God of Mercy:
My favourite Lenten Hymn has always been, ever since as a child I attended the famous Irish Redemptorist Lenten missions in our parish, the hymn:
God of mercy and compassion, Look with pity upon me,
Father let me call thee Father, Tis thy child who returns to thee.
Jesus Lord I ask for mercy, Let me not implore in vain,
All my sins I now detest them, Never will I sin again.
Even now I keep on hoping that the choir or congregation will sing with feeling at the end of my daily Mass this all time favourite, for in what better way can we address our God with faith and hope, especially during Lent, than as God of Mercy.
Mother of Mercy:
Similarly at the end of the recitation of the five decades of the Family Rosary, I would wait to say with bated breath the 'Hail Holy Queen', which was a favourite prayer of my mother, pronouncing with extra feeling in imitation of her, the next phrase, 'Mother of Mercy', followed by the invocation, ' Turn then thy eyes of mercy towards us'. It was therefore a matter of great excitement to me to learn, on the very first day of joining the Pontifical Urban College for the Spreading of the Faith in Rome, ('Pontificio Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide', in Italian), that the Patroness of the College was Mary, under the title of, 'Mother of Mercy'. I still remember with joy how the students would begin each day with a brief private prayer before the beautiful picture of 'Mother of Mercy,' painted by a famous Italian artist. Our day would end with the tender hymn ' Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae' ('Greetings, O Queen, Mother of Mercy' in Latin).
Jesus, the Divine Mercy:
After the launching of the International Association for the Ministry of Deliverance at Foggia in Italy, the place of pilgrimage of Padre Pio, now St. Pio, in October 1995, the first Pan European Conference on Deliverance was held in a retreat centre at Henley-on-Thames, close to London. I found on arrival that the retreat house was attached to the National Polish Shrine in England conducted by the Polish Marian Fathers. The most beautiful building, in the sprawling grounds on the bank of the river Thames, was the modern Chapel in which was the largest painting of Jesus I had ever seen, reaching from the floor to the very high ceiling, a picture of Jesus that captivated my heart with his eyes of mercy. I was told that it was the picture of Jesus, the Divine Mercy, with the words below, 'Jesus, I trust in thee.' Was it a mere coincidence that the first European Conference on this essential but demanding ministry of Deliverance should be held in the Shrine of the Divine Mercy? Is it again just by coincidence that the fifth European Conference on Deliverance will be held this year of the death of the Polish Pope John Paul II at the Polish National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa?
The fifth National Charismatic Convention of Haiti, a country in the Carribeans, between North and Latin America, ridden by poverty and violence, was held in the weekend of Easter Week, April, 1999. I had been asked to lead the 60,000 participants, who were mainly youth, in a prayer of deliverance for the land, the people and the Church of Haiti, that Saturday evening, 10th April, in the presence of the hierarchy and the Papal Nuncio. It was immediately after that prayer that the faces of all those people were turned towards a particular tree on the left of the altar, where a beautiful and large monstrance had been placed, after being taken round the crowd. I was told that the people were claiming to see the apparition of Our Lady in the light surrounding that tree.
The next morning, 11th April, after the last teaching and before the Final Eucharist, the faces of all those people were again turned towards and fixed on that particular tree - and again the people claimed to be seeing the apparition of our Lady. Well, I could understand that Mary had appeared, so it seemed, on a Saturday, Our Lady's day, but why also on a Sunday. I was then reminded by the President of the National Committee of the Renewal, that this was no ordinary Sunday, - it was Divine Mercy Sunday; as if in answer to prayer the eyes of the Mother of Mercy were turned towards her 'sighing children, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears,' beckoning them to turn their eyes towards the Divine Mercy of her Son.
