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Photo: Josh Kruszyna
'Thanksgiving' Rules at Encuentro
By Dan Valenti (Aug 11, 2014)
Matthew's Gospels tells of Jesus' miraculous feeding of 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Saturday on Eden Hill, home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Jesus fed 6,000.
That was the number of pilgrims who came to the Hill on a brilliant summer day to hear from Jesus, as they did in Matthew's letter. As in Matthew's account, they came away nourished and refreshed. The multitude came for the Marian Fathers' 9th annual Encuentro Latino ("Latin Encounter"), which has become the largest spiritual gathering of Latinos in the Northeast.
The "loaves and fishes" were present in the form of Divine Mercy, the clear and straightforward spiritual repast available to all God's children, simply for the asking. Pilgrims came from over the Northeast and from an array of countries acknowledged at the opening of Mass by Fr. Diego Maximino, a Marian priest who serves a parish in Argentina. Father Diego intoned The Dominican Republic, Central America, Columbia, Mexico, Spain, and a host of Latino nations. With each country's name, islands of people in the crowd responded with rousing cheers.
'The Message is Simple'
In an interview prior to Mass, Fr. Diego explained Divine Mercy's universal appeal.
"The message is simple," Fr. Diego said. "It goes to the most basic purpose of our faith, which is to serve the poor and be a brother or sister to everyone in our lives."
In his homily, Fr. Diego emphasized three points:
1. The contributions of Pope Francis in exemplifying God's mercy to the world through his humble lifestyle and joyous affirmation of service to humanity. Father Diego says Pope Francis knows about Divine Mercy from his days as archbishop in Buenos Aries. Once a year, Fr. Diego said, the future pope would be the main celebrant at the Divine Mercy shrine in Buenos Aires.
2. The connection between Jesus as The Divine Mercy and His mother, Our Lady and Queen, Mother of Mercy.
3. The example of Mary (as mediatrix between us and her Son) and Jesus (answering the call for help) at the wedding at Cana.
View his homily here:
+ + + View a photo gallery from the day. + + +
An important aside tells you about Fr. Diego as a man and priest. Prior to vesting for Mass, Fr. Diego was not inside the Marian monastery eating lunch. He was not inside socializing. He was not writing his homily. Where was he? Hearing confessions, to a point where it became a matter of mild concern for the logistical organizers. He was, like his fellow Argentinian Pope Francis, serving the people.
Color, Exuberance, and Joy
Pilgrims comprised a rainbow of Latino ethnicity, with all its color, exuberance, and joyful expression of culture and faith. The day began at mid-morning. There were 91 buses officially registered, with several more that just showed up. Others came in groups loaded into family vans and vehicles.
People poured out of buses and from parking lots to participate in a number of pre-Mass activities. These included Latin music; ethnic dancers in costume; spiritual presentations; activities for children, including the always popular popping of the pinatas; and a Rosary procession. Following Mass, pilgrims prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy from the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine and had religious articles blessed. The gift shop, candle shrines, Adoration tent, and confessionals were busy all day.
One theme kept surfacing in the spiritual presentations and testimonies of individual pilgrims: thanksgiving.
Elizabeth from Manchester, N.J., said her Encuentro Latino retreat was offered as a gift of thanks to Jesus and Mary.
"My visit today is my first [to Eden Hill]," Elizabeth said. "For me it is a prayer of thanksgiving for what the Lord and Our Lady have done for my mother over the past three years. Thank you, Blessed Mother. Thank you, Jesus. That is what I say today."
Growing in His Faith
In contrast to Elizabeth, Alberto Rosario was on Eden Hill for his eighth Encuentro Latino. Over the years, Alberto's role at Encuentro has evolved from pilgrim to master of ceremonies for many of the pre-Mass presentations and activities, which this year originated from under the large tent at one of campus parking lots.
Alberto has also grown exponentially in his faith through Divine Mercy.
"The first time I came [in 2007], the Lord invited me here," said Alberto. "I had a great conversion through Divine Mercy. It has been a great blessing to me and to my family."
Today, as he has for the past few years, Alberto works an official promoter of Divine Mercy in his home country, Puerto Rico, where he has "day job" as a tourism director in Manati, on the island's north-central coast.
"In thankfulness for my conversion, I spread the message of Divine Mercy in Puerto Rico," Alberto says. "Most people don't know why they come to the message, but they hope they will find it there. Jesus doesn't work like a judge. He works like a father. That's what people discover through Divine Mercy."
Thanksgiving also played a major role for Santiago Armas of Newark, N.J., who came to Encuentro Latino with his extended family.
"This is a joyful visit for all of us," he said. "The children enjoy the food and the games, but we [adults] are here to thank God for His blessings upon us. God's mercy is so great. We all sin from our [fallen] natures, but as a loving father, God does not hold our sins against us. He opens his arms to us again and again, as many times as we need."
At the end of the day, the buses and vehicles were blessed as they exited Eden Hill. Everyone had fully partaken of Divine Mercy. You'll recall in Matthew's account, after the 5,000 had eaten, Jesus' disciples collected the remains. They filled 12 baskets with food. After another Encuentro, there would be no effort to collect any "leftover" mercy. God's mercy was still there as much as it was when the new day dawned: in infinite abundance.