By Tim Johnson and Trish Linner
SOUTH BEND — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades joined the faithful of the South Bend area at Holy Family Church to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday and the beatification of now-Blessed John Paul II earlier that day in Rome.
Pope John Paul II promulgated the devotion of Divine Mercy Sunday, which occurs the second Sunday of Easter each year. St. Faustina, the devout 20th-century Polish nun who had received the Divine Mercy messages from our Lord, was the first saint canonized in the new millennium by Pope John Paul II.
Bishop Rhoades, speaking at the Divine Mercy Sunday devotions on May 1, spoke of the images of Divine Mercy: “In that now-famous image, we see two rays of light coming from the heart of Jesus, one red and the other white. The two rays, according to what Jesus told Sister Faustina, represent the blood and water. The blood recalls the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water recalls the sacrament of Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit. These two rays of light, representing the blood and the water, come from the merciful heart of Jesus. They show God’s merciful love illuminating and spreading over the world.”
Bishop Rhoades spoke of the day’s Gospel, which “helps us to grasp the full sense and value of the gift of Divine Mercy.”
The Risen Jesus appeared to the Apostles and transmitted to them “the mission of being ministers of Divine Mercy,” Bishop Rhoades said.
Jesus entrusted the Apostles and the Church with the authority to forgive sins. Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained,” thus instituting the sacrament of Reconciliation.
“Through St. Faustina, our Lord promised an abundance of graces to the faithful who devoutly observe Divine Mercy Sunday,” Bishop Rhoades said.
He spoke of the Church rejoicing that day with the beatification of Pope John II. The bishop noted Blessed John Paul II, instituted this Sunday of Divine Mercy and died on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday six years ago.
Bishop Rhoades related that on April 3, 2005, Blessed John Paul wrote: “As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!”
Bishop Rhoades encouraged the faithful gathered at Holy Family Church to be messengers and witnesses of the Divine Mercy, “putting mercy into practice in our daily lives,” he said.
Bishop Rhoades added, “St. Faustina was a witness and messenger of our Lord’s merciful love. Blessed John Paul II was a witness and messenger of Divine Mercy. The Church and each of her members — you and I — are called to be witnesses and messengers of our Lord’s merciful love. This is, as it were, our program of life.”
Bishop Rhoades said the faithful are to be moved to love their neighbor “always and everywhere. Blessed John Paul II taught us that mercy is an indispensable dimension of love. The mercy of the Lord fills us with hope and teaches us how to build the new civilization of love. Lord Jesus, we put our trust in You, now and forever.”
Celebration at St. Hedwig
Bishop Emeritus John M. D’Arcy joined with the congregation of St. Hedwig Church in South Bend to celebrate Mass and commemorate the beatification. St. Hedwig was dedicated in 1883 and founded by Polish immigrants seeking to keep their traditions, language and Polish community alive.
Father Len Chrobot, pastor of both St. Hedwig and St. Patrick concelebrated the Mass with Bishop D’Arcy and addressed the gathered during his homily. He spoke of Pope John Paul II and his great love for the people of Poland and his homeland itself. “Pope John Paul was very grounded in his identity as a Polish priest. He spoke on many occasions on ethnic traditions and customs reminding people that the more you are aware of your identity, the more you can serve your country. People who are not rooted in anything often become amoral with nothing to ground them to their family and community.”
Father Chrobot also spoke about the hardships the Polish people endured during the time the country was wiped off the map from 1795 until 1918. “Without the Polish language and traditions, the Polish people would cease to exist today. Keeping their culture alive was what kept them Poles and kept them fighting to be free Poles again,” Father Chrobot said.
After a beautiful Mass that featured not only Polish hymns and prayers, but also Latin and English as well, Bishop D’Arcy spoke to the crowd of around 100 attendees. “Pope John Paul believed so strongly in knowing your heritage. He understood the oppression many Catholics experienced simply for being Catholic. He knew keeping traditions alive were a spiritual link to your family and your history, no matter what ethnicity you were. My own parents came to America due to oppression in Ireland. Even though my mother had trained as a nurse, no one would hire her,” Bishop D’Arcy said.
Pope John Paul II was a scholar and never stopped learning. “He always questioned priests he met about their hometowns and communities. He was so interested in what was going on in the parishes back home. He had a genuine love for the laity and knew first and foremost that we were servants to them. It was our job to bring them closer to the Father,” Bishop D’Arcy said.
After the Mass, Bishop D’Arcy joined Father Chrobot and many parishioners for a reception.
Many parishioners joined the conversation about Pope John Paul including Tom and Jennifer Borek. “We’ve been inspired by Pope John Paul II for a long time. Some think it’s hard to live the Word in today’s world, but he has done more than that in times much harder than these,” said Tom.
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