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By Dan Valenti (Apr 20, 2009)
This one was different.

On Divine Mercy Sunday, 2009, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., the weather made of itself a pleasant gift from God to 18,000 delighted pilgrims. No snow, rain, sleet, wind, cold, or dark of night — only a pleasant, mild, and sunny New England spring day.

Weather, though, ultimately proves incidental to God's infinite love for His creation. Mercy works equally well in a tempest or in temperance.

Umbrellas for the Sun
"People brought all sorts of rain gear and cold weather clothes, and look: They're using their umbrellas for the sun," said a laughing Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, director of Evangelization and Development for the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. "This [weather] is an extra gift of the Lord on this amazing day of grace," said Fr. Kaz.

The "amazing day" centered on love.

"Divine Mercy is a form of God's love," said the Most Rev. Edward Ozorowski, Archbishop of Bialystok, Poland, in an interview prior to Mass. "Saint John the Evangelist said 'God is love.' He added to that love by sharing with us His mercy." Archbishop Ozorowski emphasized that God's mercy is for all, literally every person on earth regardless of qualifiers.

Awash in a Sea of Pilgrims
Diversity was in evidence in the sea of pilgrims, with people from a dazzling multitude of races, ages, ethnicities, abilities, socio-economic strata, and nationalities converging on Eden Hill to partake of the graces Jesus promised the world on Divine Mercy Sunday.

Three young women wearing identical yellow sweatshirts typified this quilted variety. They had come from East Boston to sing their hearts out. The women represented the Brazilian choir from the Sons of Mary Madonna Queen Shrine, who sang from the altar at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine during the 1 p.m. liturgy. An audience of millions watched the Mass on Catholic television network EWTN.

"We can't live without His mercy. [Without it] we can't believe or be able to move on," said Eudineia Candida. Her two friends echoed the remarks:

"Through mercy, my faith has grown stronger," said Natalia Amorim, a student at Regis College. "This has definitely helped me to grow as a person. When I'm down or have a setback, the Church helps me get back up. God is always willing to forgive and help me become a better person." Maristela Nicolini, speaking in lilting English spiced with an Italian accent, said she could not imagine her life "going forward without God's mercy. If left on our own, we could not do it — but God does not leave us alone or abandon us. He loves us too much."

'Blue Cap' to the Rescue
Mari Camanaha served as a "blue cap" volunteer helping the Marians with crowd control. The more than 500 volunteers performing sundry roles served on this day. This, too, was an act of mercy. They wore caps of different colors so pilgrims and fellow volunteers could easily spot them.

Mari, looking pretty in her baseball cap of powder blue, is a registered nurse from Hawaii. She is a doctoral student at Catholic University, Washington, D.C., part of a group of 14 students who made the trip to Eden Hill as part of a Divine Mercy weekend retreat.

"I've had a longing in my heart to come to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy for over four years," Mari said. She mentioned having recently returned from a nine-day medical mission trip to Haiti sponsored by the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart, a group of religious sisters from Washington, D.C. There, she and the missionaries performed corporal works of mercy of taking care of the sick and giving sustenance to the hungry and thirsty.

"Mercy is so awesome," Mari said. "No matter what you've done in life, God's mercy is so enormous that the joy one gets is inexpressible." Asked if her first trip to the National Shrine lived up to her expectations, she broke out in a radiant smile and said, "Oh, yes!"

Truth for Youth
Deacon Andy Davy, MIC, who will become a Marian priest on May 30, said in an interview before Mass that the Church needs young people to discover the richness of faith and to become part of an evangelical revitalization.

"There are many factors involved in trying to convince more of our youth to turn to God," said Deacon Andy, who read the "Doubting Thomas" Gospel at the 1 p.m. Mass in both English and Spanish. "One of the most powerful [techniques] of sharing faith is to provide a witness to faith. We can do that in our daily lives, in the work we do, and in how we treat one another."

Reminded that through his impending priesthood, he will be uniquely positioned to help people, especially youth, Deacon Andy nodded in assent. He made a crucial point about God's mercy when he said we are invited to receive this gift freely and required to extend this gift freely to others.

A Swap of Relics
At the start of Holy Mass, the Most Rev. Timothy McDonnell, Bishop of Springfield, Mass., blessed the Outdoor Shrine as Ordinary of the Springfield Diocese. Also, relics were exchanged.

Archbishop Ozorowski presented the Marians with a first-class relic of Blessed Michael Sopocko, St. Faustina's confessor and spiritual director. Blessed Michael was beatified in the Archbishop's Diocese of Bialystok last year on Sept. 28.

The Marians returned the favor in kind, presenting Archbishop Ozorowski with a relic of Blessed George Matulewicz-Matulaitis, the Marian Renovator. One hundred years ago, in 1909, Blessed George joined the Marians with special papal permission, doubling the membership from one to two. He then revised the Marian Constitution.

Today, from two men the Marians number more than 500 priests and brothers serving throughout the world. Through the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, the Marians will celebrate the centennial year of their renovation.

'Mercy Prolongs Love'
In his homily, Archbishop Ozorowski said, "Mercy does not begin where love comes to an end. Mercy prolongs love and makes it even more beautiful. Mercy cannot be taken lightly. God is ever the Father, and every son — even the prodigal son — is to love Him, trust in Him, and keep returning to Him."

Several other events and spiritual graces filled out the day's schedule:

• 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Adoration Tent
• 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., presentations on spiritual topics at the Outdoor Shrine
• 3 p.m. Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet; Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament; and blessing of religious articles and water.