After the retreat that I had given to the bishops and priests of Poland the following year, 2000, at Warsaw, I made it a point to visit the infamous Nazi concentration camp at Auswitz and the City of Krakow, famous for having been the source of the rapidly spreading devotion of the Divine Mercy and as having been the Archdiocese of Pope John Paul II. It was an unforgettable experience to have said Mass in the same chapel where Jesus appeared to Sister Faustina and revealed to her his Divine Mercy. Again was it a mere coincidence or was it in God's providence that the Archbishop of that Diocese, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, should have been handpicked in 1978, not as the first choice of the College of Cardinals, which was Pope John Paul I, who reigned for only 33 days, but as the second choice, after the Old Testament pattern, by the God of Mercy, to be among other things his choice instrument of proclaiming to the people of the 129 countries he personally visited the Divine Mercy in a world of demonic mercilessness?
The Prophet of Divine Mercy:
Hardly anyone outside his own country knew his name, much less seen his face, when Karol Wojtyla, the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow was elected Pope in 1978. Now his name is on everyone's lips and much more he is everyone's heart, as the events of the last few days have shown. Who else has had such non-stop TV coverage of his sickness, his death and his funeral, and over such a long period of time than the late Pope? Could anyone have dreamt that a communist country like Cuba would have declared a three days state mourning for a religious, a Christian, a Catholic, an Episcopal, a Papal leader?
It was the triple loss of his mother when he was nine, of his only brother when he was twelve, and of his father when he was eighteen, that must have made him extremely sensitive to the sufferings of personal loss. Once he became Pope, he had no time to lose. Like Mary he got up with all haste and, in obedience to Jesus' command, went to the ends of the world, both proclaiming the Truth with the zeal of the Apostle Paul and witnessing with the Love of the Apostle John - hence his double barrel name: John Paul. Having lived under the 'shadow of death' of the two great Anti-Christs, Nazi Hitler and Communist Stalin, he became the champion of human freedom and world peace. By being both humble and fearless like John the Baptist and like Jesus, he changed the course of history in Eastern Europe, not by the sword of violent death, as the first Pope tried to do, but by the sword of the Living Word.
He made an impact not only upon whole nations but also upon individual beings. Which other leader has kissed the soils of so many countries, and has kissed so many babies and children? I can never forget how unknown to himself he made the impossible possible in the life of a well-known lady doctor from Goa, India. She was suffering from an unbearable headache for a long time. More than once she made the trip to Bombay, just to see me and be prayed over. She had also made an Inner Healing retreat under us. But to my surprise there was not the slightest improvement in her condition. She even went to Delhi to be treated at the famous All India Institute of Medical Sciences. That did not help either.
Then in February 1986, Pope John Paul II came to Panjim, Goa, during his prolonged visit to India. The young lady doctor and her husband took their stand very early in the morning in the front row of the balustrade by which the Pope would be passing on his way to the stadium. As he came round shaking hands or greeting the people, she noticed with joy that he was coming closer to where she was standing. She then remembered the Gospel story of the woman with the hemorrhage and she said to herself, 'If I will but touch his cassock, I know I will be healed'.
But when he was within touching distance from her, he suddenly turned away to the opposite balustrade to greet the people there. All her hope vanished and she felt extremely sad. And then she found herself making this prayer. 'Lord, I know that you are there in the person of the Pope, your representative on earth. I am not able to touch the hem of his garment, unlike the woman in the Gospel. But in the imagination of my faith I am now touching his cassock, knowing that I am in reality touching you'. At that very moment all her medically unexplainable headache disappeared - never to return!
Every time I met the Pope, there were three things about him that impressed me most: his tender eyes looking at you face to face, his warm smile without guile, and his firm hand clasp as if reaching out to embrace you. He was never in a hurry but always had time for you. When already on Thursday, the 31st of March, CNN was announcing on TV again and again that the Pope was close to death, somehow I felt in my heart that the Lord would delay calling his faithful servant to himself, as he delayed going to the house of Jairus and of Lazarus, till the wee hours of Sunday (IST), 3rd April, Divine Mercy Sunday, as if to confirm that Pope John Paul II was the Lord's chosen Apostle, Teacher and Herald of his Divine Mercy to the entire world (1Tim 2:7).