Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Divine Mercy Sunday is certainly capturing more attention this year in the secular world because of the interest in two popes being canonized on this feast day.
Heaven gave us a great confirmation of the feast, especially with St. John Paul II, because he was the promoter par excellence of this devotion; he declared it a feast for the universal Church on Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000, the same day he canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, to whom Jesus gave the Divine Mercy message; he died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005, right after the vigil Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday; and he was himself beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday and now is canonized on it.
John Paul II also first used the term the New Evangelization, something St. John XXIII had in mind when he called for the Second Vatican Council.
Put both together, and the feast and the message of Divine Mercy is a major way to implement the New Evangelization.
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception are delegated the chief promoters of this message, and, last year, they even had a conference focusing the theme "Divine Mercy and the New Evangelization."
Marian Father Donald Calloway, an author and international speaker, spoke on "Our Lady: Masterpiece of Mercy and Mother of the New Evangelization," and another talk at the conference described Mary, who is the Mother of Divine Mercy, as "the best model of what it means to evangelize."
Divine Mercy and the New Evangelization are growing in prominence together.
In Chicago, the Divine Mercy Project describes itself as “an answer to the call from Jesus and echoed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI to proclaim and witness to God’s Divine Mercy throughout the whole world with new ardor . . . methods and . . . expression.”
The project is connected to the Thomas More Society, where its founder, Michael Sullivan is a special counsel. Others associated are Thomas Brejcha, the society’s president and chief counsel and former director of evangelization and development for the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy, a Chicago archdiocesan shrine, and Drew Mariani of Relevant Radio.
Every year at this time, the Divine Mercy Project sets up a 6-foot-by-10-foot-tall image of Jesus the Divine Mercy in Daley Plaza for several days.
According to the project’s website, it “seeks to proclaim and witness to Jesus Christ’s saving love as the incarnation of the Divine Mercy through evangelization, prayer and deeds of mercy in the public square, as asked for by Jesus in the Diary of St. Faustina: ‘I desire that . . . you bring souls to the fountain of my mercy’ (Diary, 1209).”
What beautiful evangelization it gives in the city’s square. But this year, someone didn’t want to hear that message because the image was damaged.
But the powerful image and message remain in place.
As the project states, “the Icon of Divine Mercy is a catalyst for evangelization, and the Divine Mercy Project an effort of the New Evangelization.”
Hopefully, everyone who walks past will take the message of Divine Mercy to heart.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl in his blog for this Divine Mercy Sunday also joins these two themes of Divine Mercy and the New Evangelization together.
Cardinal Wuerl explains it this way: “By loving one another as Jesus loves us, by being merciful as God himself is merciful (John 13:34, Luke 6:36), we provide others with the opportunity of an encounter with Christ. It is part of the mission of the Church; it is part of the New Evangelization to which we are called.”
He also reflects, “If we trust in Jesus and open our hearts to his, the Divine Mercy of Christ is a most extraordinary gift that can heal souls and provide us with an ocean of graces, leading us to be merciful ourselves. Soon-to-be St. John Paul affirmed that Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called ‘to practice mercy’ towards others: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’”
Robert Allard, director of the Apostles of Divine Mercy, based in Florida, also connects the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday and the New Evangelization.
“What a wonderful opportunity we have this year,” he points out, “with all the media attention that the double canonizations of two great popes right on Divine Mercy Sunday” will “put fully into practice an all-out effort for the New Evangelization,” which is also a call to “re-evangelizing” Catholics.
Allard notes, “It makes perfect sense, now, that we are coming to a greater understanding of why Jesus wanted the feast of Mercy right on the Sunday after Easter, when the Divine floodgates are opened wide and where we can fully utilize and implement the New Evangelization and invite the Easter-only, fallen-away and the lukewarm Catholics to come back to the practice of their faith.”
If they return to confession and receive holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday and receive the ocean of graces, and experience what Jesus promises and return to practicing their faith, then they will in turn become evangelizers because of Divine Mercy.
Allard notes that Divine Mercy Sunday can save many souls. “Divine Mercy Sunday was custom-made by God to put the New Evangelization into full swing, and with guaranteed results. What greater gift could we give to [John Paul II] for his canonization,” he suggests, “than to correctly use Divine Mercy Sunday for the New Evangelization?”
It makes one of the greatest gifts for Jesus, the Divine Mercy, too.