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By Dan Valenti (Apr 7, 2013)
More than 17,000 pilgrims came to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., to celebrate the liturgy on a brisk Divine Mercy Sunday. Holy Mass was broadcast around the world on EWTN.
+ + + View our photo gallery from Divine Mercy Weekend. + + +
Co-heirs to Everlasting Life
Divine Mercy Sunday is a day for us to "plumb the depths of God's mercy" in our own lives, said Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC. Divine Mercy Sunday is the eighth day in the octave of Easter, a day in which Jesus, according to the Diary of St. Faustina, opens the floodgates of His mercy for the world. "We must discover God's mercy in our daily lives," said Fr. Donald, an action he describes as an "inner journey of conversion."
The Most Rev. Martin D. Holley, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., served as main celebrant and homilist. Bishop Holley, a long-time supporter of the Marian Fathers and the Divine Mercy message, said God's mercy is the measure of His love for us, through which He forgives us our sins and invites us, as co-heirs, to life everlasting in heaven.
In return for God's priceless gift, Bishop Holley said, we need to "become witnesses of mercy in our own lives. God, Himself, has called us here [to Eden Hill on this day] through the testimony of St. Faustina. ... Once we grasp this truth, we will make of our lives a daily offering of mercy to our brothers and sisters."
The Source of Relief and Hope
Bishop Holley said that many today live their lives "as if God does not exist. ... People often live their lives as if this [life on earth] is all there is." Nonetheless, God, in His goodness, doesn't give up on us. He does not throw us away. Rather, "He redeems us through His love and mercy, which is, alone, the source of relief and hope."
Through Divine Mercy, Bishop Holley said, we find the antidote "to the attack on the human person" through evils such as abortion and the attack on sanctity of marriage. "The world needs this love. The hour has come on this day of peace and humility to bring the message of God's mercy to everyone ... to become part of a new civilization, a civilization of love."
By receiving God's mercy and through sharing it with our brothers and sisters in Christ, Bishop Holley said, "Some proclaim how much God loves us. ... He loves us to the end."
Referring to the Gospel reading about doubting Thomas (Jn 20:19-31), Bishop Holley said that at various times, all of us are like Thomas. We doubt, but Jesus doesn't abandon us. In fact, He does the opposite: He comes to us, as he did to the Apostles, who were hiding out in fear, and bids us to touch His wounds and proclaim, like Thomas: "My Lord and my God."
The Day's Theme: Mercy in Action
Various speakers echoed this theme of "mercy in action" throughout the day. Prior to the 1 p.m. liturgy, the Divine Mercy celebration included spiritual testimony, music, and inspirational presentations.
Father Donald, vicar provincial and vocation director for the Marian Fathers, shared his conversion story — his tale of a harrowing journey from teen criminal and druggie to Marian priest and spiritual counselor. Noting that he was ordained as a priest on Eden Hill at the National Shrine 10 years ago, Fr. Donald said, "It's amazing what this place has done for so many people."
Having been led through the grace and mercy of God from a life of moral dissolution to becoming a Catholic priest, Fr. Donald offered himself as an example of hope: "If God can do this to someone like me, imagine what He can do for you and those for whom you are praying."
Through the prayers of his mother, his family, and others, Fr. Donald received what he called "a divine 2x4, which pounded me with the love and mercy of God." Persistence in prayer has "an amazing power," and he urged everyone with personal needs to constantly bring them before our loving God.
'God's Mercy is for Everyone'
"God's mercy is for everyone," Fr. Donald said. He issued a special invitation for anyone who is praying for a family member, spouse, child, friend, or loved one who has strayed from the Church and the sacraments. "Never place limits on what the love and mercy of God can do." He urged constant prayer, especially the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Rosary, and counseled for patience, to let God work through, in, and for us in His own time.
Additional speakers prior to the liturgy included singer-songwriter Kitty Cleveland, who urged pilgrims to be persistent in their faith lives and "to keep fighting the good fight." She then sang one of her own compositions, which included the line: "I will glorify Your mercy for all eternity."
Leonardo and Patti Defilippis, actors and husband-and-wife principals in St. Luke Productions, spoke about their latest project coming out this fall, a live dramatic version of the life of St. Faustina titled "Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy."
This live dramatic production, which is expected to be presented in parishes later this year, will use the "powerful medium of live theater" to present St. Faustina and Divine Mercy in "a personal way." The actors then presented excerpts from previous productions on St. Francis, Maximilian Kolbe, and St. Therese.
Also during the morning, members of the Thirteenth of the Month Club, led by John Foster, prayed a multilingual Rosary, with decades in English, Spanish, French, Polish, and Tagalog.
Pilgrims invariably expressed joy at being on Eden Hill.
"I come every year," said Peter Lombardi of Patterson, N.J. "I need this day of rejuvenation for my faith life."
"It is beautiful here," said Louisa Sanchez of Scranton, Pa. "I have not been [to Eden Hill] before, and it's so full of joy. I feel unity with all the other [pilgrims]. I am so thankful to God for His love and mercy."