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Inside: A Prescription for What Ails Us
From left to right, Br. Michael Baker, MIC; Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC; Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, OSB; and the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, pose for a memento. Before entering the Marian Fathers, Br. Michael and Mother Miriam (Rosalind Moss) worked together at EWTN and have remained spiritual friends.
More than 600 people attended this year’s Divine Mercy Conference held at Our Lady of Victory Basilica and National Shrine in Lackawanna, N.Y.
Main celebrant the Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, is flanked by Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, Deacon Mike Comerford from the Basilica on the left and Fr. Richard DiGiulio director of the Charismatic Renewal for the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y., and Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, to his right.
Radio talk show host Rick Paolini returned as emcee for the conference. You can listen to his show on Stations of the Cross Catholic Radio Network.
Judy Shanahan of Rochester, N.Y., gets her copy of Consoling the Heart of Jesus signed by author Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC. An EADM Cenacle leader, she returned this year with members from two of her cenacles. Hopefully, next year she’ll have members from her soon-to-begin third cenacle with her, too!
Clockwise from bottom left are Sr. Benedicta Dega, FSSJ, of Checktowago, N.Y.; Kathleen Meola of Erie, Pa., and her mother Eileen Cullen; Sr. Jane Muldoon, RSM, of Buffalo, N.Y.
EADM cenacle leader Nestor Buendia of Hamilton, Ontario (far left), returned this year with more members of his cenacle (some pictured here), including cenacle leader Cynthia Leowardy from Indonesia (second from right). Nestor liked Mother Miriam’s talk on forgiveness then said, “God is calling us to be His Divine Mercy disciples to spread this message like a wild fire reaching more places around the world.”
Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, explains the key to Ignatian Spirituality.
By Mary Kathryn Volpone (Nov 8, 2011)
On the first feast day of Blessed John Paul II, more than 600 people gathered outside Buffalo, N.Y., drawn by the very message the late Holy Father considered his special calling before God. That is to say, the message of The Divine Mercy.
The life and spirituality of the Church's new blessed was ever present during the 2nd annual Divine Mercy Conference on Saturday, Oct. 22, at Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica in Lackawanna, N.Y.
Described as "food for the soul" by Fely Mendora, an attendee from Ontario, Canada, the conference was geared to address feedback from last year's participants, many of whom indicated they were struggling to live the message of Divine Mercy, to forgive those who have hurt them, to be merciful to difficult people, and to make God the center of their lives. Organizers decided the theme of this year's conference would be "Consoling the Heart of Jesus," inspired by the popular book of the same name by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, who was among the speakers.
Hope, Even in Darkness
The conference opened with Holy Mass. With special permission from the local bishop, the Mass was celebrated as a feast day Mass (such permission is required until a blessed is canonized).
The Liturgy highlighted the life and faith of Blessed John Paul II, who once said, "The message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me ... which I took with me to the See of Peter and which it in a sense forms the image of this Pontificate." In his writings and homilies, he described Divine Mercy as the answer to the world's problems and the message of the third millennium.
Sharing how the readings for the feast give hope to those in darkness, the Provincial Superior of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, the Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, said in his homily that "John Paul II brought sacramental grace, hope, and divine healing to many around the world."
He reminded conference participants that God wants to transform us, divinize us, making us like Jesus. Quoting the Gospel reading from John (21:15-17), Fr. Kaz recapped how Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love Me?" As such, Jesus gave the remorseful disciple a chance to express his love and reestablish the relationship of communion broken by Peter's denial. "Jesus wants to do the same with us," Fr. Kaz said, "for God never stops loving us."
Father Kaz urged the conference attendees to avail themselves of the opportunity "to ponder and reflect on what it means to be deeply loved by God and how to love Him more." He said, "The Holy Spirit can renew us and sanctify us with His infinite love, if we 'Open wide our hearts to Christ' and 'not be afraid' as Blessed John Paul II said."
An Encounter with Blessed John Paul II
The first speaker of the day was Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, who leads the Marians' parish missions program from the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass. In his talk, titled "Blessed JP II — God's Mercy Manifested," Fr. Dan explained how we should strive to emulate the spirituality of Blessed John Paul II, which calls for a personal relationship with Jesus.
