Sanctuary for Weary Souls: Divine Mercy Comes to Hollywood

In Los Angeles, Christ the King Catholic Church stands at the border separating Tinseltown and the Larchmont sections of the city. This church also features the archdiocesan Shrine of Divine Mercy.

Pope St. John Paul II blessed this image — and also signed it with his initials — that resides at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Los Angeles.
Pope St. John Paul II blessed this image — and also signed it with his initials — that resides at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Los Angeles. (photo: Courtesy photo)

In Los Angeles, Christ the King Catholic Church stands at the border separating Hollywood and the Larchmont sections of the city. 

This church also features a special shrine: the archdiocesan Shrine of Divine Mercy, offering mercy, solace and healing to all.

“Today, this shrine becomes a beacon of light, a symbol of the unfathomable love that God has for each one of us,” Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles said Oct. 14, 2023, when he officially proclaimed and dedicated the Divine Mercy Shrine within Christ the King Church as an archdiocesan shrine. “It is a place where we can come and experience the transformative power of Divine Mercy. Here, we can seek forgiveness, find strength and embrace the promise of eternal life.”

Divine Mercy LA photos
Clockwise from left: a view of the shrine; a candle held by a Massgoer on Oct. 14, 2023, when Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles officially proclaimed and dedicated the Divine Mercy Shrine within Christ the King Church.(Photo: Courtesy photos)

Archbishop Gomez added, “In a world often plagued by turmoil, division and suffering, the Divine Mercy Shrine offers us solace and hope. It is a sanctuary where the weary souls can find rest, where the brokenhearted can discover healing, and where the lost can find their way. It is a place of prayer, reflection and renewal.”

The foundation for the shrine was laid 26 years earlier, in 1997, when parishioners began celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday and promoting the devotion with the encouragement of Msgr. Alexander George, pastor at the time, even before Pope St. John Paul Il made the feast official for the universal Church in 2000.

Then, in 2003, Father Antonio Cacciapuoti, then the pastor, and parishioners commissioned Polish artist Dymitr Grozdew to paint the Divine Mercy image for the shrine, plus individual portraits of St. Faustina and her confessor, Father Michael Sopocko. Father George Bobowski, a native of Poland, knew of the artist and then took this image of Divine Mercy to Rome, where, at an audience, Pope John Paul II blessed it and signed it with his initials. It is considered the only image in the United States blessed and signed this way by him. The image was then enthroned in a chapel within the church that September, and, the following day, Archbishop Stanislaw Szymecki from Bialystok, Poland, was there to bless this new Chapel of Divine Mercy in Christ the King Church.

The shrine also contains relics of four saints — St. John Paul II, St. Faustina, Blessed Michael Sopocko and St. Maximilian Kolbe. 

Three years later, in 2006, two other important steps connected with Divine Mercy were taken in this church founded in 1926 on the feast of its namesake shortly after Pius XI on Dec. 11, 1925, officially instituted the universal feast of Christ the King. The first was the inaugural annual Divine Mercy Congress, and the second was the launching of the Monthly Divine Mercy Formation connected to the Faustinum Association that is headquartered at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Łagiewnikach. Father Bobowski came from the Diocese of Lomza, Poland, and is the promoter of the Divine Mercy devotion from the foundation of this Monthly Divine Mercy Formation.

After the archdiocese proclaimed this Divine Mercy Shrine of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles as official, pilgrims started flocking. 

“Of course, when it was declared, we had an influx of people,” explained Father Juan Ochoa, the pastor of Christ the King and rector of the shrine, adding, “It is something very new, so still people are getting to know it.” 

Among the mercy-focused devotions, the shrine and parish hosts a Divine Mercy pilgrim image for people to pray with at home. Before the final blessing at the English and the Spanish Masses, the statue is blessed and given to a family for the week. Along with the statues, “There is a little bag that we give to them,” explained Father Ochoa. “Inside is the diary of St. Faustina. The family will keep it, along with a new booklet, “where we tell the people what to do during the week — how to enthrone that Divine Mercy image in their home. We call it ‘From the Divine Mercy Sanctuary to the Sanctuary at Your Home.’ We give them different guidelines, instructions, recommendations. We always tell them: Pray together with your family; invite your neighbors to come to your home to do this prayer.”

Father Ochoa likes that “people who take the images for that week are not just parishioners. There are people who come from all over Los Angeles. People will come from other parishes that Sunday to receive the image and take it to their house and then will bring it back the next weekend.”

Graces abound. During the Lenten mission, a parishioner shared how, when she took the Divine Mercy image for the week and prayed for a special request, it was granted and became a very special sign that God gave her. 

Lelis Cruzata, a volunteer at the parish and shrine, said, “We do have people who have received graces from the chapel, and they do credit that to the image.” She noted that a petition book is placed in the chapel to record intentions and that many books have been filled over time. “We’ve seen that the image has been helping all of us,” she said.

Parishioners arrive well before the daily 7:30 a.m. Mass to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at the shrine. People also pray the chaplet every Tuesday evening during the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and after every First Friday evening Mass. The shrine is also open every Friday for the 3 p.m. “Hour of Mercy” and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

At the initiative of the faithful, the chaplet is also prayed after the Sunday Spanish Mass at 12:30 p.m.

“That came not from me,” Father Ochoa emphasized. “It came from the people who said, ‘Father, we would like to come on Friday, but we're working. Why don't we do that Sundays?’ So that was something that began from the people themselves.” 

The Lay Institute of Divine Mercy is flourishing. An average of 40 people take part, coming “not just from Christ the King but also from other parishes,” the rector said. “These are mostly people who are in charge of the Divine Mercy devotion at their own parish. They are supposed to go back to their parishes and promote the Divine Mercy devotion.”

As a longtime volunteer with the institute since 1996, Cruzata said this formation is always done by priests. “We’ve been conducting Divine Mercy Congresses every year since 2006,” she added.

The shrine has also attracted people who work in the movie industry — not surprising, given its Hollywood locale. Father Ochoa said two actresses are parishioners and lectors, and another actor attends the Spanish Masses. Cruzata remembers that a former pastor was “very well connected with the movie-industry people, and he invited so many of them to come to the church.”

Recently, Father Ochoa said he did see “the actor [Jonathan Roumie] who plays Jesus in The Chosen.” 

“He came to Mass,” he recalled.  

Roumie has told Marian Father Chris Alar about his own longtime Divine Mercy devotion that he learned from his father’s devotion. He explained that the Divine Mercy image is “on my front door as well as in my apartment.” Before The Chosen, he portrayed Jesus in the St. Luke Productions’ theatrical drama Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy. “That’s where I really got to learn about St. Faustina and the details of her visions and her diary,” he said. On video, Roumie also leads the Divine Mercy Chaplet before the Blessed Sacrament.

Cruzata has high expectations that more people will seek out the shrine. “The hope is that people who come to see Hollywood will say, ‘One of the places we’re going is the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Christ the King.’ When they exit on Melrose or Santa Monica, they see the sign, and they know to come to the shrine.”

There, they will find, as Archbishop Gomez said, “a sacred place for all who seek God’s mercy, a place where lives are transformed, and souls are lifted.”