A Day for the Divine

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By Chris Sparks (Apr 8, 2018)
They came on pilgrimage for Christ.

Amidst a windy, chilly, sunny day, around 17,000 pilgrims descended upon the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on April 8, the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday. Traveling from across the United States and Canada, the faithful came in pursuit of an encounter with the merciful Jesus, with the Savior who promised the complete forgiveness of sin and punishment through Communion received in the state of grace on Divine Mercy Sunday (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 699, 1109).

"You and I are grateful for the gift of the Divine Mercv," said the Most Rev. Joseph E Kurtz, archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, as he welcomed pilgrims to the Divine Mercy Sunday Mass. "It is that gift that, in gratitude, draws us together on this beautiful day."

The former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop Kurtz served as lead celebrant for the Divine Mercy Sunday Mass, broadcast live around the world by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), as they have done for the past 28 years.

In his homily, Archbishop Kurtz discussed the history of the Divine Mercy message and devotion, which arose from the private revelations received by St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) in the 1930s. He discussed the many, many conversions wrought through the Divine Mercy message and devotion across the world, including the quiet fidelity of one man in particular: Bruce Crawford, an employee of the archdiocese of Louisville. Two months ago, Bruce died at age 48, two weeks after his mother's death. At his mother's funeral, Bruce had shared with the congregation a compelling testimony to faith and prayer.

The Archbishop quoted Bruce's words: "For the last number of years, my mother asked that at three o'clock every day, I join her over the telephone and pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. And even those days when she was sick and could not pray, I decided to pray them myself."

"That day at her funeral," Archbishop Kurtz continued, "he testified that the Divine Mercy Chaplet not only brought him closer to his Savior Jesus Christ, but it brought him closer to his mother. And never did he realize that so quickly, the Lord would take her home. I was told later that at the visitation the night before [the funeral], before the priest would do the formal prayers that the Church invites, it was Bruce who invited everybody to join him in prayer, and you guessed it: He prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy."

"There are many Bruce Crawfords in the world; in fact, I would venture to say, among those of you who are here at this Mass," said Archbishop Kurtz. "There are so many whose lives have been touched and changed because of the great gift of Divine Mercy."

In the morning, pilgrims were treated to some powerful teaching and witness to the great graces available through the message and devotion of Divine Mercy.

Deacon Gabriel Cillo, MIC, delivered a ringing affirmation of God's merciful love, calling on all the pilgrims to embrace God's mercy for themselves and to bring that mercy to others. He traced back the history of God's mercy in the world, from the first moment of creation straight through to the present Divine Mercy Sunday, given through the Incarnation and saving work of Jesus Christ.

And Christ came to save the sinful, not to surround Himself with the well (see Lk 5:32; see also Mk 2:17).

"That's what God is saying: 'The worst sinner and the most miserable soul has the greatest right to My mercy,'" explained Deacon Gabe.

Dana Rosemary Scallon, Irish politician, pro-life advocate, and Catholic speaker and singer, shared some of her songs with the crowd.

She also had a serious request. The host country for the next World Meeting of Families (taking place Aug. 21-26), Ireland is currently facing a referendum on relaxing the country's strict pro-life laws.

"I would appreciate you praying for my country, Ireland," said Dana. "We're one of the last countries in the world where abortion is still illegal, but we have been under continued pressure and bullying and harassment of all kinds in order to take away that protection. And our government has come forward with a very dangerous amendment to our beautiful constitution, which will remove protection of the unborn child and opens the door to abortion on demand up to birth. This is such a terrible thought."

"Please pray for Ireland to protect life."

During the EWTN live broadcast, Association of Marian Helpers Director Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, and Vicar Provincial the Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC, presented Dana with a special recognition for her pro-life work. Her name is enrolled in the list of Protectors of the Sanctity of Life, hanging in the Shrine of the Holy Innocents on the grounds of the National Shrine on Eden Hill.

Joe Risi, a long-time Marian Helper and a property developer from Laguna Beach, California, shared his testimony to Divine Mercy and the healing power of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. His mother had shared the Divine Mercy Chaplet with him in 2000, right after St. Faustina was canonized and Divine Mercy Sunday proclaimed a universal feast day of the Church by St. John Paul II. He'd taken the pamphlet she had given him, kept it in his truck for a while until it blew away, then forgot about it.

On a drive back to California after visiting his son and mother in Phoenix, Joe happened to find the same pamphlet on the side of the road and took it as a sign that he was supposed to pay attention to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. After being diagnosed with hepatitis C, he and his wife began to pray the Chaplet every day, devotedly, for his healing. Following daily Mass one day, Joe approached the priest for prayer. The priest gave him the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, then told Joe that something had happened that he'd never experienced in decades of priesthood. He'd had an internal locution — that is, he'd heard a message from God.

The priest said he'd heard God say that part of Joe's life's work would be to spread the devotion to the Divine Mercy, and that Joe would be healed.

So when UCLA called up to say that they thought they'd taken a bad test, since Joe's blood had the antibodies to fight hepatitis, but there was no sign of the hepatitis, Joe and his wife had some forewarning.

"I was healed with no medical intervention from something there's no healing from," Joe said. Similarly, he said, "there's none of you whose sins are so great they can't be forgiven."

Songs performed by the Northeast Catholic College Polyphony Choir, as well as the international Rosary, prayed in English, Spanish, French, Tagalog, and Polish, rounded out preparation for the Mass. During the Mass, Dana sang alongside the Northeast Catholic College Polyphony Choir, sharing some of her classic songs of faith. Also, during the 3 o'clock Divine Mercy devotions, Dana shared her musical Divine Mercy Chaplet with the congregation.

As they have done for many years, Knights of Columbus from an array of local councils led the procession at the start of Mass, and stood by to assist pilgrims as they toured the National Shrine. Throughout the day, Confession and Eucharistic Adoration were available to all the pilgrims.

"It's a great privilege to be here on this great day of mercy, where the Lord pours out His abundant blessings on all of us," said Br. Michael Baker, MIC, emcee of the field show in the morning. "Our Lord invites us here today, even though it's a cold day. We're all here for love of Him, and He sees that in our hearts, and it fills Him to overflowing with joy, and He's here to pour out His abundant mercy on each and every one of us."

And the pilgrims agreed.

Felista, a parishioner at St. Alphonsus in Toronto, Canada, made the long trek down for Mercy Sunday to receive the graces of the day and to learn more about the message and devotion. Divine Mercy means everything in her life, she said, sharing that they pray the Chaplet every day at her parish. And she hoped she'd be better prepared to go back and spread Divine Mercy to her friends, maybe even convincing them to accompany her down to Stockbridge next year.

Garry Grady, a parishioner at St. John's in Clinton, Massachusetts, has been coming to Stockbridge for Divine Mercy Sunday for years. "Divine Mercy Sunday is a very big event in our church. For those who don't know about it, each year in the parish we find people introducing themselves to Divine Mercy that they may have heard about it but they've never heard the content of it. They've never sat through a presentation or sat down and talked with somebody about coming to one of our sessions each week. So every time it's an opportunity for new people to become followers and the grace that goes with that, being able to spread the word."

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