Love: The Measure of Success

By Chris Sparks (Aug 19, 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!

I can’t believe we’re at the end of WACOM already. So many faces have become familiar here; so much goodwill has been shared between pilgrims from vastly different backgrounds and very distant lands. My Spanglish has come along remarkably well, although I must admit that by the end of the Congress, I’d begun to mix French, Italian, German, and English when I tried to speak to the volunteers or my fellow pilgrims.

And yet, somehow, everyone still managed to communicate that they loved one another.

View our WACOM: Day Five photo gallery.

9 a.m.
We’re back at the Colegio Agustiniano Ciudad Salitre for the last day of WACOM III. On this feast of St. John Eudes, the morning prayer and reflection were led by Fr. Camilo Bernal, CJM, the superior general of the Eudists. He offered a reflection on the founder of his order and the teaching of St. John Eudes, the great promoter of devotion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts.

We began the Congress on the solemnity of the Assumption and concluded on the feast of St. John Eudes. This Congress on the Divine Mercy was contained within the Two Hearts throughout.

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn then proceeded to offer some closing remarks, punctuated by regular applause.

11 a.m.
Cardinal Schoenborn, Congress president, and Fr. Patrice Chocholski, general secretary of the Congress, led the assembly in lectio divina as a way of preparing our hearts, minds, and souls for a time of reflection and discernment about WACOM.

Then Fr. Patrice asked everyone to form cenacles, or discussion and prayer groups based around language of around a dozen people apiece. The organizers asked the participants several questions, including:

* Could you tell us what you perceive as the call of the Lord through the Congress concerning the mission entrusted to us?

* Which calls & impulses do you feel for the future?

Some of the answers from one of the English language groups included a call to deeper prayer while still “rowing the boat,” or combining more prayer with persistent action in the service of the Divine Mercy message and devotion. Participants also spoke of the importance of refraining from judging others, especially their enemies, for whom they must pray, remembering that all humans are brethren. They also emphasized the need to reach out to the young, who are the future of the Church and the Divine Mercy movement.

Father Patrice and Adriana Maria Vargas, a member of the communications staff for the Archdiocese of Bogota and one of the emcees who had served throughout the Congress, then went into the audience and asked representatives from an array of the different groups to share their group’s answers with the rest of the Congress, making the exercise a powerful time of world-wide discernment of the Lord’s will for the Divine Mercy movement.

Wow. I just learned that beneath the floor of the gymnasium is the chapel for this school. I went down below because an announcement had been made that sounded like the litany of the saints.

And lo and behold — there was the Eucharistic Lord Jesus in the monstrance on the altar, flanked by about 10 reliquaries and around that many relics of saints. Saint John Paul II was there, as was St. Faustina Kowalska, her spiritual director Blessed Michael Sopocko, the youth reformer and educator St. John Bosco, the great teacher of the lay path to holiness St. Francis de Sales, his spiritual daughter St. Jane Frances de Chantal, and more.

We’re standing, literally, on the firm foundation of the Incarnate Word of God and members of His Mystical Body.

When I returned to the gymnasium, groups were still sharing their discernment. When it ended, Cardinal Schoenborn approached the microphone, and …

And it’s official: WACOM 2017 will be held in the Phillipines!

The National Coordinator for Divine Mercy in the Philippines invites us all to come to his country for WACOM 2017 and gives us a blessing.

I grabbed Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, the former vice-postulator for the cause for canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska and asked him some questions about that choice.

“The Filipinos have carried the message wherever they go,” said Fr. Seraphim in response to the announcement, “and they are to be found everywhere in the world, even in the northern reaches of Alaska, where they work in the oil fields. They have brought the message and devotion of Divine Mercy [wherever they are]. Wherever you go, and whenever conferences around the country are arranged, many of the attendees are Filipinos! So it’s appropriate that the Congress should be held there. The first one was in Rome. The second one was in Krakow. The third one was in South America under the first South American pope. Now, it should go towards Oceania and the Far East.”

And go east it will.

1 p.m.
Helen Oa from Papua New Guinea took the stage to share some lessons from her work with youth, bringing to the stage with her a man named Vincent. Vincent was one of the many young people blessed by the Church’s works of mercy in Papua New Guinea.

Father Patrice summed up their presentation by saying, “It is very important what they have said to us. Vincent was a drug addict from the margins. The young people are the future of the Congresses. The youth pass through the outskirts” of society and human life, so they are especially deserving of the graces and assistance available through the Divine Mercy message and devotion, as well as the help of those who are missionaries of Divine Mercy.

Cardinal Schoenborn then took the stage to share with the Congress an encounter he’d just had with a Colombian woman, then brought her on stage and allowed her the microphone for several minutes. She has six children of her own, and has apparently taken in over 100 homeless children. She identified herself as someone working in clinical pharmacology and gave a ringing testimony to the power of God’s gracious mercy to bring healing and hope into human existence.

“Nothing is impossible for God!” she proclaimed to strong applause. “I told God, ‘Lord, I am here, a little piece of trash, but you can do anything.'”

“It’s these testimonies that give us the strength to be missionaries of mercy,” said Cardinal Schoenborn. “If every one of us comes out of here with more love, fuller love, then the Congress was a great success.”

He proceeded to thank the conference organizers in turn, working from Fr. Patrice and Cardinal Ruben Salazar, the archbishop of Bogota, and Fr. Edgar Avila, the archbishop’s secretary, on down to the lowest level of volunteers. And then he was followed by Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz, the archbishop emeritus of Santiago, Chile, and legate of the Holy Father, who addressed the Congress for a final time.

He led off by thanking the one organizer that Cardinal Schoenborn had not mentioned: Cardinal Schoenborn himself. Cardinal Errazuriz then gave an overview of the saving mercy of God and how it calls those of us who know that we have received mercy to be merciful ourselves. He reminded his audience that St. John Paul II had put mercy at the center of apostolic life, and had said that “only Divine Mercy can put a limit to evil. Only in God’s mercy would man find peace and happiness.”

“We have to resort, once again, to God with all our strength.”

“We will never be missionaries of mercy if we are not children of mercy.”

He emphasized that God had loved us first, before we were faithful to Him, and so we must also lead with love.

And the end. Cardinal Salazar was lead celebrant for the closing Mass of the Congress.

“It is a great honor for Bogota to have hosted the WACOM,” Cardinal Salazar said. “We need the love, we need a God who sees our misery, accompanies us and lifts us, so we can be instruments of God’s love.”

