By Chris Sparks (Oct 22, 2016)
The second North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM II), running from Oct. 21-22, 2016, is being held at the Prince of Peace Catholic Community in Houston, Texas. Gathering internationally renowned speakers, authors, and witnesses to Divine Mercy, the Congress aims to prepare the faithful to be “holy doors of mercy” through the end of the Jubilee Year and beyond. Our coverage will continue throughout the Congress.
View our photo gallery from the day.
Happy feast of St. John Paul II! The low rumble of the Congress attendees and parish early birds praying the Rosary together is echoing behind me at Prince of Peace Catholic Community in Houston, Texas, site of NACOM II. We’re awaiting the opening of the day soon, as well as Mass with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Texas. Father Donald Calloway just arrived and is getting settled in at the giftshop right now. He’ll be doing book signings later. It’ll be another busy, blessed day at NACOM II in this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, an oasis of grace and fellowship in an extraordinarily tempestuous time in the United States and around the world.
It’s more than ever appropriate to pray, “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world!”
What a morning.
First, Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers, opened day two at NACOM II with the same prayer from the votive Mass of Divine Mercy that we all offered the day before.
Then Fr. Seraphim Michalenko took the ambo.
The recent Holy Fathers had said that the Divine Mercy revelations are among the most important for our times, he explained. “Pope Benedict XVI said that Divine Mercy is not a secondary (or, more accurately, second-rate) devotion, but an integral part of a Christian’s faith and prayer.”
He discussed the mercy of God manifesting itself in creation, and how that mercy intended to make us sons and daughters of God by grace from the beginning of the world. Father Seraphim talked about how the morality of the Old Testament is directed at training us in mercy, at bringing the inner temple of our hearts into conformity with the external worship offered at the stone Temple of the Old Testament. He reminisced about conversations he’d had with then-Fr. Vanhoye (now Cardinal Vanhoye), an expert on the Letter to the Hebrews, about similarities between Fr. Vanhoye’s scholarship and the teaching of St. Faustina in her Diary. “To put sinful man in contact with the true God, there must be a mediator,” Fr. Seraphim explained. “When Christ came, He established the way. He founded the covenant.” He is the Mediator between God and man, the Way, the Truth, the Life — and the Mercy Incarnate.
It was a tremendously rich teaching from one of the men who saw to it that the Divine Mercy message and devotion got established in the Church and around the world, and so reminded us all prophetically of the singular importance of Divine Mercy in God’s plan of salvation and sonship for us all.
Then Fr. Chris took the stage for a brief run-through of Divine Mercy 101.
He briefly touched on the elements of the Divine Mercy devotion (FINCH: Feast, Image, Novena, Chaplet, Hour) and explored the difference between mere natural forgiveness and supernatural mercy. “Mercy is the nucleus of the Gospel,” he proclaimed. Quoting Fr. Seraphim, Fr. Chris explained that “mercy is loving the unlovable and forgiving the unforgivable.”
“Mercy is the highest mode of the highest virtue. You can’t do better than that.”
As part of this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Fr. Chris encouraged everyone present to gain their Jubilee Year plenary indulgence each day, if they hadn’t already. (It’s easy to gain the indulgence!) Indeed, he called on everybody to make it a habit to gain a plenary or a partial indulgence every day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, especially by using four means in particular of gaining a plenary indulgence (while observing the usual conditions): making the Stations of the Cross; Eucharistic Adoration; the Holy Rosary; or reading the Bible (all under certain conditions).
And then the Congress celebrated Mass. The Knights of Columbus from the parish served as an honor guide for the procession in and out of the parish. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, was the main celebrant. He welcomed the Congress to his archdiocese and spoke of how appropriate it was that we should be celebrating the Feast of St. John Paul II together, the Holy Father who had done so much to establish Divine Mercy in the Church and the world.
During his homily, the cardinal spoke about the Divine Compassion, so evident in the Gospel of John, and the way in which we are called to contemplate the pierced Heart of Jesus, which is the Heart of the Father. We are invited in this manner to abide in contemplation of the mercy of God. We are called, then, to go out and convey that mercy to the world by our words and actions.
