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.”
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 …
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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.”
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.”
+ + +
We’ll soon provide the full text of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz’s closing remarks.
+ + +
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.
+ + +
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.
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:
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.
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.”
+ + + 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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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.
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!”
+ + + 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.
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.
We’re all off to Auschwitz for a day trip. We’ll be walking through the camp in silence with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, and Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Austria, president of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy.
Before boarding the train, I caught up with Marian Helper Deacon Vincent Ricciardi …
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His plain-spokeness at the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Rome, 2008, garnered him many admirers. To the delight of attendees here at the second Mercy Congress, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin (Lyon, France) is back. It was His Eminence who, in 2002, famously challenged his flock in Lyon to “Turn off the TV and turn on the Gospel.” It was also he who shares two secrets of happiness in the religious life: Give your life totally to God, and pray daily.
At the noon Mass at the Basilica of Divine Mercy, His Excellency served as holist.
Day Three’s conference and testimonies begin with Archbishop Wladyslaw Ziólek whose talk is titled “Sister Faustina as Secretary and Apostle of Divine Mercy.”
The Archbishop is from Lodz, Poland. Diary readers may remember that St. Faustina was born in the village of Glogowiec near Lodz in 1905. One evening in Lodz when she was 20-years old, she was dancing at a party when Jesus appeared to her. He was stripped and covered with wounds. Everything surrounding Faustina disappeared. She only saw Him. He asked her, “How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting me off?” (Diary, 9). At His instruction, she ran to the cathedral in Lodz to pray. There, she heard these words from Jesus: “Go immediately to Warsaw, and there you will enter a convent.” The rest, of course, is history.
The Archbishop noted the historic effect the revelations of St. Faustina have had in revitalizing the Church and its adherents. The apostolic movement of Divine Mercy, originating from St. Faustina’s revelations, has enlivened the religious life and led to countless conversions and re-conversions, he said.
“They learn and contemplate the mysteries of the Divine Mercy, plead them for themselves and the world,” he said. “The movement unites many thousands of followers from all around the world. Cloistered orders, active congregations, old and new communities, groups, brotherhoods, associations and individuals participate in the Movement.
Father Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians’ Provincial Superior in the United States and Argentina, says “The Congress is helping people come to know God as a God of mercy who can cure us from our brokenness, our sinfulness and our fears.”
The Congress is an exciting time to be Christian, a Divine Mercy apostle, and a Marian Father, he says.
Father Kaz, as everyone knows, is famously unstoppable, yet we actually managed to stop him for a moment. Here he is …
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I’m on a roll. Last evening I also managed to stop another unstoppable: Marie Romagnano, RN, founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers. Marie has near-celebrity status here at the Mercy Congress. Word of her apostolate precedes her.
What does the Mercy Congress mean to her and her healthcare apostolate? Listen in …
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If you have never met Fr. Dante Aguero, MIC, you’re missing out. He’s a humble servant and a zealous apostle of Divine Mercy. The Marian priest from Argentina gives us a report just outside the Basilica of Divine Mercy …
7 p.m. Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, the vice-postulator of St. Faustina’s canonization cause, spoke before a packed crowd at the Dominican Church in Krakow this afternoon. You can listen to part of his talk while gazing at the Image of The Divine Mercy.
So it’s onward … to write about an intriguing speech in Krakow this evening on why St. Faustina is qualified to become a Doctor of the Church.
Also, I met Cardinal Schonborn today during breakfast. He agreed to an interview later in the week.
In the Basilica, the Holy Father’s words to Congress attendees were just broadcast. Following the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims. The official translation from English is below, followed by a translation from Polish provided by the very helpful press secretary here, Klaudia Tarczon.
In English, the Holy Father said:
… In particular, I extend cordial greetings to the participants in the Second International Congress on Divine Mercy in Krakow, and to the students from Iona College, Australia. The Gospel of today’s liturgy spurs us to pray for all who work in the Lord’s vineyard, especially where they face violence and threats because of their faith. May God grant them, and all of us, strength in our service to him and to one another. God bless all of you!
The translation from Polish:
With a special greeting,I invoke to the organizers and participants of the second World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy, which these days takes place in Krakow in Lagiewniki. My Dears, by common reflection and prayer, make your faith stronger in the Lord, in the way it allows you to carry more effectively the Good News to the world that mercy is the source of hope. God bless you!
10:30 a.m. Holy Mass, the Basilica of Divine Mercy
Divine Mercy is the hope for the contemporary world. Not a hope, but the hope.
Day Two of the Mercy Congress has begun with morning prayer followed by Holy Mass here in the Basilica of the Divine Mercy. The chief celebrant and homilist is Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity.
