The Book That Sparked the Divine Mercy Movement The Diary chronicles God's message given through St. Faustina to the world to turn to His mercy. In it, we are reminded to t... Read more
Photo: Ruud Heek
Here we are in Plock, where Jesus, on Feb. 22, 1931, appeared to St. Faustina and instructed her to paint His image with the inscription "Jesus, I Trust in You!" (Mary Lou Pimentel is on the right, in purple.)
By Mary Lou Pimentel
Last Sept. 11-16, I was among the 60 pilgrims who joined the spiritual journey to Poland organized by the Purmerend Filipino Community in The Netherlands. Poland, of course, is the homeland of the modern Divine Mercy movement. It's where an unheralded nun, now known by the world as St. Faustina Kowlaska (1905-1938) received revelations that she recorded in her spiritual Diary.
Through her, Jesus communicated to the world the great message of God's mercy and revealed the pattern of Christian perfection based on trust in God and on the attitude of mercy toward one's neighbors.
This journey to Poland is one I had wished to take since I came to know the greatness of The Divine Mercy from my late parents, Mr. and Mrs. Solomon B. Pimentel of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. My desire to travel to Poland only grew in intensity upon attending the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM), held in Rome, Italy, in April 2008. WACOM "powered me up" to embrace the mercy path. Through each talk and testimony, a voice spoke to my heart saying, "Go and spread His Mercy!"
That voice echoed in my heart as we pilgrims entered Krakow's Lagiewniki district and stopped at the 19th-century brick convent of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. The convent's shrine contains the tomb of St. Faustina, to whom Pope John Paul II gave the name, "Apostle of The Divine Mercy."
Every step I took toward the shrine were steps of joy and gratitude. I felt like a child tremendously happy to receive a long-desired gift. My soul could hardly contain the gladness I felt being at His altar of mercy next to the mortal remains of St. Faustina, who often prayed in this very shrine. My tears — "the liquid prayers" — became the silent witnesses to the awesomeness of the moment.
We then entered the Basilica of the Shrine of The Divine Mercy, which was constructed next to the original shrine. There we attended the 3 o'clock chaplet followed by Holy Mass. The majestic Basilica was consecrated by the late Pope John Paul II on Aug. 17, 2002. In his homily he said:
Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God's merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: from here there must go forth "the spark which will prepare the world for his final coming."
I came to read these words for the first time during WACOM, in Rome. From then on, it never occurred to me how strongly the word "spark" captivated my senses.
We then traveled to Wadowice where celebrated Holy Mass on Sunday in a chapel near the baroque Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Wadowice is a city of 20,000 that got international recognition as the birthplace of the "Great Mercy Pope," the late John Paul II. We viewed the house where he was born then travelled to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of Nazi Germany's concentration camps and extermination camps.
Guided from one barrack to another, we were speechless. We saw the material remains and belongings of those who were killed. We learned of the tons of human hair that became raw material for the Nazis' sleeping mats, bags, and ropes. We saw children's dolls and babies' tiny shoes. We were told of the unfathomable horrors. An estimated 1.5 million men, women, and children were killed here.
It all made my vision hazy. I was filled with intense disgust.
Saint Maximillian Kolbe's cell reminded us of his incredible example of faith and mercy. Not far from his candle-lighted cell was a dingy, dark corner where hunger-stricken prisoners were made to stand till they dropped dead. Touching those original one-meter-high-by-three-meter-wide beds in which five prisoners apiece were confined sent a tsunami-chill of shame in my heart. Viewing the gas chambers and crematoriums and pond of ashes just made me look up to heaven and sigh, "Lord, have mercy."
Leaving Auschwitz-Birkenau, tears flowed from my eyes, and my soul ached. Yet, God's mercy towered above my human pain. I realized how, today, by spreading God's mercy — by reaching out to the least among us, the forgotten, the sick, the poor, and the lonely — we may help redeem this hideous Holocaust. We can help prevent such an event from being repeated. Like never before, I felt the dire need to spread His mercy and to restore the aching earth.
