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Faithful experience God’s compassion on feast day

May 01, 2017

OLD BRIDGE — For the 19th consecutive year, the diocesan Divine Mercy Apostolate continued its devotion of celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday (the second Sunday of Easter) with an afternoon of prayer and mindful reflection about the Lord’s great gift of mercy to the faithful at St. Ambrose Church.

James Dimino, coordinator of apostolate, said the celebration is a “remarkable tapestry of what constitutes mercy in modern times…we are reminded to keep the message of God’s Divine Mercy alive in our daily lives.”

The celebration, which was one of several held in the diocese to mark the feast, included the sacrament of reconciliation, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, veneration of a first-class relic of St. Faustina, praying of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in song, prayer in front of an image of Divine Mercy, praying the rosary and Mass. A plenary indulgence is granted to those who participate in these elements of the feast. This means that the Church is authorized by Christ to draw from the infinite merits of the Cross, in order to mediate the remission of temporal punishment due to sins to those who satisfy the requirements of the particular indulgence.

Spotlighting God’s wonderful gift of mercy and being reminded to share his mercy with others every day is what Divine Mercy Sunday is all about. Dimino said celebrating this feast day is “truly what he wanted…it brings us closer to his mercy.”

Parishioners also had the chance to offer devotions and personal written statements at the relic, which was given to Bishop Vincent De Paul Breen, shepherd of the diocese from 1997 to 2001, by the National Shrine in Strockbridge, Mass. The relic travels with the Diocese of Metuchen Divine Mercy Apostolate, its caretaker.

The apostolate — the first Divine Mercy lay apostolate in the United States — began in 1991 when several lay people asked Bishop Edward T. Hughes to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday at the Shrine Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in Raritan Borough.

In 1999, Bishop Breen formalized the group as the diocesan Divine Mercy Apostolate. It coordinates Divine Mercy Sunday celebrations and other events.

“Watching this grassroots effort grow into a feast day which brings God’s message of mercy to the forefront has been incredible. It is a great reminder that faith and good works sustain the Catholic Church,” Dimino said.

In his homily, Father Francis Kelly, presider, said the Gospel — in which the risen Jesus addresses the apostles who abandoned him with the words, “Peace be with you” — is perfect for Divine Sunday.

“Jesus had no recrimination. Just kindness and mercy,” said Father Kelly, who serves in the Diocese of Paterson.

He reminded the faithful to remember that reconciliation is a powerful sign of God’s love for us and by giving us this opportunity, “Jesus unlocked the door of mercy for us.”

Father Kelly connected the sacrament of reconciliation and the other elements of celebrating the feast of Divine Mercy with its unique history. He explained it is one of several ways the Lord himself requested devotion to Divine Mercy through St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, who lived in Poland in the years leading up to World War II. Jesus appeared to St. Faustina several times, including in 1931 when he called himself the King of Divine Mercy and asked Faustina to be a model of God’s mercy. She was asked to show others his plan of mercy for all believers and that the second Sunday of Easter was to become the Feast of Mercy.

In 1935, Faustina had a vision of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a special prayer believers can say to receive God’s mercy and beseech this gift for the whole world. Two years later, she prepared instructions for the Novena of Divine Mercy, following another message from Jesus.

Faustina’s instructions and message are the foundation of the feast of Divine Mercy, which Father Kelly said is very powerful. “We can bring peace to the world by praying the Chaplet and the Rosary,” he stated, adding, “He’ll break your chains.”

To mark the 20th anniversary of the apostolate, Dimino said several special events will be planned throughout the year.

Father John C. Grimes, pastor, St. Ambrose Parish, serves as moderator of the Divine Mercy Apostolate, which gives presentations about St. Faustina, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Message of Divine Mercy to parishes and groups throughout the diocese about its mission.

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Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner, Correspondent at The Catholic Spirit

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