Divine Mercy Sunday 2017
By Melanie Williams (Apr 23, 2017)
God's grace and the love of the Blessed Mother were the hallmarks of the Marians' annual Divine Mercy Sunday celebration at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which drew more than 15,000 people and was broadcast live around the world.
And not a cloud was in the sky.
By 9 a.m. the line for Confessions was growing and Eucharistic Adoration began. Just an hour later at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, the celebration began with music and spiritual presentations.
Father Donald Calloway, MIC, kicked off the morning, explaining the importance of the Rosary, using material drawn from his latest book Champions of the Rosary.
"The Rosary is the spiritual weapon to defeat the enemy," Fr. Calloway said. He challenged his audience to look up the history of their countries — it is likely that there is some battle won, conflict resolved, or political ideology overthrown through the faithful praying the Rosary.
Do you know someone suffering from depression, anxiety, addictions, an illness, or difficulty? Father Calloway said that the Rosary is therapeutic, bringing healing and peace to a broken and troubled world.
After the apparitions in Fatima in 1917, the 20th century saw an explosion of champions of the Rosary, Fr. Calloway explained. Blessed Bartolo Longo, Fr. Patrick Payton, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, St. Maximilian Kolbe — these are all champions of the Rosary of whom Fr. Calloway speaks in his book.
Father Calloway concluded, "When you begin to pray the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day, you will begin to see change in your life."
Following Fr. Calloway, Fr. Kaz Chwalek, the provincial superior of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the B.V.M. in North America and Argentina, conducted a live interview with Dr. Waldemar Szypulski, the attending physician of Barbara Rudzik, the woman who received the miraculous healing that led to the canonization of the founder of the Marian Fathers, St. Stanislaus Papczynski.
Barbara, a young woman from Poland who was engaged to be married, had complete organ failure and was on full life support when her uncle prayed to then-Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski for her healing. Barbara was not responding to any treatment, but on the fourth day of the novena, before Dr. Szypulski's very eyes, Barbara experienced a complete healing of her irreversibly damaged lungs. Today Barbara is a healthy and happy wife and mother of two. The miracle she received was confirmed to be medically impossible and deemed the miracle necessary for the canonization of St. Stanislaus Papczynski.
"Myself and the medical team who were in total shock turned to joy and thanksgiving with Barbara's family," Dr. Szypulski said.
Dr. Szypulski has always been Catholic, and prayer was always a part of his life, but after this miracle, his faith became deeper and fuller.
"I learned that through prayer, we can move from the pits of suffering to the heights of joy," Dr. Szypulski said.
Dr. Szypulski said that as medical professionals, he and his team were instruments in God's hands.
He concluded, "Do not be afraid to seek the intercession of the saints — St. Faustina, St. John Paul II, St. Stanislaus Papczynski. I know they hear our prayers."
The final presentation of the morning was given by the Children's Rosary movement and its founder, Dr. Blythe Kaufman.
Dr. Kaufman said, "The Children's Rosary is a prayer group movement that was begun out of love for Our Lady and Her Son. Jesus tells us 'Truly, I say to you unless you turn and become like children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven'" (Mt 18:3). The Children's Rosary aims to begin in parishes Rosary prayer groups composed of children and led by children.
After suffering for two years with an illness that weakens the joints of her body, a condition that she developed during pregnancy, Dr. Kaufman confessed to being a lukewarm Catholic and prayed a Divine Mercy novena. She regained hope and strength, especially through meditating on one passage from Scripture in particular, namely: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9). It was then that she began to pray the Rosary daily and go to daily Mass.
Her parish was struggling financially, so she gathered a group of children to pray the Rosary. The weekend following that first Children's Rosary, collections in her parish soared.
"Children in their purity said 'yes,'" Dr. Kaufman said. Every month following that first Rosary, the children met to pray the Rosary, and the movement began to spread to other parishes. Today, Dr. Kaufman has written a book on the Children's Rosary. The Children's Rosary is aired weekly on EWTN, and affiliated prayer groups are in parishes in 22 different countries across the world.
Dr. Kaufman said, "Children are at the center of our families. If children begin to pray the Rosary, it will affect the whole family."
