God offers mercy and love
By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
Parishioners of the Diocese of Sioux City attending the Divine Mercy Celebration recited the Act of Entrustment of the World to Divine Mercy praying, “In your son Jesus Christ, you have revealed your love and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the comforter. We entrust to you today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman…”
The Feast of Divine Mercy is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Special services were held on April 11 in several parishes throughout the Diocese of Sioux City.
Jesus, I trust in you
Bishop R. Walker Nickless was the homilist at the Sioux City celebration. He explained that Divine Mercy Sunday “invites us to reflect on the notion of mercy.”
“As we all know, mercy is offering forgiveness and letting someone out of a particular consequence of their sin,” said the bishop. “When we offer mercy to another, we invite and imitate the love and mercy that God has shown to us. We can only offer true mercy and love to others because God has first offered it to us.”
He continued that God shows mercy and love in many ways especially in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus that was celebrated the week before.
“Jesus’ whole life was an example of extraordinary forgiveness and mercy,” said Bishop Nickless. “He said for us to go and do the same.”
The bishop recited a portion of the homily Pope John Paul the Great gave at the beatification of Sister Mary Faustina Kowalska, saying, “The message of Divine Mercy is implicitly a message about the value of every human being. Each person is precious in God’s eyes. Christ gives up his life for each one. To everyone, the father gives his spirit and offers intimacy.”
The bishop noted that this message is addressed to all those who have lost all confidence in life and are tempted to give up.
“To them, the Holy Father says, ‘the gentle face of Jesus is offered,’” said Bishop Nickless. “He concluded, ‘How many souls have been consoled by the prayer, Jesus, I trust in you.’ As a community of faith, we have gathered during this hour of mercy to repeat the prayer of St. Mary Faustina Kowalska.”
Pope John Paul II, canonized St. Mary Faustina, a polish nun, on April 30, 2000, who received from Christ the revelations of the Divine Mercy in the early 1900s.
“During the ceremony the Holy Father fulfilled one of the requests that Christ had made during those revelations, that the entire church reserve the second Sunday of Easter to honor the memory of God’s infinite mercy,” said the bishop. “So we throughout the Diocese of Sioux City and beyond honor and remember God’s great love and mercy for us.”
The most explicit example of God showing his mercy and forgiveness, he said, is when people go to confession – the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.
“One of the many blessings that seems to be happening because of the result of Divine Mercy devotions is a greater awareness of our need for sacramental confession,” said Bishop Nickless. “In my pastoral letter to the people of our diocese, I have encouraged our priests to preach often about the importance of this sacrament and to look for ways and times that it can be more available.”
He thanked the priests who heard confessions. He said he was uplifted when he walked into the church and saw the long lines at the confessionals.
“I am convinced that the renewal in our church will only happen when each one of us first acknowledges that we do sin and need forgiveness that only God can give,” said the bishop. “We all know that happens in this unique and wonderful way in confession. Do not be afraid of that sacrament. Do not be afraid to invite others to come with you.”
He encouraged everyone to remember God’s mercy and the prayer of St. Faustina, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
The observance of Divine Mercy Sunday at Blessed Sacrament Church in Sioux City started at 1:30 p.m. with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and confession.
The priests on hand to hear confessions were Msgr. Roger Augustine, Father Craig Collison, Father Michael Erpelding, Father Brad Pelzel, Father Merlin Schrad, Father LeRoy Seuntjens and Father Raymond Weiling.
Hour of Mercy
The Hour of Mercy began at 3 p.m. Kevin Keane and Claudia Hardy led the congregation as they sang the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
As part of the chaplet, on each bead of the rosary representing the Hail Mary, the attendees sang, “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Father Merlin Schrad, pastor at Blessed Sacrament, served as the host for the celebration. He explained the requirements needed for receiving a plenary indulgence and led the Act of Entrustment of the World to Divine Mercy.
Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, led by Msgr. Augustine, followed the homily.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Father Schrad thanked Bishop Nickless for his talk, the priests who heard confessions and all those gathered for the ceremony.
Relic of St. Faustina
The relic of St. Faustina Kowalska was present for the service. Attendees were able to see and venerate the sacred relic at the end of the ceremony.
St. Faustina is credited with the spread of the divine mercy devotion worldwide through her 600-page diary, which provides an account of visions and revelations of Christ.