Divine Mercy talk kicks off series

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To kick off their celebration of the Year of Mercy, St. Ambrose Church in Annandale is inviting everyone in the diocese to embrace Pope Francis' call to live mercifully like the Father through a new lecture series. The talks discuss related topics of mercy and the lives of saints who exemplify this virtue.

The first event Jan. 28 focused on the message and mission of Divine Mercy written in the diary of St. Faustina Kowalska. Brother Leonard Konopka, a 60-year member of the Congregation of the Marians of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is an international speaker on the message and spirituality of Divine Mercy.

Standing next to the image of the Divine Mercy in St. Ambrose Hall, he began his talk by recounting a story of a mother begging Napoleon to show mercy to her son, a convicted criminal. The dictator responded that her son did not deserve mercy, to which the mother replied that if he did deserve mercy he would have no need for it.

According to Brother Konopka, humanity often falls into the trap of acting like an unmerciful dictator. It is when individuals see their own sins as unforgivable and are constantly reminded of them that they find it impossible to love themselves, let alone their fellow man.

"When God forgives, He never brings it up again," said Brother Konopka. "It is the devil that makes us remember our sins." It is for this reason that we need to trust in God and forgive as He forgives.

This message of Divine Mercy was first revealed to St. Faustina, a religious sister, Feb. 22, 1931. She recounts in her diary that she had a vision of Jesus who asked her to paint an image of the vision with the words "Jesus, I trust in You."

"Why not love or worship or believe?" asked Brother Konopka. "It is only when a person trusts in the mercy of Jesus that they can come to a closer relationship with Him."

He also explained that humanity needs to trust in God's plan for our lives.

"When God answers our prayers He says either 'yes' or 'no, I have something better,'" said Brother Konopka, challenging the audience to thank God in advance for all of His designs in their lives.

Sandy and Al Bertini, parishioners of St. Ambrose, helped organize the event and are no strangers to St. Faustina's message. The couple began their devotion to Divine Mercy four years ago after a friend invited them to read parts of the diary of St. Faustina in conjunction with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. At first Sandy said she was skeptical about it, but her doubts soon were replaced by the peace that comes with complete trust in Jesus.

"Divine Mercy is the driving force of our lives now," said Sandy. "It just became overpowering to share it."

Father Andrew Fisher, pastor of St. Ambrose, hopes the future mercy events will have a similar effect on attendees.

"Mercy is transforming," said Father Fisher. "Once we embrace the Lord's mercy we are transformed so that we can be very good ambassadors of mercy to the world."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016