Our parish, it turns out, throws a pretty big bash for the Feast of Divine Mercy. I had no idea.
We've only been members for a little over a year, and last year on Divine Mercy Sunday, I was in Salt Lake City for a ski trip (and let me tell you, Salt Lake City is a disconcerting place to be when CNN is in all-Pope-death-watch-all-the-time mode --- the biggest news in the local paper was the Latter Day Saints' General Conference being held that weekend, and on the Feast Day itself, the morning after John Paul II passed away, the front page of the religion section featured President Gordon Hinckley). I went to Mass that morning, including confession for the plenary indulgence, in a tiny neighborhood church. (It was one of those confessions where I take both kids into the confessional with me? You know, because my husband is off skiing? That kind?) The priest, almost apologetic, announced at the end of Mass that the ladies of the church had prepared tea and sandwiches and cake to celebrate his birthday that morning.
Anyway, this year we went to the late morning Mass so that I could stay after for the DM celebration while Mark took the kids home afterwards. It turned out that people showed up from parishes all over, squeezing us to standing-room only --- I think it was less crowded at any of the three Triduum services. We were lucky to get two chairs in the back, right next to the door that goes downstairs to the bathrooms. Miraculously, the kids did fine, didn't block the floor too much.
Afterwards I went downstairs for the box lunch and had the good fortune to find a seat next to Desperate Irish Housewife, whom I will get around to adding to my blogroll one of these days. The lunch featured egg rolls, which were apparently being deep-fried by the thousand in the kitchen by a team of devout Filipinas. The way Father told it, it sounded as if the egg roll idea had been cooked up specifically by them to lure lots of people to the parish for Divine Mercy Sunday, starting a few years before John Paul II officially re-inaugurated it as a major feast day. It sure would have worked on me. Who knew that the way to the Sacred Heart is through my stomach. Or something like that.
The celebrant, also the event guest speaker, was Father Thomas Sullivan of the Congregation of the Fathers of Mercy. On his way up to the podium, he stopped to talk to three sisters wearing the distinctively recognizable sari-style habit of the Missionaries of Charity --- you know, Mother Teresa's religious society --- and convinced them to move to the front pew. I think they must have accompanied Fr. Sullivan, as I don't know of any MoC houses locally.
Anyway, the place was packed. The confessional lines on both sides stretched the length of the aisles, all before and during Fr. Sullivan's talk. Also the Eucharist was exposed for adoration the whole time. And the Parish's large painting of the Divine Mercy image was taken out of its alcove and set up in a place of honor. And we had incensing, and blessing of religious articles (I had brought a little medallion bearing the Divine Mercy image, which had been sitting in m dresser drawer ever since I forgot to bring it with me to Salt Lake City last year), and the Divine Mercy chaplet, and a litany of St. Faustina, and a rosary with meditations taken from St. Faustina's memoir, and finally Benediction. Quite a full day!
I'm glad that last year I happened to choose St. Faustina's writings as my Lenten reading. Anyone who wants to understand the Divine Mercy devotion would do well to read them, of course, but last year it seemed particularly well-timed --- because, of course, Lent and Easter culminated in the passing of her countryman Karol Wojtyla, i.e. John Paul the Great, who had done so much to bring the Feast of Divine Mercy back into the Church year and for whom that day's anticipatory Mass was the last Mass of his life. I wrote this last year on Palm Sunday:
I thought of how singular it is that Palm Sunday Mass contains both Hosanna and Crucify him, how close together they are, how quickly popular sentiment can change. St Faustina writes in her Diary:
March 21, 1937. Palm Sunday. During Mass, my soul was steeped in the bitterness and suffering of Jesus. Jesus gave me to understand how much he had suffered in that triumphal procession. "Hosanna" was reverberating in Jesus' heart as an echo of "Crucify."
What reverberates in our hearts?
I was an unchurched kid, a converted adult. It took me a very long time --- years --- to assimilate a mental picture of a Jesus I could feel that I knew personally, one that didn't come laden with baggage or treacle. Even that came long after I formed one of God the Father, and even long after I formed one of the Blessed Mother. The mental picture that works for me has turned out to be an interior image of the Divine Mercy. I prefer the older painting, seen here on this page.