“Your presence here is a clear sign of the fact that today the message of Divine Mercy that has originated from the Lagiewniki convent [where St. Faustina lived] reaches the farthest corners of the world,” he said, addressing both the attendees of the Mercy Congress and those listening through radio and television.
Clearly, that’s no exaggeration. Television stations are covering the event, cameras attached to booms. Radio stations have microphones trained on the proceedings. Press from around the world are packing the press room, filing stories to places far and wide (when the Internet connection complies).
This Congress — and the attention it has garnered — is a “sign of the times,” said the Cardinal, who has gained notoriety in calling for Christians to be courageous disciples of Christ in a secular world.
In view of the huge scale of problems, fears and crisis in the modern world, the Church must see as its prime task to inspire young people who lack faith in the future, noted Cardinal Rylko, who organized of World Youth Day in 1989 and 1991.
“That is why, in the Lagiewniki Sanctuary, we primarily look for the motifs of hope, faithfully gazing at the face of the Merciful Jesus and listening to His words addressed to Sr. Faustina, ‘Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy,'” (Diary of St. Faustina, 300).
His Eminence titled his homily, “Divine Mercy as the Hope to the World.”
And, indeed, all hope is not lost to the present generation, he said, addressing the crowd that includes devotees of Divine Mercy who range from teens clutching iPhones to elderly in wheelchairs. The thousands gathered here are from different countries and different social stratum. Yet all consider themselves “family,” joined in unity with the Merciful Savior who transforms hearts of stone to hearts of love.
No locale could better suit such a “family reunion” as here upon this small hilltop where in the 1930s, in a convent a mere 300 yards from this pulpit, where Jesus told St. Faustina to “Proclaim that mercy is the great attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy,” (Diary, 301).
“Here,” said Cardinal Rylko, “you can almost tangibly feel the particular concentration of difficult human affairs, problems, suffering, often frantic search for the meaning of life.”
Furthermore, he noted, it was here where Blessed John Paul II on Aug. 17, 2002, famously entrusted the world to The Divine Mercy. “May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world,” the Holy Father said. “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.”
Our own Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, often makes note of this quote. “That’s a startling phrase,” he has said. “Some people just gloss right over it. But the Pope took the word of the Lord seriously, and he calls it a ‘binding promise.’ … So when people ask me why is the message of Divine Mercy important for the world today, the answer is simple: Through the message of Divine Mercy, our Lord is preparing us for His final coming.”
It all adds up. In Lagiewniki, St. Faustina promised the Lord she would follow His command to “conquer souls” (Diary, 1488).
How many souls have been conquered since then? How many have recognized sin as the barrier to God’s love? How many have encountered God’s tender mercy through the message of The Divine Mercy?
Thousands. Maybe millions!
“It’s a message that keeps growing and growing, by the grace of God,” said Antonio DelBello, a Divine Mercy apostle from Switzerland.
But Cardinal Rylko hastens to add that God’s love remains “unrequited and rejected” to much of the world. That’s why this Mercy Congress and this locale are crucial to the conversion of the world. They serve as “a kind of school of hope,” he said.
He exhorted the attendees of the Mercy Congress — those who “have met Merciful Christ in their lives and let Him touch them personally and transform their lives” — to be “apostles of hope” and “brave advocates of the message that originated here in Lagiewniki.”
“Christ relies on you very much,” Cardinal Rylko said in conclusion. The Congress proves that the “evangelical harvest is really plentiful, but the workers are unfortunately still few.”
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Father Joseph Roesch, MIC, is here with many of his fellow Marians. What does this Mercy Congress mean to the Marians, who have been official promoters of the Divine Mercy message and devotion since 1941?
A lot. Check it out …
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I have videos to share, but the Internet connection here has been slow or non-existent. Pray for me. Thanks!
The bells tolled at the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, Poland, just after 2 p.m. today — but they weren’t the only bells ringing.
“Churches throughout the Archdiocese of Krakow are ringing as well,” announced Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, standing before a crowd of more than 2,000 people on the very spot where Blessed Pope John Paul II entrusted the world to Divine Mercy.
Photo: Marie Romagnano, RN The calm before the Congress. Marie Romagnano, RN, took this photo of the basilica and the sisters’ convent this morning. Marie is the founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marians in Stockbridge, Mass. We’ll be interviewing Marie later on …
The bells marked the commencement of the second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, whose reverberations will undoubtedly be heard and felt beyond Lagiewniki, where St. Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, received many of her revelations. They will be heard and felt beyond metropolitan Krakow, too, where in 1967 a man named Karol Wojtyla, then Archbishop of Krakow, submitted documents about Faustina to the Vatican requesting the start of the process of her beatification. That man became Pope John Paul II. He beatified Sr. Faustina in 1993 and canonized her the first saint of the new millennium in 2000.
