Age of mercy

On Easter Sunday millions of Catholics gather with family and friends to celebrate the day when Christ conquered death and rose from the dead.

But that’s not the end of the story.

The understanding of Christian life reaches completion on Divine Mercy Sunday, held a week after Easter Sunday, when faithful are reminded of the mercy afforded to them by Christ’s resurrection, explained Father Marcus Marek, pastor of St. Joseph Polish Parish.

“As Catholics, we stress that after Good Friday there’s Easter Sunday when we recognize the resurrection,” Father Marek said. “With Divine Mercy, it is like one complete message. Through Christ’s cross and resurrection we have mercy coming into this world for us.”

Sister Faustina

Sister Faustina

In a spiritually-rich convergence of mercy, Divine Mercy Sunday this year also marks the 10-year anniversary of St. John Paul II’s death—which occurred on the vigil of Divine Mercy April 2, 2005—and without whom the feast would not be recognized today. The devotion of divine mercy was relayed by a Polish nun the late pope canonized before his death, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, who shared the message that Christ’s love and mercy are stronger than sin.

Mercy will reach an important juncture this year when the Vatican will officially proclaim a Year of Mercy April 12, starting Dec. 8 and concluding Nov. 20, 2016. Pope Francis announced the need for Christians to be a witness to mercy.

“This is the time of mercy. It is important that the lay faithful live it and bring it into different social environments,” he said on March 13. “I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this Jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.”

St. Joseph Polish and several other parishes will recognize Divine Mercy Sunday with prayers and celebrations, including veneration of the two saints that brought the message to modern man.

The story of mercy is found in the beginning of time when in Genesis God gave Adam and Eve a promise of mercy, a prophetic foreshadowing of the Savior who was to come. Acts of mercy continue through the Bible and are realized in Christ’s resurrection from death.

Modern man came to know Christ’s mercy centuries later with the young nun Sister Faustina, who lived in Poland during the 1930s. The extraordinary revelations she received from Christ as recorded in notebooks are known today as the “Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska.” Through her writings, she shared that faithful must trust in his mercy and extend it to others so all may share in his joy.

St. Faustina wrote that Christ said to her, “I promise that the soul that will venerate (the Sacred Heart) image will not perish. I also promise victory over its enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I myself will defend it as my own glory.”

About his time, St. John Paul II was growing up in Crakow where Sister Faustina lived. The young pope was 18 years old when she died.

Parishioners of St. Joseph Polish Parish and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish venerate a relic of St. John Paul II.

Parishioners of St. Joseph Polish Parish and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish venerate a relic of St. John Paul II. Denver Catholic File Photo

“He likely walked the same streets St. Faustina did before him,” Father Marek said.

News of the nun’s revelations spread and a great movement was sparked that ignited a focus on Christ’s mercy.

Years later in 2000, St. John Paul II canonized Sister Faustina making her the “first saint of the new millennium,” also calling her the “great apostle of Divine Mercy in our time.” On the same day he established Divine Mercy Sunday as a feast for the entire Church. Faithful recite the chaplet, asking for an ocean of mercy to fall upon the world.

Today, faithful remember the convergence of mercy depicted in the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, shown with rays emanating from his heart.

“It’s a modern way to remind us that we are not forgotten, that we are not alone, that we have somebody who takes care of us. We have God himself,” Father Marek said.

>> Learn how to pray the chaplet here.

Liturgies for Divine Mercy Sunday, April 12 this year

A statue of St. John Paul II stands outside the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception downtown.

A statue of St. John Paul II stands outside the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception downtown. Denver Catholic File Photo

Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
What:
chaplet recited daily for nine days
When: 4 p.m. April 4, 6 p.m. April 5, 5 p.m. April 6-10, 4 p.m. April 11, and 10 a.m. April 12
Where: 1530 Logan St., Denver

“A lot of people come to the Cathedral looking for mercy. It seems to me the mother church should be that place where people who find their lives in dishevelment can be embraced. And Divine Mercy is about that.”
—Msgr. Bernie Schmitz, pastor of the Cathedral Basilica

 

St. Joseph Polish Church
What:
adoration, Mass, exposition and veneration
When: 7 p.m. April 10 movie “Mercy—Hope for the World”; 11:30 a.m. April 12 adoration; 1:30 p.m. Aztec dancers, 2 p.m. Mass, 3 p.m. adoration, Divine Mercy chaplet, and veneration of St. Faustina and St. John Paul II relics
Where: 517 E. 46th Ave., Denver

“(St. John Paul II) was very instrumental in bringing Divine Mercy to the whole world. Divine Mercy is not just for the Polish. It’s not even just for Catholics. It’s for everyone.”
—Father Marcus Marek, pastor of St. Joseph Polish

Archbishop Samuel Aquila speaks at St. Joseph Polish Church's first Divine Mercy Sunday celebration with relics of St. Faustina and St. John Paul II.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila speaks at St. Joseph Polish Church’s first Divine Mercy Sunday celebration with relics of St. Faustina and St. John Paul II. Photo provided

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
What:
procession and reception
When: 12:30 p.m. April 12
Where: starts at 1209 W. 26th Ave. and ends at St. Joseph Polish, 517 E. 46th Ave.