In his homily, he referred to the Aparecida document, the great charter for the new evangelization which had been largely the work of then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the present Pope Francis. Cardinal Salazar exhorted the Congress to raise their hearts to the Lord, to let themselves be transformed by God’s gracious and merciful love so that we might transform our neighbors and our world by the power of that love.

During the Mass at the time when we intercede for the dead, Cardinal Schoenborn mentioned the family members of the Holy Father who had just been killed in a tragic car accident in Argentina.

And it’s over. Done. There’s a lot more content to come, though, so keep checking back at and for further photos, video, and articles bringing WACOM III from Bogota to you.

May God bless you, and please always keep the Marians, the Marian Helpers, and the Divine Mercy movement in your prayers.
Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

WACOM Round Up

View our WACOM photo galleries:

 Day One   Day Two   Day Three   Day Four   Day Five

Read our WACOM Daily Blogs:

Day One   Day Two   Day Three   Day Four   Day Five

Other Coverage

Congress host Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez’s talk, called by Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, one of the best, most comprehensive talks on Divine Mercy he’s ever heard.

Marian Apostolates on WACOM 2014

Fr. 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

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

Father Bruce Villacorte Tenorio, the National Coordinator for Divine Mercy in the Philippines, invites us all to come to his country for WACOM 2017 and gives us a blessing.

Bishop Martin Uzoukwu shares about the spread of the Divine Mercy message and devotion in Nigeria.

Salt of the Earth

By Chris Sparks (Aug 18, 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!

Salt of the earth. Light in the darkness. Descending into the earth and rising again. Going to a cave in a mountain and hearing God speak there. So many Scriptural images fit today’s proceedings, which took place in the famous Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá, located outside of the Bogota city limits. And then, at the end of the day, an unexpected surprise …

View our WACOM: Day Four photo gallery.

10 a.m.
It’s hard to mind an hour’s bus ride to the Salt Cathedral when the crowd of pilgrims sharing the space with you all gladly join in a Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy, led by the Maroneys of Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM), aided by their colleague Jose Gamez, who spoke Spanish for the benefit of the rest of the bus.

I discovered how unexpectedly easy it was to pray a bilingual Rosary and Chaplet. The prayer breaks in the same place in both languages, so as the majority of the bus said, “Por Su dolorosa Pasión,” I knew when they paused I should say, “have mercy on us, and on the whole world.” The same with the Rosary. When we’d finished the Rosary, suddenly the Spanish-speaking ladies on the bus broke out into some Marian songs. Dave and Joan Maroney responded in kind with the Salve Regina. It was beautiful.

And then we arrived at the entrance to the Salt Cathedral, greeted as we got off the bus with the sight of a “train” on wheels, puffing smoke and everything, heading down the mountain road, presumably to pick up a load of tourists.

There was a picturesque statue of a miner mid-labor and rather modern looking art placed in a great square, where the Congressgoers milled about. Some were greeting bishops and taking pictures with cardinals, while others took photos of the surrounding view of the mountains and forests.

There are moments on this trip where I think I’m looking at something straight out of Italy or Spain. Usually that happens with the architecture or the farms we pass, or the countryside on the slopes surrounding the Salt Cathedral. Other times, I feel like I might as well be back in the USA, such as when I went walking through a supermarket and spied the same brands of jam, pasta, and other basic goods that we have in the USA sitting on the shelves amidst products from Colombian companies.

We’re gathering into groups according to the language spoken, indicating where the groups are by waving the flags of appropriate countries. Who knew I’d end up waving a massive American flag in the middle of a square in the mountains of Colombia?

Well, we just walked perhaps the most unique Way of the Cross I’ve ever made. Our English-speaking group took its turn going deep into the mountain, walking a Way of the Cross carved into the very stones of the mine. Every so often a “miner” in an orange jumpsuit and hard hat would walk by. Each station was marked by a great cross of stone and the Roman numeral of the station carved into the wall opposite. Some of the crosses were set in caves or lower down in great caverns, lit with pale blue or purple light, creating a rather surreal effect, especially since it was still rather dark in the tunnels and passages between stations.

The Most Reverend Robert Finn of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, coordinator of the upcoming North American Congress, and Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, led the prayer and meditation at the first station. The Very Rev. Father Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior for the Mother of Mercy province, led the pilgrims in singing the prayers from the Divine Mercy Chaplet between the first and second station. Then he and Marie Romagnano, RN, founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, led the prayers at the second and third stations. Others took up the task of leading prayer at other stations, including a bishop from Nigeria. Other hymns were sung between stations, including “Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)” and “Hail, Holy Queen.”

There’s something so powerful about walking the Way of the Cross as you head deeper and deeper into a mountain, going down into darkness, into the cave, just as Christ was buried in a stone tomb and descended into hell.

And then we reached the three great halls which are the Salt Cathedral itself. The entire Congress fit with room to spare in those three halls, and the ceilings had to be at least five stories high.

Father Jan Machniak delivered a message from Cardinal Dziwisz to the Congress (copy to follow!).

Then Cardinal Audrys Backis, Archbishop Emeritus of Vilnius (where St. Faustina once lived) and a great long-time friend and promoter of the Divine Mercy message and devotion, delivered a talk on the message of Divine Mercy for the whole world.

“Come and drink from sources of fresh water, pure water, so that you may have life,” he said.

Cardinal Backis described the spread of the message and devotion of Divine Mercy, detailing the acceptance of the different practices associated with it, as well as the growth and establishment of the congregation Jesus asked St. Faustina to found. “Now this congregation recognized in Poland has extended God’s mercy to many people,” said the Cardinal.

He drew out the essential connection between Marian devotion and the Divine Mercy, saying of the Mother of God, “She guides our steps softly, leading us toward her Son Jesus, merciful Jesus.”

He talked about those who had fallen away from the Church and Mary’s maternal concern for them. “All of them are called by the Mother of Jesus, and she begs them to come back to the merciful mother’s mantle.”

2 p.m.
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyons, France, was the lead celebrant at the Mass in the Salt Cathedral. He delivered a ringing homily about the persecution of Christians across the world, and described a trip he and other French bishops had made to visit the persecuted Church. He spoke of the faith he had found amongst the persecuted Christians and recalled marveling at the lack of bitterness amongst those he spoke to. They were sad, yes, he said, and desperate, but there was no hatred for their enemies. He emphasized the need to pray for our enemies, no matter how hard that may seem, and to send assistance to our persecuted brethren across the world.

It was the turn of the Filipinos and other members of the Asian delegations to present the gifts, which they did in style, bringing forward offerings of food and Divine Mercy materials to set before the altar, as well as the hosts and wine for the consecration.

4 p.m.
Mary Sandrinhorn, a Catholic lay leader from Thailand, presented her testimony to the saving and transforming power of the Divine Mercy first thing after lunch.

