This Sunday, the Sunday following Easter, the Church recognizes Divine Mercy Sunday, a day that carries an even greater emphasis in this Year of Mercy as announced by Pope Francis. Divine Mercy Sunday is a day that carries a special significance to my family.
In a few weeks, my family will mark the tenth anniversary of the passing of my grandfather, known best to his grandchildren as “Pop-pop.” He was a man of great generosity both to his family and to each of his patients, who he spent his career serving as a cardiologist. He was also a man of great faith, who in his passing left his family with the greatest gift, one of faith in God’s infinite mercy.
In the months before his death, as he gradually grew weaker and his cancer spread, he found a great peace in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. He was especially fond of praying the chaplet in song and even when he was too weak to say it himself, family and friends would pray it with him. It was widely known that at 3pm each day the television would be tuned to EWTN so he could recite the chaplet.
Providentially, a local Catholic film producer was filming a new production of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in song, entitled Generations Unite in Prayer and they were looking to film someone elderly with a devotion to this prayer. Despite concerns over my grandfather’s declining health, he was insistent on being a part of this project and doing whatever he could to help spread the message of Divine Mercy. Also known for his sense of humor, on the day of filming,, Pop-pop remarked, “It’s a good thing Jesus is the star of this show, because I don’t look so good” as the crew captured scenes of our family praying the chaplet at his bedside. Following the filming, my grandfather felt a renewed sense of determination: he wanted to live to see one more Divine Mercy Sunday. Although this was still many weeks away, by the grace of God he lived to see that day. In fact, on Divine Mercy Sunday he insisted on getting out of bed and kneeling before the image of Divine Mercy that hung by his bedside to offer a prayer of thanksgiving with the intercession of St. Faustina. He passed away two days later.
I was first introduced to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy when my grandfather was ill and still today I take great comfort in its words, particularly the words to the closing prayer:
Eternal God, in whom Mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase your Mercy in us that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to your holy will, which is love and mercy itself.
When facing personal trials I’ve found a great sense of hope in this simple prayer. Hope that whatever challenges I may be facing, God will grant me the peace and perseverance to see it through. Hope that despite my imperfections as a sinner, that I too may share in the glory of the resurrection. And the prayerful hope that death did not have the final word on that April day ten years ago, and that one day our family will join Pop-pop in his eternal reward.
Of all the observations on the nature of life I have come across from the popular comic strip Peanuts by Charles Schulz, there is one which I have been touched by the most. In a recurring plot, the main character, a fellow named Charlie Brown, falls for a beautiful peer of his known only as “The Little Red-Haired Girl.” Just being in the same room as her makes poor ole Charlie Brown tremble as he is enamored by her incredible beauty, talent, and personality… three characteristics he cannot possibly boast of his own. One day, he finds a pencil of hers and, to his astonishment, finds that it is covered in her teeth marks. This odd observation immediately causes Charlie Brown to find new confidence to pursue her and make her notice him, triumphantly exclaiming, “She’s human!”
Especially as we approach Christmas, this simple yet amazing truth reflects upon one of the cornerstones of our Faith: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). How much more relatable is a God Who became human! Yet often we may forget this in light of His divinity, instead placing God on a high pedestal for us to approach and gaze upon but never quite reach. We may discourage ourselves with this thinking of authentic Christian living as merely lofty ideals and unreachable standards— “speech and day dreams” according to St. Vincent Pallotti. The question, then, “What is God really like?” is answered during an exchange between Jesus and His disciple Philip: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us,” (Jn 14:8) Philip asks, to which Jesus responds, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). Not only do the emotions of Jesus reflect a necessary component of the image and likeness of God that each of us is made in, His emotions also reveal the nature of God. Believing that the written Word and the Living Word give us a trustworthy revelation of God, we know that God is in fact emotional.
Jesus felt “compassion,” “pitied,” and was “deeply moved;” he was “angry,” “indignant,” and “consumed with zeal;” he was “troubled,” “greatly distressed,” “very sorrowful,” and “grieved;” he “sighed,” “wept,” “groaned,” and was “in agony;” he was “amazed;” he “rejoiced very greatly,” and was “full of joy;” he “greatly desired” and he “loved.” In our quest to be like Jesus, however, we often overlook his emotions. Jesus reveals what it means to be fully human and made in the image of God. His emotions reflect that Identity without any deficiency or distortion. When we compare our own emotional lives to His, we become aware of our need for a transformation of our emotions so that we can be fully human, as He is.
