Divine Mercy devotion promotes renewed faith in troubled times

| February 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

Following is an edited version of an e-mail interview by Catholic Spirit news editor Pat Norby with Father Seraphim Michalenko, who has been involved in promoting the Divine Mercy message and devotion for more than 60 years. The devotion and the feast of Divine Mercy —  which is celebrated the Sunday after Easter — is associated with Sister Maria Faustina Kowal­ska, a Polish nun to whom Christ appeared, instructing her to proclaim God’s mercy. She died in 1938, was beatified in 1993 and canonized a saint in 2000.

Father Michalenko, a member of the Congre­gation of Marians of the Immaculate Con­cep­tion who was ordained in 1956, was responsible for the verification of miracles attributed to her intercession. Father Michalenko and Paul Regan, founder of the Divine Mercy Chap­let for the Sick and Dying, will present conferences in Minnesota and Wisconsin Feb. 19 through Feb. 23.

How and why did you get involved in the effort to canonize Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska?

Father Michalenko

The postulator for St. Faustina’s canonization cause asked for a vice postulator for North America be­cause our American Province was the first to promote the Divine Mercy message and devotion in the Western Hemis­phere. A vice postulator helps spread knowledge of the cause, gather information about graces received through the candidate’s intercession, and raise funds to cover the costs. Since I had done my studies for the priesthood in Rome and had an adequate command of the Polish language, my superiors offered my services.

Tell me about the miracles you verified, which led to her being declared a saint. How did that research affect your faith?

My involvement . . . began when the husband of the lady, whose healing was declared a miracle through the intercession of Sister Faustina, requested that I accompany his family on a pilgrimage to the tomb. [Maureen Digan, who suffered from Milroy’s Disease, a rare and incurable disease of the lymphatic system] was angry with God . . . not a believer in miracles. Their almost 8-year-old son was suffering from a severe syndrome of seizures that required careful administration. [Bob] Digan wasn’t asking for my services as translator, but that I would be a witness to the miracle he expected.

How did that affect my faith? Mr. Digan returned home with two miracles. In my estimation, knowing all the circumstances involved, his son’s healing, which occurred at the same time as the mother’s, was by far a greater miracle than his wife’s. . . . As for the miracle accepted for Sister Faustina’s canonization, heaven alone could have come up with a scenario like the one I witnessed concerning the verification of the healing of Father [Ronald] Pytel’s heart condition, attributed to Blessed Faustina’s intercession.

Why is the Divine Mercy message and devotion so important to the church and the world, today?

Our Lord stated twice to St. Faustina: “Mankind will have no peace [that is, total well-being; and, according to the Polish word he used, that was translated as ‘peace,’ it should rather carry the meaning “will have no security”] so long as it does not turn with trust to the fount of my mercy” (Diary 300, 699).

There seems to be a resurgence in Catholic devotional practices such as this one. What do you believe is the reason for that?

If the flame of an oil lamp can stand for our love toward God, the lamp’s burning wick can stand for devotion and the oil it feeds on are devotions. In the wake of Vatican II’s interpretations and “reforms,” devotions were discouraged and were even being suppressed, as detracting from the eminence of the eucharistic sacrifice. The wick was deprived of oil, the flame waned, and the love of God grew increasingly cold, until another “sensible object,” Marian apparitions, brought attention back to God.

What is the significance of praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the Sick and Dying?

By our Lord’s revelations through St. Faustina we are made aware of his great concern for the sick and dying. . . . The Lord urged Sister Faustina: “Encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given you (Diary 1541). Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death (Diary 687).”

Conference schedule

Marian Father Seraphim Michalenko and Paul Regan will discuss the Divine Mercy message and praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet during conferences in Min­ne­sota and Wisconsin.

» St. Cloud: Feb. 19, 12:30-2:45 p.m. St. Anthony Church, 2405 First St. N. Confessions at 3, Mass at 4:30 p.m. with Father Michalenko.

» New Ulm: Feb. 20, after 9:30 a.m. Mass, Holy Trinity Cathedral, 605 N. State St.

» Hastings: Feb. 20, after 6 p.m. Mass, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 2035 W. 15th St.

» Bloomington: Feb. 21, after 8:45 a.m. Mass with Father Michalenko, St. Bonaventure, 901 E. 90th St.

» La Crosse, Wis.: 9:30 a.m. Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, 5250 Justin Road. Mass at 12:15 p.m.

» West St. Paul: Feb. 23, after 7:30 a.m. Mass, St. Joseph, 1138 Seminole Ave.

No registration or cost, but a free-will offering will be taken.

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