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An Extraordinary Divine Mercy Sunday

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By Chris Sparks (Apr 3, 2016)
On Divine Mercy Sunday, the snow fell.

And still the pilgrims came.

The winds blew.

And still they came.

The ground grew muddy.

And still they came.

On April 3, nothing could stop thousands of pilgrims, representing every ethnicity, from descending upon the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, answering the invitation of the Lord to celebrate His infinite mercy and receive extraordinary graces. "We come to worship the Lord, even in the cold," said the Most Rev. Mitchell Rozanski, bishop of the Diocese of Springfield and lead celebrant of the solemn liturgy marking the octave day of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday.

View our photo gallery from the weekend.

Hosted by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the annual celebration has been televised on EWTN since 1989, part of a long-standing collaboration between the Marian Fathers and EWTN inaugurated by the late Mother Angelica herself, foundress of the largest Catholic media organization in the world.

"As we pray for Mother Angelica's soul today," said Bishop Rozanski, "we thank her for her devotion and her work to spread this message of Divine Mercy. She, too, was a great apostle of Divine Mercy and her love for this devotion lives on in this broadcast of the Mass from here at Eden Hill."

But even with that lengthy collaboration, still this Divine Mercy Sunday was unique.

"Conditions are unlike anything we've ever faced here on Eden Hill," said Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, vicar general of the Marian Fathers. "We're trying to do this [EWTN broadcast] in the middle of a snowstorm. We have to admire the generosity of the pilgrims who have come, sitting out in the cold. But we have to remember that the Lord is never outdone In generosity."

The 2016 Divine Mercy Sunday is also the first time Divine Mercy Sunday is being celebrated as a universal feast day by the whole Catholic Church in a Jubilee Year. Indeed, as Pope Francis said in his Regina Caeli address today, this day is "like the heart of the Holy Year of Mercy."

"How appropriate," said Bishop Rozanski in his homily, "that we come in such great numbers to this National Shrine of Divine Mercy during this extraordinary Jubilee Year declared by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who urges us to dwell on the theme, 'Merciful Like the Father.' In a world that is so torn by violence, division and the horrible effects of humanity's sinful nature, this Jubilee Year is an oasis of hope and of comfort to all those who seek the peace that is rooted solely in the mercy of our loving God."

View his full homily:


The Mass followed by several hours the one presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square in Rome. "We are all called to become living writers of the Gospel, heralds of the Good News to all men and women today," the Pope told the crowds during his homily. "We do this by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which are the hallmarks of the Christian life.

"By means of these simple yet powerful gestures, even when unseen, we can accompany the needy, bringing God's tenderness and consolation."

This papal call followed last night's papal challenge, issued at a Divine Mercy prayer vigil on the 11th anniversary of St. John Paul II's death, to the Catholic dioceses across the world: Create an institution in each diocese, whether it be an orphanage, a hospital, or what have you, in honor of the Jubilee Year of Mercy to continue to perform one of the works of mercy even beyond the end of the year itself.

By answering this challenge, the Church in a sense will consecrate herself to Divine Mercy. Another such consecration occurred as part of the Eden Hill celebration, when pilgrims on the Hill and those watching EWTN were led in the consecration to the Divine Mercy by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, director of the Marians' Evangelization Office. Author of the best-selling 33 Days to Morning Glory, a preparation for total consecration to Jesus through Mary, Fr. Mike followed up that earlier success with 33 Days to Merciful Love, a preparation for consecration to the Divine Mercy. In the first two weeks after its publication, the Marian Helpers Center distributed upwards of 50,000 copies of the book. Clearly, said Fr. Mike, the faithful are fully aware of how badly the world needs God's mercy.

"The Consecration to Divine Mercy we're going to pray is inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux," explained Fr. Mike. "The height of her Little Way was her consecration to Divine Mercy. Therese looked into the Heart of Jesus and saw that its deepest wound was that He wants to pour out merciful love on sinners, but so many of them don't want to receive it. Therese told Jesus, 'Lord, I want all that rejected mercy.'"

This openness to rejected mercy isn't selfish, said Fr. Mike, because when we receive the mercy of God, we become more merciful ourselves and will share that mercy with the rest of the world.

If you'd like to make the consecration, the next recommended date to start the preparation is April 12, and the date of consecration would be May 15, Pentecost Sunday.

In other good news, the Marian Fathers were also anticipating a uniquely joyous event for their congregation in this extraordinary Jubilee: the canonization of Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, Founder of the Marian Fathers, which will take place on June 5 in Rome. "We Marians have been waiting more than 300 years for this, and here it is finally happening in the Jubilee Year of Mercy," said Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, rector of the National Shrine.

