Photo: Felix Carroll
'Joy Is What Makes Catholicism Contagious'
By Chris Sparks (Apr 8, 2014)
"Jesus, I trust in thee. Jesus I trust in thee," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, leading more than 1,300 of the faithful in prayer during his homily at the closing Mass of the ninth annual Divine Mercy Conference, in Bronx, N.Y. "And I trust that this has been a very spiritually fruitful day for all of you."
Divine Mercy devotees from 15 states attended the conference, held at Cardinal Spellman High School on Saturday, April 5.
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Sponsored by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the conference annually provides formation in the Divine Mercy message and devotion by some of the greatest Catholic speakers and teachers in the nation, as well as offering Jesus to the participants through Confession and Adoration during the day and a closing Mass in the evening. Every part of the day's events were directed at preparing the faithful to go forth and be joyful witnesses to the Gospel of the mercy of God as part of the new evangelization.
"The theme of our conference is joy," declared Dr. Robert Stackpole, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy and emcee of the conference. "Joy is what makes Catholicism contagious, and where does that joy come from? It comes from His Heart — the merciful Heart of Jesus is the Heart of joy."
The all-star lineup of speakers, including John Paul II biographer George Weigel; Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, postulator for the cause for canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen; and Christopher Bell, founder of Good Counsel Homes, a ministry for homeless pregnant women, addressed Divine Mercy from a variety of angles.
"Now is the time of mercy because things are so bad," said Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, author, director of the Marian Helpers Association, and the first speaker of the day. "As Romans 5:20 says, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. Where there is great evil, God's going to offer great mercy."
Here's an excerpt of his talk:
Father Mike went on to share his own testimony of growing up in a family that had fallen away from the faith, only to return through the influence of some holy inner city priests and the grace of God. Later, as Fr. Michael came to know and love the Divine Mercy message and devotion, his father received a miraculous conversion and physical healing from cancer through the graces of Divine Mercy Sunday and the Divine Mercy Image.
"He said, 'You see that picture over there?'" Fr. Mike recalled. "'You see those rays? They're doing something to me!'"
And Fr. Mike's dad has been cancer free for 15 years.
"The moral of the story is it doesn't always work that way when we pray for Divine Mercy but that was a sign and a confirmation for me that the message is true," said Fr. Mike. "Those tender words of Jesus to St. Faustina which reiterate the heart of the Gospel are true. This is a time of mercy and God's giving us great, extraordinary graces."
Why? Because God is the Father of mercies, explained Dr. Scott Hahn, author of Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession, founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and professor of Biblical theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. "God is many things," Dr. Hahn said. "He's Creator, Lord, Lawgiver, and Judge, but the one thing He is from all eternity is Father, and it's the only thing that makes sense out of everything that He does in our lives. ... What it means to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect is to receive His mercy and to share it with others."
Dr. Hahn came to know and appreciate this truth in his younger days. In the midst of a tumultuous adolescence, Hahn experienced a conversion to the Christian faith.
He wrote in his Bible, "Scott Hahn, sharing the Gospel is just one beggar telling other beggars where he found the bread."
What is the Bread that God gives us? What is this Divine Mercy? It's Jesus who sends the Holy Spirit to "empower us to share in nothing less than God's own divine sonship."
"We're all called to enjoy being Catholic," Hahn emphasized. "It's the single most effective way to evangelize. The world offers countless pleasures but not one single lasting joy."
Here's a look at a portion of his talk:
When asked why he'd returned to speak for a second year in a row, Dr. Hahn responded, "My conviction that Divine Mercy is the single most important truth that every Catholic needs to rediscover, and not just once or twice, but continuously. I think it is also the foundation on which we'll be building the new evangelization for many years — in fact, for decades to come."
And the Marians have helped lay that foundation, said Cardinal Dolan in his homily at Mass.
"My, oh, my, the Marians have been so effective in the promotion of the Divine Mercy devotion," he said. "We talk about the Good News all the time? This is astonishingly good news — that those of us who live and die in Jesus Christ, trusting in Divine Mercy, do not die at all, but live forever. This is astonishingly good news, is it not? That this life, with all its joys, with all its beauty, with all its truth, with all its goodness, with all its delights, is but antipasto, all right? The main course is to come, and if you think this life is great, you ain't seen nothing yet."
And that Good News makes for a good conference.
"This [Bronx Conference] is always an inspiration for me," said Fr. Frank Pavone, MEV, national director of Priests for Life and one of the afternoon speakers. "Of course I'm constantly traveling and speaking. The connections between the topic of pro-life issues and Divine Mercy are very, very strong. So I come here because I get such inspiration from the crowd that's here every year. These are the people who are the spiritual powerhouses in their respective parishes and communities. I see that and experience that every year. It's just very, very edifying for me, so I really try not to miss this. I'm so glad that I'm here again today."
Monsignor James Lisante, author, television personality, and pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Massapequa Park, N.Y., is another regular at the Bronx Conference, and he knows who makes the event possible.
"Ed Miller's the guy you never see, but he's the guy who's the force behind putting this thing together along with his wife Ellen, a great Catholic layman," said Monsignor Lisante. "He's done a great job."
And the audience agreed.
"We go where we are nourished, and this just feels so filling and satisfying," said Michelle from St. Mary's Parish in Rutherford, N.J. "Every single one of them [the speakers] are unbelievable. I'm a big fan of everybody. They are such great communicators. They're all wonderful."
Take a look at a portion of George Weigel's talk:
To order a DVD of the 9th Annual Divine Mercy Conference, please call 1-800-462-7426.