Photo: Felix Carroll
We Must Be the Message
By Felix Carroll (Mar 29, 2011)
For a conference titled "Divine Mercy: Heart of the Gospel," it certainly didn't take long to get to the heart of the matter, which can be summed up thusly:
"We're a society committing suicide," said Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, master of ceremonies for the 6th Annual Divine Mercy Conference in Bronx, N.Y., on March 26.
Add it up, and it's easy to see what he means. On a general level, our culture no longer recognizes sinfulness and the sanctity of life. Materialism has replaced God in the public square. Our families are broken. We seek escape by means of drugs and pornography. The Church itself has been at the center of a child rape scandal and coverup.
And on it goes.
"Christ has had enough of this," said Dr. Stackpole, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
+ + + View a photo gallery of the conference. + + +
Among the signature events in the Marian Fathers' efforts to spread the message of The Divine Mercy, the Bronx conference served as marching orders. The standing-room-only crowd at Cardinal Spellman High School was urged to focus their zeal for The Divine Mercy message toward becoming bearers of God's mercy.
That is to say, serve the materially and spiritually poor; forgive those who have hurt us; rebuild our families; and speak up to public servants who advocate policies that run counter to God. None of this is pie-in-the sky, as the line-up of speakers served to show. The joy of having Christ in our lives provides the universal prescription for the ailments of our times.
"This conference is a booster shot for so many of us who wish only to serve Christ," said Barbara Ewing of Stamford, Conn., who like virtually all the attendees has been touched and transformed by the revelations of the Polish nun St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, whose Diary has spawned the modern Divine Mercy movement.
Conference speakers toggled between the turmoil that defines the 21st century and the realistic ways to counter it.
Millions of children in the womb are murdered annually in the United States by means of abortion. But public sentiment seems to be shifting, thanks in part to people like Lila Rose. Millions of people have now viewed the powerful undercover investigation videos made by her group, Live Action, that expose lies and corruption within the abortion industry — videos that have led to soul-searching throughout the land and in the halls of Congress.
"I believe in my lifetime we will see the end of abortion," said Ms. Rose, whose presentation included now-famous videos her group produced that have rattled the abortion industry's biggest player, Planned Parenthood. Can we affect change through our faith? Yes. Live Action's investigations have helped lead to bi-partisan support in the U.S. House of Representative to defund public assistance to Planned Parenthood.
Here's another example:
While many among the laity remain frustrated with their pastors and bishops because they've all but ignored Divine Mercy, the Church is now experiencing tectonic changes on that score, said Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC, the Marian Father's vicar general in Rome.
"Now," he said, "the hierarchical structure of the Church is supporting [Divine Mercy] in a big way" through Mercy Congresses designed to bring the message of mercy into the daily life of the Church and the world. The second World Mercy Congress will be held this Oct. 1-5 in Krakow, Poland.
Father Joe noted that it was largely due to the groundswell of the laity that has brought Divine Mercy to center stage. He noted how the first World Mercy Congress, held in Rome in 2008, featured many of the Church's most prominent bishops and cardinals, and that's an incredible sign of the fruits of Divine Mercy devotees' work.
"The teaching authority of the Church" has embraced the Congress, Fr. Joe said. "This is no small thing. ... This is so very important: The shepherds are teaching us. They're trying to take up where John Paul II left off."
Here's another example:
Conference speaker Fr. Frank Pavone, MEV, once a veritable voice in the wilderness in his outspoken opposition to abortion, now reports that the depravity of abortion is finally "sinking in" with the Church — its leaders and its laity — who through a "united, purposeful and strong voice" can convert hearts.
This is not simply wishful thinking. He noted his friendship with the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a founding member of what became the National Abortion Rights Action League but who eventually became one of the nation's leading anti-abortion advocates. Dr. Nathanson once told Fr. Pavone that a major factor in his converting to Catholicism was his wish to experience the joy Catholics experience.
"What attracted him," said Fr. Pavone, "was the love and kindness of the faithful."
That sentiment was a common thread that linked the talks of all the conference speakers. When it comes to being a Divine Mercy apostle, when it comes to changing hearts and minds, we must be the message — through the joy we feel, the compassion we show, and the forgiveness we extend, and the truth we proclaim. The most hardened of hearts will want what we've got.
"The burden is on us," said Msgr. James Lisante, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Massapequa Park, N.Y. "Divine Mercy is made real by how we live our lives."
"This all takes work. It doesn't just happen," said Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR.
Father Bernard Murphy, CFR, who serves the homeless, spoke of five words from the Gospel of St. Matthew we should live by. "Whatever you do to the least of My brothers, that you do to Me" (25:45).
He spoke of the passage in St. Faustina's Diary when Christ Himself came to the door as a poor young man, and asked for food. Saint Faustina fed him, and after eating it, Jesus revealed Himself to her and told her that He had come down from His heavenly throne to "taste the fruits of her mercy."
"We don't need to go to Calcutta [to show mercy], or even the Bronx," said Fr. Murphy. "We need to begin with the people in our own lives."
"We're not supposed to be passive. We're not supposed to sit back and wait for instructions," said Fr. Pavone who went so far as to say that the legalization of abortion went virtually unchallenged by the Church.
"The Church was asleep," he said.
His point: Our nation can no longer afford for the Church to slumber.
Conference speakers also included:
• His Eminence Martin D. Holley, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.;
• Brother Paul Miller, SFO; and
• The Most Rev. Gerald T. Walsh
The conference included opportunities for confession, Adoration, Holy Mass, and a question-and-answer session with Divine Mercy experts Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC; Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC; Fr. Roesch; and Dr. Stackpole.
Co-sponsored by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, the conference drew 950 people, said conference organizer Ed Miller.
If you missed the Bronx conference, there are many upcoming Divine Mercy events around the country.
Learn how you can become a Marian Helper — helping the Marians to spread the message of The Divine Mercy and devotion to Mary Immaculate.