By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
On the day dedicated to remind the world’s faithful of God’s infinite mercy, and that no mortal soul is beyond the reach of God’s love and forgiveness, faithful from the Diocese joined with their brothers and sisters throughout the world in commemorating the Feast of Divine Mercy April 28.
Photo Gallery: Divine Mercy Sunday in St. Clement Church, Matawan
Among the parishes to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday was St. Clement, Matawan, where Father Thomas Vala, pastor, presided over a Holy Hour that included exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, chanting of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a reflection, and opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Reflecting on Divine Mercy Sunday as a day dedicated for faithful to proclaim the message of God’s mercy, Father Vala said that when people come to accept God’s mercy, “it can be a beginning for them to transform their lives, to change, to come back to God, to find purpose and meaning in their lives.”
“I want people to understand that God’s mercy is always there – for them to know that when Jesus calls us, he doesn’t want us to be afraid to come to him and ask for that forgiveness and mercy,” he said. “It can be a life-changing experience.”
Father Vala said he sees Divine Mercy Sunday as a time when people come together to pray as a global community.
“We gather as Catholic people of faith, and we are praying not only as parishioners of St. Clement’s, but in community with people throughout the world,” he said. “It’s inspiring to see people gather together for the same purpose. I hope people will be touched by that message of Divine Mercy.”
St. Clement parishioners shared sentiments on what they find most meaningful about the Divine Mercy, including the prayers, rituals and traditions.
Lifelong parishioner Donald Norbut said he learned about the Divine Mercy more than 25 years ago from a friend, and “ever since, I’ve been completely devoted.”
Norbut told of how each day at 3 p.m. he stops whatever he is doing to pray the Mercy Prayer.
“The message of mercy is so beautiful,” Norbut said. “There is no limit to God’s mercy. It’s a message that’s full of love, hope and forgiveness.”
Devotion to the Divine Mercy originated in the early 1900s when Jesus appeared to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a nun and former peasant girl in Poland. He presented himself as the Divine Mercy, and in the apparition, he stood with two large rays, one red and the other white, coming from his heart. Respectively, the rays signified Christ’s Blood, “which is the life of souls,” and the water, “which makes souls righteous” that poured out when his heart was opened by a lance during his Crucifixion.
Jesus asked Sister Kowalska to share his love and mercy with the world and requested that a feast of mercy be observed, as recorded in St. Faustina’s diary. In the revelations, Christ asked for acts of mercy arising out of love for him through deed, word and prayer.
On May 5, 2000, Pope John Paul II established the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday as a way to make a connection between the merciful love of God and the Paschal Mystery.
St. Clement parishioner Maureen MacEvoy said she prays the Divine Mercy Chaplet each day at 3 p.m., recalling the establishing of the feast day by St. John Paul II – adding that she feels a special connection to the late Holy Father. Like him, she struggles with Parkinson’s disease, and on the night of his death in 2005, she was among thousands praying in St. Peter’s Square.
“He’s a very special saint,” she said.
Video from freelance photographers John and Mary Batkowski contributed to this story.