Shrine’s Divine Mercy Sunday weekend to focus on Eucharist, ‘spiritual fatherhood’

The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., is seen in this August 2023 file photo. (OSV News/Gretchen R. Crowe)

By Gina Christian, OSV News

An upcoming celebration of the Divine Mercy devotion focuses in particular on the Eucharist and on the need for “spiritual fatherhood.”

Some 15,000 pilgrims are expected at the annual Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend, which takes place April 6-7 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The shrine also is home to the U.S. provincialate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, who oversee the shrine.

The 350 acres of the shrine grounds will be transformed into what organizers call a “small tent city,” with opportunities for confession, Eucharistic adoration and rosary prayers as well as Masses both days.

Observed on the Second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday was established in 2000 by Pope St. John Paul II during his canonization of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a 20th-century Polish mystic. As a Sister of Our Lady of Mercy, the unassuming saint shared how she enjoyed numerous visions in which Jesus Christ urged her to promote devotion to his mercy through various prayers, an annual feast, and an image featuring rays of blood and water issuing from his heart.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is the principal celebrant for the April 7 outdoor liturgy, which will be livestreamed on the Marian Fathers’ dedicated streaming site, DivineMercyPlus.org.

With the Catholic Church in the U.S. in the midst of a National Eucharistic Revival, the gathering continues those efforts to highlight the centrality of the Eucharist to the Catholic faith.

In addition, the Marian Fathers have scheduled a sold-out April 6 conference titled “Godly Fathers Strengthen Families,” which features talks by Marian Father Chris Alar, provincial superior of the order’s U.S. province and an author and television show host; fellow Marian Father Donald Calloway, vicar provincial and vocation director, as well as the author of over 15 books; and filmmaker Jim Wahlberg, executive director of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, which works to assist urban youth. Wahlberg also is executive producer of the films “Mother Teresa: No Greater Love” and the soon-to-be-released “Jesus Thirsts: The Miracle of the Eucharist.”

The themes of Divine Mercy, the Eucharist and spiritual fatherhood are all interwoven, Father Alar told OSV News.

“The very fact is the gift that God gives us in the Divine Mercy is most seen through the fatherhood of God,” Father Alar said. “In his mercy, he gave us his Son.”

The Eucharist “is the manifestation of that gift,” he added. “So it’s a perfect combination.”

The three panelists also will speak during a televised “pre-Mass show” April 7, joined by Archbishop Broglio and former NFL players Elvis Grbac and Ben Steele.

On display during the weekend is a prayer banner composed of thousands of cloth pieces with prayer intentions sent to the shrine from throughout the U.S. More than 400 volunteers will be available to assist pilgrims, including translators for those who speak Spanish, Polish, Italian, French, German or Tagalog.

According to the diary St. Faustina was instructed to keep by her spiritual director, Christ promised to grant to those who go to confession and receive holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday complete forgiveness of sins, as well as remission of the temporal punishment they incur.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that sin incurs a “double consequence.” According to that teaching, if grave in nature, sin can deprive a person of communion with God, resulting in eternal punishment; however, temporal punishment follows from the nature of every sin, even venial, and requires purification “which proceeds from a fervent charity.”

The sacrament of reconciliation, according to the catechism, restores a person to God’s grace “joining us with him in intimate friendship.” Nevertheless, it explains the “temporal punishment of sin remains,” which is purified through works of mercy, charity, prayer and penance to complete the soul’s conversion. Such temporal punishment also can be remitted, in whole or in part, through indulgences granted by the church.

St. John Paul granted a plenary indulgence on Divine Mercy Sunday, under the usual conditions (receiving sacramental confession and holy Communion, and praying for the pope’s intentions) to faithful who take part in Divine Mercy devotions in a spirit of complete detachment from affection for sin, even venial.

That last condition can be difficult to fulfill, said Father Alar — which is why the “extraordinary promise (of Christ to St. Faustina) and the extraordinary grace” attached to Divine Mercy Sunday are so precious.

“The only two things you have to do is go to confession and receive holy Communion,” he said. “What God is basically saying is this: ‘I want you to come back to the sacraments so much that all I’m asking you to do is go to confession and receive holy Communion, and I will flood you with this most incredible gift called remission of all your temporal punishment due to sin.'”

He stressed that Divine Mercy Sunday is “not a rabbit’s foot or a magic wand,” since participants must turn from sin and “desire to be good” as part of this unique opportunity to draw profoundly close to God.

“This is a day of free grace,” said Father Alar. “It’s like the Lord saying, ‘I’m going to wipe your slate clean. All you’ve got to do is go to confession and holy Communion.'”

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