Divine Mercy Sunday 2023: Thousands expected at national shrine Mass, airing on EWTN

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Mary Makuc will be one of an estimated 15,000 pilgrims expected to descend on the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, this weekend for the first in-person celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday there in three years.

“I think it’s a foretaste of heaven,” the 60-year-old resident of nearby Monterey, Massachusetts, said of the free event, which has been held at the 350-acre shrine on the western edge of the Bay State since the 1980s.

EWTN will air live coverage of the celebration at the shrine beginning at noon EST. Bishop Bernard Shlesinger of the Archdiocese of Atlanta will be the main celebrant at the outdoor Mass, which begins at 1 p.m. EST.

The weekend schedule also includes eucharistic adoration, confession, and a Saturday conference on the Eucharist co-hosted by Father Donald Calloway, author of “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father” (Marian Press, 2020), and Father Chris Alar, author of “Understanding Divine Mercy” (Marian Press, 2021.) Both priests are members of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, or Marian Fathers, the order that operates the shrine and promotes devotion to God’s divine mercy.

The eucharistic conference, which takes place from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST, will be livestreamed here

Earlier this week, Alar spoke about the disappointment of having to cancel the past two public Divine Mercy celebrations due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We are excited to open the doors again. It’s a great environment,” Alar said. “We’re all here to celebrate God’s divine mercy.” The atmosphere, he said, is akin to a major sporting event.

“It’s a great way to meet other people. But most important is to obtain the extraordinary graces that Jesus promises us on Divine Mercy Sunday,” the Marian priest said. On that day, it is possible to obtain a plenary indulgence — that is, a full remission of temporal punishment in purgatory for sins that have already been forgiven, provided certain basic conditions are met.

What is divine mercy?

St. John Paul II declared the first Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000 during the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska (1905–1938), a Polish nun and mystic who received messages from Jesus encouraging devotion to his merciful heart.

The main message of divine mercy is that God loves mankind and “wants us to recognize that his mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon him with trust, receive his mercy, and let it flow through us to others,” the Marian Fathers’ website on divine mercy says.

The picture most associated with divine mercy is a painting of Jesus clothed in a white garment, with his right hand raised in a blessing motion. In the image, two rays come forth from Jesus’ heart, one of which is white and represents water. The other is red and symbolizes blood. It is known as the image of divine mercy.

According to Alar, the devotion to divine mercy was passed down to the Marian Fathers in Poland for the purpose of spreading the message around the world. 

Mary Makuc (center), Eileen Fitzgibbons (right), and Karen Dascenzo (left) visited the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 2021. Courtesy of Mary Makuc
Mary Makuc (center), Eileen Fitzgibbons (right), and Karen Dascenzo (left) visited the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 2021. Courtesy of Mary Makuc

Other religious orders promote divine mercy, but not to the degree of the Marian Fathers, said Alar, the superior of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province of the Marian Fathers in the United States.

“We are the main religious community in the world that promotes the two spiritual weapons of our time, the Immaculate Conception and the divine mercy,” he said.

Makuc called the restrictions on the shrine in the past few years a “big loss,” but she feels blessed to be able to attend the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday with her family this year.

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“I can’t wait to be there and just see and listen to the whole Mass and take part in it and be part of that human family of Catholics where we know we’re sharing the faith and the hope that comes from Jesus,” she said.

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