We then visited the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a revelation of God's wonder. Inhaling the pure air was a cheer to many as we saw the unique, centuries-old equipment and historic statues and mythical figures made of salt. The chapel of St. Kinga, an impressive and opulent chamber carved in a block of salt, took our breath away. The salt statue of the late Pope John Paul II caught our cheerful attention.
Then, off we went to Poland's second most important pilgrim's destination: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. We said our Divine Mercy chaplet before the miraculous picture of Our Lady of Kalwaria.
Then, we prayed at the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, known as " Black Madonna," in a small 15th-century Gothic chapel. This is Poland's holiest place and ultimately one of the world's most important pilgrim sites, too. Next to this chapel is the huge baroque monastery compound.
From here, we headed to one of the most important places in the history of the modern Divine Mercy movement, the charming town of Plock, where Jesus, on Feb. 22, 1931, appeared to St. Faustina and instructed her to paint His image with the inscription "Jesus, I Trust in You!" We know this image today as the image of The Divine Mercy.
Our arrival was timely: 3 o'clock, the Hour of Great Mercy. We prayed the chaplet, as Jesus had instructed St. Faustina to do to honor His Passion. We recited it alternately in Polish and English. How my heart warmed up being here at this place, feeling a tiny fraction of that joy St. Faustina must have felt in meeting the Lord!
The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy extended a gracious welcome to us. It felt like "home." Due to building renovations, we were not able to see the room where Jesus appeared to St. Faustina. However, as a token, the sisters distributed tiny bricks from the room where Jesus appeared to St. Faustina. Pressing the tiny brick in my palms, I said, "Lord, I trust in You!"
I left Plock with lighted spirit, though I wished to have stayed much longer to enjoy more mercy moments before the Blessed Sacrament.
After a good rest at Warsaw, we awoke beating the first sparks of the early dawn. Before crossing the German border for the last leg of this spiritual journey, we visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrow in Lichen Stary. This is listed as one of the top 10 most beautiful Roman Catholic basilicas in the world. It proved to be magnificent! Visiting Marian basilicas reminded us that Mary, with all Her numerous titles, remains always as Our Mother of Mercy.
As I recap this spiritual sojourn, two realities pervade my thoughts: the Tree of Life and The Pond of Ashes. One heavenly and merciful. One hideous and cruel.
After visiting Auschwitz, I went back to the Basilica of the Shrine of The Divine Mercy. Gazing at the Tree of Life, which is the motif of the main altar where the Blessed Sacrament is enthroned, the Pond of Ashes at Birkenau kept flashing back in my mind, filling my heart with tremendous sadness. What a contrast, Lord. Life and ashes.
Yes, human ashes of those mercilessly robbed of life.
God's mercy is life. Man's mercilessness is ashes. I bowed in silence with eyes closed.
I headed home cherishing the many graces I received during this pilgrimage. The pilgrimage also served as my memorial travelogue for my dearest parents, too. They had no gold or silver as inheritance, but they left me this spiritual legacy: the joy of knowing The Divine Mercy.
One their sick beds, where they spent their dying moments, the Lord of Mercy was their supreme comfort. I asked my mother one time about a frame next to her bed.
"Who is this beautiful nun?" I asked.
In a frail voice, she said, "She is St. Faustina."
"And who is St. Faustina?" I asked.
Though bedridden and embattled by a sickness, my mother proceeded to witness for the mercy of Jesus. From then on, my own Divine Mercy journey began.
May these sparkles of His Mercy shine forth in me despite my sinfulness, for I believe in the promises that Jesus told St. Faustina:
"Proclaim to the whole world My unfathomable Mercy. Do whatever is within your power to spread devotion to My Mercy. I will make up for what you lack."
To this effect, it is my hope that my co-pilgrims have deepened their faith in The Divine Mercy and in Mary, Mother of Mercy.
Mary Lou Pimentel is a fulltime mother living in The Netherlands. She has begun sharing the greatness of The Divine Mercy through her group, the Divine Mercy Apostolate—Holland, which formed in April 2009 on the first anniversary of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy. She is also a member of a Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy prayer cenacle. Learn how to start a cenacle in your area.