Father Bob Shaldone, SOLT, leads members of the Mother of Divine Mercy Prayer Group in a prayer before the Shrine’s monthly healing Mass begins on March 27.
Did You Know About the Shrine's Monthly Healing Masses?
By Felix Carroll (Jun 20, 2014)
The music begins as people from near and far file into the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, some with burdens almost too heavy to bear, some who have experienced graces too great to withhold acknowledgment.
People like Robin Daub, who drove an hour from Connecticut with her 9-year-old daughter. Her family's finances have reached critical condition. Her husband's health is failing. Her trust in God is waning.
People like Bonnie Nataro of West Springfield, Mass., whose three of four grown children have returned to the faith after years of her praying.
"Many of my prayers were said here at the Shrine, and I felt I needed to come back to thank God," she says. "I'm also hoping and praying the Lord gives me a physical healing." She has a medical condition that's worsening.
In the sacristy below, you can hear the music and the footfalls of attendees overhead taking their seats. Father Bob Shaldone, SOLT, slips into his vestments. It's nearing 7 p.m. on March 27. It's the last Thursday of the month, and that means that, in addition to the Sacred Liturgy, there will be praise and worship, music, testimony, and the laying on of hands. In other words, the monthly healing Mass is set to begin.
Once vested, and before he heads up to lead the healing Mass, Fr. Shaldone joins in prayer with members of the Mother of Divine Mercy Prayer Group, which has hosted the Shrine's healing Masses for at least 25 years.
"Lord, if not physical healings, may all those who are with us this evening be convinced of Your love and mercy to give us the strength to get through our difficulties," Fr. Shaldone says. "May we be witnesses to Your mercy. Renew us. Revive us so that we may be Your obedient and humble instruments."
"Amen," the members of the group respond. Together, they file upstairs where the live music has grown in power and strength. The band sways in unison, slowly, heavily, like a big-shouldered ship weathering the turbulent seas of Scripture.
The crowd claps, sways, shouts amen, and sings along with them to the hymn, "The Mighty One of Israel":
... The Lord shall cause
His glorious beauty to be seen ...
By slow degrees, the seas turn tranquil and the shouts to soft whispers. The piano and guitars grow faint, dopplering off into the distance.
Father Shaldone steps up to the pulpit. "God is going to do some mighty things here tonight," he says. And he's correct. Testimonies will be given. One middle-aged woman will speak of how her family has lived "like Job," marked by illness and financial problems. "But through it all, we have found faith — faith we would not have searched for without this suffering," she said.
The service ends with Fr. Shaldone administering the laying on of hands to all who choose to come before the altar. So-called "catchers" are put into place — assistants who stand ready to gently guide to the ground anyone temporarily slain in the spirit. There are many in need of catching, including Robin.
"I'm just overcome with peace," she says, buttoning up her daughter's coat before the two head out into the cold evening. "I know God is with me all the way."
Healing Masses, which have grown in popularity in the past 30-plus years through the Charismatic movement, draw from Christ's own ministry on Earth, where He healed the physically and spiritually sick.
Lorraine Ward, the coordinator of the Mother of Divine Mercy Prayer Group, says miracles have occurred through the Shrine's healing Masses. "Some are physical healings," she says. "But most are in the form of people coming to know the Lord in a more powerful way."
"We are always quick to point out that in healing Masses, it is always the Lord, not the priests, who do the healing," says Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, who sometimes leads the Shrine's healing Masses and who also serves as the chaplain for the prayer group. "The priests are just His instruments."
He hastens to add that every Mass is a "healing Mass," by virtue of Christ's Presence in the Eucharist.
So why hold special healing Masses?
"To help give people confidence that they can approach Jesus and ask for healing," says Fr. Anthony. "Also, when people who might not otherwise attend a Mass hear the word 'healing,' they are drawn. So it's also another way of evangelization — that healing through Christ is what the Church offers."
Most of the Shrine's healing Masses are standing-room only. Internationally known leaders of healing ministries, such as Fr. Richard McAlear, OMI, and Fr. Joseph Whalen, MS, draw people from throughout the Northeast and beyond. (Father McAlear will lead the June 26 Mass. Father Whalen will lead the Sept. 25 Mass.)
Cinching her scarf, Bonnie is exhausted by the end of the evening.
"It's a good tired," she says with a smile. "I prayed for peace of mind this evening, and I'm leaving here thinking that no matter what happens, I know that I can trust in Jesus that all things turn out for the good, regardless."
For the Shrine's full schedule, including its monthly healing Masses, visit thedivinemercy.org/shrine.