Photo: Marian Archives
How the Lord Helped Me to Know of His Divine Mercy
By Br. Leonard Konopka, MIC (Oct 30, 2006)
When I first made inquiries to join the Marian community in 1950, I received from the vocation director a reply, along with a holy card of The Divine Mercy image. It was a dark and somber image and hardly one that drew my complete attention. Our Lord seemed distant, aloof, and hardly projecting any warmth. My faith was not adequately developed to go beneath the surface of the image.
Upon entrance into the Novitiate in Stockbridge, Mass., in 1951, I saw the same stark, but much larger image in our Marian chapel. Everyday, I passed it by without a second glance. Its meaning escaped my full understanding. In fact, in the first 25 years of my religious life, even though we recited the perpetual Novena of The Divine Mercy daily, I saw the devotion as peripheral to our community's religious life. Over time, though, I was able to recognize the significance of the Marian community's efforts in this regard, due to the number of employees that helped spread the devotion to Divine Mercy. We also had hundreds of pilgrims and visitors who attended Divine Mercy devotions and services in the chapel.
I still vividly recall to this day one particular Divine Mercy Sunday in the mid-1950s when a 'nor-eastern' snowstorm had blanketed the area with a foot of snow. The roads were impassible. Nothing was moving. We waited in vain and finally recognized that all our efforts for a well-attended celebration seemed pointless. However, to our total disbelief, at about four in the afternoon, a bus arrived, barely crawling up the hill. It contained a group of about 50 pilgrims from New Jersey who traveled eight hours through the storm to attend Mercy Sunday services.
No priest was available that late in the afternoon to say Mass. However, with total abandon and tremendous faith, and with not a word of regret, the pilgrims visited the chapel, prayed for a few minutes before this same stark image of Divine Mercy, and quietly got back on the bus. Their visit took less than an hour. They had another eight-hour trip in a blinding snowstorm back to New Jersey.
I realized that these pilgrims had more faith and knowledge of Divine Mercy than I ever had up to that point. I became more interested in knowing the same thing that these pilgrims already knew in their heart. I wanted something that they had. They taught me a lesson that was far greater than anything I had read or heard prior to that event. The lesson learned was complete obedience to the Lord's wishes. They came because that was what our Lord requested on Mercy Sunday. They came to receive His promises of complete remission of their sins. They saw something beyond the stark image.
Another significant event that I experienced in the Marian community was when we received notification from the Vatican that the devotion, as understood through the Diary of Sister Faustina, had some questionable elements that needed further clarification. We were told to desist spreading this devotion and were not allowed to publish any further articles or information regarding Divine Mercy as revealed to Sr. Faustina. The atmosphere that came upon the community was like being told a beloved friend or parent had just died. It seemed like a dark veil had covered the entire community. Some even thought it might be a death knell of our very existence.
In observing the total obedience of the superiors to this demand from the Vatican my curiosity was actually piqued regarding the deeper aspects of Divine Mercy. However, my interest lay dormant until 20 years later, when the ban was lifted, and we were once again allowed the freedom to spread the devotion. Because I was somewhat deprived of fully understanding the revelations made to St. Faustina, it made their approval all the more significant. Only then was I made aware that St. Faustina had actually predicted in her Diary the cessation, and then the revival, of the awesome message and devotion to His Divine Mercy.
I saw the hand of God in this entire experience. The overall faith of the community grew in that we were indeed protected by God and were blessed as a result. We came to see that the devotion actually spread tremendously even with our minimal participation.
One of the major lessons I also learned came through reading what the late Holy Father John Paul II wrote about Divine Mercy. In his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), the last chapter contained a sentence whose meaning I had thought about, but could never verbalize. The Holy Father said: "I am happy for my sin, because now I realize the great Mercy of God." God's unfathomable Mercy was far greater than any sin.
What this taught me was life changing. Until then, I could not appreciate the depths of His forgiveness and mercy. In my pride, I didn't feel I needed that much forgiveness. It finally dawned on me how patient God is. Only through God's grace was I able to finally recognize His greatest attribute, which is His Divine Mercy. Now I can be grateful that He lifted the veil of darkness I was in. He also removed the darkness of His stark image, which was a projection of my own sin. Through His grace, I can see more clearly the reason for being able to say: "Jesus, I Trust in You!"
Brother Leonard Konopka, MIC, is on the staff of the Marian Seminary in Washington, D.C. He also provides spiritual direction, retreats, and seminars. Brother Leonard has a leaflet available that has a series of meditations on the five wounds of our Lord. The meditations are intended for use while praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order Contemplate My Wounds. He also has a CD available with the meditations on the five wounds, interspered with the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Click here to order A Musical Interlude.