Tag Archives: st. faustina kowalska

The lost sacrament

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi explores how the faithful are coming back to Confession . . .

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. During the 2000 Jubilee in Rome, Pope John Paul II made an unannounced visit to St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday. He entered through a side door and — after waving to a group of shocked pilgrims — stepped into a confessional. When a papal aide asked if anyone wanted to confess to the Holy Father, pandemonium erupted. People jumped, shouted and begged to be chosen.

Digital approach

The scene in St. Peter’s Basilica stands in sharp contrast to a typical Saturday afternoon in the confession line at most American parishes. There are no clamoring crowds. Often there isn’t anyone at all.

A 2008 Boston College study reported that a typical New York City parish in 1896 had seven priests on staff who listened to 1,500 confessions per week. Today, most American priests are hearing 20 or fewer per week.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., believes the plummeting use of the sacrament has to do with a loss of a sense of sin.

“People’s admission of the reality of sin requires honesty and repentance,” he told Legatus Magazine. “We need to do a better job in catechesis so people realize the beauty, liberation and joy that come from a great confession and absolution.”

Patrick Leinen, cofounder of Little i Apps, a company which specializes in Catholic mobile application development, believes that most Americans are intimidated by Confession.

“There also seems to be a disconnect between practicing the faith and partaking in all the sacraments,” he said.

Leinen, his brother Chip, and their friend Ryan Kreager, decided last year to use their computer skills at the service of the Church. They founded their company and produced an iPhone app to help Catholics return to Confession. Aptly called “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” their $1.99 download came out in February and caused a media firestorm.

“We got calls from all over the world,” said Leinen, a Franciscan University graduate. “When it was released, the Catholic press immediately understood it. The secular press did not. They thought it was digital Confession. In fact, the Vatican even made a statement explaining that you can’t go to Confession with this.”

The Confession application — available for iPad, iPhone and Android — asks each user to type in their age, gender and vocation. It provides a password-protected profile and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament. The app produces an examination of conscience tailored for each individual. For example, the examination of conscience for a young mother of small children is different from that of an older, single man.

“There is already stuff out there like prayer books online, but this is interactive and you can bring it in with you to Confession,” said Leinen.

In fact, when Bishop Rhoades was asked to give an imprimatur — meaning that nothing contrary to faith or morals has been discovered in the work — he realized this was new territory. The app has the first imprimatur of any electronic application.

“I had no idea that it would generate so much publicity,” said Bishop Rhoades. “I was delighted. It has brought many people back to Confession.”

Leinen concedes that the public’s response far surpassed anything he could have imagined. The app has been downloaded more than 50,000 times since its launch. More importantly, people of all ages are now rediscovering the power of the sacrament.

“We got responses from people who were away from the Church for five, 10, 20 and 30 years,” he said. “It’s been overwhelming. Teenagers have written to tell us that they had been scared of Confession. The London diocese in Canada gave out 500 of our apps for free to get people back to Confession this Lent.”

Media outreach

One of the main excuses people give for neglecting the sacrament is that they have trouble fitting it into their busy schedules.

“For a lot of people, the problem is that Confession is only offered for one hour on Saturday,” said Fr. Donald Calloway, U.S. vocation director for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. “And if you call to make an appointment, you reveal your identity, making people less inclined to do it. If a parish has confession on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night, people will show up.”

To address this problem, some dioceses hold special penance services during Lent. The dioceses of New York, Brooklyn and Rockville Center teamed up on April 18 to hold six hours of confession in every parish. They’ve also sponsored a video contest for young people to promote Confession. The campaign — online at i-confess.com — solicited videos between 30-60 seconds. The top prize winner received $25,000.

Equally compelling is a somewhat quirky website inspired by Sham Wow commercials. Developed by the dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Center, the video’s “Father Vic” encourages people to get “clean from the inside out” by visiting SoulWow.com. The priest invites people to Confession, and the website provides links for Catholics from both dioceses.

Radical mercy

Another major problem seems to be a lack of catechesis with regard to the sacrament of Confession. To this end, several U.S. bishops — from New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan to Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles — issued pastoral letters during Lent this year explaining the need for Confession.

St. Faustina KowalskaThose who follow the Divine Mercy devotion already have a particular appreciation for the sacrament because of the revelations given to St. Faustina Kowalska. In her diary, Faustina writes about her multiple visions and conversations with Christ.

“Jesus said to St. Faustina that souls are to run to his ‘tribunals of mercy’ to experience his unfathomable mercy. He is so passionate and loving in these revelations,” Fr. Calloway explained. “In the diary, Jesus is described as being in tears, begging people to come back to Confession.”

Father Calloway’s order operates the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy and works to spread the message and devotion to Jesus Christ as The Divine Mercy. Father Calloway speaks not only as a priest but also as one who had a radical conversion because of Christ’s mercy. Before his conversion to Catholicism, he was a high school dropout, deported from a foreign country, institutionalized twice and jailed multiple times. Confession was crucial to his personal transformation.

“Why is Confession so important? Because it’s the guaranteed way that Jesus set up so that we could be forgiven,” he said. “It’s 100% reliable, and without it we’re not living Christianity as He set it up to be. We’re just winging it.”