Christmas reminds us of the incredible, baffling mystery of the Incarnation—God, the Creator of the universe humbled Himself by taking on human form! From the time Christ lay upon the wood of the manger through His expiration on the wood of the Cross, we see and are able to relate to not just the idealization of humanity, but how to endure life’s pains, sorrows, and tribulations, as well as its joys and triumphs. If we are the body of Christ, created and redeemed to represent Jesus in the world, then we, like St. Paul, need to “gaze upon him” and learn to reflect the emotions of Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Then we can know Him, and in knowing Him know God, and know ourselves as we were created to be.
May God bless you, and God love you! Have a blessed Advent and Christmas!
For more resources to prepare you for Christmas, please click here. This resource and more resources for Christmas and Advent can be found here.
Those are the words that will inevitably come up at some point from anyone who knows that I grew up in New York City. I was in seventh grade, attending my Catholic elementary school in Queens, when my math teacher came in and told us all to “start praying.” I was very confused. This was before the age of iPhones or instant communication – there was confusion, worry, and an overall sense of terror. Eventually when we were told the details, it was followed up by a precautionary statement that we might have to seek shelter in our school’s basement and church hall. I was worried about my mother; she was working in Manhattan that day.
Tomorrow is the twelfth anniversary of that tragic day. I truly believe that everyone who experienced it deals with each anniversary in a different way. Here in Washington, DC, many people visit the Newseum’s 9/11 exhibit while many others around the country watch re-broadcasted news footage from 2001. I always find it interesting how people deal with grief. Those who were lucky enough to not have their families hurt by loss on that day or from a related illness, often times still feel as if they lost someone close to them.
Every year, I am drawn back to the words that my math teacher said – the first words of comfort on a day that would be filled with strangers comforting strangers – “start praying.” She didn’t know all the details, we certainly didn’t know all the details, but her instinct in that moment was to encourage us to look to God for comfort. She encouraged us to seek shelter in the arms of the Lord. I prayed that day and I take time to pray every September 11th that passes, to thank God for keeping my family safe and to pray for the thousands of men and women who lost their lives.
When Pope Benedict XVI journeyed to the United States on his apostolic visit in 2008, he visited Ground Zero in Manhattan to pray at a place where many Americans come to pray – no matter their faith. Instead of paraphrasing or commenting on his prayer, I leave it here for you to read and contemplate on your own. I will be praying it tomorrow; I would encourage you to do so as well.
O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and
Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.
We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.
We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.
God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.
God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.
Pope Benedict XVI -- Prayer at Ground Zero
New York, New York -- 20 April 2008
Chris Pierno is the Media & Marketing Manager for the Catholic Apostolate Center.
“The fruit of sacramental life is both personal and ecclesial. For every one of the faithful on the one hand, this fruit is life for God in Christ Jesus; for the Church, on the other, it is an increase in charity and in her mission of witness" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1134).
I am a liturgical - and sacramental - junky. Whether it be when the organ plays, the incense burns, wooden crosses process or babies cry- I love being part of liturgies! But my love of liturgy does not end with the communal gathering or the symbolic signs. Rather, the reason I love liturgy is that I believe, as Fr. Aidan Kavanagh, OSB, a liturgical theologian, put it, “liturgy is doing the world the way the world was meant to be done.”
In the liturgy we are participating in the life of God. We are entering into, and living within, the eternal circulation of the Trinity’s love! But what does that actually mean? It means that we are not simply attending a gathering. We do not show up to another building for another event. It is not a lecture or a show. Rather it is a transformation of ourselves with our God, who is love, so we can go out and witness to that love and act out of it.
This is why I love liturgy. It calls me out of myself. It shows me God acting in all things and then sends me out to be his hands and feet. Liturgy connects me to the Body of Christ and reminds me that I am to care for that body. It shows me that the world can be used to glorify God and that the world itself, being God’s creation, is a symbol of His active presence in my life.
David Fagerberg, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, illustrates this thought saying, “Water could be a sign of God’s love if I gave a cup of it to someone who is thirsty, but not if I use up on my golf course the water he needs for his vegetable patch.” Liturgy reminds and shows us how to act out of love, not pride; to live out of hope, not despair; and to be guided by compassion, not self interest.
Pope Francis affirms that we must be a living Church: a Church for the poor, a Church that acts. He emphasizes that, “Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.” We encounter, learn and receive Christ in the Liturgy in order that might know Him and act as His Body for the world.
This Sunday we must remember that we are participating in something that goes beyond the building, the preaching and the music. We must remember that we are encountering Christ and he is teaching us a way that asks us to share in his mission of building the kingdom of God by acting out of the truths of love, justice, kindness, and peace.
Pam Tremblay is a collaborator with the Catholic Apostolate Center. She currently works at St. John's University in Queens, NY as Resident Minister for Social Justice.