She’d been a Buddhist and a wealthy woman, she said, when she lost control of her business and was arrested due to false charges brought against her of shady dealing. It took her a long time to learn to forgive, but the Lord continued to prompt her until she finally consented, and discovered the healing power of forgiveness. Eventually, she was able to prove her innocence, but lost her husband to divorce and was sustained only by her children and God’s love.

Then she heard a participant in the FESPIC games, a sporting event for the disabled, say on TV, “Nobody wanted to be disabled. However, if we could accept this fact, we could live a normal life.”

That was the turning point for her, a turning point that she believes was sent by God. She accepted what had happened to her and moved on, becoming a baptized Catholic, immersing herself in serving others, starting a new business, and reaching new levels of success as an associate.

“Who would have thought a few years ago that a broken person like me and a troubled family like ours would be healed and blessed like this today?” she asked. “Nowadays, I am having a special kind of fever — Jesus fever.”

“If your heart is full of the Good News and Jesus Christ, it will spill over. You can’t keep it for yourself!”

Then, at the 3 o’clock hour, WACOM general secretary Fr. Patrice Chocholski called up WACOM president Cardinal
Schoenborn to introduce the Hour of Great Mercy. Cardinal Schoenborn, however, said that he thought it best to just leave everyone present in silence for ten minutes or so to be with Jesus.

After that time of prayer, we heard from two priests from the favelas (slums) of Brazil, Fr. João Henrique and Fr. Marcus. Father Henrique is the founder of a religious community which lives and works in the favelas, enduring the dangers and discomforts of living and working alongside the poorest of the poor. He shared several stories of reaching out to drug addicts, the violent, and the desperate, including expanding on Cardinal Tempesta’s talk from the day before about World Youth Day (WYD) 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He spoke of bringing the WYD mission cross to one of the worst slums. As it stood in the public square, several people came running along, knives in hand, intent on killing. When they saw the cross, he said, it was like they suddenly encountered the presence of God. Falling flat on their faces, they allowed the knives to be taken away and, giving up all thought of violence, several asked to be taken into some of the Church’s houses for addicts leaving drugs behind.

He also introduced Fr. Marcus, whom he called the “first priest from the favelas.” Father Marcus shared his testimony of a life of drug addiction, a period of homelessness, and then the life-changing encounter with Fr. Henrique’s community when they treated him as a person with dignity and worth. He eventually, by the grace of God, kicked his addiction and answered a call to the priesthood, though he felt completely unworthy.

At Cardinal Schoenborn’s request, Fr. Marcus gave his first priestly blessing to all the assembled WACOM pilgrims at once.

And there’s the end of the day. Right?

Wrong. When we load back on the buses, we are told that we are not returning to the Colegio Agustiniano Ciudad Salitre, but rather to Compensar. Originally planned as the site for WACOM, the convention center was no longer the location as of a week before the event. No one seems clear on what’s coming next.

But everyone agrees later that it was lovely. Once off the buses, we are ushered into a large square and up into bleachers facing out over it. A series of fountains dance and splash to the sounds of classical music; masks, sombreros, noisemakers, and wine await. Compensar workers distribute candles, and soon, the bleachers are full of laughing, talking pilgrims, dotted with points of light. I never thought I’d see nuns in paper sombreros, let alone bishops and cardinals, but here we are again with the unexpected and the joyful at WACOM in Colombia!

Several priests are invited to say a few words, including Fr. Dante Aguero, MIC, who leads the crowd in a song in Spanish to much applause and laughter.

Then the real light show starts. The water dances, lasers trace a series of images across its face, showing abstract designs, a talking mask, hands scooping up earth or coffee beans, couples dancing in traditional clothing. It’s a time of beauty. Then a surprise: a video of Pope Francis, addressing a crowd in Spanish! He’s speaking of Christian hope in the face of the reality of death. Then more images, and the evening ends in laughter and fellowship.

Tomorrow: the end of WACOM. Check back here and in the other stories throughout the week for further images and links to other content.
Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

‘Be Witnesses of Mercy’

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!

More Colombian roses adorned the main stage today at WACOM, and of course, the Divine Mercy image had a special place before the gathered pilgrims, serving to mediate the graces promised by Jesus to all the pilgrims below, as well as all the people watching on CTV (see Diary, 327, 742, 313). Also present were a number of relics, including relics of St. John Paul II and St. Faustina. You just never know who you’ll encounter at WACOM, do you?

Oh — and Jesus Himself put in a physical appearance.

View our WACOM: Day Three photo gallery.

10 a.m.
Today the venue shifted to the Colegio San Pedro Claver (the St. Peter Claver School) for what was essentially an all day Divine Mercy market and outdoor festival. We gathered in the schoolyard in the open air, sharing the day with local parishioners and families from the school.

Bogota is an archdiocese, with several different dioceses within its limits. Today’s portion of WACOM took place within the diocese of Fontibon, and the bishop of the Fontibon diocese, Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba Villota, S.J., greeted the Congress pilgrims and welcomed Divine Mercy in his diocese.

Many of his flock also attended the day’s events, filling the spacious schoolyard and outdoor basketball court till it seemed like every flat surface had someone sitting or standing on it. The schoolyard is lined with booths and tables for different Divine Mercy apostolates and ministries, as well as some businesses selling books, liturgical items, and other items of religious interest to those gathered from around the world. The place is really alive, really busy, and yet there’s plenty of room to breathe.

After morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, interspersed with much praise and worship, we heard from Bishop Eugenio Lira, auxiliary bishop of Puebla, Mexico, and general secretary of the Mexican Episcopal Conference. He was very funny, interspersing teachings on mercy with jokes and humorous stories that had the largely Spanish-speaking audience (and the translator whispering in my ear) regularly breaking out in laughter.

Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz, Pope Francis’ personal representative at the Congress, was the lead celebrant at Mass this morning.

Some pilgrims from Papua New Guinea presented the gifts in style, sharing with the Congress some elements of their cultural heritage, all while seeking to honor the Lord.

Cardinal Errazuriz closed the Mass by imparting the Holy Father’s Apostolic Blessing on all who were in attendance, as well as all our loved ones back home. So Marian Helpers and everyone who reads this piece, consider yourself blessed by the Holy Father!

1 p.m.
Father Patrice Chocholski, general secretary of WACOM, shared some thoughts on WACOM III and the role of WACOM in the life of the Church (transcription here).

