Celebrating Divine Mercy throughout the year
By Peggy Moraczewski
Helena Kowalska, now St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), was not wealthy or well educated. Her parents were poor farmers in Poland with 10 children, and Helena worked as a maid and babysitter prior to entering the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy Convent in Warsaw at age 20. Reminiscent of Mary, the Blessed Mother, Sister Faustina’s heart was also open to God, and he chose her to be his “Secretary of Divine Mercy.” She was canonized by St. John Paul II on April 20, 2000.
As a native of Poland, Father Jozef Musiol, pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Chappell Hill, was a young seminarian in Kraków in the 1960s. While in seminary, some of his theology professors were instructed by the Cardinal-Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kraków, Karol Jozef Wojtyla (St. John Paul II), to study the life and diary of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska. Father Musiol said there was a reciprocal influence and moral continuity between these future saints and, “It was by Divine Providence, that Karol Wojtyla, from his youth, was interested and inspired by writings of Sister Faustina.”
Throughout his seminary years, Father Musiol recalled hearing many times that Sister Faustina’s diary contained, “a theology that the theologians had not dreamed (of) about.” He added, “She did not have any means to be successful in this task. No radio, TV or Internet, just a ball pen and simple copybook in which she wrote her diary.” Father Musiol noted, Divine Mercy is not a new concept; the terms mercy and merciful are mentioned in the Bible more than 250 times. St. Faustina’s role was that of a trusted messenger to remind us of God’s mercy, he said.
In 1934, E. Kazimirowski, painted the original version of the image of The Divine Mercy as instructed by St. Faustina. The painting shows Jesus emerging from a black background with rays of mercy pouring from his heart. As a visual learner, Deacon Jim DiSimoni from Holy Family Parish in Copperas Cove, said he feels as if Jesus is looking directly into his eyes when he focuses on this image.
Deacon DiSimoni leads the Adult Faith Formation for his parish and said they have a fairly elaborate celebration on the afternoon of Divine Mercy Sunday, including exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Scripture readings, talks about Divine Mercy, singing of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and, veneration of the image of Divine Mercy and a relic of St. Faustina.
Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated the Sunday after Easter, but, there is a flourishing year-round devotion to Divine Mercy. This is apparent in the awareness of Pope Francis’ daily activities and locally in the new stained glass windows portraying St. Faustina and St. Pope John Paul II at St. Stanislaus Parish in Chappell Hill. St. Joseph Catholic School in Killeen has the image of Divine Mercy in every classroom, and there are a growing number of Divine Mercy prayer groups (cenacles) across the diocese.
Veronica (Roni) Cook from St. Margaret Mary Parish in Cedar Park,said they have 14 active Divine Mercy cenacles, both English and Spanish. A cenacle is typically a small group that gathers for faith sharing, to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and to study the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They carry out works of mercy through prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and various ministries.
Cook has a decades-long devotion to Divine Mercy, and since 2003 has been instrumental in establishing a growing cenacle presence in her parish and across the diocese. She is a spiritual director and a college professor who loves sharing the message of Divine Mercy, including with parishes interested in learning more about Divine Mercy cenacles.
Mercy inspires hope
Thanks to an uncle who was a Marian priest, Ginny Antaya grew up with a devotion to Divine Mercy. She is one of the founders of the Society of Our Lady of Guadalupe Prayer Centers, International, and over the last 35 years, 19 centers have been established around the world. They are dedicated to Catholic evangelization through the message of Divine Mercy. Two locations operate in Austin: the Mercy of God Prayer Center and the Our Lady of Guadalupe Divine Mercy Center, which serves a primarily Spanish-speaking community.
Both Austin prayer centers offer days of prayer and reflection, healing prayer ministries and community prayer. A two-year program is offered primarily for those who have participated in “awakening retreats,” such as Christ Renews his Parish (CRHP), Cursillo, ACTS, etc. Many spiritual directors and deacons have participated in this program and more than 550 individuals have “graduated.” A program similar to this was the initial inspiration for Antaya and Inez Reyes. It is based upon Ignatian Spirituality and was designed and written by Jesuit Father James Wheeler.
Inez Reyes is the director of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Divine Mercy Center. The strong faith of her parents and grandmother inspired her to grow in spirituality and to become an example of faith to others. After working with Antaya for years, Reyes felt God calling her to start a Spanish Prayer Center in Austin, where she ministers to the poor.
“That’s where my heart is,” she said. Reyes helped launch Cenacles of Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy in several parishes within the diocese, and as far away as Saltillo, Mexico. Since a Divine Mercy retreat at the parish in Mexico six years ago, more than 200 Divine Mercy cenacles have formed. Letting the rays of Jesus’ mercy flow through her to this parish, she continues to deliver treasured faith formation materials, offering encouragement and hope to parishioners.
As Pope Francis has said God’s mercy refreshes us, nourishes us, and gives us hope. Father Musiol also wants each person to know they are precious in God’s eyes; Christ gave his life for each one.
“This consoling message is addressed above all to those who, afflicted by a particularly harsh trial or crushed by the weight of their sins ... have lost all confidence in life and are tempted to give in to despair. To them, the gentle face of Christ (in the Image of Divine Mercy) is offered and the rays from his heart touch them and shine upon them, warm them, show them the way and fill them with hope,” he said.
For more information about the Prayer Centers or Cenacles, contact Mary Kennedy at The Mercy of God Prayer Center at firstname.lastname@example.org, Inez Reyes at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Divine Mercy Center at email@example.com or Roni Cook, Divine Mercy cenacles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Divine Mercy, visit www.thedivinemercy.org.