This is a long one! Today I was able to attend a "Divine Mercy Conference." I have been looking forward to it for months and I am thrilled that everything worked out so that I could attend. There were local priests who spoke, and national speakers (some I had heard of before, and some not.)
First on the list was the pastor from down the road. I've heard him speak before, and I could (and have) listened to him all day (at a day of reflection). I took a few notes while he spoke and I will share my notes - however disjointed they may be. He started off by defining MERCY: May Easter's Reality Convert You. He said that we have lost our sense of sin; we have lost our sense of need for Divine Mercy. He told about a shrine in Miami built by the Cubans who had made their way there. Outside of the confessional is a sign that reads (in Spanish) "Wash your heart here". Isn't that appropriate? He said how much he likes the Eucharistic Prayers of Reconciliation which are sometimes used during Lent. One sentence in particular: "When we were lost and could not find the way to you, you loved us more than ever. He listed the three most "under-confessed" sins. The first was not keeping holy the Sabbath. Too often we treat Sunday just like another day. The second was coveting. No one ever confesses coveting, he says. After all, we're Americans. The third was taking the Lord's name in vain (not by saying the G.D. word, but) by not living a life that is worthy of the name "Christian". He ended by saying we cannot out-sin God's Divine Mercy. Good thing to know.
The next speaker was a doctor from Tampa. He was involved with the Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy. He was someone who's life was greatly changed by St. Faustina's diary and the message of Divine Mercy. He said how valuable it is to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet during Eucharistic Adoration for the sick and dying. He said that forgiveness opens to the door to Divine Mercy. He said we should not fear the crosses that we meet in our lives - for many, the fear of the cross is greater than the cross itself. He spoke of many things from his own life - the near drowing death of his young son, the pregnancy of his wife (at age 50) and his role as a caretaker for his Dad. He talked about the sacredness of life.
Next on the line-up was Immaculee' What a beautiful, beautiful woman! She glows! She radiates God's love from the inside out. If you haven't made the acquaintance of Immaculee', you should. Here is a taste. Just ignore the Spanish captions.
There are more videos on YouTube, and she has written several books. Her story "Left to Tell" is phenomenal. THIS is someone who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize! I mostly listened to her story. It is heartbreaking, but so filled with God's Divine Mercy. I wrote down only one thing that she said - her last statement. It so applies in my life. "If you are ever conflicted between being kind and being right, choose kindness." I hate to be wrong.
After lunch, we heard from Marcus Grodi of EWTN fame and the Coming Home Network. Once a Protestant minister, he is now Catholic, and helps others make the same journey.
After Marcus, came Annie Karto. Her story was simple, but touching. She is a Catholic singer. She told of being divorced and married outside the Catholic Church and of God's healing mercy. She spoke of refraining from the sacraments for the two years it took for her anullment to be processed. She told of going to confession, and her penance being to spread the message of Divine Mercy for the rest of her life! She said that penance is a joy! We prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet - in song..
And finally, our last speaker - another local priest. He talks fast and has a thick Cajun accent, but I think I heard most of what he said. After we had spent the day hearing about the Image of Divine Mercy, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the Feast of Divine Mercy, he was there to tell us about the Sacrament of Divine Mercy (also known as Confession). He spoke of the benefits of confession over the "straight to God" method: (1) the removal of all guilt (2) Sanctifying grace (3) Sacramental (medicinal) grace to avoid sin. He said he had done the math and that if all Catholics in our diocese went to confession monthly and spent 5 minutes in the confessional, each priest on active duty would have to hear confessions 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. We're nowhere near that, yet. But things are improving.
His advice for confession: (1) Go early and often! Don't abuse the sacrament; wait until you are sorry, but GO. (2) Be brief, be blunt, be gone. (He needs to know what the sin is, so don't dance around it too much, but leave out the gory details.) (3) Worst first. (4) Get in touch with the one you have offended. (Jesus) Realize who you are approaching in the confessional. (Jesus) (5) Bring the joy of the encounter to others. (I've often felt like the weird one talking about confession either in person or in this blog, but I think it's neat to share the good things in life.) (6) Be merciful.
As a side note, this priest has subbed at my parish twice in the last 6 years or so. That has been my only experience with him, but he is very memorable. A couple of summers ago, I became conscious of a couple of sins from long ago. I was sure they were forgiven, but I knew I had never confessed them, and felt like since I remembered them, I owed that much to Jesus. So I had asked God if that was what He wanted, to give me the opportunity to go to Confession. Be careful what you ask for! One morning soon after, I attended 6:30 a.m. Mass at my parish, as I often do. In walks this priest. Confessions are heard before daily Mass at our parish, but on this particular day, at the end of Mass, he announced that since he had been running late, he would hear confessions after Mass. I've been going to daily Mass there 3 times a week for the past 4 or 5 years, and that is THE only time I've heard that happen. I would love to tell you that I took him up on his offer, but I did not. God put the gift right in my lap, and I turned around and left it because it caught be by surprise and looked "different" than I envisioned. (I very much regretted that, and I did go a couple of days later, when my priest returned.) I wonder what God might have had for me, though, if I had taken advantage of His offer.
All in all, it was a long, but fruitful day. One of my friends was supposed to come with me, but due to technical problems at home, she was not able to make it. My sister-in-law had sent in her registration a couple of weeks ago, but it was returned to her, because the conference was sold out. I called her, and she was able to take my friend's spot. God works in mysterious ways.