Following her presentation, a group of young children gathered around the altar at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine to lead the recitation of the Rosary.
At noon, Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers, and Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, vicar general of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, hosted our Divine Mercy Sunday pre-liturgy program on EWTN.
The program featured special guests Fr. Calloway, who also serves as vocation director for the Marian Fathers; Susan Conroy, author of Praying with Mother Teresa; and Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, spiritual director of the Holy Souls Sodality.
Susan Conroy spoke on how to quench the thirst of Jesus and console His Sacred Heart, much like Mother Teresa did. We can do this in two ways: first, in a physical way — "Hands to serve and a heart to love," as St. Teresa of Calcutta would say; and secondly, in a spiritual way — laboring and praying for the sanctification and salvation of souls."
Susan said that we can especially console the Heart of Mary by the Five First Saturday devotions and make daily reparation by praying the Rosary daily.
"Praying the Rosary daily is like holding our Blessed Mother's hand and staying close to her side," Susan said.
Father Cambra promoted devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory and a new book by Susan Tassone, Praying with the Saints for The Holy Souls in Purgatory.
The main celebrant and homilist of the Divine Mercy Sunday liturgy was the Most Rev. Edward Scharfenberger, bishop of the Diocese of Albany.
"God's mercy is a lot like light ... it purifies," Bishop Scharfenberger said. He explained that Satan wants to disrupt the order of creation — each day we wake up to a world of broken humanity in war and sin. Fortunately for us, the Crucified One is also the Risen One, the Divine Mercy, who transforms, seals, and heals our brokenness.
God wants to make the sinful paths of our lives into a beautiful, seamless garment of love and mercy. Bishop Scharfenberger pointed out that the Gospels are not shy about showing us the sins of the apostles, but it also shows us how they are put back together by the mercy of God.
The bishop said, "My prayer for you is that you will experience the deep and healing power of the light of God's love that seeks out every dark region of our lives ... Jesus wants to touch us — let Him look at you Heart to heart. That is what the Divine Mercy is all about. He is walking through the world seeking out the lost and wounded, as the Divine Physician, as the Good Shepherd looking for the lost sheep in every one of us."
He concluded, "God's grace united us to Him and to one another, into a seamless garment of God's mercy ... accept being accepted, and let the Lord heal you."
Here's his full homily:
The great Feast of Mercy concluded at the Hour of Great Mercy with the singing of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy before the Blessed Sacrament. Then the thousands of pilgrims were sent forth to bring the message of God's mercy to the world.
After the liturgy, Fr. Kaz shared that going forward from Divine Mercy Sunday, in this 100th anniversary of Fatima, there are four keys vitally important to receiving and spreading God's mercy.
"First, you must have your heart open to God. John Paul II said, 'Do not be afraid to open the doors of your heart to Christ.' If we open ourselves to Him, He does the rest. It's based on our capacity to allow God to work in our hearts — He has so much to give, and He wants us to open our hearts completely to receive all of the gifts He has for us.
"Secondly, let yourself go, allow Him to be your Lord and your King under the banner and leadership of Our Lady — she knows the way, she tells you, 'Do whatever He asks you. Don't be afraid; follow Him.'
"Third, we have to live a life of Sacraments and prayer. Jesus is available to us. He is always there. He helps us because we can't do it ourselves. We have to ask the Lord to help us live a sacramental life. Say to Him, 'You are here, the Risen Christ, present in the Eucharist.' If we say we don't have time for Him in prayer and in the Sacraments, we are missing this incredible gift of love, His Presence, which we need for daily life.
"Lastly, live in the awareness of His Presence, because if we know that He is present, then we won't do things which we shouldn't do, we won't feel alone — because we are not, we are never alone, and we will never be! Living in that awareness of His Presence also helps us to steer our life to choose things for each day, and each moment, which will be in accordance with His will."
Father Kaz concluded, "We should be excited at what He is giving us, and nothing else should derail us. If He is the One, then there is no other. If He is the One, then we should follow Him whole heartedly and find our joy and delight in Him — for that is our future glory. This gives us hope, for this is what we are awaiting: eternal life with Christ the Lord, His Father, and the Holy Spirit."