Buffalo Blessings

On Aug. 23, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception held their Divine Mercy Conference: Buffalo 2014 - Divine Mercy and the New Evangelization. The following is our live postings from the conference:

View our photo gallery here.

10 a.m.
And we're off to the races. The Most Rev. Richard J. Malone, bishop of Buffalo, just celebrated Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, N.Y.

Before the Mass, Rick Paolini, the co-host of a weekly radio program, "Divine Mercy in My Soul," and the master of ceremonies for the day, said, "If you're not playing any role [in the New Evangelization], ask yourself, 'How is the Lord asking me to play a role in the New Evangelization today?'"

Bishop Malone took up the baton, saying, "The Divine Mercy and the New Evangelization - what a wonderful marriage!"

He spoke of the Divine Mercy message and devotion as an invitation to trust in God, a trust that would open our hearts to God and allow His Gospel truth to flow through us to the world. Bishop Malone pointed to the Basilica in which the Mass was being held as one such example. Venerable Fr. Nelson Baker, the priest whose vision and obedience to God opened the path to the construction of the Basilica, was still evangelizing these many years after his death through that very same Basilica, the bishop said, demonstrating what can happen when the People of God accept their vocations and live them well.

But many Catholics today are only sacramentalized, not committed disciples of Jesus and witnesses to the Gospel of God's merciful, redeeming love. So the New Evangelization is the supreme duty of all Catholics, according to St. John Paul II, since proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Divine Mercy, is the supreme duty of the Church in every age. And it's as simple as ABC, says Bishop Malone, quoting the formula first created by the late Fr. George Kosicki, CSB:


A - Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.

B - Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.

C - Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.

Bishop Malone concludes his homily by asking the intercession of Our Lady of Victory, St. Joseph, St. Rose of Lima (on whose feast the conference is being held), and St. Faustina.

By the way, the Basilica is gorgeous and huge. Believe people when they say it's got more angels in it than you can count, both spiritually and artistically. There are, of course, the countless hosts of angels which are invisibly present wherever the Mass is celebrated or the Blessed Sacrament reposing. Then there are the countless carved, painted, or otherwise artistically represented angels adorning the basilica. It's awesome and could be a little overwhelming if it didn't represent the invisible reality so well.

Man, this place is beautiful. Marian prayers painted and carved into the walls, innumerable representations of the Blessed Mother everywhere ... I've got a bunch of photos that'll be going up in a gallery soon. Hopefully, that'll give you some sense of what we're surrounded by for this conference. Just as Jesus, the Divine Mercy, passed into the world through the womb of the Blessed Virgin, so now will the message and devotion be birthed into the hearts and minds of these pilgrims, passing into their lives, through the interior of the Basilica of Our Lady of Victory.

You all have got to go there sometime. It's well worth the pilgrimage.

11 a.m.
The first speaker of the day is Marian seminarian Br. Michael Baker, MIC. He gives the audience "Divine Mercy 101," a basic overview of the value and content of the Divine Mercy message and devotion. (You can also find the basics on Divine Mercy here.)

And much of that message is simply the heart of the Gospel restated.

"We didn't deserve creation. He didn't owe it to us. This truth makes a fundamental point about the goodness and sanctity of life. God chose to call us into being that might share in His divine life," said Br. Michael. And when we fell, "God came in the flesh to restore us to life."

"Of course, unprofitable servants that we are, we have to admit that many of us have forgotten these truths."

And that's why Jesus came to St. Faustina with a message of mercy for the whole world.

Brother Michael says, "So important [is this message] that Jesus tells St. Faustina, "You will prepare the world for My final coming" (Diary, 429).

As St. John Paul II said, there's nothing man needs more than Divine Mercy.

"When we live out this message of The Divine Mercy, when we encounter Christ and radiate His light to others, we become authentic witnesses to the love and mercy of God," said Br. Michael. "We become prophets to a hurting world, and the message of our lives is that it's all true!

"Christ took on flesh, He suffered, died and was buried, and on the third day rose again. He took on sin - He became sin for us - and bore the punishment for our sins. This is love! This is the message that so many are literally dying to hear! This is the kerygma - the good news which lies at the heart of the New Evangelization!

"The message of Divine Mercy is very simple!" concluded Br. Michael. "Anyone can live it out - anyone can become a great apostle of The Divine Mercy."

For Br. Michael's full talk, see below.

Before the next speaker, Rick Paolini had the crowd of pilgrims stand up, look at the tabernacle, and "fully realize our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is present in the tabernacle."

"I want you to think of the distractions you have, the worries you have, your loved ones and what they may be dealing with," he said

He asked the pilgrims to give them all to the Lord, there with them in the Basilica in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. "Concentrate with all your heart. Repeat, 'Jesus, I trust in You.'"

Next: Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC.

As usual, Fr. Calloway rocks the house. It's not his conversion story today (for that, see the book or the DVD). No, today he gets to speak about one of his favorite subjects in the entire world: Our Blessed Mother Mary, the masterpiece of Divine Mercy and the model for the New Evangelization.

Taking his cue from Venerable Fulton Sheen, Fr. Calloway invites his audience to imagine that they are God for a moment, and they get to create their own mother. How would they make her? Would they have her be flawed, or would they make her the most perfect, most lovely of all creatures? Indeed, would they not make her a masterpiece of maternity?

"If you are God and you make her a masterpiece of maternity, you will find a way to make her the mother of everybody," declared Fr. Calloway.

He goes on in that vein throughout the talk, laying out the many ways in which Mary is a masterpiece, made by the Trinity to be the perfect mother of the Son, daughter of the Father, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. Father Calloway lays out the many ways in which Mary is honored by the Trinity: the typology in Scripture which points to her Son, but also to her; the popularity of her name as a name for women; the way she is featured in art across cultures; her identification in so many minds with grace, beauty, and love. All generations do in fact call her blessed (Lk 1:48), even among those who do not wish to do her full honor.

