National Catholic Register
April 8, 2012
Marian shrine in Berkshires focuses on Divine Mercy
The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts was the peacefulness and the almost deafening silence. The shrine, which is a ministry of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is located on Eden Hill, 350 acres in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Since my family and I had just traveled six hours by car from Buffalo, N.Y., the shrine offered us a much needed respite.
The grounds of the shrine are breathtaking, with the gentle rolling Berkshire Hills in the background. There are several shrines, both indoors and outdoors, on the property. As we strolled through the grounds, our first stop was the Holy Family Shrine and St. Joseph’s Portico, which was of special interest to my youngest son, whose name happens to be Joseph. He even asked to light a candle and bowed his head in prayer; not his typical behavior. This outdoor shrine has a small reflecting pool in front of it; inside, a life-size statue of St. Joseph holds a young Jesus.
We then walked across a huge expanse of grass to the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, which is where the liturgy takes place during the annual Divine Mercy Sunday weekend, which is celebrated the weekend after Easter. In the lower level of this shrine is the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, a memorial to all deceased children.
History of the shrine
So how did this shrine come to be? Back in 1943, the Marians, a religious community originally founded in Poland in the 17th Century, were looking for a home for those preparing for the religious life. The Marians had first come to the United States in 1913. With the help of the pastor of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Adams, Massachusetts, and other people, the Marians were able to purchase the site on Eden Hill. The land had a variety of uses previously, including an early Christian mission to the Native Americans, a private residence, and even an Episcopalian preparatory school for boys.
When the Marians moved to the property, a community chapel was established, with one of the side chapels dedicated to The Divine Mercy, which is a devotion to the merciful love of God that is based on the writings of St. Faustina Kowalska. In the message of Divine Mercy, God wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we can call upon Him with trust, receive his mercy, and let it flow through us to others.
St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), was a Polish nun who had a vision and conversations with Jesus, which was later published as a book, “Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul.” In her diary, St. Faustina states that Jesus said that 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the hour that Jesus died, was the hour that mercy was best received, so that’s when she remembered the Lord in His Passion and, if possible, prayed the Stations of the Cross. Many Catholics today pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is a powerful intercessory prayer for mercy that Jesus gave to St. Faustina.
A larger chapel needed
As an increasing number of pilgrims began visiting; a larger chapel was needed to accommodate them. In 1950, the Marians asked Stockbridge resident, Antonio Guerrieri, a well-known master furniture maker and wood carver, to oversee the construction of the chapel. Guerrieri assembled a work crew of seminarians and WWII refugees, as well as a number of local residents. He did not draw up an architectural plan or blueprints; all the plans were in his head.
The interior of the chapel, which was dedicated in 1960, features ornate woodwork done by Guerrieri, along with 36 stained glass windows and two mosaics created by Fred Leuchs, which portray the mercy of God. Above the altar is an image of Jesus the Divine Mercy, surrounded by apostle figures carved by Ferdinando Perathones of northern Italy. The shrine was declared a National Shrine by the bishops of the United States in 1996.
In addition to the main chapel, and the outdoor shrines previously described, there are two other shrines to visit, including the Lourdes Grotto and Immaculate Conception Shrine, an outdoor shrine built in 1997, which has three candle rooms with over 1,000 candles. Another beautiful place to pray outdoors is by the life-size Stations of the Cross, which is under construction and slated to be completed by the end of August. Indoors, the Lady of Mercy Candle Shrine at the MarianHelpersCenter is one of the largest indoor candle shrines in the United States, with more than 2,600 candles.
One pilgrim’s experiences
“Out of all the beautiful places to pray on the grounds of the National Shrine of Divine Mercy, I like the chapel the best,” said Rick Paolini, who is the business manager for Holy Family Communications, The Station of the Cross, a Catholic radio station outside of Buffalo, N.Y. “It is a place where you can detach yourself of worldly concerns. I like to look at the carved statues of the apostles and contemplate on their lives and think about how it must have been to be called by Jesus to spread the Word.”
Paolini, who has been studying the Diary of St. Faustina for 16 years, first visited the shrine with his wife, Robin, on their 35th wedding anniversary. “We were traveling to visit our son who lives in Framingham, Mass., and knew that the shrine was on the way, so we stopped to attend Mass for our anniversary.”
The Paolini’s loved the tranquil atmosphere. “We were awestruck by the peace we felt in the natural surroundings; we looked at each other and said ‘We have to come back!”
A member of the Disciples of The Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus, a group that promotes prayers, especially the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, at the bedside of the dying, Rick Paolini has returned to the shrine at least ten times since then, including attending three-day retreats during the summer. Last year he and his wife volunteered to help with Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend, one of the shrine’s major events, and are making plans to also help out at this year’s event.
Divine Mercy Sunday weekend
Close to 20,000 pilgrims, along with over 500 volunteers, flock to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy the weekend after Easter for the annual Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend, (April 14th-15th this year.) It includes prayer services, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions, and of course Mass. For over 30 years, believers from around the world have visited the shrine on Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend.
The highlight of the weekend is the solemn liturgy at 1:00 pm on Sunday, which is held in the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. The Mass, which will be televised on EWTN, is followed by the Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet at 3:00pm, along with exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and the blessing of religious articles.
“Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend is a tremendous spiritual experience,” said Paolini. “It’s exhilarating to see the devotion all day long.” He describes the weekend as a wonderful experience and a real renewal of faith. He added, “The grace of Divine Mercy Sunday is icing on the cake!”
