BAY CITY— Hundreds of faithful gathered to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday at Our Lady of Czestochowa Parish, St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, in Bay City on April 3. Before the Rev. Bill Rutkowski, Vicar General for the Diocese of Saginaw, celebrated Mass, four priests heard confessions for more than an hour and the Rev. Joseph Christensen, a friar of the Third Order Franciscans of Mary Immaculate and Essexville native, presented a reflection on Divine Mercy and its importance. Father Christensen shared the prayers from each day of the Divine Mercy Novena and suggested practical ways of sharing Christ's mercy, such as the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. He also spoke of the necessity of receiving the sacrament of reconciliation regularly.
"The difference between a sinner and a saint is Confession," he said.
Father Christensen noted that many people struggle to forgive themselves for their sins, even after receiving reconciliation, and encouraged them to open their hearts to Jesus Christ's mercy.
"If God can forgive you, why shouldn't you forgive yourself?" he said.
More photos are available here.
Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted by the Vatican on May 5, 2000, and is celebrated the Second Sunday of Easter. Jesus appeared to a Polish nun, Sister (now Saint) Maria Faustina Kowalska beginning in the 1930s. He asked her 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.
"My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. … Let no soul fear to draw near to Me. … It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy." (Diary, no. 699)
During his homily, Father Rutkowski explained that Divine Mercy helps the faithful to better understand and appreciate the Paschal Mystery.
"The Paschal Mystery is at the heart of Divine Mercy because Jesus came to impart God's Divine Mercy," he said.
Father Rutkowski also reminded the faithful that we not only receive mercy, but we are called to show mercy to others.
"Peace comes through knowing the Mercy of God," he said. "Where sin abounds, mercy abounds... and mercy must abound even more."
Following Communion, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed as the faithful prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The Mass concluded with Benediction and was followed by a reception.