"The Pope was not concerned with promoting another devotional in the Church," Fr. Dan said. "His main concern was that everyone should have a personal relationship with Jesus and to accept the love that Jesus has for each one of us."
He noted the critical role John Paul II placed on his devotion to Our Lady. Indeed, throughout his pontificate, the Holy Father encouraged the world to turn to Mary for her motherly protection, love and guidance. Recalling the assassination attempt in 1981, Fr. Dan noted the significance of its timing — how Blessed John Paul II was gunned down on May 13, the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. The Blessed Virgin Mary was credited for having interceded for the Holy Father and spared his life. In imitation of his love for Christ, the Pope made an unprecedented gesture by personally visiting his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca. Why? As Fr. Dan explained, "JPII was concerned about the individual. He didn't want Agca to know that 'I forgive you', but that God forgives you."
Father Dan posed the question: "If we are to have a personal relationship with Jesus, then aren't we supposed to do the same thing?"
Sharing a personal story, Fr. Dan testified to John Paul II's much-heralded gift of attentiveness to the individual. He met the Holy Father not once, but three times — all in one week, while leading a pilgrimage to Rome with about 30 people from the Kenosha, Wis., area. The first time he met the Pope was in a private audience, which consisted of 300 people. He was presented to the Holy Father and quickly introduced himself before the next person was presented. A few days later, Fr. Dan again was presented to the Pope, this time with some seminarians. The third time was a day or two later. When the Pope saw him, much to Fr. Dan's surprise, the Holy Father said, "Fr. Dan from Kenosha, right?" Father Dan exclaimed, "How it was that I didn't ascend into heaven at that moment ..." as the audience roared with laughter.
His anecdote gives insight to Blessed John Paul II's personable style, a style from which important spiritual lessons can be gleaned. Namely, if ever we feel overwhelmed trying to love and serve everyone, we can recall how "JPII didn't do charity to the multitudes, but to the individual in that moment," Fr. Dan said. He encouraged attendees to continue Blessed John Paul II's legacy by learning to love the one next to us and to be merciful even to those who harm us. That's how to console Jesus' Heart. That's how to live Divine Mercy.
"In a world that has forgotten how to be merciful," Fr. Dan said, "be witnesses of Christ's love and mercy to the world."
'Attitude of Gratitude'
Departing from his standard eight talks in a weekend in which he outlines the principles in his book, Fr. Michael candidly shared his thoughts about consoling Jesus' most Merciful Heart. He began by explaining the key to Ignatian Spirituality. "We need to have clarity of focus, clarity of mission, and clarity of our spiritual goal" said Fr. Michael.
He spoke of an experience during his formation years when he emerged from a 30-day Ignatian retreat with this plea: "Lord, please give me clarity of mission, identity, and spiritual goal. When darkness appears, keep me rooted in Your love." Soon afterward, Fr. Michael learned about St. Margaret Mary and devotion to the Sacred Heart. He also read that, according to one mystic, the heresy that breaks the Lord's heart more than any other is Jansenism. This heresy began in 17th century France and teaches that one has to be perfect to come to Jesus. Unfortunately, many people still believe this falsehood today and miss the abundant graces that flow even for the greatest sinners.
In the 1930s, St. Faustina recorded in her Diary that Jesus is offended by those who do not trust completely in His mercy (see Diary, 50). "Jesus offered a prescription to heal His wounded heart", said Fr. Michael. It is found at the bottom of the image of The Divine Mercy: "Jesus I Trust in You." We fill that prescription by trusting in Jesus.
Father Michael shared how a meeting years ago with Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, changed his life. "At that time," Fr. Michael explained, "I knew that we're supposed to trust in Jesus, but I didn't know what it means concretely." Father Seraphim explained this with words that Fr. Michael says changed his life, "Trust is praise and thanksgiving." During his talk, Fr. Michael explained this idea further. "We are to praise and thank God for the good things that make it easy to praise and thank God, such as friends and family, but we also need to learn to praise and thank God for the things that aren't as easy to praise and thank him for: crosses, for example." He suggested that we learn to develop an "attitude of gratitude."
