Following the concluding Mass of the first-ever World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM), held in Rome in April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI gave Congress delegates from around the world “a mandate” to “go forth and be witnesses of God’s mercy.”
Those words not only laid the groundwork for the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM) in November, they became the inspiration for a book, Pope Benedict’s Divine Mercy Mandate (Marian Press), by David Came, executive editor of Marian Helper magazine. The book, released in January, has since become the field guide, of sorts, for understanding how and why mercy has become the Church’s top talking point.
Mr. Came was the guest on EWTN Radio’s “Catholic Connection,” with host Teresa Tomeo, on Friday, Oct. 25, where he discussed his book and the upcoming mercy congress.
“As people know who have studied Pope Benedict’s speeches,” Mr. Came told Ms. Tomeo, “he chooses his words with great care. So to use the word ‘mandate,’ and to use such strong language about going forth and being witnesses of God’s mercy for every person and for the whole world is phenomenal.”
As Mr. Came noted, the fruits of the Holy Father’s mandate is being writ large this year and next, as continental congresses are being held around the world as a follow-up to WACOM.
On Nov. 14-15, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., the Church will hold the first-ever North American Congress on Mercy with a specific goal of fulfilling this mercy “mandate” given to us by the Holy Father. The theme for the Congress is “Mercy: Our Hope.”
“People will be hearing inspiring witnesses,” said Mr. Came. “They will be inspired to go back and live Divine Mercy in their own parishes, prayer groups or what have you.”
The speakers will include:
• Dr. Scott Hahn, an internationally known speaker and author, who will give a talk titled “Lord Have Mercy.”
• Theresa Bonopartis, who has been involved in post-abortion work and counseling for 20 years. She will address the Congress on the topic “Where Mercy Meets Faithfulness,” touching on how God not only healed her from an abortion but also radically changed her life.
• Dr. John Bruchalski, MD, who founded the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Va., in 1994, an obstetrical and gynecological facility that combines the best of modern medicine with the healing presence of Jesus Christ — providing affordable healthcare to women, in particular, those with crisis pregnancies. In 2000, he founded Divine Mercy Care, a non-profit organization performing spiritual and corporal works of mercy in northern Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
• Kellie Ross, who will give a talk titled “Imitating Christ through the Image of Divine Mercy.” She is the co-founder and director of Missionaries of Our Lady of Divine Mercy in Manassas Va., which operates the House of Mercy, a thrift store that provides free clothing and new shoes as well as spiritual resources to the poor and needy.
• Sister Mary Joseph, OP, who will give a talk titled “God Be Praised for His Mercies.” She is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, who preach the sanctity of life by caring for incurable cancer patients in the United States and in Kenya who do not have the resources to pay for the care they need.
• Father Donald Calloway, MIC, who will speak on the topic “Mary: Mother and Masterpiece of Mercy.” A convert to Catholicism, Fr. Donald is a member of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception.
• Father Patrice Chocholski, who will give the concluding reflection. From the Diocese of Lyon, France, Fr. Patrice is a well-known lecturer and theologian on The Divine Mercy message. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of the Archdiocese of Vienna, Austria, commissioned him to coordinate last year’s WACOM.
• Most Rev. William Lori, STD, the Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and the episcopal advisor to the North American Congress on Mercy. Bishop Lori will be the principal celebrant of Holy Mass on Saturday evening.
• Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, who will serve as homilist for the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday. Father Seraphim is a world-renowned expert in the message of The Divine Mercy. He served as vice-postulator for the canonization cause of St. Faustina Kowalska, whose revelations in the 1930s led to the modern Divine Mercy movement. He serves as director of the Association of Marian Helpers in Stockbridge, Mass.
Ms. Tomeo noted how since Pope Benedict was elected in 2005, he has seemed to put his “stamp of approval” on the work of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who was known as the “Great Mercy Pope.” In his writings and homilies, Pope John Paul II described Divine Mercy as the answer to the world’s problems. He beatified and canonized Sr. Faustina. He established Divine Mercy Sunday (the feast day associated with the message of The Divine Mercy) as a feast day for the entire Church.
Mr. Came agreed. Pope Benedict, he said, has not only solidified the Divine Mercy legacy of his predecessor, but has taken that legacy further by declaring the Mercy Congress — the first time in more than 100 years that the Church chose to emphasize a specific, vital aspect of the faith by declaring a Congress in its name.
“In his first message as our Holy Father, [Pope Benedict] spoke of having received a gift of Divine Mercy through the intercession of Pope John Paul II,” said Mr. Came in explaining why he wrote the book. “So that begged the question: Is he the next mercy Pope?
“During the three years that I studied his papacy and what he has said about Divine Mercy,” Mr. Came continued, “it became very clear to me that he is our new mercy Pope, following in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II.”
Mr. Came added that the Mercy Congress is not merely the result of Papal enthusiasm for the message of The Divine Mercy, but the result of a grassroots groundswell. Through the message of Divine Mercy, Catholics around the world have been rediscovering the core of the Gospel — that God is, first and foremost, our Merciful Father who seeks to extend mercy to us all, regardless of our sins and shortcomings. God wants us to receive His mercy and share it with others.
“So many people are convinced that their sins are unforgivable,” Ms. Tomeo said.
“As long as the heart is beating there’s a chance for repentance and conversion,” Mr. Came said.
NACOM will preceded by a Divine Mercy Networking Forum on Friday, Nov. 13, hosted by the Marians and held at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C.