Then on my way to lunch from that interview, I happened across Cardinal Schoenborn, president of WACOM, and seized the day. The cardinal recognized the name of Stockbridge, and sent a special greeting to all Marian Helpers who live and spread Divine Mercy:

Cordial greetings to Stockbridge, to all the devotees of Divine Mercy! Some of you, I have already met in different occasions. All my blessings and best wishes, and go on courageously to be witnesses of God’s mercy, of Christ’s love, of Our Lady’s mercy. Be witnesses of mercy.

And what’s been the highlight of the Congress for you so far?

I think yesterday the witness of the victims of the violence and their readiness [for] forgiveness and their call to mercy for reestablishing peace in this deeply wounded country.

So, Marian Helpers, you’ve been commissioned by the cardinal: Be witnesses of mercy.

2 p.m.
The apostolates haven’t been idle this Congress.

The Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM), Dave and Joan Maroney, have been distributing stickers related to their Divine Mercy for America campaign which say “Have mercy on US and on the whole world!”

Dr. Bryan Thatcher, founder of the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy (EADM) has been distributing contact information and sharing his cenacle manuals with all and sundry, greeting old friends and making new contacts for the spread of the cenacles throughout the Congress.

Nurse Marie Romagnano, founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, and Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, representing the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, have been spending time with the bishops and cardinals, building relationships that will help the Marians’ mission of mercy for a long time to come.

One Healthcare Professional for Divine Mercy, Dr. Helen Jackson, took a bundle of Spanish-language Divine Mercy chaplet prayer cards and began walking amongst the local people gathered at the back of the schoolyard, distributing the cards to whomever would take them. Many took several for friends and family, as well.

The afternoon has been a “festival of mercy,” with much praise and worship, many testimonies (all, I believe, in Spanish), and a talk by Cardinal Orani Tempesta, archbishop of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and the host of the 2013 World Youth Day (WYD). He interwove reflections on the WYD just passed with the teaching of Pope Francis on that occasion on mercy and his challenge to youth to be witnesses of Jesus’ mercy in the world.

Man, it’s joyful in this square.

At 3 o’clock, of course, the Congress paused to observe the Hour of Great Mercy. Guess who got to help lead a decade of the Chaplet in English? Drs. Bryan Thatcher and Helen Jackson! The Chaplet was followed by further prayer, praise and worship, and all the fervor a crowd of Divine Mercy pilgrims can muster. Many in the crowd would either hold up a copy of the Divine Mercy image or have one at their seats which they venerated during the times of prayer.

Later, when the festival had resumed, I caught sight of Dave and Joan Maroney, Fuente de Misericordia editor Marcela Murillo, Dr. Bryan Thatcher, and Dr. Helen Jackson on the move, so, of course, I tagged along. As we passed through the back entrance of the schoolyard between several Policia Nacional, I found out that Fr. Kaz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior for the Mother of Mercy Province, had said we had to see Fontibon’s Catedral de Santiago Apóstol (the Cathedral of St. James, Apostle). So to the cathedral we went.

I could go on and on about the beautiful statuary, the gorgeous architecture, and the liberal use of gold, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll say that it seemed like everyone felt a sort of deep relief when they saw that there was a monstrance front and center in the Church, and the Lord was waiting for us there. Everyone spent a considerable amount of time in prayer, just resting in the presence of Jesus.

There we were, thousands of miles from home, strangers in a strange land, and yet we could walk through the doors of the Church and come home to God, the same God that we worshiped in our home parishes, the same God reposing in the tabernacles at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, the same God who holds the cosmos in existence at every moment of every day and so is present in all places at all times.

We can visit Him in His Real Presence “wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,” as Hilaire Belloc put it, and that Catholic sun does shine wherever there’s a Catholic priest to offer Mass. We can talk to Him anywhere, because we wouldn’t exist without His constant, attentive love.

So after a period of prayer, we returned to the Colegio, noticing along the way that the front entry of the cathedral was liberally covered with posters announcing WACOM’s presence right next door at the Colegio San Pedro Claver and inviting all and sundry to attend. Guess what happened shortly after our return?

That’s right: a Eucharistic Holy Hour. Exposition, Benediction, the same prayers that are prayed wherever a Holy Hour takes place, though again, they were prayed in a multitude of languages, but with the same Spirit guiding the prayer.

The meditation was offered by Monsignor Ettore Ballestrero, apostolic nuncio to Colombia, in several languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, and English. He based his meditation of Pope Francis’ teachings on mercy, speaking to Jesus, the Divine Mercy, throughout.

Some highlights:

* “We come today to bring You the whole of humanity. We entrust ourselves to Your mercy, especially our families, the youth, religious people. We bring to Your heart the Christians that are being persecuted because of their faith. Francis tells us that there are more martyrs nowadays [than in the previous centuries of the Church’s history]. Lastly, we entrust to You our enemies. You have taught us to forgive. Please help us to forgive our enemies.”

* “Turning away from mercy is always turning away from humanity because there will always be someone suffering, someone in need.”

* “Alms forgive sins like water puts out fire. If we are able to do deeds of mercy, let us rejoice.”

* “Mary, you are the Mother of Mercy. He wanted that we should receive everything through you, because you are a case of mercy. You, Mary, are the steps through which mercy came down. Mary, help the Colombians to live one next to the other and not against each other. Help us to have mercy in our hearts so that we may be messengers of mercy. Amen.”

It was a very good day. Tomorrow: the Salt Cathedral.
Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

God’s Grace is Enough

By Chris Sparks (Aug 16, 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!

As soon as we arrived at the Congress site this morning, Dave Maroney of Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM) pointed and started to laugh. Where the lines of pilgrims had stood waiting to be let into the Congress yesterday morning there now stood a street market. Lines of tents and food vendors stood waiting eagerly, expectantly, ready to serve the 1200 registered pilgrims from across the world whatever they needed or wanted to eat or drink. The spirit of hope and enterprise is certainly strong in this country. From what we heard during the talks, they certainly need it.

View our WACOM: Day Two photo gallery.

10 a.m.
Once again, the Congress opened with morning prayer, setting the tone for the day and confirming for all the pilgrims the reason for the gathering: trust in Jesus, who is the Divine Mercy.

And then the Cardinal Archbishop of Bogota, Rubén Salazar Gómez, took the floor. (Whole talk here.)

He spoke movingly of the challenges Colombia has faced in the past: narcoterrorism, violent rebel groups, and government oppression of the people. Cardinal Salazar described some of the very real, truly catastrophic sort of situations faced all too frequently by Colombian citizens, including the disappearance, torture, or murder of loved ones at the hands of one of the many forces tearing at civil society.

