John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope: Beatification Edition by Rev. George W. Kosicki, CSB, is a genuine treasure for all who wish to make St. John Paul II's legacy of Divine... Read more
His Legacy Endures
Marian Press has just released the Beatification Edition of John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope, by Fr. George W. Kosicki, CSB, and David Came. The following is the foreward to the new edition by the Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC:
It gives me great joy to write the Foreword to the Beatification Edition of John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope. There are two reasons for this joy. First, I had the privilege of attending the beatification of John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011, in St. Peter's Square.
Second, Blessed John Paul II was someone special to my religious community, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. What brought us together, in part, was a shared mission to proclaim God's extraordinary love and mercy for all people. It is a mission of salvation and peace for humanity. "Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy," Jesus tells St. Faustina, as recorded in her Diary (300).
Reflections on the Beatification
Let me start by sharing some of my reflections from the beatification of Blessed John Paul II. (See chapter 3 of Part I for a more complete account of the beatification. Also, some of my personal reflections on the beatification appear in that chapter.)
First, the beatification was a dream come true for the Marian Fathers — especially Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, who has spent his whole life promoting this message of hope and God's merciful love. At the beatification celebration, the Marians were overjoyed to see The Divine Mercy Image displayed on the main altar, to hear the Divine Mercy Chaplet prayed before the solemn Mass, and, of course, to witness John Paul II being beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday.
What joy, what a fulfillment, what a special gift for us from God to witness personally this great event together with a number of our Marian Helpers who came with us on pilgrimage. It was truly a crowning moment for Blessed John Paul II's legacy of Divine Mercy and a resounding confirmation of our many efforts to share this urgent message of salvation, following his lead.
Other personal highlights of the beatification included the moment when the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, processed to the altar and then took his chair amidst beautiful music and loud cheering as the Mass began. After attending the vigil the night before in the Circus Maximus and then braving the long wait for the beatification through the early morning hours on the day itself — as pilgrims filled St. Peter's Square as well as the surrounding streets and piazzas in Rome — it was a moment of great joy for me and for all in attendance when the liturgy finally began.
Then, immediately after the Penitential Rite, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the vicar general for the Diocese of Rome, asked the Holy Father to beatify the Venerable Servant of God and gave testimony to the holiness of John Paul II's life. Cardinal Vallini had given witness to John Paul II's life at the vigil.
I particularly remember being overcome with joy when Pope Benedict declared John Paul II blessed, and the crowd exploded with a thunderous cheer of thanksgiving. "Oh, God," I exclaimed in prayer, "You are so gracious to us!"
There was also the solemn, silent procession with the relic of Blessed John Paul II as it was moved to the main outdoor altar. The relic was his blood contained in a cruet. It was poignantly symbolic of the way he had poured out his life in service to Christ and the Church.
Finally, I was especially touched by Pope Benedict's homily when he said:
I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for twenty-three years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights.
His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a "rock," as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Church. Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed!
These personal reflections by Pope Benedict are moving because he shares about his longtime collaboration with Pope John Paul II and the deep influence the newly blessed had on him spiritually. The Holy Father also speaks eloquently of John Paul II's heroic witness in suffering and his example of extraordinary faithfulness to his vocation as a priest and bishop.
The Marians Follow the Lead of Blessed John Paul II
In his enduring legacy of Divine Mercy, Blessed John Paul II has inspired the Church and the Marians in significant ways. Here are some mercy milestones for him that included the Marians following his lead.
Early in his pontificate, in 1980, Pope John Paul II published his famous encyclical, Rich in Mercy. John Paul shows how God the Father is "rich in mercy" through a masterful exposition of the Gospel parable of the prodigal son (5-6). He roots the message of mercy in Scripture and Catholic theology, speaking of how the love of the Father is revealed in Christ as the "Incarnation of Mercy" and "the inexhaustible source of mercy" (8).
Publishing an important work on Divine Mercy was also on the minds of the Marians in the early 1980s. In 1981, we prepared and published the original Polish edition of the Diary of Sr. Faustina, whose cause of beatification was initiated by John Paul when he was still Archbishop of Krakow. The Diary is the source book of The Divine Mercy message and devotion as revealed by Jesus to St. Faustina. Pope John Paul II quoted from it on a visit to Sr. Faustina's tomb, at her beatification and her canonization, and when he entrusted the world to The Divine Mercy.
