Touching Hearts with Divine Mercy

EWTN TV and radio host Teresa Tomeo and Director of the Association of Marian Helpers Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, drew a crowd of around 400 Marian Helpers to the Saint Faustina Center on the grounds of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for the 2019 Divine Mercy Weekend Conference.

Participants had an opportunity to venerate the incorrupt heart of the patron saint of parish priests, St. John Vianney (1786-1859), a French cleric whose incredible miracles, long hours in the confessional, and devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus transformed an area whose faith had been ravaged by the spirit of the age surrounding the French Revolution into an international center of Catholic pilgrimage and prayer.

Gathering for the Conference from as far away as California and New Brunswick, the conference participants responded enthusiastically to Tomeo's story of growing up culturally Catholic, then putting her career first for years before returning to the full practice of her faith. Tomeo's turning point came after her husband had a profound reversion of his own through a Protestant Bible study led by her then-boss' husband.

"Surrender to God's mercy, and then respond to it," said Tomeo. She spoke of the liberating power of the teachings of the Catholic Church, even and especially the hard teachings. And once we've let God's mercy into our lives, she explained, we must not stop there. "What steps are you taking to evangelize? When you receive God's mercy, you don't keep it to yourself." Her full talk can be viewed here.

Next, Fr. Chris gave a barnstorming talk on the priesthood and the Mass, opening by asking everyone to pray St. Faustina's prayer for holy priests:


O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of the whole Church: Grant it love and the light of Your Spirit, and give power to the words of priests so that hardened hearts might be brought to repentance and return to You, O Lord. Lord, give us holy priests; You yourself maintain them in holiness. O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of Your mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devil's traps and snares which are continually being set for the souls of priests. May the power of Your mercy, O Lord, shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the sanctity of priests, for You can do all things (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1052).

Father Chris proceeded to call on his brother priests to be like their patron St. John Vianney. "We need priests who are going to stand for the truth," said Fr. Chris, to preach the fullness of Catholic teaching boldly in the face of a secular world that discards, derides, or ignores so much of it. He also addressed the current wave of scandals caused by priestly betrayal that's currently hitting the Church, acknowledging the incredible devastation caused to victims. "We need to renew the Church," he explained. "That's why we [the Marian Fathers] are getting all these vocations."

His talk concluded with a deep dive into the Scripture, history, and theology underpinning the Mass. Father Chris' full talk can be viewed here.

The Marian Helpers attending the Conference found the talks very powerful. Senen, from Merciful Redeemer Parish in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, shared that Tomeo's story of conversion, "for me ... gives me the hope that even though I fall down, God is always there for me, and He is merciful. It's just consoling to know."

Of the second talk by Fr. Joseph, Senen said, "Before, I thought I knew the Mass 90 percent. Now I know 99 percent about the Mass. The next time I hear Mass ... it'll be more meaningful to me."

Later in the day, hundreds of pilgrims to the National Shrine had a chance to receive a special blessing with St. Jean Vianney's heart during the Vigil Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday. In his homily, Shrine Rector Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, said, "God wants to give us complete forgiveness of sin and punishment. We need it. The world is crazy! But God is more crazy for us. God wants each one of us to go to Heaven." Through the Sacraments of Confession and the Most Holy Eucharist, explained Fr. Anthony, priests after the heart of St. John Vianney bring us the graces we need to reach Heaven.

View his homily:

Braving occasionally wintry weather, many pilgrims thronged the grounds, taking in all they could, more zealous for Divine Mercy than caring about the wind, sporadic rain and snow, or the cold. Throughout the day, pilgrims had the opportunity to go to Confession, spend time in Eucharistic Adoration, and take advantage of the many candle shrines, Stations of the Cross, and other devotional opportunities at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, including 3 p.m. devotions for the Hour of Great Mercy, led by Deacon Michael Baker, MIC.

Theresa Murdock, from St. Patrick's Parish in Yorktown, New York, has been coming up to Eden Hill in Stockbridge of Divine Mercy Weekend for five years. But she and her kids had been visiting long before that.

"I love St. Faustina, so she's one of my buddies," said Murdock. "I loved her Diary. It really inspired me."

Rosemary Petrovich, a parishioner at St. Dominic's in Brick, New Jersey, summed up eloquently what Divine Mercy means to her. "It's just the total love of God," said Petrovich. "He's always calling out to us. It doesn't matter what we've done. I love that He told Faustina that even if their sins be as scarlet, they have all the more right to my mercy [see Diary, 699, 1182]. It's just such a hopeful message, and you know, it just makes you love God more and more and more."


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