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'Great Mercy Pope' Celebrated

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"We are here to celebrate a great man," said Fr. David Lord, MIC, rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass., kicking off a celebration to honor the late Polish Pontiff who entrusted the whole world to Divine Mercy.

More than 400 pilgrims attended the Shrine's "Pope John Paul II Cultural Day" on Saturday, Oct. 14. It was a day filled with prayer, talks, music, and spiritual communion, all to honor John Paul II, whom many believe will someday be named a saint.

"In the hearts of many people, he already is a saint," said Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers. The Marians administer the National Shrine and have been spreading Divine Mercy in the United States since 1941 — a mere three years after the death of St. Maria Faustina, to whom our Lord gave the message of Divine Mercy.

"Pope John Paul II has inspired millions and millions of people," said Joanne Wilcox, who attended the celebration, traveling by car from her home in western New York State. "He did so much to inspire people with the message of Divine Mercy."

Indeed, Pope John Paul II once said the message of Divine Mercy "forms the image of this pontificate." In his writings and homilies, he described Divine Mercy as the answer to the world's problems, and he called it the message of the third millennium.

He beatified and canonized St. Maria Faustina. Pope John Paul II also established Divine Mercy Sunday (the feast day associated with the message) as a feast day for the entire Church.

Throughout his pontificate, Pope John Paul II preached how Divine Mercy can lead the world away from brokenness and sin and bring it back to God and true happiness.

Pope John Paul II died on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday (the evening before the feast day), April 3, 2005. But before his death, he left behind these words:

"As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!

"Lord, who reveals the Father's love by Your death and Resurrection, we believe in You and confidently repeat to You today: Jesus, I trust in you, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world."

The celebration began with a talk on the huge impact Pope John Paul II had on culture. The talk was given by Fr. Kaz Chwalak, MIC, Director of Evangelization and Development for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

"Until the end, [John Paul II] did what he was chosen to do," said Fr. Kaz. "That is, to proclaim Christ — proclaim the great love of God, the great mercy of God for the whole human race.

"John Paul II offered the world a unique gift of presence, a unique gift of service, a unique gift of fidelity to God and holiness," Fr. Kaz continued. "His voice was that of a teacher, a prophet, a shepherd, and a priest. He has influenced countless hearts to be self-sacrificing lovers of God and their brothers and sisters."

Father George W. Kosicki, CSB, noted author of the books John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope and Mercy Minutes, among others, spoke of how John Paul II's greatest legacy was sharing the message of Divine Mercy.

"When he became Pope, John Paul began his first homily with the words: 'Do not be afraid,' " said Fr. George. "From the very beginning of his pontificate to the very end, he emphasized the urgency of trust in God and trust in His mercy."

Father George also noted John Paul II's strong Divine Mercy influence on his successor, Pope Benedict XVI . Then, Fr. George encouraged the attendees to follow the "ABCs" of Mercy. To Ask for His mercy. To Be merciful to others. And to Completely trust in Jesus.

The international photographic display "John Paul II the Holy Man: To the Ends of the Earth" was one of the highlights of the event. The exhibit consisted of more than 150 large photographs of the Polish Pontiff, taken by such famous photographers as Adam Bujak, Grzegorz Galaska, Arturo Mari, and Ryszard Rzepecki.

Traditional Polish hymns were sung during Mass. The celebrant and homilist was Fr. David, who said in his homily: "Our memories are filled with the images of a great man whose epic and iconic life not only revive the spirit and reaffirm with unyielding faith the true nature and identity of the Catholic Church, but in a very real sense left history breathless as he traveled to visit the people of the worlds with three little words from Scripture on the edge of his lips: 'Be not afraid' " (Matt 14:27).

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