Over the next several years, the Marians published other editions of the Diary in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. Today, Marian Press is known the world over as the publisher of the Diary in English and Spanish. This work of mystical literature has helped to ignite the Divine Mercy movement — one of the greatest grassroots movements in the history of the Church.
It is worth noting here that Fr. George. W. Kosicki, CSB, the author of this book, assisted the Marians in our publishing of the Diary in English. In 1987, he headed our Divine Mercy Department in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which was responsible for editing and proofing the English translation of the Diary.
Sister Faustina's cause of beatification was a priority for Pope John Paul II even when he was Archbishop of Krakow. This is borne out by a telling entry in The Making of the Pope of the Millennium: Kalendarium of Karol Wojtyla. On Aug. 21, 1965, Rev. Dr. Michael Sopocko, who had been Sr. Faustina's confessor and spiritual director, met with Archbishop Karol Wojtyla and asked when the diocesan process for Sr. Faustina's cause of beatification would start. "This matter is foremost in my mind," the Archbishop answered. "Maybe we will still be able to begin it this year" (Fr. Adam Boniecki, MIC, Author; Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, English-language Editor, The Making of the Pope of the Millennium: Kalendarium of Karol Wojtyla. Stockbridge, Mass.: Marian Press, 2000, p. 253).
On Oct. 21, 1965 — two months to the day after the meeting — Sister Faustina's cause was launched in the Archdiocese of Krakow.
Following Pope John Paul II's lead, Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, served as a vice-postulator for Sr. Faustina's cause for some 20 years. In his role, he was pivotal in securing the documentation and testimony needed for a miracle to be recognized for the nun's beatification, and then another one for her canonization.
In fact, Fr. Michalenko even witnessed the first miracle on March 28, 1981, when Maureen Digan was healed of the incurable disease of lymphedema at the tomb of Sr. Faustina in Poland.
Maureen and Fr. Michalenko were present in Rome on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 18, 1993, when Pope John Paul II beatified Sr. Faustina. "O Faustina, how extraordinary your life is!" John Paul exclaimed in the beatification homily. "Precisely you, the poor and simple daughter ... of the Polish people were chosen by Christ to remind people of this great mystery of Divine Mercy!"
Then, the healing in 1995 of Fr. Ron Pytel, a priest with a serious heart condition, paved the way for the blessed's canonization in 2000. In considering the cure of Fr. Pytel, the Vatican required greater scientific scrutiny. Father Michalenko located Valentin Fuster, MD, a world-renowned cardiologist, to review the case. His testimony advanced the case quickly, with Fr. Michalenko providing Vatican officials with the needed documentation. So, on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 30, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina in Rome as the first saint of the Great Jubilee Year 2000. Father Michalenko, Fr. Pytel, and Dr. Fuster were all present for the big day.
Pope John Paul II even attended the reception after the canonization. He told Dr. Fuster, "This is the happiest day of my life."
What made April 30, 2000, the happiest day of John Paul II's life?
The Pope said and did some truly remarkable things at St. Faustina's canonization. First came his surprise announcement in his homily about Divine Mercy Sunday. "It is important that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on the Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church, will be called 'Divine Mercy Sunday,'" he said.
Second, he did something that has great relevance to our world's need for Divine Mercy in these times wracked by terrorism and war. "Saint Faustina's canonization has a particular eloquence," the Pope said. "By this act I intend to pass this message [of Divine Mercy] on to the new millennium." Pope John Paul II was underscoring The Divine Mercy message St. Faustina was given as the message of the third millennium.
Interestingly, the Pope's establishing Divine Mercy Sunday for the whole Church came as no surprise to Fr. Michalenko. The evening before the canonization, Fr. Michalenko was informed by Monsignor Stanislaus Dziwisz, John Paul II's personal secretary, of the decision.
It was recognition of the Marians' "Feast of Divine Mercy Petition" drive, which was announced on the EWTN Cable Network and to the Marian Helpers in the Spring 2000 issue of Marian Helper magazine. In the petition, the faithful asked Pope John Paul II to declare Divine Mercy Sunday a universal feast.