“Man can be a victim of man. That is the reality we witness with horror every day,” he said, both in Colombia and around the world. But God will always love man, as the Lord demonstrated throughout the Old Testament in His relationship with the Chosen People. He loved past their sins, most completely in sending His only beloved Son (see Jn 3:16-17).

We come to share in the love of Christ through the sacraments, especially Baptism and the Eucharist. “Our love becomes the same love of Christ and has the same characteristics,” declared the cardinal. “Each of us are able to have mercy because the Son of God in His death and resurrection has enabled us to transcend sin and death.”

The cardinal acknowledged that in the past, he had cried out to God, asking why? Where was the love of God when innocent families were destroyed, children killed, communities ripped apart by injustice and a spiraling cycle of violence and revenge? Cardinal Salazar named particular acts of injustice familiar to all Colombians, particular massacres or disappearances.

“Where was God?” Cardinal Salazar asked. “He was on the Cross. Yes, crucified, suffering in the tearing of His own flesh. The suffering of wives and mothers who want to embrace the bodies of their cold dead sons and husbands is like the suffering of His mother” at the Crucifixion.

“God, moved by merciful love, fully wanted to share our human condition and share all the suffering due to sin,” said Cardinal Salazar.

After reiterating that “even those who have committed the most abominable crimes have access to the Lord’s love and mercy,” he issued a strong call for repentance on the part of perpetrators of injustice, whoever they may be, which was greeted with applause.

11 a.m.
A powerful set of testimonies. First, Dr. Diana Sofia Giraldo, the founder of the Fundación Víctimas Visibles, spoke. Her organization aimed to give the victims of the many conflicts and crimes within Colombia a voice, and is now engaged in the same work around the world, as well.

Dr. Giraldo described the deep wounds left upon Colombia by so many senseless acts of violence, how Colombians are “trying to make sense of this “useless pain,” and the importance of faith in this process. “This is when we think for the first time, if all the wounds suffered by Colombians could be put at the foot of the Cross, they could all be transformed and become a seed of reconciliation,” she said. “We have learned from St. Faustina and our St. John Paul II; he did not waste a second of pain.

She brought on stage several victims and proceeded to describe their stories, putting a face on the whole issue. One woman, Emiliana, lost her husband to kidnapping. She still doesn’t know if he’s alive or dead. The other stories run the gamut: one woman lost a loved one to violence, took revenge, and eventually turned to God for mercy and forgiveness. Another lost her father to murder, perpetrated before the family while they were at prayer. Her husband was also murdered, a son kidnapped and killed; a daughter kidnapped and killed; another daughter diagnosed with cancer, given a short time to live, and yet who is alive many years later.

And now we hear from some of those victims of acts of violence.

It’s difficult as a foreigner to hear such a litany of atrocity and pain, of tragedy compounding tragedy, of the sort of grief that we think can only strike rarely, only happen once in a lifetime, or else we would break beneath the pain.

But here stand victims of such tragedies. Some of them have experienced, not one, but a long line of such woe, and here they are at a Congress on mercy, speaking of the love of God, the power of and need for forgiveness, the strength which God has given them to love their enemies and forgive.

It’s a uniquely powerful witness, a uniquely powerful testimony to the Divine Mercy and what happens when we open our hearts to God’s transforming love. The Congress is moved often to applause. One of the victims ends the session by leading everyone in prayer for the perpetrators of the violence, for their countries, for peace in the world, for the Church.

Antonio Jose Garcia Fernandez, a lawyer with the Colombian National Commission of Reconciliation, closes out this first round of sessions with a presentation on the process of justice and reconciliation.

His session starts with the bombshell admission that his younger brother was among the perpetrators of one such atrocity: a battle in a small village between very young people, recruited from amongst the miners in the rural areas of Colombia by some of the armed militias to fight each other.

Garcia Fernandez admits that at the time, he wasn’t interested, wanted nothing to do with the conflicts and struggles in Colombia, and asked the probing question of what degree of culpability he and every other bystander shared for their unwillingness to be involved.

He gives an overview of the peace process, the long road of reconciliation and forgiveness necessary for civil society to heal. He makes the point that those who “demobilize” from the militias and “self-defense” groups involved in the conflict in Colombia must have a way to reintegrate with society, to regain the trust of their neighbors, or else the problems facing Colombia will not end.

Here we have a presentation on the theology and philosophy of being a Divine Mercy apostle today in light of the 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. The talk is given by Bishop Santiago Silva and Fr. Leonidas Ortiz Lozada. Father Lozada is the adjunct secretary of CELAM, the Latin American Bishops’ conference.

Father Lozada cited St. John Paul II’s document Ecclesia in America, pointing out that the late, sainted Holy Father had explained that holiness isn’t hard. It’s “nothing more than expressing God’s mercy in my life” to the poorest, the sick, and the needy. (#30) As Pope Francis has pointed out, a little mercy warms the cold world.

1 p.m.
An “African” Mass. The lead celebrant is Bishop Martin Uzoukwu, from Minna, Nigeria. You take a Latin American music ministry, combine that with the African joyful Mass, and the whole Congress hall was filled with a joyful noise unto the Lord.

The bishop thanked God, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the WACOM organizers in his homily, putting the thanks in the thanksgiving to God of the Mass. He prayed for all those present and all those who were present in spirit (so everyone reading this, know you were prayed for!), and shared with participants prayers for the Nigerian church he’d had distributed in the wake of the bombing of his parish church on Christmas morning in 2011. The prayers included intercession for the attackers, asking for their conversion and God’s grace to reconcile them with their neighbors.

Bishop Martin Uzoukwu shares about the spread of the Divine Mercy message and devotion in Nigeria.

During the presentation of the gifts, the pilgrims brought up the Diary of St. Faustina and a cloth to drape in front of the altar with images of St. Faustina and Jesus, the Divine Mercy patterned on it.

The reverence of the participants is palpable, though expressed in a range of ways as vast as the distances between their homelands. At the elevation, there is a moment’s pause, then a low rumble swells around the gym as many voices in many languages address their Lord and God with faith and devotion. The Our Father, likewise, is a moment of communion and a certain susurration of sound as everyone prays the prayer that Jesus taught us in their own languages.

Marcela Murillo, editor of Fuente de Misericordia, shares what she saw in the afternoon:
Today we went to the La Esperanza de Vivir (The Hope to Live) Center located in Suba, Bogota’s District 11 in the northern part of the city. This Center is a nonprofit organization that provides support to people with disabilities through educational programs and activities. The center was founded 27 years ago by a group of mothers who had children with disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy, etc. Today, more than 40 young men and women attend the center. Some of them have been attending the Center since the Center began. They are organized in three classrooms depending on their disability:

*Pre-Workshop: This is a big classroom where children are evaluated to determine their skills and abilities. Teachers work closely with parents and children to set goals and develop their talents.