Here’s Cardinal DiNardo’s homily:
The St. Mary seminary choir from the Galveston-Houston archdiocese sang throughout, including leading the congregation in the official hymn for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
After the Mass, Fr. Kaz led the cardinal and the entire assembly in praying St. John Paul II’s entrustment of the entire world to the Divine Mercy.
Then we heard from Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, about the Mother of Mercy, the Blessed Virgin Mary. He had the crowd laughing at every turn, speaking of the Mother of Mercy as our mother, as the mother shared with us by Jesus out of His infinite mercy, as the fulfillment of a divine plan set in place before the foundations of the earth.
He shared with the people that even as the Jubilee Year of Mercy is coming to a close, we are rapidly approaching the centennial of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima in Portugal, where she appeared under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary. We are called, then, to become champions of the Rosary, said Father, and he shared with the pilgrims his recently released, best-selling book Champions of the Rosary: The History and Heroes of a Spiritual Weapon.
Father Jan Machniak opened the afternoon sessions. Father Machniak has been a long-time collaborator with some of the leading promoters of the Divine Mercy around the world, such as Cardinal Macharski and Cardinal Dziwisz. He is a scholar and author of a number of books on the Divine Mercy.
Father Machniak opened by leading everyone in a rendition of “The mercy of God I will sing forever” in Latin. He then gave an overview of the papal involvement and promotion of Divine Mercy across the years, starting with Karol Wojtyla, the young St. John Paul II, praying at St. Faustina’s tomb in Lagiewniki during World War II, and continuing with Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.
After Fr. Machniak, the Congress heard the testimony of Nurse Marie Romagnano, a long-time friend of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and the founder of the Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers.
“Why is a nurse talking today? Because at some point in our lives, we are all nurses,” Marie explained. “We all have parents or family members we will take care of at some point.”
She shared with the Congress the way in which Divine Mercy had helped her grow in her faith, a faith she had first rediscovered when she was confronted with the loss of a child who had been under her care.
“The Lord said, ‘You be there to do everything I want you to do. After that, it’s up to Me.’ I’m only God’s instrument.”
This helped push her down the road of developing methods of care that take into account both the spiritual and physical needs of patients, methods which she shares through Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, spiritual retreats, their annual conference, and through her booklet Nursing with the Hands of Jesus: A Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy.
After Nurse Marie’s presentation, the Congress watched a video message from Dr. Bryan Thatcher, founder of the Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy, another apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
And the Congress is complete.
During the 3 o’clock hour, Fr. Seraphim Michalenko led the Congress in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, instructing all to join in praying the “Eternal Father, I offer you” from the beginning to the end, since all are empowered by their baptismal priesthood to unite their prayers and intentions spiritually with the Eucharistic sacrifice offered by the ministerial priesthood.
When that time of prayer concluded, Fr. Chris Alar offered a brief but powerful meditation on the power of prayer, inspired by one wise priest’s teaching in response to hearing of Fr. Chris’ grandmother’s suicide.
The wise priest had instructed then-Chris Alar to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for his grandmother. Chris had argued, “But Father, she’s dead. I hope she’s in Heaven; I hope she’s not in hell; she may be in Purgatory; but she’s already there, wherever she is.”
The priest responded, “But prayer reaches God, who is outside of time.”
He explained the mystery in light of the Immaculate Conception. The Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin in light of the merits of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, none of which had happened in time by the time the Blessed Virgin was conceived. And yet, because God is eternal, the actions of God in time have a certain eternal quality. All grace comes through Jesus Christ, even graces received in the times before the Incarnation.
So, the priest told Chris Alar, your prayers may make the difference for your grandmother’s soul, for as St. Faustina and other great saints have told us, Jesus comes to souls at the last moments and offers them a final chance to choose Him. If the souls have long trained their hearts away from God, they may not recognize Him when He comes. But our prayers, even prayers said after their deaths, may make all the difference in the world.
After that powerful presentation, Fr. Chwalek wrapped up the Congress with several final tributes to the Knights of Columbus, to Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, and to Catholic Olympian Simone Biles and her grandparents, all of whom have been powerful advocates for and servants of the Divine Mercy. After thanking the participants and all who worked to make this Congress a reality, especially Alan Napleton and the Catholic Marketing Network, Ken Zammit and the Fullness of Truth apostolate, and Prince of Peace Catholic Community, Fr. Kaz declared the Congress closed.
More to come!