Through the pilgrims from 69 countries who have packed the Basilica, those reverberations undoubtedly will continue to resound throughout the world.
The Congress theme is “Mercy as the Source of Hope.”
“We’re here because we love Jesus and we loved John Paul II and we love St. Faustina,” said Carol Kennedy, from Great Britain, who is attending the Congress with a group of her parishioners.
Cardinals, bishops and clergy from throughout the world are among the attendees. Most conspicuous in the crowd are the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, whose distinctive, squared-off veils are a profound reminder of their famous fellow sister, Faustina (1905-1938), a lowly nun who died here in the convent just as her revelations were first becoming known.
“From the Lagiewniki hill, the mystery of God who is rich in mercy is reminded to the world,” said Cardinal Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, who spent 40 years working side-by-side with Pope John Paul II. “This is the place from which the message full of hope that Jesus gave to mankind through St. Sr. Faustina and Blessed John Paul II was sent to the world.”
Through the Mercy Congress — five days of talks, testimonies, prayer, song, Holy Mass, and fellowship — attendees look forward to growing ever zealous, ever courageous, ever inspired to bear witness to the world to our Merciful Savior, the Cardinal said.
“Christ is speaking to us just as He once did to St. Sr. Faustina: Tell [all people], My daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself,” said Cardinal Dziwisz, quoting from St. Faustina’s Diary, passage 1074.
“We come from various parts of the world: Europe and Africa, America and Asia, Australia and Oceania,” said Cardinal Dziwisz. “We all feel drawn by this call of Christ from the Upper Room: As the Father has sent Me, so I send you” (Jn 20: 21-23).
The opening day includes Holy Mass. The Chief Celebrant is Cardinal Audrys J. Backis of Vilnius, Lithuania, a city where Faustina also lived. The homilist is Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, SDB, of China.
Before the celebration of Holy Mass, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, president of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy and Archbishop of Vienna, spoke of the purpose of the Mercy Congress.
“The main objective,” he said, “is to focus on the life of parishes, congregations and movements on mercy and its radiance. Parishes … are a perfect setting to exercise mercy and thus be a visible sign of God’ love. God in His beauty expresses himself and gives himself by the splendor of Mercy. The local ecclesial community can offer Him to the world in so far as they too shine out with this Mercy.”
“Divine Mercy,” said Cardinal Schonborn, “has the power to change the world.”
Tomorrow in Rome, during his Angelus, Pope Benedict XVI will extend a message to Mercy Congress participants.
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For anyone interested, the Mercy Congress is being broadcast on the Internet. Check it out.
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Hey, look who we just ran into — John Canavan, a Marian Helper from Australia. Check out our video (he pulls his dear friend, the famous Catholic painter Tommy Canning, in for a cameo … Tommy, you’re a good sport!).
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The Congress is set to begin in three hours, and who is that over there? None other than Fr. Patrice Chocholski of France, the general secretary of the Mercy Congress. He sat with us for a few minutes to share his thoughts on the importance of this gathering, how the Divine Mercy movement has spread throughout the world, and whether the Congress will include an ecclesiastical push to declare St. Faustina a Doctor of the Church (that’s been the rumor).
What is this Mercy Congress such an historic event?
“As Fr. Seraphim Michalenko says, Divine Mercy is the biggest movement in the history of the Catholic Church,” says Fr. Patrice, referring to our own Fr. Seraphim, who served as vice postulator for St. Faustina’s beatification and canonization.
What makes the promotion of the Divine Mercy message and devotion particularly special, says Fr. Patrice, is that is has been brought about by the laity. “People around the world have been transformed by the need of Christ’s mercy in their lives,” he says.
“The Church has been listening, and now it’s speaking,” Fr. Patrice says.
Priests, bishops and cardinals have acknowledged the importance of Divine Mercy in the life of the Church, says Fr. Patrice, and now those same priests, bishops and cardinals are working hard to propagate this message and support the laity.
He refers to Archbishop Alapati L. Mataeliga of Samoa who recently spoke at New Zealand’s national Mercy Congress.
“The Archbishop of Somoa said, ‘Yes, I tell my priests to be with these people. It will be good for you. When there is a Congress on mercy, I’m here all the time, because it is good for me.’ This is what Cardinal Barbarin of France also says. He says that every time he participates in a gathering of Divine Mercy devotees something new is created within him. He says, ‘It changes me, it transforms me. There is always something new that brings me to a better relationship with the Lord and also allows me to discover the beauty of the Church, which pushes us to its mission.'”
