Diocesan News

Mercy Is the Theme of Shrine in Ridgewood

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio blesses a newly dedicated chapel to Divine Mercy at Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church, Ridgewood, during a special Mercy Hour Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio blesses a newly dedicated chapel to Divine Mercy at Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church, Ridgewood, during a special Mercy Hour Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. (Photo by Antonina Zielinska)

Nearly a century ago, St. Faustina Kowalska received a daunting task directly from Jesus:

“Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”

St. Faustina recorded these words in her “Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul.”

This past Divine Mercy Sunday, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was the main celebrant at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, Ridgewood, to bless a new chapel dedicated to the Divine Mercy image and two of its champions, St. Faustina and St. John Paul, during a special 3 p.m. Mass, April 12.

Initially, St. Faustina found little support in her task, and it wasn’t until 2000, that St. John Paul II declared the first Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday in accordance with the Polish nun’s diary.

“Through Faustina we know Mercy is the greatest attribute we can give to God,” Bishop DiMarzio said during his homily. “She was a simple religious but God chose her to make revelations about certain aspects of His mercy.”

“Our concept of justice is very limited,” he said. “Yes, there is punishment for those who do not repent, but His mercy is overwhelming… We find it difficult to forgive so we think it is hard for God to do so, except that He is a God that is all merciful… The extent of His mercy is beyond our comprehension.”

Recalling St. John Paul’s encyclical “Rich in Mercy,” Bishop DiMarzio explained that “mercy is love’s second name.”

“We are precious to God,” he said. “God truly loves us more than we can understand or know.”

One of the many graces people can receive on Divine Mercy Sunday is a plenary indulgence.

“An indulgence is a favor, really,” the bishop explained. If a person is sincere in living a life in accordance to God’s will, has gone to confession, receives communion and says a special prayer on Divine Mercy Sunday, God takes away time this person would otherwise spend in purgatory.

The pastor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, Father Anthony Sansone, said the image has already brought graces, in the generosity of the parishioners.

Starting about a year ago, the newly organized Polish community led the charge in raising funds to repurpose an aging chapel in the church to Divine Mercy. The Italian- and English-speaking community followed suit and together came up with the money to refinish the space.

The chapel was once a baptismal area donated by the Rom family, but it was no longer used since baptisms had been moved to the center of the church.

Father Slawomir Sobiech, parochial vicar, sent the wood that was in the chapel to Poland where an artist friend of his, Krystyna Sutula, painted an original interpretation of the Divine Mercy image based on the descriptions found in St. Faustina’s diary and previously depicted images.

A family who was vacationing in Poland volunteered to bring the image back to ensure its safety. Other Polish parishioners volunteered their time and talents to fix the electrical components, paint the walls, accent the wood, cut stone and transform the baptismal font into an altar.

The pastor said the image has also brought grace upon the parish by inspiring curiosity and devotion in parishioners.

“The Divine Mercy devotion is an international celebration,” he said. “Many of my Italian-speaking people tell me they pray the chaplet at three every day, and some of the English- speaking do as well… So many people are already praying and they just needed a place where they can contemplate more on the beautiful image of Jesus Christ.”

Father Sansone said he was familiar with the image, but has developed a special devotion to the Divine Mercy Chaplet which offers God the Father “the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”

Father Sobiech said the image is an important addition to the parish because “we all have to reminded all the time of to trust in Divine Mercy.”

The devotion to Divine Mercy is spreading. When Pope Francis declared an extraordinary jubilee year, he dedicated it to Mercy.