*Workshop: In this room, they do different crafts, such as pottery, painting, crafts with recycled materials, etc. They sell some of their creations to raise funds for their organization.

*Stimulation: This area specializes on children with autism and their needs.

After a heartfelt welcome, the children entertained their guests with dances and a tour of the building. They shared raspberry juice and empanadas, a very typical dish of Colombia, with the guests. Then we made a circle, held hands, and prayed to the Lord.

Sandra says, “My son and I came to this center 14 years ago. Since then, he has learned how to eat by himself and he has improved significantly.”

Maria Eugenia, one of the founders, says, “It’s amazing. the things these children can do if you just give them a little bit of love. This is what mercy is all about. Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are helping each other here; we are a family.” Maria Eugenia is the mother of Andrea, a young adult who has been attending the Center since its founding, and still comes to the Center every day to participate in the different activities.

Martha says, “Each one of our kids is a testimony of love, of mercy. Each one of them is a blessing. They found a place of love and freedom where they can express themselves freely.”

Before we left, Maria Eugenia said, “Today we felt the mercy of the Lord. Why? Because it didn’t matter that we all spoke different languages and we come from different countries, but today we are united as one family.”
Day One

Day Two

Day Three

Day Four

Day Five

‘Our Suffering Has Not Been Useless’

EDITOR’S NOTE: On the second day of the Third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy last August in Colombia, Cardinal Ruben Salazar, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, delivered a stemwinder — an address on Colombia’s need for Divine Mercy and its capacity to be transformed by it.

Though his focus was mainly on Colombia, the talk has a universal appeal and earned a standing ovation from delegates around the world. Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, a world-renowned expert on the Divine Mercy message and devotion, called it one of the best and most complete explanations of Divine Mercy he had ever heard. We share below the translated talk in its entirety:

By Cardinal Ruben Salazar (Aug. 16, 2014)

If man is capable of [knowing] God, as St. Pope John Paul II says in the Preface of the Catechism, then man is capable of love, and if he is capable of love, it is because his heart is capable of mercy and has been transformed by grace into a heart of flesh. As Pope Francis affirms, “a heart capable of compassion is the heart of Christ.” I invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit to infer, then, that Colombia is capable of mercy.

Man is capable of God precisely thanks to the Incarnation of Christ, that He took on in His own flesh every possible type of human suffering. It is a mystery. It is madness; As St. Paul says, “He made Him to be sin who did not know sin” (2 Cor 5:21) when He took upon Himself the entire reality of sin itself in order to be able to destroy it and give to man the possibility of beginning to live a new life, of being resurrected with Him.

And so that we may be capable of receiving and bestowing His Mercy, we must begin by coming to know ourselves in our misery, in our sin, in our pain, in our weakness, in our fragility and confusion. We can do nothing, nothing at all without Him. The words of Jesus to the Polish mystic St. Faustina Kowalska echo today for Colombia: “My daughter, you have not offered Me that which is really yours. … Daughter, give Me your misery, because it is your exclusive property” (Diary, 1318).

I am grateful that God has cast His eyes upon the extreme suffering that we Colombians have endured, that with love He has embraced our still-raw wounds by choosing us as hosts of the Third World Apostolic Congress on Mercy. It is a sign that brings us a message of hope and tells us that our suffering has not been useless, it has not been in vain, that that immense deluge — which has torn us apart through decades of conflict and which has left 6.5-million human beings victimized — by the work of His Grace, will be the seed that yields reconciliation as its fruit.

All of our suffering — past, present and future — and also all of our sins: Today we leave them all at the foot of the Cross, we unite them to the suffering of Christ, which is to say the suffering of God with us and for our sake. Only in this way does it acquire all of its redemptive and salvific power: When God takes it through the mediation of Christ, His Son made man. He accepts our offering and takes it on [Himself]. In that moment, the pain through love acquires all of its redemptive power, as a pain transformed by grace into love-mercy. It is not suffering itself that redeems us, but rather love. A suffering that we offer today for all those who have caused us so much pain, those who have spilled the blood of their brothers, so that He may transform them and have compassion on their hearts of stone as well as on our own hearts, hardened by decades of violence.

Forgive, Even If It Hurts
Some people will be asking themselves, “Why start the Congress asking for (mercy) for the murderers of Colombia? For those who have refused to ask for forgiveness and to show any repentance for their atrocious acts?” It is precisely they who — behind their apparent inhumanity — are the most wounded; they who have the greatest thirst for God, although they may not know Him, although they may not yet know that they, too, are His children; they are the ones most in need of His Divine Mercy and who most need to reach it, precisely through our intercessory prayer, by offering up our pain, and by offering our forgiveness. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” prayed Christ while on the Cross (see Lk 23:34), and so we ask ourselves, “Even if they don’t ask for our forgiveness?” Yes, even if they don’t ask for our forgiveness. And yes, I know that by human logic, this mystery remains completely undecipherable. And it hurts, it hurts a lot!

Courage and heroism are necessary, just before making ourselves docile to the logic of love, docile enough to experience the grace of forgiving with His forgiveness — a love that cleanses. And justice? The Divine One? In His hands. So then does mercy imply renouncing justice? It’s not a renunciation. It’s a letting go, an abandonment and utter trust in Him, in His justice. To more trust, more mercy. Mercy is the most perfect expression of Divine Justice.

Theresa of Jesus [St. Theresa of Avila], in her Autobiography, which she had originally entitled “On the Mercies of God,” leads us, by some of its lines, to intuit the dimension of this mystery of love, the mystery which she reached not by way of the intellect but rather by way of experiencing it:

The time will come, Lord, in which we will have to give ourselves over to understanding Your justice, and if it is equal to mercy (12.5 158).

May your mercy shine among such enormous evil! (8.3 154)

One need not fear, but rather hope in His mercy, which must be found to be the truth of everything (284.2 177).

And Divine Mercy brings her — today a saint and a Doctor of the Church — to gaze upon herself in the first place, to recognize herself in her smallness as a sinner, needy of His mercy:

The Mercy of God gives me surety — for it has pulled me away from so many sins — that it will not wish to let go of me so that I am lost (38.7 33).

Blessed be such mercy, and rightfully will those be damned who would not wish to take advantage of it and would thus lose this Lord (4.9 115).

Where was God?
At the beginning of Lent, Pope Francis asked 3,000 priests of the Diocese of Rome, “Do you struggle with the Lord? Do you argue with the Lord as Moses did?” As the pastor of a divided flock — both facing and needful of the embrace of God to heal its wounds — I want to share with all of you those moments of distrust, weakness, moments of questions without answers and hopelessness in which we have, from the depths of our misery, cross-examined God Himself.

