Divine Mercy Sunday brings many reminders. Among them: Divine Mercy changes the lives of people, sometimes dramatically; in turn, they bring the message to others. And our Blessed Mother is strongly connected to Divine Mercy.
Pope John Paul II established the feast, which is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter, on the same day that he canonized St. Faustina Kowalska in 2000.
St. Faustina received revelations from Christ about his great mercy between 1931 and 1938. He taught her how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet on rosary beads and instructed her to have an image of himself painted for veneration throughout the world.
Father Donald Calloway of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception knows the mercy message well.
He was an unbeliever living a hedonistic life as a product of the times. He became a high school dropout, ended up in two rehabilitation centers, and was deported from Japan, where his family was living. Then his parents had a conversion to Catholicism. Three years later, his own conversion began with a book about Our Lady.
“One of the main reasons I had my conversion was the Virgin Mary,” he says.
Then some Filipino women told him about the message of Divine Mercy, the chaplet and St. Faustina.
“That message meant something to me,” he says, “because it meant I actually could change, as long as I was humble and wanted to turn away from sin. The message was so overwhelming … how you could be transformed. My whole generation needed a message like this.”
Then the Filipino women told him he should be a priest. “You’re kidding,” he said. “I was so bad. But as I was praying, I felt the call on my heart. I wanted to be a part of a community dedicated to Our Lady.”
He visited the Marian Fathers at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., and was awed to discover these were the main promoters of the Divine Mercy message throughout the world.
“It was a solid fit for me,” he says. “What I wanted was to be not just a recipient but an apostle of Divine Mercy, to give it away.” He was ordained in 2003. Today from the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio, he travels extensively, bringing his story and the messages of Divine Mercy and Our Lady.
Father Calloway’s best seller, No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy (Marian Press, 2010), is aimed at reaching youth groups and young adults with the message of mercy.
They’re “hit hard with the message of truth and extreme Divine Mercy,” he says. “God is in love with them and wants them. The times need almost a shock-factor book for young people.” He has also geared the book to parents who have children who are away from the faith as a message of hope.
Father Calloway says the Marian connection to the Divine Mercy message is very clear: “God revealed to us the Divine Mercy Chaplet on the very beads we say the Rosary. That connection is showing us that Our Lady had a role in this whole thing. That’s clear when you look at the diary of St. Faustina.”
As vocation director for the Marians, Father Calloway recruits more men to be vessels and apostles of Divine Mercy to the world.
Presenting the Message
Dave and Joan Maroney know well the Marian connection and life-changing power of Divine Mercy. It led them to become part of Mother of Mercy Messengers, an official lay apostolate of the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy.
“Our Lady was leading us to her son,” recalls Joan. When she met Dave, he was a Baptist.
“We immediately began praying the Rosary together, and God gave me an open heart to the fullness of the faith,” he says. “I count the Rosary as the big thing that drew us to Our Lord and gave us the spiritual foundation and love for the Lord to do what we do now.”
After consecrating themselves and their family to the Blessed Mother, the Maroneys became very active in their Corpus Christi, Texas, parish. They attended a Divine Mercy presentation that showed how the Shroud of Turin and the Divine Mercy image matched when superimposed and discussed the lessons that can be drawn from this.
Standing by that life-size image, Joan remembers saying, “We were called into this. We need to go out to tell the world.” Their full-time commitment was established by mid-1999. In 2001, joining with the Marian Fathers in Stockbridge, they joined the Mother of Mercy Messengers.
The Messengers’ programs share God’s love and mercy with all ages. The programs have reached more than 70,000 people in more than 500 parishes coast to coast.
“Our Lord touches people’s hearts through the Divine Mercy devotion,” adds Dave. Many people who have been away from confession and the other sacraments for years return.
The Divine Mercy message prompts people to get involved in works of mercy and in their parishes.
Even schoolchildren respond. “The kids are so captivated by this message of Our Lord’s love and mercy,” says Dave. “When the truth is presented in this manner, you can see it on their faces. We pray the chaplet with them, and our heavenly Father’s heart just has to melt. They all go home with the message of Divine Mercy.”
Parents often tell the Maroneys that their children convinced them to go to church to see the presentation.
The Rosary also plays a part, “because that’s where it starts — with her,” says Joan. “We invite her in to lead us to her son, the Divine Mercy, and to guide us (as she did St. Faustina) in living and spreading his message.”
A Parish Transformed
Jose Gamez was a prayerful man when he and his family drove through torrential storms to a Mother of Mercy Messengers presentation in 2006 in Mission, Texas. In 2007, with his new pastor’s enthusiastic backing, Gamez brought an image of the Divine Mercy for veneration in the sanctuary of Holy Spirit Church in McAllen. It was then mounted permanently in the adoration chapel. People began to pray the chaplet.
After the parish hosted presentations for 2,700 people, including 1,200 children, Gamez promoted over 30 more presentations in the southern Texas area that drew more than 6,000 people. Something even bigger happened in April 2009 at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in San Juan, Texas.
With a zero-dollar budget available for an International Celebration of the Divine Mercy on Mercy Sunday weekend, Gamez, the bookstore director, took action — starting with a 40-foot-tall reproduction of the original image of Divine Mercy which St. Faustina directed artist Eugene Kazimirowski to paint in Vilnius, Poland, from January to June 1934. The image was mounted on the basilica’s exterior facing the busy expressway. Remarkably, says Gamez, “It went up precisely at 3 o’clock [the hour of mercy]. That was not planned.”
Then people noticed something while looking at the image: Jesus appeared to smile. Gamez takes the words of Jesus in St. Faustina’s diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, to heart: “Do whatever is in your power to spread devotion to my mercy. I will make up for what you lack.”
Jesus did just that: Donations for that Divine Mercy weekend came to $26,000 — exactly enough to cover all expenses. “This message will change your life,” says Gamez, “even if you pray the chaplet only once.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.
INFORMATION Visit FatherCalloway.com or Amazon.com to purchase No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy. To find Mother of Mercy Messengers programs in your area, call (830) 634-7765 or visit Marian.org.