The grassroots response was overwhelming. The Marians received thousands upon thousands of signed petitions by mail and fax from the faithful around the world. For months that spring, the Marians kept on sending the Holy See box after box of signed petitions.
To help the faithful understand these new developments, the Marians asked Fr. Kosicki — one of our close collaborators in promoting Divine Mercy — to write two new publications. Both were published by Marian Press before Divine Mercy Sunday 2001. Father Kosicki's booklet Why Mercy Sunday? provided a Q&A guide to celebrating the universal feast day. Meanwhile, in the first edition of this book, Fr. Kosicki chronicled the rich mercy legacy of John Paul.
After the momentous developments surrounding St. Faustina's canonization, the faithful barely had time to catch their breath before the Mercy Pope acted again.
In June of 2002, under Pope John Paul II's direction, the Church granted a plenary indulgence for the faithful who fully participate in Divine Mercy Sunday. The indulgence was available for the first time on Mercy Sunday 2003. Pope John Paul II wanted the indulgence to be available on Divine Mercy Sunday "in order to impress deeply on the souls of the faithful the precepts and teachings of Christian faith" regarding the mercy of God, according to a Vatican announcement.
Then, in August of 2002, Pope John Paul II entrusted the world to The Divine Mercy when he consecrated the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, a suburb of his beloved Krakow in Poland. This shrine is located where St. Faustina lived and worked.
"In this shrine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy," he said in his homily. "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."
The Marians supported these new developments by publishing before Divine Mercy Sunday 2003 pamphlets with the text of John Paul's entrustment homily and the plenary indulgence.
The Great Mercy Pope encouraged the Marians to spread Divine Mercy when we gathered for our General Chapters in Rome. At our Chapter in 1993, he charged us, "Be apostles of Divine Mercy under the maternal and loving guidance of Mary." Then, in a written message to the Marians at our Chapter in March 2005, he echoed this charge when he said, "Be apostles and witnesses of Divine Mercy for everyone."
One important way the Marians spread The Divine Mercy message is through our John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, which is headquartered in Stockbridge. Inspired by its namesake, John Paul II, the Institute teaches clergy and lay leaders about the message through its seminars and publications. In March 1996, Pope John Paul II signed an apostolic blessing for its dedication.
Along with naming our Institute after him, we have a special sign of Blessed John Paul II's presence with us on Eden Hill here in Stockbridge at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. It is a first-class relic of Blessed John Paul II — a drop of his blood on cloth. It's an extraordinary gift to our Shrine. Alongside the first-class relics of St. Faustina and her confessor, Blessed Michael Sopocko, at the Shrine, we now have one of the third great promoter of Divine Mercy, Blessed John Paul II.
As a sign of appreciation for the Marians' promotion of The Divine Mercy message and devotion since 1941, the relic was given to us by Cardinal Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, at the second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, which was celebrated at the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki on October 1-5, 2011.
To Preserve His Legacy for Future Generations
In light of this history involving the Great Mercy Pope, Blessed John Paul II, and the Marian Congregation, I am pleased to highly recommend the Beatification Edition of John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope by Fr. Kosicki. It follows on the heels of the Second Edition, which covered John Paul's entire papacy through the prism of Divine Mercy and was published in 2006, the year after his death. Building on that edition, Fr. Kosicki and his coauthor, David Came, in this new edition have developed masterful chapters on John Paul II's cause for beatification, the miracle recognized for his beatification, and the beatification itself. Further, they bring us up-to-date on John Paul II's influence on his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, in promoting Divine Mercy. Moreover, they make the chronology of the Great Mercy Pope current to include events through 2011 that are part of John Paul's legacy. Here is an invaluable resource for every apostle of Divine Mercy who wants to understand and embrace the Great Mercy Pope's special mission of proclaiming God's merciful love to all humanity.
As our publishing apostolate, Marian Press, produces this new edition, it represents another milestone for the Great Mercy Pope, helping to ensure that his legacy of Divine Mercy is preserved for future generations. For both Fr. Kosicki and the Marians, it represents a labor of love dedicated to his beloved memory and our continuing efforts to promote his legacy.
The Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, is Provincial Superior of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.