I put myself in Bojayá. A guerrilla fighter facing paramilitary soldiers tosses a pipe-bomb over the church in which dozens of families with children are taking shelter. The bomb’s deafening noise is a prelude to the mangled bodies of those who only seconds earlier were desperately clinging to life. Where was God? Why didn’t He shelter those fragile bodies in His mighty arms, at the very least those of the smallest children there? Why didn’t God have compassion on those who ran terrified into His house looking for protection? Why didn’t He have mercy on the parish pastor, Fr. Antún Ramos, who saw 12 of his 15 parishioners’ bodies torn to pieces and flung across the church structure, parishioners who had been there lending help to the 400 people who had taken shelter in their church?

I move to another scene: soldiers and policemen with lifeless gazes, abductees looking past the wire cages inside which they spent their days and nights, some for as long as 14 years. The chains hanging from their necks weighed less than their tears. The darkness within them grew to become even darker than the lack of sunlight in their prison. Why is it that even now the pain remains, frozen in the souls of those who have been unable to bring their mourning to an end?

Why forgive those who haven’t asked for forgiveness? Why be merciful to those jailers who stole away the precious gift of freedom and kept soldiers and policemen caged like prisoners in a concentration camp?

Machuca, 1998: A guerrilla group blows up an aqueduct that runs through the tiny village, the resulting fire spreads out of control, and 89 human beings — among them children, teens and adults — die tragically, burned to ashes. Why did God let María Cecilia Mosquera live, having watched her husband and three children perish in agony among the flames?

Where was God when an inconsolable mother received the defenseless corpse of her mentally handicapped son, who — to make matters worse — had died like a rebel combatant?

He was on the Cross. Yes, crucified, suffering in His own ravaged and torn flesh the pain of those who had taken refuge in the church in Bojayá. He lives today in the heart of Fr. Antún, who survived to reflect the joy of the presence of God in his life. He was next to the wives and mothers who, like María, were hoping against hope to be able to embrace once more the cold corpses of their children, even for just a moment; like Mrs. Mery Moreno, mother of the police sergeant Álvaro Moreno, on whom she waited, at the foot of the Cross, for 11 years, 9 months and 29 days, all while a thousand and one rosary beads helped her to count her prayers. He was in Machuca embracing the heart of María Cecilia, which hasn’t ceased beating out of love for Him, not even for a moment, since that tragic day. He was at our side in the moments of our greatest despair, asking, “Father, why have You abandoned Me?” He was there in the sweetness with which Pastora Mira attended to the wounds of her own son’s killer. He was there on His knees, next to María Teresa de Mendieta, setting her heart ablaze with hope for the return of her beloved husband.

And where was God the Father? I turn to St. Augustine: “God, who made you without your help cannot save you without your cooperation.” God — who loves us immensely, who gave His only Son over to death on the Cross to redeem our sins — endowed man with free will, the gift of freedom even to turn away from Him, to have no desire to receive Him, to cause Him the pain of being rejected. That is the sin against the Holy Spirit of which the Gospels speak.

The love of God respects freedom; it is not coercive; it does not intrude upon the inner sanctum of the responsibility of the other person; that love allows — precisely because it is love — the other person to bear full responsibility for his acts. But even he who rejects God, through his dignity as a child of God, retains its outlines in the depths of his soul, where He waits patiently and with arms wide open in blessing, to be able to satiate the thirst of His creature for resurrection, through divine grace.

What About the Victims?
So if God respected the freedom of the killers, why didn’t He consider the fiat of the victims in order to protect them? Out of love for His Son in us, who did not get down from the Cross. The pain of the Father, out of love.

Was God in the midst of the hurricane, in the earthquake, in the spread of the fire? No. He could be found with His children in the intimacy of their souls, in the whisper of a soft breeze, as happened to the prophet Elijah. In the solitude and abandonment of the creature, there He was. “Then the LORD said. ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by.’ There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD — but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake — but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire — but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave” (1 Kgs 19:11-13).

The Divine Mercy is unfathomable. It is the mystery of the love of God that, as mankind, we cannot manage to unveil, but that through His grace we can receive in order to bestow it in abundance. “Be merciful as I am merciful” (see Lk 6:36).

Because by way of reason and in a country that has suffered the rigors of confrontation and has gone through a Via Crucis of pain, like Colombia, it seems incomprehensible that our God waits in the doorway of His house for the return of His sons the murderers, like in the beautiful parable of the Prodigal Son. For these reasons let us invoke the light of the Holy Spirit so that, through prayer, we receive and bestow the mercy that becomes love and redemption for this suffering Colombia.

And so God offers His mercy equally to both victims and killers, to every tired, grieving man. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Even the repentant sinner, he who has committed the “most scarlet sins,” has preferential access to it. Even those who threw the pipe-bomb into the church in Bojayá? Yes. And those who held captive, like slaves, other human beings, for as long as 14 years? Yes. And those who shot dead 11 defenseless legislators, after having held them captive for five-and-a-half years? Yes. There will also be mercy for them. And for those who blew up the Machuca aqueduct where 89 human beings burned to death? And also for those who assassinated the handicapped in Soacha and made them pass for guerrillas? For those who massacred entire towns? Yes, yes, and yes! God’s offer is broad and generous.

But it requires our “fiat,” our “yes” to God, our sincere repentance and our firm intention to do better.

The Limit Imposed on Evil
As John Paul II wrote in his final book Memory and Identity, “The limit imposed on evil is, ultimately, Divine Mercy.” And in a letter written to his would-be assassin, Alí Agca, who shot him on May 13, 1981, and who even today has yet to ask for forgiveness, John Paul II told him, “It’s important that not even an episode like that which happened on May 13 may be able to open an abyss between two people, to create a silence that means the breakdown of communication. Christ — the Word Incarnate — has taught us words regarding this truth, which never stops producing contact between people, in spite of the distance that events may be able to provoke, events that sometimes pit some people against others.”

John Paul II was a living homily, he was a victim, like Jesus! As Cardinal Walter Kasper describes him in his book Mercy, “The witness of his suffering was a homily more eloquent than the many homilies he preached and the numerous documents written during his long pontificate.”

To address the topic of mercy from the victims’ perspective, we must look at Christ as victim. Because if Christ is not seen as victim, then what the role of the victim is cannot be understood. What was Christ’s role as victim? It was to accept pain. The Lord did not refuse when faced with pain. He did not try to escape from pain, to avoid it. No, the Lord accepted the pain, looked face-forward at the pain, and upon making it His own, permitted that His heart be filled with love towards those who were causing that pain.

