prayed the chaplet for the soul of the young man and any other victims of the accident.

11:15 a.m.
“Santo Subito!” — or “Sainthood now!” — was the slogan of reverence assigned to John Paul II by the faithful beginning the afternoon of his death in 2005. In the hearts of many, John Paul II already is a saint. But for now, the Great Mercy Pope, whose epic and iconic life revealed the true nature and identity of the Catholic Church, can be called “blessed” due to his intercession two months after his death.

It was then that a French nun, Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre of the Little Sisters of Catholic Motherhood, was cured from Parkinson’s Disease through the intercession of Pope John Paul II, who himself suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

Sister Marie has just finished her talk, titled, “The Healing Touch of Mercy.” Here’s the full text.

10:16 p.m.

Next up is Frederic Buttigier of Colombe, France, who was converted through the Divine Mercy message and the Diary of St. Faustina. His talk is titled, “In the World of Olympic Prizes.” He dedicates his talk to “Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Divine Mercy.” He says that several years ago he first read about St. Faustina and her revelations. He read her Diary, and soon he began practicing the Divine Mercy devotions praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy and venerating the image.

“In this Olympic year, when everywhere we will hear Faster, Higher, Stronger, i.e. the motto of the modern Olympic Games,” he says, “St. Faustina embodies these ideas in the divine dimension. As a sportsman who is used to the greatest commitments and self-sacrifices, I am very impressed or even spellbound by Sr. Faustina and her personality. We are not able to achieve the same level, but we can for sure follow her life, which was filled with love and sacrifice for a neighbor, prayers and begging for Divine Mercy for us and the whole world.”

He mentions another Olympic motto that states, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part?

“In my opinion, as Christians, we can understand this motto as a call for being the witnesses of Christ through our deeds, words and prayers.”

Here are some highlights of his talk:

• Thanks to her book, St. Faustina, has guided me to Christ — humble, noble Jesus, who does not condemn but who saves; who is omnipresent, especially in the sacrament of the Eucharist and confession. However, even the Christians do not always see Jesus the way they should.

• Lord is always ready to take us in and save each of us. We venerate the face of Jesus in the image. … And rays coming from the heart of Jesus … my dear God, let the rays coming from Your humble heart touch my heart as well as the hearts of the whole congregation gathered today. I would like to hide in their shadows not only in sacraments but also in everyday life. I would like to be changed by You, my dear God, into the herald of peace so that my language becomes merciful and my feet take me whenever someone needs me …

Frederic shares that he joined the Faustinum Association, which organizes theology courses on the spirituality Divine Mercy. He began a prison ministry, which includes distributing Divine Mercy materials to convicts. He speaks of his experience following his first meeting with convicts:

I went to church and prayed for those men with hardened hearts, who seemed to me the victims of the sinful society rather than people deserving punishment.

He speaks of his life as a competitive athlete and the opportunity it presents to share the Divine Mercy message:

One French competitor wanted to practice with me. He was a real hulk and weighed 150 kg. He agreed to pray with me in front of the Divine Mercy image, and after a few minutes I saw tears in his eyes. Now, every time he meets me, he speaks about Jesus. Jesus brought him great faith back. At church, people saw me praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy; then they started to do the same every day.

He concludes his talk with a call to “every Christian from the whole world to establish the feast of the Divine Mercy in the place where they live.” He says, “Let us take the words of our beloved Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II, “Do not be afraid to open the door to Christ!”

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9:44 a.m.

The conference and testimonies have just begun. Cardinal Schonborn notes that this day, Oct. 4, is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.

“But the blessing of this day [for us] is Blessed John Pail II, and his witness to Divine Mercy is the sustenance for our day.

Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw, Poland, takes the lectern before a standing-room-only basilica. He says it’s impossible to speak of Divine Mercy without speaking of John Paul II.

“He clearly taught us that in the economy of salvation a sin cannot be perceived as a condition of mercy but it should always be treated as an act of objection to the mystery of Redemption finally finding victory in Christ,” the Cardinal said.

Here are some highlights of his talk:

• According to John Paul II, Christ reveals the real nature of God’s mercy through His acts, and this mercy requires reciprocity and moves people’s hearts without depriving them of their freedom.

