By Dan Valenti (Apr 18, 2009)
It wasn't a dress rehearsal, but then again, no part of life ever is — especially spiritual life. It's the real thing, as the soda commercial used to sing.
Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend got off to a glorious start at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass., with a Saturday full of mercy on parade ... and in solemn procession.
Approximately 2,500 pilgrims journeyed to the spiritual home in the United States of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception for a Eucharist-centered dip in the ocean of God's love. People came from throughout the Northeast and Midwest, with the rest of the nation and many foreign countries also represented. The Saturday pilgrims included 23 members of the Sisters of Life from the Metropolitan New York area (see tomorrow's related story titled, "25 Angels Bring 'Life' to Eden Hill").
The morning for many started away from Eden Hill at nearby Monument Mountain High School in Great Barrington, which hosted a Divine Mercy conference from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. About 150 attendees heard talks by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC; Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC; and Br. Jason Lewis, MIC. The three Marians are studied speakers noted for their expertise, energy, effectiveness, and enthusiasm. Each lived up to advanced billing.
"God's love is a creative dynamism," said Br. Jason in his presentation. "Call it Divine Mercy. God's love is so great that He communicates Himself in a creative act. He brings forth creation through His Word, His Son, Jesus Christ. God is love in Himself and reveals Himself [though] His merciful acts."
A book signing followed, with Fr. Don (Purest of All Lilies: The Virgin Mary in the Spirituality of St. Faustina, Marian Press) and Marian Helper magazine Executive Editor Dave Came (Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate, Marian Press) patiently signing copies of their work for a long line of people, heroically risking writer's cramp in the process.
A delicious lunch of pasta and sauce, tossed salad with dressing, fresh-baked assorted bread rolls, and beverages concluded the conference, allowing ample time for sharing a meal and socializing.
A random sampling of comments from attendees leaving the high school could only lead to one conclusion: The Marians delivered. For a Marian, delivering hope is part of the charism or mission — no big deal. For the recipients, accepting makes for completion, for no message is complete unless the receiver waits at the other ends when the sender launches his created conception — nothing short of miraculous.
Back on the Hill
After the conference many attendees, including the Sisters of Life, made the short drive to Eden Hill. They joined a few thousand others who were making their way to the national home of Divine Mercy in America.
Why do they come, year after year, with attendance at the Saturday of this special liturgical weekend growing each year? You could ask a hundred people and get a hundred different answers, and yet you would be accurate with this generalization: They come to experience forgiveness.
"When I realize all the times I've messed up in my life, to know I can receive the mercy of God, who is my Creator, and be taken back into His grace ... [he let's out a sigh of relief] there's nothing like it," says Sammy Esposito, who drove up from southern New Jersey.
Each person who comes to Eden Hill on Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend goes through that same process, in effect trying to arrive at a personal definition and understanding of what the mercy of God means in their lives.
"For me, the mercy of God is something that I have to share with others, after having experienced it for myself," says Anne Marie, a postulant with the Sisters of Life. The Sisters specialize in trying to build a culture of life by working with pregnant and post-abortive women.
Jesus Himself: A 'Now' Encounter
At the Saturday Divine Mercy Vigil Mass, Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, Shrine rector, told the assembled faithful: "God comes to us humble and little, as He did in Bethlehem. He will come again to us big and strong when he returns."
Father Anthony mentioned the "three comings" of Jesus. The first is when He assumed His life here on earth, to live an ordinary life ... and then minister to His people with the culmination of redemption at Calvary.
The second coming of Jesus is in the Eucharist:
"The Blessed Sacrament [is where] we can encounter Jesus now," said Fr. Anthony. "Holy Communion is mercy itself." He then counseled the congregation to "extend that mercy to your brothers and sisters, to one another," as He did and does for us.
The "third coming" is what people refer to as The Second Coming, when Jesus will return to earth at the end of time. Father Anthony mentioned that the time allotted to us in this present age is what Jesus described to St. Faustina as an age of mercy that will prepare the way for His return to earth. "We don't know what day, the minute, or the hour it will be," Fr. Anthony said, but we know we can — NOW — accept the love and mercy He wants to give us. God is our salvation. God wants to save us, not condemn us."
He does this through Divine Mercy.
The Saturday of Divine Mercy Weekend also included a morning Eucharistic procession; Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Exposition, Benediction, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet; and confessions in a large tent with a line that stretched deep into the lush acres of Eden Hill.
Saturday wasn't a dress rehearsal for Sunday. It was a day into, and unto, itself. It was a day to prepare for THE day.
'Til tomorrow, everyone. Rest deep in the refreshing peace and silence of God's greatest attribute.
Dan Valenti writes for numerous publications of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, both in print and online. He is the author of "Dan Valenti's Journal" on thedivinemercy.org.