He shared with the pilgrims the beatification miracle for Father Founder: the "restoration to life" of a child in the womb. He also told a number of stories of formerly infertile women conceiving children after asking for the powerful intercession of Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski and Our Lady under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Of two different secretaries for the Marian Fathers in their Scholasticate in Washington, D.C., Fr. Anthony said, "She had so many children, she had no time to work for us!"

Pilgrims had the opportunity to hear two testimonies to the amazing mercy and powerful grace of God in the time before the Mass.

Zach Howick, a seminarian for the diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, shared his story of growing up in an anti-Catholic family and being called by a special grace from God to pray the Rosary when he was very young. Born with a heart defect that led to him enduring 18 mini strokes while still an infant, he yet grew up a normal child. At age seven, he woke up in the middle of the night, went to the telephone, picked it up, and heard his aunt, a Catholic, on the other end of the line. He asked her for a Rosary. From then on, he prayed it every night to avoid detection by his parents. Over the years, he discovered EWTN one night at the end of his Rosary when the TV in his room spontaneously turned on to one of Venerable Fulton Sheen's programs; began making Holy Hours after his family moved to a new home one block away from a Catholic Church; and was introduced to writers such as Dr. Scott Hahn by the local parish priest.

In 10th grade, he and a friend went to the local cathedral to make a Holy Hour. After finding nothing of interest on the bookshelves in the adoration chapel, Howick was reaching for his rosary when a book hit him on the head. He picked it up — the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. He read it for an hour, then asked his friend if he knew of it. The friend said he did and gave Zach a copy, which has been one of the staples of Howick's spiritual reading ever since. Zach entered the Church when he was 18, and the seminary, shortly thereafter.

Zach's testimony was only one of the many graces events taking place on Eden Hill. Confession and Adoration were available throughout the day, allowing pilgrims an opportunity to entreat God's mercy on themselves and on the whole world.

Music was provided by acclaimed singer/songwriter Anna Nuzzo, who has recently collaborated with Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, on a sung version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Other musicians sharing their talents included award-winning pianist Jessica Roemischer, the blind musician Tanny Labshere, and the Divine Mercy Choir of JJM Garvey. The Knights of Columbus served in various capacities, and took part in the procession at the Mass. After the Mass, Bishop Rozanski led the assembled pilgrims in the Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, then gave Benediction.

The world came to Eden Hill looking for the extraordinary graces God offers on the Feast of Mercy, and by God's generosity, the pilgrims found them.

"This is the third time I've been here Divine Mercy Sunday, but especially during this year, during the Jubilee Year, it's really, really special," said Anne Denninger from St. Mark's Parish in Rochester, New York. "This is such a special, special place, and Divine Mercy is just such a special devotion. Pray to the Divine Mercy no matter what; just keep praying!"

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Libby, Simonne, Lianne and Ann - Apr 6, 2016

Thank to the Marian's of Immaculate Conception for bringing Divine Mercy pilgrims to Eden Hill once again this year. The weather may not have cooperated for our comfort, but our suffering was far less than Our Lords agony on Good Friday for the love of us all. The experience of Divine Mercy weekend is made from within. Gods merciful love for us is what we need to take from this celebration and pass on to all that we encounter throughout this Jubilee year old Mercy.
Thanks to the efforts of the Marian's, and multitude of volunteers for their efforts for making this a most positive experience.

Elizabeth - Apr 6, 2016

William you're right! Thanks for your wisdom and insight. I think the Divine Mercy celebration was beautiful and refreshing.
The suffering that Our Lord Jesus bore for our salvation is beyond excess! His mercy is inconceivable! We must give ourselves to Jesus no matter what it may cost us. Being under rain, snow, bad weather - these are nothing compared to what He did on the cross for us and is still giving His whole self to us in the Eucharist. All we must do is adore His mercy and give Him thanks for His love which is everlasting. You emphasized that nothing needs changing. I agree: the environment at Eden Hill is alright - only our hearts transformation. Thanks for your words of encouragement, faith, and hope. Your comment is very uplifting. God bless you brother!