St. Joan of Arc Church
What:
Holy Hour
When: 2:55 p.m. April 12
Where: 12735 W. 58th Ave., Arvada


Carmelite Monastery
What:
Memorial Mass and chaplet with Divine Mercy Supportive Care, reception follows
When: 3 p.m. April 12
Where: 6138 S. Gallup St., Littleton

 

>> Pope Francis on mercy

Photo by Bohumil Petrik CNA

Pope Francis. Photo by Bohumil Petrik/CNA

“The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” 
—Nov. 24, 2013 in Evangelii Gaudium

“I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father. … God is always waiting for us, He never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence and hope—always!
April 7, 2013, homily

“I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think—and I say it with humility—that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.
—March 17, 2013, homily

“There is no limit to the divine mercy, which is offered to everyone … The Lord is always ready to roll away the tombstone of our sins, which separate us from Him, the light of the living.”
—April 6, 2014, Sunday Angelus

COMING UP: From the wilderness to the Promised Land: Learn your faith in the SJV Lay Division

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One of the famous episodes in the Old Testament is the wandering of Israel in the wilderness. The descendants of Abraham, whom God promised land to come to his descendants, wander for 40 years before they enter that land. A time of great miracles, to be certain – the manna in the wilderness, the rock that gushed forth water. But also a time of hardship and death – many battles that were lost, plagues that come up on the people. All of which is why the wilderness is associated with a time of great testing in the Scriptures.

We may seem like we are in our own wilderness today, aimlessly wandering without a sense of where life is going. Know that we, too, at the Lay Division of the Seminary, particularly our Biblical and Catechetical School instructors, intimately felt this great testing this past academic year. For the first time ever, we had classes online, by sheer force of circumstance in a world of coronavirus restrictions. In many ways, we felt our own desert wondering – unable to see students in person, unable to have normal interactions with students, lecturing to a little dot on a computer screen, seeing black screens with everybody muted, with no idea if students were smiling, laughing, crying, sleeping, or whatever else may be! This was, in many respects, wandering in the wilderness institutionally. Thankfully, the one thing that we can say for certain is that all of our lives fall under God’s infinitely wise, lovingly providential hand. It’s not merely cliché to say that God will bring good out of evil, but a true statement. And so we trust. God knows, and God takes care of all those who are faithful. And God works all things for good for those who trust in Him.

This upcoming academic year will be the start of a slow reintegration of our classes into parishes. However, we will still keep an online presence, with half of our classes returning to in-person locations throughout the Archdiocese of Denver and half remaining online. Certainly one of the positives about teaching classes online, and perhaps the good that God will bring for us institutionally out of our wilderness of this past year, is that it allows for expansion to reach potential students who otherwise aren’t capable of attending our in-person classes. Given that, taking a class with us will never be easier! It doesn’t matter what part of Colorado you live in — you can take a class online with us!

If you’ve never heard of who we are, then let me briefly introduce our institution: we are the Lay Division at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary for the Archdiocese of Denver. This makes our seminary unique: not just the formation of future clerics, but also a division dedicated to the formation of the laity. Our mission is to put people in contact and communion with Jesus, who alone leads us to the heart of the Father in the Spirit. We do this through various offerings which study God’s call to each and every person to have a personal relationship with him in the Church that he established with the Precious Blood of Jesus. Our two flagship programs are the Denver Catholic Biblical School, a four year study of the Sacred Scriptures, and the Denver Catholic Catechetical School, a two year study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We also offer various other programs of study – year long “Enrichment Courses” in different topics of the faith, short courses throughout the year, lecture series throughout the liturgical seasons, and day-long workshops. Wherever you’re at in your faith, we have something for everybody!

Classes for this upcoming year begin on Monday, Sept. 13. Visit sjvlaydivision.org to see all of the options for classes, locations/online times, information sessions, and to register. Make the choice to study with us to learn your faith and come to know and love Jesus Christ!