Photo: Felix Carroll
'The Catholic Church at its Best'
By Felix Carroll (Mar 26, 2012)
The sold-out crowd, in coming to their feet with thunderous applause, gave proof to his introduction.
"It gives me a great pleasure and joy to introduce to you a rock star," said the Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, beaming.
And with that, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, made his way through the crowd, shaking hands, high-fiving, and hugging as cameras clicked and video cameras rolled. His Eminence — the affable and unflappable center point of the Catholic clergy in America — served as the keynote speaker for the Marians' 7th annual Divine Mercy Conference on Saturday, March 24, at Cardinal Spellman High School in Bronx, N.Y.
+ + +
View our videos from the conference.
Also, visit our photo gallery highlighitng the day's events.
+ + +
"I propose a mission statement," Cardinal Dolan told the 1,200 people in attendance. Drawing from one of his favorite Gospel passages — John 12:20-33, when a group of Greeks came to the Passover Feast and asked Philip, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus" — Cardinal Dolan told the crowd to not only seek the face of Jesus in prayer and the sacraments, but to be the face of Jesus to the world.
"It's the world's plea to us, we Christians," said His Eminence. "What they are really saying to us is, 'We would like to see Jesus. The world wants the Church to reflect Jesus.'"
His talk — punctuated by jokes on topics including the dismal state of the New York Mets and his recent elevation to the College of Cardinals — underscored not only the themes of the conference but the critical challenges faced by the Church today.
To live in holiness and to inspire others to do the same first requires what he called "a rediscovery of a contrite Church."
"We have to admit," he said, "that we members of the Church do not show the world the face of Jesus. That's why we need to be contrite. That's why we need to turn to Divine Mercy — because our sins and our failings and our faults can get the best of us. They can knock us down and drag us out, and Satan loves that. Satan has two powerful tools, the most powerful tools he's got. On one hand, to make us believe we don't have sins. And on the other hand to remind us that we have so many that not even God could forgive them. That's despair. And of course Divine Mercy keeps us from any one of those extremes."
Raised to the College of Cardinals on Feb. 18, Cardinal Dolan, 62, has recently garnered headlines in leading the Church's charge against the hotly disputed mandate of the Obama Administration requiring healthcare coverage of contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.
Through his larger-than-life personality, love of laughter, and steadfast defense of Church moral teaching, the Cardinal "represents the Catholic Church at its best," said Fr. Kazimierz, the Marians' Provincial Superior in the United States and Argentina.
As the revered line-up of speakers attested to, at its best, the Church serves as a joyful, but resolute, counterpoint — and counterpunch — to what Blessed John Paul II called "a culture of death."
At its best, the Church is armed with the joy of the Risen Christ and the words of Christ to St. Faustina that "Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My Mercy" (Diary of St. Faustina, 300).
Against a backdrop of anxious times, God continues to reveal Himself today, showing the world that as we grow in mercy, we break the grip of evil.
He shows that through people like Abby Johnson, who spoke of how she left her career at Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, to become an advocate for the pro-life movement.
"Guys, we're winning this fight," she said, "We have the Number One Guy on our side, Jesus Christ."
Joan Maroney of Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM), spoke of how when MOMM brings their Divine Mercy multimedia program to schools and churches, even the most smart-alecky teens quiet down and listen up. Many of them even line up for confession.
"It's a sign of hope in our world today in how the youth accept the message of Divine Mercy," said Joan.
Conference organizer Ed Miller at one point during the conference invited up to the stage 11 men in formation who have joined the Marian Fathers inspired to spread the message of Divine Mercy and devotion to Mary Immaculate. The Marians have nearly 30 men in formation.
"God is working to bring holy priests into the world," said Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy and the conference master of ceremonies.
Audrey Santo will be declared a Servant of God on Divine Mercy Sunday. "Little Audrey," as she is known, was the child from Worcester, Mass., through whom God has reportedly worked signs and wonders, including bleeding Hosts.
"Audrey brings you to Jesus," Audrey's mother, Linda, told the crowd. "She's a statement of life in a culture of death."
Still, all this hope leaves no room for apathy. To that end, the conference served as a clarion call for action: to invite Jesus into our lives and to bring Him to others.
Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers, urged attendees to seek a complete Catholic life of faith, charity, and the sacraments through the Marians' new program, Hearts Afire: Parish-based Programs for the New Evangelization, which will be introduced during the Divine Mercy Sunday telecast on EWTN.
The author and television commentator Msgr. James Lisante urged the audience to engage in "righteous anger" when confronting hypocrisy and injustice, including government infringement upon the practice of the faith.
"I love and pray for Obama," he said, "but in terms of healthcare, you're as wrong as wrong can be ... It will not stand, and we will oppose you every step of the way."
Sister M. Rebecca Piatek, CSSF, principal at Perth Amboy Catholic School and leader of a successful Divine Mercy afterschool club that prays the chaplet and engages in works of mercy, urged attendees to evangelize the children.
"Don't be afraid to step out and get the youth involved," she said. "Your personal devotion will lead the way, and let God do the rest. He will make up for what we lack."
The author Susan Tassone urged attendees to pray for the souls in purgatory.
"First, we need to realize that these souls cannot help themselves," she said. "They need our prayers."
The author Dr. Scott Hahn urged attendees to put more focus on the afterlife by turning from sin in this life.
"God is going to meet you in your weakness with all of His strength," he said.
Dr. Stackpole urged attendees to view the Church "not as a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners. We are all the patients."
Ms. Johnson urged attendees to get involved in the pro-life movement to end abortion.
"We talk about social justice all the time, but where does social justice begin? In the womb," she said. "This is not just a problem. It is the problem. It is the issue."
At its best, the Church knows not to just talk about Jesus, but to show them Jesus. To the 1,200 faces in the audience, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, said "Be apostles of Divine Mercy. This is what the world needs from you. This is why you are here."
Co-sponsored by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and the community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the conference included opportunities for confession and closed with Holy Mass, with Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, serving as the main celebrant.