• The Second Vatican Council emphasized strongly and repeatedly that there is a specific strict connection between the words of revealing God and His acts. Words explain the sense of acts and signs, while acts — on the other hand — illustrate and confirm the truthfulness of the previously expressed words.

• Following John Paul II’s train of thoughts … Jesus Christ performs — in Himself and through Himself — the most absolute revelation of mercy — that is love, which is more powerful than sin and evil, love which lifts man up when he falls into the abyss and frees him from the greatest threats.

• John Paul II emphasizes the role of Christ’s conduct and deeds in revealing the mystery of His Father’s mercy to people.

• It is impossible to know yourself if you show no consideration towards God and exclude Him from the horizons of the life. You cannot know God if you do not know yourself.

• God desires salvation for all people, so the mission of the Church is universal. The Divine Mercy is present in the Church and it may become, in the perspective of the overall Christian and human dialogue, a special meeting place for different religions and philosophical systems. Many religions accentuate the existence of the Divine Mercy, drawing special attention to the role of mercy in human life. A proper insight into the content of different religions might indicate the basic element which connects all religions. Countless works refer to the attitude of ecumenism and hold promise for the future as they indicate the possibility of gaining the natural knowledge of God who manifests himself through mercy. As the universal sacrament of salvation, the Church is given the task of portraying God as being rich in mercy and consequently renewing everything in Christ.

7 a.m.
Yesterday afternoon, we visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, taking two old trains on an hour-and-a-half journey into the depths of horror. As we wandered through the gates and along the rusted barbed wire and the endless barracks and the fearsomely straight, one-way railroad line that cuts through the center of it all and stops dead at the gas chambers where more than a million people were murdered and their teeth removed for their gold fillings, their hair cut to the scalp for bodily insulation, their bodies desecrated by so-called doctors, the remains burnt; and as we looked at the old photos taken by the SS troops of the families they separated and the faces of the children who wear caps and knickers, and of the mothers clutching tightly to infants, I thought, “How in the world will I explain this to my wife when I get home?”

There were something like 1,500 of us there from the Mercy Congress. We comprised a procession of plaintive prayer/song. We were led through the camp by a group of Cardinals, including Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, and Christoph Schönborn of Austria, president of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy.

We gathered at what’s called a “monument,” between the ruins of two gas chambers and crematoriums that the Nazis numbered with cold efficiency — building II and building III. We came to a halt there. But it’s not really a monument. It’s more of an area created to accommodate groups like ours with speakers who have prepared to stop, formally, and sort out all this terror and evil, if such a thing is possible (and I don’t think that it is). I imagine John Paul II, the great apostle of The Divine Mercy, came closest when, during a visit there in 1979, he called Auschwitz “the Golgatha of our time.”

While the ceremony got started, I wandered out of range to walk among the barracks and the ruins. I wondered where that undergound bunker was where that beautiful saint, Maximilian Kolbe — prisoner #16670 — died of starvation. You probably know the story: When he heard a condemned man cry out, “My wife! My children!” St. Maximilian volunteered to die in his place. Among the other condemned men kept in this bunker, Maximilian led in song and prayer, and gave witness, telling them that they would soon be with Mary in Heaven.

That bunker was somewhere out on those plains of low and long barracks that resemble chicken shacks, somewhere within firing range of one of those dreadful wooden guard towers. I could hear singers singing Ave Maria in Polish, pronouncing the lyrics in hard right angles. … Anyway, too many thoughts to gather during a Congress whose pace leaves no time for stopping. I figured it was time to pay attention to the talks at that monument and write some notes, which I did. It can be summed up thusly: In the end, our home rests in God, and goodness and mercy triumph over evil. The camp officials that oversee Auschwitz have seen to it that steel beams be installed to prop up sections of walls of the gas chambers. Why not let these buildings be overtaken by nature? Because evil doesn’t get off that easy. It’s there for all to see. At the end of the ceremony, the choir sang in Latin — it sounded like they were chiseling an inscription of beauty for the ages. When the singing finally stopped and everything fell to silence, an infant started wailing — a wail that cut through the air, the only reasonable inscription for the moment. I thought, “Maybe the choir wasted its breath.” That child’s cry was the days’ greatest moment of eloquence.