33 Days to Morning Glory

From Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, author of the popular book "Consoling the... Read more


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Photo: Brother Chris Alar, MIC

Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, shares thoughts on the F.I.N.C.H.

To Jesus through Mary

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Photo: Brother Chris Alar, MIC

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Immaculee Illibagiza shares how the Blessed Virgin Mary leads us to become better apostles of Divine Mercy.

Photo: Mary Kay Volpone

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Twelve attendees make their act of consecration to Our Lady after completing Fr. Michael’s book 33 Days to Morning Glory.

Photo: Brother Chris Alar, MIC

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In honor of Fr. Kaz's 25th year as a priest, the Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus presented him with a crystal image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

By Rick Paolini and Mary Kathryn Volpone

On the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, more than 600 people filled the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, N.Y., to attend the third Divine Mercy Conference in Buffalo held on Saturday, Sept. 15.

This year's theme was "Drawing Closer to Jesus through Mary." Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers, and Immaculee Illibagiza, a Rwandan genocide survivor, shared how the Blessed Virgin Mary leads us to become better apostles of Divine Mercy in our lives.

The day began with Holy Mass celebrated by Provincial Superior of the Marian Fathers, Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC. In honor of the 25th anniversary of Fr. Kaz's priestly ordination, the Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus presented him with a beautifully crafted crystal image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, designed by Jon Trabucco of Trabucco Studios of Buffalo. God inspired Jon to create this sculpture especially for Fr. Kaz and Our Lady.

The increasing number of Marian seminarians prompted organizers to encourage support for the Marian Fathers' vocations. Seminarian Br. Chris Alar, MIC, was invited to share why he feels the Marian Fathers have more men today studying for the priesthood than ever before in the history of their U.S. province. "If the message of Divine Mercy was not extremely important to God, as Jesus told St. Faustina, then we would not be receiving these kind of quality vocations," said Br. Chris. "I believe God is sending us these fine young men so that we will have the needed resources to continue spreading this critical message around the world. But these men cannot do it alone. They need your help."

All proceeds from the conference went to the education, housing, and training of the Marian Fathers' seminarians.

In her first talk, Immaculée Ilibagiza, author of the books Left to Tell and Our Lady of Kibeho, spoke of faith, hope, and love. She told the story of the genocide, recounting how she and seven other women hid in a three-foot-by-four-foot bathroom for 91 days while more than a million people were brutally killed, including her father, mother, and brothers. She spoke of the anger and desire for revenge that started to consume her. After much prayer, she realized, "God is really real. He heard me in the bathroom." She would go on to deal with her tremendous anger and desire for revenge. She spoke of struggling with the words "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" from the Our Father. She would skip that part of the prayer. She began to pray it again only after she remembered that this is how Jesus taught us to pray, and He must have had a good reason. She would pray, "I do not forgive, but You can help me to forgive."

The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary brought her to reflect on the suffering Jesus endured and His words of forgiveness, "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." She felt that if Jesus could forgive those who brutally killed Him, it was possible for her; however, she did not know how and asked God to help her. When she was contemplating Jesus on the Cross with His Mother there, Immaculée asked Jesus why He had to go through so much pain. "He said, 'Because I love you.'" She began to understand that those people who committed the horrible acts of genocide did not know what they were doing. Hatred and selfishness blind us. "Only when you act out of mercy and love are your eyes opened. I felt like a huge weight was lifted." There is a lesson for everyone. There is always hope with God. "If I can forgive, then you can forgive."

In her second talk, Immaculée spoke of the apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho, one of the few Church-approved apparitions in the 20th Century, which took place between 1981 and 1984. She began by saying if you get anything from this talk, know that "we truly have a Mother who loves us very much. She knows us by name."

The main message of Kibeho is love, says Immaculée, noting that Our Lady said to the visionaries, "When you speak to each other, use loving words."

