The Feast of Divine Mercy

This is been an extremely busy week with a great deal to accomplish. Ironically, we normally consider the week after the intricate liturgies of holy week as providing a respite of sorts. There are many subjects I would like to address, which I will try to do, without the luxury of going into any depth. As always, we have the present, the past, and the future.

This first Sunday after Easter Sunday was specifically requested by Jesus himself, to become the Feast of Mercy. Here’s a very brief history of how this request by Jesus eventually came about.

Then, Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, in October 1965, 27 years after the death of Sr. Faustina, initiated the informative process, towards investigating the cause of Sainthood for her. It wasn’t until April 18, 1993 in Rome…that now, Pope John Paul II, on the first Sunday after Easter, celebrated the Beatification Mass for, the now, Venerable Servant of God, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska. And then on April 30, 2000 in Rome, seven years later, Blessed Faustina, was canonized a Saint by Pope John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday.

During his canonization homily, the Pope declared, that from now on, the second Sunday of Easter, would be called Divine Mercy Sunday throughout the whole church. And that is what we should all be celebrating, today and every day, Jesus’ fervent plea for everyone of us to take advantage of His unlimited, comprehensive mercy. Every one of us should be highly motivated by our Lord’s words: “The greater the sinner, the greater the ratrighte he has to My mercy.” (Diary, 723). The images we have in the chapel and on the front of the ambo in the main church were painted at the insistence of our Savior.

A Divine Mercy devotion booklet soon began being circulated among the faithful. I personally encountered it three months after my wife’s passing in 1991, hearing pilgrims, on the bus from the Mostar, Yugoslavia airport into Medjugorie, praying this strange chaplet I had ever heard. I was given a devotional prayer booklet and noticed that there was a disclaimer that this devotion, and the accounts of sister Faustina’s miraculous experiences, were not yet approved by the church.

So how can we take full advantage of this Divine Mercy that our Lord took such great pains to communicate to us through both Saint Faustina and Saint Pope John Paul II? Let me hear the words given by our Lord to Saint Faustina regarding His Divine Mercy devotion:

“I remind you, my daughter, that as often as you hear the clocks strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in my mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners: for at that moment Mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world-Mercy triumphed over justice.

My daughter try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you were not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step in to the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. I claim veneration for My Mercy from every creature, but above all from you, since it is to you that I have given the most profound understanding of this mystery. “

In this most difficult and divisive of times, both in the secular world and within our church, let us all take advantage of this tremendous gift of His Mercy and His Forgiveness, which allows us to maintain the State of Grace with our hearts opened wide to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And let us, with that grace, become conduits of our Lord’s call to embrace His Mercy and Forgiveness… And to become fervent “Forgivers” ourselves. A tradition encouraged by our Lord, through Saint Faustina, is for each of us to identify someone in our lives, whom we need to forgive…then pray for the grace and the initiative to forgive that person on this Feast of Divine Mercy.

With the present and the future currently intertwined in our parish, I wanted to take a moment to re-emphasize an important element that needs to be embraced regarding the announcement three weeks ago, that I will be transitioned to retired/senior priest – status, concurrent with my 80th birthday at the end of June. There is no doubt that change is almost always difficult or challenging to embrace. I have had a multitude of changes in my life, and I can personally attest to that. I am sure many of you can say the same. What I want to re-emphasize, and I highlight the word re-emphasize, that in my initial announcement of my expected retirement, and in all subsequent mentions, I highlighted the fact that all priests are required, by canon law, to present a letter offering their resignation upon reaching their 75th birthday.

I went on to mention that, in my case, I have requested, and I have been graciously granted by Bishop Estevez, five year-by-year extensions since I turned 75, back in June of 2014. This has truly been a gift to me, to allow me to be with, and grow with you these past 11 years. I know now that many have a peeled for some variation of an extension. And while I appreciate, and find solace in, your expressions of care, warmth and desire to continue on as a spiritual team, I appeal to you to accept this transition, as we all do with so many of the events of our lives, such as relocation of friends, family members, and siblings; our own children leaving home for college, for military service, for a vocation choice (married or religious) and close friends (or ourselves) being relocated with employment (or vocation reassignment, such as mine).

None of these occurrences breach the relationships and bonds that have been established. Three priests preceded me in fostering the faith and growth of this wonderful parish. Father Phillip Timlin will arrive at the end of June, much like I did, virtually unknown, with high hopes for building wonderful relationships during his tenure. I sincerely pray that he will be given the same warm welcome you gave me in 2008. You made my time as Pastor both uplifting and enjoyable. As I’ve mentioned to many who have inquired, that “while I have never been busier or had less sleep, I have never been more at peace!” I will take peace with my Savior, anytime…over all the other comforts life can provide.

Bishop Estevez has the most difficult job of managing the assignments and reassignments of some 100 priest personnel throughout the diocese, and for the most part, these timely changes are made with emotions. I would request that we channel the emotions that we feel (for my emotions and heart strings feel a sense of hurt, as well) and look to the greater good that can come from any change. For change and replacement are inevitable, and it is up to each of us to make that change both beneficial and enjoyable.

Bishop Estevez  will be here Monday evening for the Confirmation Mass for our young people. I would ask that you take a moment to greet him cordially and assure him of your understanding and acceptance of this priest personnel change. I am not disappearing. While not yet certain (no time yet to do any planning) exactly where I’ll be, I will be available via phone call or email, should you desire continued counsel or conversation.

Today there is another flyer in this bulletin regarding an upcoming parish-wide program that will highlight our belief and comprehension in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As you know, one of my mission statement tenents, coming out of the seminary, was to do all I could possibly do to establish perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in the parish to which I would be assigned. Bishop Estevez has been most supportive in this effort having committed to the same endeavor in his first parish. We made great strides due to the stellar hard work and efforts of Carole Borz and her Adoration Guild team. You all being requested to take advantage of the FORMED three-part series entitled “Presence: the Mystery of the Eucharist.” Please bring the element of regular Eucharistic Adoration into your life. It is there you will most profoundly benefit in His Divine Mercy.

Yours in His Most Divine Mercy,