During the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Rome in 2008, it was clear the “lay people were already convinced” of the importance of Divine Mercy, says Fr. Patrice. “And now, through the lay people, [Divine Mercy] belongs to the Church. The Church needs it.”
Pope Benedict XVI is expected to make a statement tomorrow from Rome to the Mercy Congress attendees. How much is the Holy Father involved in the Congress?
“Through his bound of friendship with Cardinal Schonborn,” says Fr. Patrice, “… it is clear he is concerned with this. They meet very often … [and the Holy Father] always encourages these Congresses and speaks very often of Divine Mercy.”
Cardinal Schonborn will speak today about how Divine Mercy sparks a “true renewal of our being, our relationship with the Merciful God,” says Fr. Patrice. “This creates renewal in ourselves and our relationships with others, and Pope Benedict is very convinced of this and has been from the beginning of his pontificate.”
What makes this Congress different from the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy?
“This Congress will be a true expression of communion in the mission of The Divine Mercy in the whole world,” Fr. Patrice says. “So many countries, so many movements, so many congregations all together will be witnesses to The Divine Mercy. This a great event. I’m sure that it will be a new impulse in this mission to give witness to Divine Mercy all around the world … that we need Divine Mercy.”
He adds, “Even people who don’t know of St. Faustina have placed great importance on the message Christ shared through her.”
That message, put simply, is that God is Mercy; that He loves us no matter who we are and what we have done; He wants us to reach for Him, to allow Him to enter our heart and lives; and furthermore, we are obligated to share His mercy through loving and serving each other.”
“Divine Mercy is the second name of God,” says Fr. Patrice. “This is a way to meet Him, a way to be in a deep relationship with Him. So Divine Mercy becomes the Light that changes our relationship with people. We become apostles of this Light.”
Why now, in this particular moment of history?
“In Europe and elsewhere in the world, [society] has become more materialistic, more aggressive, more [individualistic],” says Fr. Patrice. “Whereas Divine Mercy pushes us to live each day with the goodness of God, the trust of God. As Cardinal Schonborn will express today, through Divine Mercy we learn to have a deep trust in God. … that we belong to Him.”
Okay, one final matter.
There’s a buzz here regarding whether through this Congress there will be a push made to declare St. Faustina a Doctor of the Church. After all, she is arguably the most popular saint of modern times. Her Diary — 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.
Could she join the ranks of St. Therese and only 32 other saints who have been declared Doctors of the Universal Church? Does Fr. Patrice have anything to share about this?
He smiles. He pauses.
“She is a gift to the whole church, not just Poland. She’s really universal. The Lord says through her that we are to speak of His mercy to the whole world.”
But will there be a push here to honor her with this distinguished ecclesiastical title?
He smiles. “I’m sure that you should interview Cardinal Schonborn on this matter … because it belongs to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
By the way, some of the biggest names in the Church will be participating. View the VIP list.
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With a zeal to bring the Divine Mercy message into the daily life of the Church and the world, thousands of people from around the world are disembarking here at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, Poland, on the grounds of the convent where in the 1930s St. Faustina received many of her revelations.
The five-day World Apostolic Congress on Mercy begins tomorrow at 9 a.m.
The Congress is nothing short of an historic event in the life of the Church, “opening a new chapter in our understanding more and more the mystery of Divine Mercy and the special gift God gave us through St. Faustina and John Paul,” says Sr. Gaudia of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.”
View our interview with Sr. Gaudia …
“We believe that the Divine Mercy is the keyword, the paradigm for a new evangelization. It will be the light guiding humankind of the third millennium,” said Fr. Fr. Patrice Chocholski of Lyon, France, general secretary of the Congress.
The Congress follows in the heels of the historic first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM) held in Rome, Italy, on April 2-6, 2008, an event called for by Pope Benedict XVI to perpetuate the work of Blessed John Paul II, the Great Mercy Pope.
“Mercy as the Source of Hope” is the theme for the Congress, which will include testimonies, lectures, street celebrations, Holy Masses, missions, and a day trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. A Church congress is a Vatican-approved gathering focusing on a particular aspect of the faith — in this case, mercy.
Appropriately, the venue is here in Lagiewniki, home of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska received many of her revelations here, which she recorded in her Diary — a book that has since sparked a worldwide missionary front in the name of Jesus, The Divine Mercy.
The venue serves to underscore the critical role the message of The Divine Mercy now has in the Universal Church.