"Be kind to people in your words, actions and the tone of your voice," said Immaculée. She went on to say that Our Lady "reminds us to remember the cross, remember the One who loved you so much, the One who died for you, who wants to give you an abundance of mercy and embrace you."

In his first talk, Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, recounted some of the history of Poland, specifically mentioning three times when Poland and Eastern Europe were being threatened by invaders and each time were saved by what appeared to be the hand of God. Thus, Poland was preserved for the messengers and the message of Divine Mercy. Jesus began to appear to St. Maria Faustina on the eve of World War II. At one point Jesus revealed to her, "I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming" (Diary of St. Faustina, 1732).

This spark would be the Divine Mercy message and devotion, said Fr. Michael.

Pope John Paul II was a key figure in the resurgence and promotion of the Divine Mercy message, he said. In 1958, due to faulty translations, promotion of the Diary of St. Faustina, was halted by the Church. As Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtya was instrumental in calling for a new translation and reexamination of the message and devotion. Blessed John Paul II said that the happiest day of his life was the day he declared at the canonization of St. Maria Faustina that, from now on, the Second Sunday of Easter would be known as Divine Mercy Sunday. He truly was the Great Mercy Pope, said Fr. Michael.

After lunch, Fr. Michael returned to give us ways to tap into God's grace and mercy. He first mentioned the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Mass, the Eucharist, Confession, and the many devotions that direct us to the sacraments. Then, he used an acronym — F.I.N.C.H. — developed by Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, to help people remember how to tap into the graces of The Divine Mercy devotion.

FThe Feast of Divine Mercy, or the Second Sunday of Easter. The divine flood gates through which all graces flow are open on that day. On that day the Good Shepherd goes after us with love and mercy. The promises of Divine Mercy Sunday are real. On that day we should pray with boldness for the deepest intention of our hearts. The grace of Divine Mercy Sunday cleanses our souls completely of all sin and the punishment due to those sins.

I The Image. At Jesus' command, St. Faustina had an image painted to remind us that God wants to forgive us. Jesus wanted at the bottom of the image the signature "Jesus, I trust in you." If we trust, He will do the rest. Jesus promised special graces for those who spend time before this image.

NThe Novena helps us prepare for Divine Mercy Sunday. Each day for nine days we bring a specific group of people before the mercy of God. The novena begins on Good Friday and ends on Holy Saturday. However, it can be prayed anytime.

CThe Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is a short but powerful prayer to the Father that Jesus taught to St. Faustina when she was praying for Poland. It looked like Poland was about to be destroyed by the angel of wrath because of Poland's sins. Saint Faustina's prayers seemed fruitless. She heard in her soul the words of the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. When she began to pray that prayer, the angel of wrath was powerless. We must pray the Chaplet for mercy and conversion for our country and the whole world.

Father Michael noted Jesus' message to St. Faustina that if you pray the Chaplet at the bedside of the dying, He will give them the grace of salvation. At the end of their life, I come to them not as a Just Judge but as a Merciful Savior. Jesus told St. Faustina to pray for the dying, since the salvation of some souls was dependent on her prayers.

HThe Hour of Mercy from 3to 4 p.m. daily, commemorating the death of Jesus, is like a mini-Divine Mercy Sunday. If possible, we are asked to do at least one of these three things:

1. Pray the Stations of the Cross
2. Try to visit Jesus in the chapel
3. Remember Jesus in His abandonment on the cross

Jesus wants us to remember the 3 o'clock hour every day. One of the most important ways to receive God's mercy is to trust in His mercy and be willing to give that mercy to others.

To conclude the conference, 12 attendees came forward to publicly make their act of consecration to Our Lady after completing Fr. Michael's book, 33 Days to Morning Glory. "When I opened Fr. Michael's book to review it, I noticed the consecration would end on September 15th," said event organizer Kathy Wabick. "I took that as a sign. During those 33 days leading up to the conference, we encountered many trials; however, I felt Our Lady's presence in a very strong way. She gave me great peace."

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