For those who are tired of “winging it,” there’s no time like the present to seek Christ’s radical mercy in the sacrament of Confession.

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.







Divine Mercy and health care

Health-care professionals bring the Divine Mercy devotion to the sick and dying . . .

At 3 o’clock every afternoon, residents, staff and family members at the Town and Country Nursing Center in Lowell, Mass., gather in the community room to ask for God’s mercy for themselves and the whole world.

It is the “hour of mercy” when Jesus instructed a Polish saint to implore his mercy, promising, according to the diary she kept, that “in this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of me in virtue of my passion.”

Growing trend

Deacon Steven Marcus

Deacon Steven Marcus

Christ gave the Divine Mercy Chaplet to St. Faustina Kowalska in 1933 with instructions to pray it unceasingly. Legatus member and Maronite Deacon Steven Marcus is president and CEO of New England Geriatrics, which operates Town and Country. He introduced the devotion at the facility after learning about it last year.Marcus also placed the Divine Mercy image, which depicts rays representing blood and water coming from Christ’s heart, in the home’s chapel.

Marcus is part of a wave of health-care professionals who have been drawn to the Divine Mercy devotion and its message as part of their work with the sick, aged and dying.

In Massachusetts, Marie Romagnano, a criticalcare nurse who was inspired by the events of 9/11 to start a group called Nurses for Divine Mercy, has seen the organization expand into the 3,000-member Health Care Professionals for Divine Mercy. Romagnano’s book, Nursing with the Hands of Jesus: A Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy, has sold 40,000 copies. Health Care Professionals for Divine Mercy now holds an annual conference attracting up to 350 people.

Dr. John Bruchalski

Dr. John Bruchalski

After developing a love for the Divine Mercy devotion on a trip to Medjugorje in 1989, Dr. John Bruchalski began to bring his obstetrics/gynecology practice into conformity with Catholic teaching. In 1994, he and his wife, Carolyn, a nurse, founded the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Va., which has since grown into Divine Mercy Care, a nonprofit company that also oversees the DMC Pharmacy and a perinatal hospice program. Future plans include family practice, home health care, pediatrics and mental health services.

In 1996, Dr. Bryan Thatcher, a Florida physician who discovered the Divine Mercy message by reading St. Faustina’s diary, founded Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, which promotes praying the chaplet for the sick and dying and sends shipments of medical materials to the poor around the world.

“As you pray, you begin to see the power of this chaplet,” said Divine Mercy Care’s Bruchalski. “You’re drawn to do something — to do an act of mercy.”

Bruchalski said he believes the Divine Mercy devotion is gaining in popularity because “it’s a message for our time in a world that’s gone off the deep end.”

Hospice ministry

The chaplet is especially suited to those who work with the dying because of God’s promise to St. Faustina that whoever recites it will receive great mercy at the hour of death.

“What a perfect time in life to hear about God’s great mercy — that no matter what they’ve done, his mercy is greater than their greatest sin,” said Thatcher of the Eucharistic Apostles. He added that Christ also told St. Faustina to pray the chaplet at the bedside of the dying, saying he would be there for the person as a merciful savior and not a just judge.

If someone cannot pray at the bedside, Thatcher explained, the chaplet is still effective. “With God there is no space or time.”

Greg Patterson

Greg Patterson

Legatus member Greg Patterson, a hospice consultant and former hospice owner, prays the chaplet with his wife, Lee, and their five daughters. “We pray for the intentions of our patients, those who have passed and those current patients as well.” The family also prays for the hospices Patterson consults.

Romagnano said she had been praying the chaplet for her patients, especially those who were dying, since the early 1980s, but that she wasn’t moved to spread the message more widely until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

As she was preparing to take a team of trauma nurses to New York to assist victims, she got a call telling them they weren’t needed. “They said, ‘We think everybody was killed,’” Romagnano recalled. She suggested the nurses pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, but none of them knew what she meant. “I just assumed everybody knew about it and would know to pray the chaplet in the middle of a disaster.”

Shortly afterward, Romagnano began teaching a class for nurses in spiritual care. Forty showed up the first week. Monthly classes followed. Her ministry grew to include her book and the annual conferences.

Once people learn how merciful God is and understand the Divine Mercy devotion, Romagnano said, they see how God can help when no more physical help is possible. “With the Divine Mercy message, you realize that you not only make the most critical intervention to save a person’s life, but you make a spiritual intervention based on the promise of Jesus. The Lord says he actually depends on us to intercede for these people. He said that by your prayers you are responsible for many souls.”

As a critical care nurse and case manager, Romagnano said she has worked with many families whose loved ones are hanging on a thread between life and death. She often gives them the Divine Mercy image and tells them about God’s mercy. “Nobody has ever said, ‘I don’t want that.’ I don’t care what religion they are — Jewish, Muslim, Protestant.”

Through her work with Health Care Professionals for Divine Mercy, Romagnano has heard from medical personnel who knelt on the floor and prayed the chaplet when a patient was dying. She often prays the chaplet with her patients’ family members at the bedside. “The Divine Mercy message brings hope where there is no hope, and that’s what health care needs.”

Judy Roberts is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.