William - Apr 6, 2016

Do not let your heart be troubled, there is no greater love, than for one to lay down their life for another.. Sacrifice, is true Love.. :-) Jesus suffered much for us, we can endure a little suffering (inclement weather) for him :-) Especially on the greatest day of the out pouring of His mercy :-)
Washed clean, no more stain of sin, no more punishment for that sin... :-)
Regarding a new facility to accommodate the pilgrims on this one glorious weekend.. Consider the enormous cost.. First to build, then to maintain... For one weekend a year... I'm certain the beautiful shrine that exists today, is more than appropriate for every other weekend and the week days of the year.. The sanctuary was filled on Friday the first, for first Friday, and due to some of us early arrivals for the Holy weekend ahead... Monday, after that Great Day, scantly occupied... But nonetheless Beautiful...
Our Good and Gracious caretakers of the shrine, are doing a great job on this Beautiful weekend, and throughout the year, praying for us, for the world, and also providing and spreading the Divine Mercy Message, as Our Lord Jesus, requested, through our sister, Saint Faustina..
Nothing needs to be changed, but hearts... :-)
Think of the pilgrims that came to Massachusetts in 1620, oh what they had to endure all year long..
Surely, us current day pilgrims to Massachusetts in 2016, can endure (& did) whatever God brings us, on this one weekend (in Spring)... :-)
More thoughts on the weekend that I shared in regards to the conference and weekend:
We were there :) all the way from sunny Southern California.. At the conference and the shrine, all Glorious weekend long.. Wind rain and snow, freezing temps. What a beautiful weekend it was:)
The pure white snow we woke up too on Divine Mercy Sunday, was Gods way of showing us how we all would be after fulfilling the days gifts :-)
"Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than the snow".. Ps 51.7
"If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow".. Isa 1:18
"As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to him that sent him, for he refresheth his soul".. Prov 25:13
Yes, it was rough at times, cold, wet and slippery.. But the sun would shine through now and then, bringing us some relief :)
God was displaying the patterns of our lives. Sometimes stormy, but then the warmth of the sun always returns... Happy Days are here again :-)
Keep the words of Romans 8:28 close to you:
"ALL things work together for the good, for those who love God, and are called according to His purpose"... That means "ALL" things, the good and the bad.. Rough weather, and Beautiful blue skies, & Sunny Days :-)
Thank you Fr Chris, Thank you Fr Anthony, Thank you Fr Mike, and thank you to all the Marian's, Brothers, Seminarians, helpers and volunteers, for another Beautiful and Glorious God filled weekend :-)
We Love you,
From your Californian brothers & sisters :-)

Faith N Reason - Apr 5, 2016

One last thing... Not sure why so many pilgrims come to the shrine so unprepared for the outdoor event that it is. Perhaps photos should be emailed to the event coordinators of these bus tours. Show them pictures of past events that show snow, rain, mud, and very hot sunny days of previous Divine Mercy Weekends. Many pilgrims come unprepared and it breaks my heart to see them suffering due to the tough weather conditions that sometimes exist.

Faith N Reason - Apr 5, 2016

I did attended the celebrations at the Divine Mercy Shrine. I was deeply moved by the speakers. A priest who spoke of his conversion to Catholicism and Priesthood. While also experience Holy Mother Mary's protection during a horrific car crash. The other speaker, Zachary King rocked my world with his powerful talk about his spiritual conversion from being a Satanic High Wizard. If you missed it, look him up on the internet! I only wish he had more time to talk about his life story, instead of limiting his talk to 30 minutes. He should have been given more time. I felt his talk was important for parents to hear. Our kids are subjected to so much evil these days, which are hidden in games, television shows, music and on the internet. Easily accessible for them to be attacked or curiously stumble upon! Next time eliminate the music and let these great speakers talk! The field where the celebrations took place is so difficult for many of the pilgrims. Not sure why this slopped area of the grounds was chosen for the site of seating pilgrims on ridged wooden benches that become dominoes when they tip over. Many of the elderly and handicapped pilgrims need a place to rest and seek refuge from the outdoors. A heated tent with seats is recommended. All and all it was a wonderful weekend! Thank you to Fr. Gramlich, the Marian Fathers, Brothers, and Staff. You work very hard to make this a pleasant and holy event. God Bless! God willing, I'll see you next year!

Elizabeth - Apr 4, 2016

Yes, Michelle, for a place which is receiving so many pilgrimages, the environment need to be improved. Divine Mercy falls during chilly, cold weather (sometimes with snow, or wind/rain etc.). We should pray for a Huge Church to be built on those grounds to accommodate the pilgrims and the clergy. Let's include this in our prayers. The Marians are going a very good job in spreading the devotion to Our Lady and the Divine Mercy, and so a Church is necessary for the annual celebrations. The Church can be used the rest of the time for Masses, etc.
(I'm not saying they are going to build a church, this is simply my opinion.)

Elizabeth - Apr 4, 2016

I just want to say thank you to Father Mike Gaitley for the beautiful consecration prayer to merciful love. I will renew this prayer on every Divine Mercy Sunday. I will persist in my prayers for the Marian Fathers and for all members of the Marian Helpers Association. Despite bad weather a multitude of people showed up. This alone says a lot. The bad weather did not pose an impediment to their participation at Holy Mass and Holy Hour of Divine Mercy.
I dream and pray that sometime in the future a big Church will be built on those grounds to accommodate a growing number of congregants.

Michele - Apr 3, 2016

Unfortunately, I could not take part in the service because the condition was really bad. For a place who is receiving so many pilgrimages, I was not impressed with the environment.