Therein lies the step in the right direction: I am truly capable of forgiving a person when I see him with other eyes. Not when I see him with the eyes of the murderer, but rather when I see him with the eyes of a brother of mine who also deserves love, and who in Christ has been redeemed, who in Christ has been transformed by the love of God. And so, therefore, I begin to look at the murderer with the same eyes of Christ, who loved His enemies, who prayed for His enemies, “Father, forgive them because they know not what they do.” At no time did He adopt an attitude of vengeance, at no time did He try to destroy His enemy; rather, on the contrary, He offered Himself up for him.

And rightfully, by man’s reasoning, the victims present in this auditorium could cross-examine me, saying, “But we’re not like Christ, we are not as good as He is, we’ve gone through periods of rage, of pain, of enormous sadness, hopelessness and loneliness. And now they’re asking us to forgive, like Christ, those murderers who are unrepentant and have no intention of doing better?

What Forgiveness Takes Away
Mercy on the part of the victim is called forgiveness, and forgiveness cleanses first and foremost him who grants it. It frees him from the ties to which senseless suffering condemn him; it takes away from the murderer the power to keep his victim psychologically bound, and most importantly, it turns over to God, humbly, the fate of the oppressor. Trust in divine justice operates like the balm of abandonment — it is like the loving hand that stops the hemorrhaging of the soul, closes up our wounds, and caresses our scars.

And indeed you may still insist, “Christ was capable of that, but I am not!” And I return to the beginning of my talk to reiterate: If man is capable of God, then man is capable of love. And if he is capable of love, then he is capable of mercy, which in the victim acquires the beautiful name of forgiveness.

Gazing upon Christ, one may, as a victim, donate his pain. That is to say, offer it up. And as for the explanation of this difficult reality, we find it in the New Testament, in the Letter to the Hebrews. It is an extraordinary letter that helps us to understand: The Son, as Son, wanted to learn obedience through suffering. That is to say that the Son wished to take on all suffering to offer it up to His Father on behalf of the disobedient ones, human beings. Then, upon offering to God His suffering on behalf of the disobedient, immediately He makes it so that all of the love and mercy of God in Christ is bestowed upon the disobedient one.

In this way we understand that victims are called to [do] something active, not simply something passive. It is not the attitude of the one who suffers overwhelmed by suffering, of the one who suffers without finding meaning in the suffering, but rather it is precisely [the attitude] of him who suffers, taking the suffering in his hands and offering it up on behalf of the one who hurt him in the first place, for that person who caused him pain, so that that very person can discover the love and mercy of God.

And so where do we begin? By shutting reason off and, on our knees, imploring the grace to forgive with His forgiveness, to donate oneself with His donation, to look with His gaze of love and to trust with His trust: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit!” “Father, into Thy hands, I commend Colombia!”

His Revolutionary Message
The vast majority of victims in Colombia have a vocation to forgiveness and reconciliation. They have walked with Christ on the periphery of pain, loneliness, and also of hope. But whenever I listen to some of them saying, for example, “I am incapable of forgiving my son’s killer,” or “I don’t forgive the man who left me handicapped by a landmine,” then I ask God to show us how His Son, Jesus Christ, took upon Himself all pain, all suffering, all injustice, and still forgave His murderers in order that God could grant us, through Christ Jesus, forgiveness and the capacity to forgive. That’s why we insist upon asking Him to make us capable of forgiveness, to make us capable of restorative justice, that He make us capable of reconciliation. And that this process of victims and killers drawing closer to one another, which is being seen nowadays in Havana, be supported by our prayer. That means becoming aware that our heart is a weak heart, a fragile heart, a selfish heart, a stingy heart that needs God’s heart to be able to forgive, to be able to receive and to give mercy.

The message of Jesus is a revolutionary one — to go out today, right now, and tell Colombian murderers that they, too, can receive redemption. So then, where must that murderous human being begin? Where should the men and women of FARC, of the ELN, of the paramilitary groups, or agents of the State begin, those who have spilled Colombian blood?

By recognizing themselves in their woundedness, in their misery, in their thirst for God. The murderer — precisely in order to move from his identity as a killer to that of someone worthy of mercy — has to undergo a complete interior process, completely a process of the heart. Because if we begin with the principle that his mind, his will, and his heart are bewildered, then he must necessarily undertake a process of finding the truth in freedom. It is not an automatic process. This can be clearly demonstrated upon observing the difficulty that the guerrillas currently have in accepting that they are indeed murderers.

God Is Thirsty for Their Fiat
Now I address the militants of [the armed guerilla groups] FARC and the ELN, [telling them all] to undertake that process of discovering the truth about themselves. Let them stop covering up their crimes with lies. May they be capable of discovering the reality of crime, the reality of the offense they have committed. In the process of conversion, one must always start from the principle that one must come to recognize the nature of sin and the reality of sin, the examination of conscience. That is the first step. May they be able to set aside all of the lies that have been told during this whole time, and therefore, may they discover the whole truth, little by little. And in light of that truth that they discover, may they be able to realize the enormity of the crime [they] committed and the pain caused to the dignity of other human beings.

The second step is that, upon taking stock of their sin, may they be able to ask for penance. They may realize that they have caused real harm, that they have committed a crime, and that therefore they repent of having done it. And upon feeling sorry, may they be capable of asking for pardon, which is the next step of confession. And may they promise never to do it again, with a firm purpose of amendment and temporal satisfaction for the wrongs committed. Therefore, let them be capable of entering into processes of reparation for the hurts they caused. Without this process of confession, through which they make themselves an object of God’s mercy, there is no conversion possible for that heart.

I call them to conversion, and I pray for them so that they come across the freedom and the truth that lie in the depth of their hearts as children of God.

Thousands of them were born in Catholic homes, and they have their parents down on their knees, interceding for them, imploring their return. God is thirsty for their fiat, and He will have compassion for them, just like He promised Sr. Faustina in the “Conversation of the Merciful God with a Sinful Soul”:

My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world. Who can measure the extent of my goodness? For you I descended from heaven to earth; for you I allowed myself to be nailed to the cross; for you I let my Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain. I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy. Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give me pleasure if you hand over to me all your troubles and griefs. I shall heap upon you the treasures of My grace (Diary, 1485).

And together with the prayers our grandmothers said, we invoke Mary through the most perfect expression of the infinite love of God for man:

“Mary, Mother of Grace and Mercy: In life and in death protect us, Our Mother!”

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.

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.

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.
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

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 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

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