Called By Saints to Be Saints
By Chris Sparks (Apr 26, 2014)
More than 300 people gathered to learn more about "Saints John XXIII and John Paul II: Celebrating the Mercy Popes" at the annual Mercy Weekend Conference on Saturday, April 26. Held at the First Congregational Church in Stockbridge, Mass., just down the hill from the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, the conference welcomed guests from 17 states and Canada.
"One of the biggest lacks we have in our Catholic life today is we don't know how to answer questions about our own faith," said conference moderator Deacon Chris Alar, MIC, who will be ordained a priest on May 31. "We hear all these negative things; we don't know how to respond to them. So hopefully today we're going to give you some of those answers to take with you. We're going to teach the teachers, so that you guys can go out and help educate those who really don't know our Catholic faith."
Noted TV host and author Monsignor James P. Moroney, rector of St. John's Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, participated in a moderated question-and-answer session led by Deacon Chris, addressing an array of topics pertaining to Vatican II. Touching upon issues spanning the reform of the liturgy, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, the universal call to holiness (which both Saints John Paul II and John XXIII placed at the heart of the Church's challenge to the faithful in modern times), and the importance of Mary and Marian devotion in the life of the Church, Monsignor Moroney's answers were often humorous and always deeply informative.
"I learned about our sacrifices being put on the paten as part of the sacrifice we're bringing to Jesus," which will then be offered in union with His Eucharistic sacrifice to the Father, said Linn Mary Brosnan from Queen of Apostles in Belmont, N.C. "To me, it was really beautiful."
Deacon Chris then presented "Our Role in the Mission of Mercy," strongly recommending Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC's 'You Did It to Me': A Practical Guide to Mercy in Action, a newly released Marian Press title on the works of mercy.
"Everyone always wonders, 'What am I going to be judged on? Will I go to heaven? Will I go to hell? I haven't killed anybody,'" said Deacon Chris, "but when you read this book, you realize Fr. Mike Gaitley's talking about what we will be judged by": whether we've performed the works of mercy or not.
"It was very educational," said Arnie Penaloza from St. Augustine's Parish in Elk Ridge, Md. "I'm so grateful for the speakers because they just pass their knowledge on so that I can pass it on to others — so wonderful, especially how Deacon Chris wrapped four years of seminary into four minutes to convey to us that our God, through His mercy, came down to us on earth, and we were created anew so that the sacrifice that Christ made for us takes us back again to our Father God in heaven so it completes the circle."
And the educational opportunities didn't end with the talks. Various Marian Press titles were available for sale to participants, as well as Monsignor Moroney's popular works on the liturgy. Each year, the conference is free for members of the Thirteenth of the Month Club, Friends of Mercy, and the Holy Souls Sodality. A monthly newsletter is sent to each club member, giving them further information about the particular spirituality that the club is focused on and letting them know about opportunities for prayer and living out that spirituality in their lives. The conference allows club members a special opportunity both to be formed in the Divine Mercy message and devotion, and also to network with fellow club members.
"I believe we have a record number of people registering for this year's Mercy Weekend Conference. We've noticed many new people are registering, which is very encouraging," said Mary Katherine Volpone, one of the conference organizers. "Almost everyone I've talked to likes to make our conference part of their Divine Mercy Sunday experience. They come every year and enjoy the event."
Tom and Gail Finnegan from St. Cecilia's in Wilbraham, Mass., gave the conference a rave review. "We loved it! It was really wonderful!" said Gail. "We've heard Monsignor Moroney several times before and knew he would be wonderful, and the deacon was absolutely terrific — beautiful, beautiful young priest he's going to be."
"It's always an uplifting day here," said Tom.
All are welcome to join our clubs: Friends of Mercy, the Thirteenth of the Month Club, Circle of Light, and/or the Holy Souls Sodality. To read more about the teachings of Vatican II as handed down by Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, see our two-part interview with Dr. Alan Schreck here and here.