In keeping with tradition, the Marians blessed each car and bus as it exited Eden Hill to Pine Street from there to make the journey home. People in the shuttle buses to off-site parking were blessed at the Prospect Hill Road entrance to Eden Hill. Pilgrims in the shuttle busses parked off-site were blessed at Prospect Hill Road, which borders Eden Hill.

The pilgrims left overflowing with mercy and, we hope, determined to share it freely with others.

Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of "Dan Valenti's Journal" at thedivinemercy.org.

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Fr Cliff Bishop - Apr 20, 2009

I watched it with the residents at the Nursing Home I am Chaplain to. It was a wonderful celebration. I hope to be able to be there next year!

Maureen Santiago - Apr 20, 2009

I was there with my husband Rafael, it was the most moving experience. Even though I have attended this event several times, every time I leave with a heightened sense of peace, love, trust and forgiveness.

Daphne K. Karandanis - Apr 20, 2009

Blessed Faustina-- now St. Faustina-- has been closest to my heart since my conversion to the Faith in 1995. I grew up in Massachusetts, but have been living in California, Hawaii and Alaska since 1989, and to think I'd never been to Eden Hill, though my parents took me to the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood all those many years!! My fervent wish is to be in Stockbridge for Divine Mercy Sunday 2010. May God Bless you!!

Edwin Reyes - Apr 20, 2009

It was my first time....and it is a memorable and spiritual experience "Jesus I Trust In You"

Anne - Apr 20, 2009

A dear friend introduced me to the Divine Mercy Chaplet shortly after my mother's death, when I was having trouble sleeping. I told him I had been waking up at 3:00 every morning, unable to fall back to sleep. He told me that 3:00 PM is the hour of mercy and that maybe 3:00 AM is as well. He suggested that perhaps I was being called to pray the chaplet. I learned that beautiful prayer and have been praying it ever since. I have lived outside of Albany, NY for over 20 years but never made the trip over to the shrine until yesterday. What a blessing! The Lord gave us a beautiful day. It moved me beyond words to be with so many people who share my faith, and to receive the grace and mercy that was flowing so abundantly.

Mary - Apr 20, 2009

Last year I was so upset that I could not see the Divine Mercy, I put it to prayer to Jesus i thrust in you on october 10th 2008 I got my wish come thru, I got comcast to install the box and on the 12th pf the same month i got EWTN i get t on channel 21 or on 238 i can even get the chaplet on 268 channel with the mercy sister. wow jesus i love you and guess what i was able to watch the on this mercy sunday which came on at 1 pm and i was so happy, where i live in the apartment had gotten it and our TV was loud.Jesus I Trust in You. god bless all the marians zbogiem

Y. Andrews - Apr 20, 2009

My son (12) made is first trip (hopefully one of many) to Eden Hill with his older sister (14) and really enjoyed it. He's still singing 'The Summons'!! God blessed me with a wonderful mother who taught and shared with me the devotion to Divine Mercy. At 67, she made yet another pilgrimage to Eden Hill yesterday and is looking forward to being there for the 50th Anniversary next year.

Agazit Seyoum - Apr 24, 2009

As I saw the line of Confession got longer this year than previous Nine years,I was rest assured that the Devotion to Divine Mercy is undoubtedly spreading throughout U.S. My wish is that it spreads through Africa as well particularly my Nation Eritrea, so souls can soon benefit from this generous Gift of God's Mercy.

Ginny E. Mampouya - Apr 28, 2009

I am a constant promoter of the Divine Mercy. I organize buses to the shrine on a yearly basis. I am sorry I have missed the trip for a while now. I can't wait to resume my participation. It is a wonderful feeling of Christ centeredness... what a wonderful experience.

johnny - May 11, 2009

my second visit with a group of pilgrims. it was an absolute faith experience you cannot describe. i enjoyed every moment praying and singing. my friend said that this was the longest ceremony in his 62 years of life but was a worthy one. thanks for all those great organisers. God bless you all

john - May 20, 2009

It was a great experience to see so many faithful standing in lines for confession, people coming with trust in Jesus. However, I was saddened by the way the priests and brothers focused on donations and money. It was almost unbelievable. It is God who provides and takes care of all our needs. Then why was so much attention (fuss)given to those who received special seats because they are special guest as donors. Why was such an (extra) announcement made before the collection was taken up. Do we trust in Jesus? He takes care of all our needs. I was sorry to see all the focus on money.

Agazit Seyoum - May 20, 2009

I have been coming to the Divine Mercy Shrine since ST. Faustina's Canonization, in 2000. Our Bus arrived at 10am and Seats were always ample first come first serve; yet those who kept seats could not move around till the end of the service which is very taxing. I personally choose my confession, my shopping, visiting the Grotto, prayer in the Shrine of Divine Mercy, watching the Long Line of Confession and Praising My Lord for that beautiful Gift of Mercy to poor sinners, and then finally happily enjoy my 1PM Mass and the 3PM Chaplet sitting on a wet Ground (this is the only year I enjoyed Green Grass, other wise there were years I knelt down on wet and frozen grounds) , rather than holding on to the seats or have some one else sacrifice Joy to reserve a seat for me. Regarding the statement made on collection, I humbly beg to differ by pointing out that religious group are not exempt from expenses and that they are human like us consumers and nothing comes available to them freely other than tax break. From the little Candle to the biggest visible item standing on that Ground cost them money as well as excess Labor to have things function. We used their facility that cost them an arm and leg to have them erected and CLEANED up at the end. The number of volunteers disappeared in that crowd like a drop of water in an ocean. More over the same way the volunteers worked irrelevant of our donation, their service should not be relevant to our charity for every one is working for house of God's so no need to complain for God wants as to give freely with out any expectation of return.