Last year Paolini’s day started at 6:00 am, with a Mass for the volunteers. “The day just flew by,” he exclaimed. “It was good to work with so many people who were happy to be there and to see people with such devotion to The Divine Mercy and the Blessed Virgin Mary.” He and his wife plan on making volunteering at Divine Mercy Sunday an annual event.
“When you have the opportunity to spend a weekend with people devoted to their faith, its wonderful!” He added, “Some people may be unaware of the promise of Divine Mercy Sunday; that is the promise of complete forgiveness for sins and all temporal punishment due to sins. This promise is mentioned in diary entry #699 in St. Faustina’s Diary. ”It’s like a clean slate.” He went on to say, “This promise by Jesus is available to any Catholic, anywhere in the world, who is in the state of grace and receives the Eucharist on Divine Mercy Sunday. That was promised in St. Faustina’s Diary.”
Divine Mercy Songs
Father Bill Quinlivan, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Tonawanda, N.Y., and a musician, recently recorded MercySongs, his fifth CD of original music. “It's a double CD, with ten songs inspired by St. Faustina and her Diary, and a companion CD of prayers and litanies from her writings put to music,” said Father Bill. “MercySongs is musically like my other productions; a mix of up-tempo, mid-tempo and slower, reflective songs. Much of the music I had heard that celebrated the Lord's Mercy message tended toward the slow. So I challenged myself to inject the joy and delight of Mercy into a few songs.”
Father Bill’s formation in the works of mercy took hold in the late 1990s, when he became involved at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy on Buffalo’s East Side, a closed Catholic parish that became a haven for the needy, abandoned and addicted.
“When I became pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish, I arrived at a church where the retiring pastor, Msgr. Robert Golombek, had been promoting The Divine Mercy for years. St. Faustina was already in a stained glass window, the Mercy Novena was prayed perpetually at Wednesday evening Mass. It was a great fit.”
MercySongs includes Hidden Jesus, a poetic reflection St. Faustina wrote while in Eucharistic Adoration, as well as Rich in Mercy, written for the occasion of Pope John Paul II's Beatification last year. There's The Sound of Mercy, which incorporates Fr. Bill’s lifelong love of the Sound of Music film into the mercy ministry. The Prodigal Parade begins with a drum track that sounds like a parade, and invites the forgiven to "Come, join the Prodigal Parade!" in a joyful tune. The most musically challenging piece was based on the Conversation of the Merciful God with a Sinful Soul. It's a rather theatrical-sounding dialogue, a duet with Mary Beth Harper, a parishioner with a beautiful soprano voice who was humble enough to accept the invitation to be the "sinful soul."
Fr. Bill’s music is distributed internationally by DS Music (the Irish singer, Dana) and can be ordered at www.dana-music.com. You can also read more about Father Bill at www.frbillsings.com
If you go
National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, 2 Prospect Hill, Stockbridge, MA 01262, 413-298-3931, www.thedivinemercy.org/shrine. The shrine is open daily, 7:00 am-5:00 pm
Mass: Sunday at 10:30 am and 2:00 pm, Saturday and Holy Days at 8:00 am and 2:00 pm, weekdays at 2:00 pm.
Confession: Monday -Friday1:00-2:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 1:00-2:00 pm and 3:30-4:15 pm.
Eucharistic Adoration: 1:00-2:00 pm daily
Rosary: 1:30 pm daily
Divine Mercy Chaplet and Benediction: 3:00 pm daily
The shrine’s gift shop, which is open daily 9 am-5 pm, offers a large selection of Catholic books and gifts, including St. Faustina’s diary and books on The Divine Mercy, along with prayer cards, pamphlets, crucifixes, jewelry, rosaries, music, videos, and much more.
Other things to do in Stockbridge
The town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is as quaint as a Norman Rockwell painting. Not a surprise, since Rockwell, a prolific artist and illustrator who lived in Stockbridge from 1953 until his death in 1978, got much of his inspiration from the people and places in this BerkshireMountains town.
Stockbridge’s Main Street has actually been immortalized in one of my favorite Rockwell paintings, “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas,” which depicts Stockbridge as the typical rural New England town that it is. Rockwell began the illustration in the 1950’s, but didn’t finish it until the 1960’s.
Today, as one strolls through the town they can visit the buildings depicted in the painting: The Library has remained a library and the Antique Shop is a gift shop. The building that once housed one of Rockwell’s early studios is now home to Stockbridge General Store and an ice cream shop. The Williams & Son Country Store is still a country store and one of my favorite places to browse in, as they carried many unique hard-to-find items. The building that once housed the town offices is now a Yankee Candle shop and the bank is still a bank. The building that dominates the Stockbridge streetscape is the Red Lion Inn, which is one of the few American inns that has been in continuous use since the 18th century.
For more information, contact the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce 413-298-5200, www.stockbridgechamber.com
One of the most popular attractions to visit in Stockbridge is the NormanRockwellMuseum, which is home to the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell art. Over 200,000 people visit the museum each year.
Rockwell’s paintings and drawings depict American life with warmth and humor. In his lifetime Rockwell created over 4,000 works of art; 3,000 of these are published. There are nine galleries on the museum’s main level; six that house the permanent collection and three that feature changing exhibits. The centerpiece of the permanent collection is a round gallery which houses Rockwell’s iconic Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear, which he painted during WWII to depict the home front. These paintings also appeared as covers of the Saturday Evening Post.
Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Route 183, Stockbridge, MA 413-298-4100, www.nrm.org. Open daily 10:00 am-5:00 pm (until 4:00 pm November –April)