Father Michael provided the context for his entire talk by explaining, "We are living in a time that, in many ways, is marked by unprecedented evil, and yet, at the same time, God is giving us unprecedented graces." He continued, "Jesus wants to raise up great saints in our times, but to do this, He needs our trust."
He hastened to add that we also need to carry our crosses, for the cross is an important part of the Christian life. Yet he said we need not be afraid of the cross, because "Jesus knows who we are and what we can take." In fact, over the years, he said he has learned to trust more in Jesus, although he laughingly admitted that when he asks Jesus, "Please, Lord, help me to become a saint," he adds the words, "but please be gentle."
A Question Mark Becomes an Exclamation Point
The dynamic speaker Rosalind Moss, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, was dressed in her new Benedictine habit and introduced by her new religious name, Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God. She entertained the audience with wit and a sensible approach to the faith.
Mother Miriam's talk title was the question-mark laden "Console the Heart of Jesus? Me?" She soon made it clear the grounds for her punctuation.
"Sometimes I wonder if I please God, never mind console him," she said.
She admitted that during her spiritual dark night, "I desired to love God though I knew I didn't. After a long time of prayer and searching, I came to understand that the desire to love God is itself love." Mother Miriam said two things from her Jewish background opened her up to exploring who Jesus was. One was that God loves us, and the other is that God has a wonderful plan for each one of us. She remembers saying, "He loves me? Me?" It was a journey of many years that brought Mother Miriam to understand and to receive the love God has for us. Mother Miriam felt that the two biggest obstacles to consoling the Heart of Jesus are love and forgiveness towards others.
She candidly shared her initial disposition of heart on becoming Christian 35 years ago. "I don't love people, and I don't even want to love them. And I don't want to ask for the desire to love them!" Then she referenced 1 John 4:20: "For whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." It made her think that if Jesus loved that soul whom she found difficult, if not impossible, to love and forgive, if Jesus suffered and died for that soul just like He did for her, then how could she not forgive?
"We will never love as Jesus loves unless we forgive as Jesus forgives," she said. When we forgive as Jesus forgave us, we absorb the loss that another has inflicted on us."However, in uniting our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ," she said "the scars remain but the sting is gone, and we have a gift to offer our Divine Healer."
Mother Miriam concluded with a story of a child who taught his mother to look for the dignity in all people by looking beyond appearances to what was inside the person. Her advice: "Do not be afraid to open your heart and let yourself be loved."
No Limits on Love
At the end of the day, Fr. Kaz updated the audience on the recent events at the Second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy held in Krakow, Poland, from Oct. 1-5. He announced that on behalf of the participants, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the president of the Congress, sent a letter to the Holy See requesting that St. Faustina Kowalska be declared a Doctor of the Church.
In his talk, titled "Pierced Heart — Rays of Mercy — Eucharist," Fr. Kaz reinforced themes from previous speakers, saying "God puts no limits on His love and mercy. Through the sacraments of the Church, Jesus offers us a way out of the affects of sin. His Passion and death on the cross paid our debt and restored our dignity as God's children," said Fr. Kaz.
Then Fr. Kaz explained that the rays of Blood and Water flowing from the Heart of Christ and depicted in the image of The Divine Mercy symbolize the outpouring of God's mercy. Pale rays symbolize water, the cleansing and purifying gift of baptism and reconciliation. They also symbolize the gift of the Holy Spirit sent for the forgiveness of sins. Red rays symbolize blood that is the Eucharist and its nourishing power to transform and sanctify. "By participating in the sacraments," said Fr. Kaz, "God is making us righteous in His eyes, uniting us with His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit."
"Jesus, our Love and Mercy Incarnate, becomes our hope of glory and our source of everlasting happiness and peace," said Fr. Kaz.
The conference was sponsored by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and the Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus from the Diocese of Buffalo.