‘Come to My Mercy ...’
The Register pays a visit to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.
My wife and I have been reading the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, and it has been a life-changing book. The Catholic faith is filled with spiritual classics that can nurture, inspire and teach us, and this diary is incredible.
St. Faustina (1905-1938), a Polish nun from the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy, wrote the diary in obedience to her spiritual director. She received revelations concerning God’s mercy and wrote about them in the 640-page book.
Her feast day is normally Oct. 5, though that is a Sunday this year.
On Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina as the first saint of the Jubilee Year. The Pope announced that the first Sunday after Easter would be celebrated by the Church as Divine Mercy Sunday.
St. Faustina’s life and work impressed me so much that I felt I had to make a spiritual pilgrimage to the shrine with my family and kiss the first-class relics that can be found there.
I called the shrine and asked for one of the seven rooms available in the John Paul II Guest House. We were given the St. Faustina room on the second floor, which consisted of two single beds and an extra cot for the children to share. Andrew, 4, and Mary, 2, loved the 350-acre grounds. Situated in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, the area can be cool at night, but this was a relief from the summer heat of New York, 140 miles away. As a matter of fact, the whole experience was a relief.
The guest house has a common kitchen and living room with a television and CD player. There are a few places to eat in Stockbridge, which is less than a mile away, but we decided to cook our own meals.
The Marians of the Immaculate Conception founded the shrine in 1944 and continue to operate the shrine as well as a publishing center.
The shrine itself, completed in 1960, is gorgeous. Its exterior consists of large marble and granite blocks quarried in nearby Lee. The interior, mostly wood carved by local artisans under the direction of Antonio Guerrieri, a local craftsman, is spectacular. Centered on the front altar is a striking, pure white Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Beneath her and directly in view of the congregation is the famous icon of the Divine Mercy, as revealed to St. Faustina.
The murals throughout the church, as well as the windows, are all made in New England. But the wood-carved Twelve Apostles behind the main altar were done in northern Italy. The side chapels contain stained-glass windows depicting Our Lady of Ostra Brama and Our Lady of Czestochowa, which speaks to the history of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception here in the United States. They originally served the Lithuanian and Polish-American communities.
Relics of St. Faustina are available in the side chapels for veneration. Also on display is a zucchetto (small, round skullcap) worn by John Paul II, which he gave to the shrine.
After the Eucharist, the highlight of the day is 3:00 p.m., when the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy with Benediction takes place. Our Lord told St. Faustina: “At three o’clock, implore my mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in my passion, particularly in my abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. I will allow you to enter into my mortal sorrow. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of me in virtue of my passion ...” (Diary, 1320).
It is a sublime service, at the end of which is veneration of first-class relics of St. Faustina. The incense, the songs, the prayers, the chapel itself — a work of art devoted to God — all combine to make a visit to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy a truly spiritual experience.
At the end of the day, we paid a visit to the Our Lady of Mercy Candle and Shrine Oratory. Overnight guests receive an electronic key to swipe for admittance. Inside, hundreds of candles are lit. White, blue and red, the cumulative glow of the candles bathe the room in golden light. The quiet of the night descended on the Berkshires, and we thanked God for the opportunity to be at this shrine. When the children were in bed, I went for a walk amid the tall pines, the dark silhouette of the mountains visible against the stars. “O God, increase my faith!”
James Carmody writes
from Queens, New York.
Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Faustina
This prayer is taken from the Divine Mercy Message and Devotion Booklet published by the Marian Press: Saint Faustina, you told us that your mission would continue after your death and that you would not forget us (Diary, 281, 1582). Our Lord also granted you a great privilege, telling you to “distribute graces as you will, to whom you will, and when you will” (31). Relying on this, I ask your intercession for the graces I need, especially (here mention your special intentions). Help me above all, to trust in Jesus as you did, and thus, to glorify his mercy every moment of my life. Amen.
National Shrine of the Divine Mercy
2 Prospect Hill Road
Stockbridge, MA 01262
Planning Your Visit
Weekday Masses are at 7:15 a.m. (8 a.m. on Saturdays) and 2 p.m. Masses on Sundays are at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Eucharistic adoration is held daily from 1-2 p.m., followed by the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Benediction at 3 p.m. Confessions are from 1-2 p.m. and 3:30-4:15 p.m. Every month there is a Eucharistic Festival of Praise and a healing Mass.
- October 5-11, 2008