Photo: Marie Romagnano, RN
The faithful gathered from as far away as the Philippines for the annual Divine Mercy Sunday celebration on Eden Hill.
An Estimated 18,000 Pack the Hill!
EWTN's live broadcast of Divine Mercy Sunday included host Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, and Br. Michael Gaitley, MIC.
By Dan Valenti (Apr 12, 2010)
Bishops may bless, as we need. Prelates may preach wise words. Priests may praise the day, as they should. Leave it to the laity, however, to nail the significance: "Grace is real today."
Gina Champagne, from New York City via Haiti, spoke these four simple words while standing outside a tent housing the Blessed Sacrament. With her 16-year-old daughters Valentina and Valencia, she had traveled to Eden Hill for the first time to participate in the great graces of Divine Mercy Sunday.
"It's a wonderful day," Gina said. "It's a day full of mercy, that we may receive, simple because Jesus loves us so much. It's everything I thought and more."
That love made itself manifest Divine Mercy Sunday to the estimated 18,000 pilgrims at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass. They participated in a series of events highlighted by Holy Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. Timothy McDonnell, Bishop of Springfield, and concelebrated by a phalanx of priests.
'Mercy is alive for us today'
In comments made before Mass and repeated as he began the liturgy, Bishop McDonnell made note of the recent air tragedy that killed Poland's president and other of its leaders. He compared it to the death of Pope John Paul II, which occurred five years ago the day before Divine Mercy Sunday.
"Yesterday," Bishop McDonnell said, "also on the day before Divine Mercy Sunday, the nation of Poland experienced the terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to the Polish people, and I think the lesson for [all of] us is mercy. Mercy is alive for us today. Remain open to it, now. Receive it, now. It is part of 'Happy Easter."
An international contingent of the Knights of Columbus led the procession to the altar under a blue sky dotted by cottons of cloud, all bathed in perfect 62-degree sun.
In his opening blessing, Bishop McDonnell reminded the faithful to show love and mercy to others "in all we do," just as God so abundantly shows to us. The Mass began with the bishop sprinkling water on pilgrims, walking east to west on the lawn in front of the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. He dipped an aspergillum into a bucket of blessed water held by Deacon Jim McCormack, MIC, hurling arcs of spray to remind people of their baptismal vows.
21 'fantastic men'
The Very Rev. Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, provincial superior of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in the United States and Argentina, presented the homily.
After giving a brief history of the Divine Mercy message as revealed by Jesus to St. Faustina, Fr. Dan told pilgrims on Eden Hill and the many watching on EWTN that the Marians were a small order blessed with large graces. He said the congregation has 21 "fantastic men" in formation and expects 10 novices to be joining.
It is the desire of these men and the nearly 600 Marians worldwide, Fr. Dan said, to serve [the Church and its people] all their lives." He then reached out to people in trouble or those burdened by hardship and difficulty, urging them to rely on God's graces.
Love, Fr. Dan noted, "is the only real measure of the human person." The mercy of God performs like a ladder, he said, helping us reach spiritual heights that would otherwise be unattainable because of sin, which has "shortened" all of us.
He ended with reference to Jesus, whose eyes are "filled with compassionate love [for us]. All he wants to hear are the words He taught us: 'Jesus, I trust in You! Jesus, I trust in You! Jesus, I trust in You!'"
From both Near and Far
They came from near and far.
Near: "I've never been to Eden Hill for Divine Mercy Sunday," said Bob Mouton of North Adams, Mass. "I read the Diary of St. Faustina, and I know of the exceptional graces available to us on this day. [Eden Hill] is right in my back yard [North Adams is 33 miles from Stockbridge], so I figured why not come? I'm glad I did."
Far: Michelle Yap-Talag from the Philippines and Jersey City, N.J., said she has been coming to Eden Hill on Divine Mercy Sunday for years. She said the day energizes her spiritually and inspires her to continue to "live a life of mercy to others."
Teresa Cabrera of Union City, N.J., was attending her fourth Divine Mercy Sunday in Stockbridge, but this time, she brought her boyfriend, Joseph Vinso of Linden, N.J. It was Joseph's first visit. Teresa said she has experienced many blessings through Divine Mercy, and wanted to share them with Joseph.
"[Teresa] asked me to come, and it's a nice day, so why not," Joseph said. "It might be nice to spend the day in a spiritual atmosphere. That's what they got here. That much I can see."
Following Mass, pilgrims prayed the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, followed by the blessing of religious articles and holy water. Before Mass, pilgrims heard talks by Fr. Mark Barron, MIC, the Marians' novice master; attorney Susan Wills, assistant director of education and outreach in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' secretariat of pro-life activities; and Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, rector of the National Shrine. The family musical ministry Still Waters also performed.
Father Michael Callea, MIC, served as master of ceremonies. Father Joe Roesch, MIC, and Br. Michael Gaitley, MIC, provided commentary for the EWTN broadcast, with Fr. Joe hosting and Br. Michael as "color commentator."
Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of Dan Valenti's Mercy Journal.