At the conclusion of the first Congress, our Holy Father encouraged pilgrims to return home to sure up an apostolic beachhead in which the zeal of the Mercy Congress could take root and flourish.
“Go to the world and be witnesses of Divine Mercy,” Pope Benedict XVI urged participants.
Bridging the two World Congresses were national Congresses held throughout the world, including the North American Congress on Mercy, in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14-15, 2009.
The beatification on May 1 — Divine Mercy Sunday — of John Paul II, provides the perfect lead-in to the Mercy Congress. In his writings and homilies, Pope John Paul II described Divine Mercy as the answer to the world’s problems and the message of the third millennium.
In 1997 he visited then-Blessed Faustina’s tomb here in Lagiewniki and proclaimed: “There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy. … From here went out the message of Mercy that Christ Himself chose to pass on to our generation through Blessed Faustina.”
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow and longtime aide to Pope John Paul II, is host of the Mercy Congress. Among the many cardinals and bishops who will participate will be Cardinal Christopher Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, who served as master of ceremonies for the World Congress in Rome.
Among the many highlights, Pope Benedict XVI will present a special message to Congress attendees.
“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 the vice-president of the North American Mercy Congress. “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.”
It was a meeting of presidents. The topics were mapping, mercy, and mandates. Gratitude and eagerness were the sentiments.
The players were Fr. Matthew Mauriello, president of the North American Congress on Mercy, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Austria, president of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy.
During a pilgrimage in Europe, Fr. Matthew took the opportunity for an impromptu meeting of the minds in Vienna on May 19 with Cardinal Schönborn.
“We talked about the past, the present, and the future,” reported Fr. Matthew upon his return to the United States.
The past includes the Church’s first-ever World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, held in Rome in April 2008.
The present includes national and continental Mercy Congresses being held around the world. (The North American Congress on Mercy was held Nov. 14-15, in Washington, D.C.)
The future includes regional Mercy Congresses around the world followed by a second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy.
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.
A Family of Mercy
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception have assisted in the planning of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy and the North American Congress on Mercy. The Marians will host the Northeast Regional gathering of the North American Congress on Mercy on Oct. 2, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass. Father Mauriello will be among the speakers.
The second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy is scheduled for Krakow, Poland, in October 2011. Father Mauriello, pastor of St. Roch’s Parish in Greenwich, Conn., will again lead the delegation from the United States.
Father Matthew said his meeting with His Eminence Cardinal Schönborn began with an expression of mutual gratitude.
“He told me how he had been briefed of the successful Congress we had here in North America,” said Fr. Matthew.
“I congratulate you on your efforts,” Cardinal Schönborn said to Fr. Matthew. “I congratulate all of you and commend you.”
Father Matthew then expressed his appreciation for Cardinal Schönborn and his efforts to fulfill the Holy Father’s mandate for the Mercy Congress.
“It’s all coming together,” Cardinal Schönborn said of the world, continental and regional congresses. “We are like one big family.”
“You’re our official Daddy of the Mercy Congress,” Fr. Matthew told His Eminence.
“I’m a very absent Daddy, I’m afraid,” Cardinal Schönborn said. “There are so many Congresses going around the world now, and of course I cannot be at all of them.”
“So I pointed to his chest and said, ‘I know, but I’m sure you always have us in your heart,'” said Fr. Matthew.
“It’s true,” Cardinal Schönborn said.
Father Matthew said in an interview last week that the moment was touching, sincere, and edifying.
The Holy Father’s Mandate
The two men then discussed how to proceed. They agreed the top priority is to ensure all future events follow the Holy Father’s mandate given at the conclusion of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy.
“Go forth and be witnesses of God’s mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his Regina Caeli address on April 6, 2008.
“We have to continue to be witnesses of the Lord’s mercy,” Cardinal Schönborn said.
Father Matthew said Cardinal Schönborn shared his thoughts on what should be given most prominence in all Mercy Congress gatherings.
In order of importance, the focus should be:
• Theology — the study of mercy based on scripture and Church tradition.
• Spirituality — taking the Lord’s mercy and “living the mercy message” through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
• Devotions — the channels for the outpouring of Christ’s grace. As evidenced at the World Congress and North American Congress, a large majority of attendees are Divine Mercy apostles who practice the devotions given to St. Faustina.
Before their meeting, Fr. Matthew had the opportunity to concelebrate the morning Mass with Cardinal Schönborn at his private chapel adjacent to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the mother church of the Archdiocese of Vienna.
The Vienna meeting followed on the heels of a gathering of continental coordinators held on April 30 in Budapest, Hungary. Father Matthew, who attended that gathering, said it served to “rally the troops to pull together for the second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Krakow.”