And no one can become holy unless they follow the pattern God set with the Blessed Virgin Mary, declares Fr. Calloway. Saints live "under the mantle" of the Blessed Virgin.

"Satan wants to dis-mantle Christianity," said Fr. Calloway. "He doesn't want you to have a relationship with Mary."

Throughout the talk, Fr. Calloway mentioned that the expanded version of his talk, including the very powerful information about a medical phenemona called fetal microchimerism and its implications for Jesus, Mary, and all mothers and their children, could be found in his book Under the Mantle.

Father Donald's message of the importance and power of a loving relationship with Our Lady is made all the more potent by being delivered in this Basilica of Our Lady of Victory. The Mother of God, with Jesus in her arms, looks down upon the scene, a great statue set over the tabernacle. She is present in the images all throughout the Church. Indeed, the whole thing is a great monument to her powerful intercession and maternal mediation, speaking to those sitting within the same message that Fr. Calloway shares, conveyed through stone and glass.

View his talk:

1 p.m.
No matter what else happens today, the conference has been a success. A woman named Andi called me over right before lunch. She asked me if I worked with Br. Michael. I said I worked for the Marians. She said, "Would you tell Br. Michael Baker that his talk was the first time since I returned to the faith that I felt there was a place for me in the Church?"

If you're reading this now, Andi, I promise: I told him. He was glad to hear it.

2 p.m.
Before introducing Jeff Cavins, the creator of the Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study program, Rick Paolini makes an interesting point. He recounts the story of Secretariat, the famous racehorse that, against all odds, won the Triple Crown and whose struggle was made into a movie. Rick talked about the strength of the woman who owned the horse, believed in the horse, and saw her belief vindicated. He concluded, "If a woman could believe that much in a horse, don't you think we could do that for Jesus, the Man who died for us?"

Jeff Cavins takes the ambo.

After an opening prayer, he delivers a talk that's all about shame. No, not about inducing shame, but how to be freed from shame. Cavins pointed to the many possible causes of shame: something that happened during childhood, at school, or after work which has always remained secret, but which still causes shame whenever you think of it; things which aren't your fault; things which you shouldn't have done.

"Jesus wants to set you free from that shame, and he wants to bring you to that status of an adopted son or daughter," Cavins said.

Cavins makes an interesting distinction between shame and guilt. He says that guilt is feeling bad about something - some act, for instance - whereas shame is feeling about yourself, who you are. One great image of shame is Hester Prynne wearing her scarlet letter "A" for adultery, as recounted by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

"But you're not meant to walk in shame."

The devil wants to make sure we feel shame, Cavins says, pointing out that we do suffer from a taunter and reviler, someone who is called in Scripture the "accuser of the brethren." The devil, in fact, is the source of shame. Before the fall of Adam and Eve, they were naked and unashamed. "Sin is the door that allows shame to come into their lives. They hid themselves when they experienced shame."

"When you hide from God because of the shame in your life, you are hiding from the very one who can set you free and give you divine sonship," said Cavins. "The solution to shame is repentance. God releases you, tells you who you really, really are."

One powerful image of hell: Hell is bearing your own shame forever. But Jesus came, was stripped and died for you, bearing your shame.

For more, including Cavins' explanation of what Jesus was writing in the dirt during the story of the woman caught in adultery (see Jn 7-8) and a powerful point about the connection between Mary, the Ark of the Covenant with its mercy seat, and the way rachamim (an ancient word for mercy) can also mean womb, view his talk:

4 p.m.
The Divine Mercy panel - Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC; Jeff Cavins; and Very Rev. Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior of the Mother of Mercy Province, moderated by Rick Paolini - handle some hard questions.

Cavins is asked how can one forgive and forget.

Father Calloway is asked how to get young adult children to attend church (and don't say it's in the book!) His answer in brief: Love them to death.

Father Kaz is asked "If I feel like God doesn't know or care, where do I start?"

Jeff Cavins is asked how does one discern whether and who to marry. He gives some good advice, but also points out that in Genesis at the very origins of marriage, love comes after marriage. In ancient Jewish culture (and dramatized in the musical Fiddler on the Roof in the song between Tevye and Golde), you love the one you marry.

Rick Paolini interjects: Prayer is also very important. He shares how he believes the Blessed Mother led him and his wife of many years together after he'd been praying the Miraculous Medal novena faithfully.

Father Calloway is asked if the Blessed Mother's mantle will cover both those of us who are faithful to her and those of our children who are not.

He emphasizes the importance of parents maintaining persistent prayer for their children, comparing that to filling up a bucket that will one day be poured out all at once in God's own time, working wonders of conversion. He also strongly recommended consecrating their young children to Mary before the kids are old enough to move out on their own, saying that the kids may forget, but Mary won't. "God and Our Lady have their plan."

Father Kaz is asked about what we can do in response to abortion. He speaks on human free will, which is necessary in order for us to be able to freely love God, and talks about God's ability to take an evil and bring good out of it, in spite of every obstacle. By cooperating with the will of God, we will allow Divine Mercy to operate more freely in the world and help to limit evil, to bring about the triumph of good.

Cavins is asked where in Scripture we are told God will give us the desires of our heart. He points out that Scripture promises that God will form our hearts to accord with His own, so that our desires will be His desires. He will both give us right desires, and He will give us their fulfillment in Himself, the Source of all good.

Father Calloway is asked how he sees Catholic evangelization progressing.

Then the Hour of Great Mercy and Eucharistic Adoration. Father Kaz is the priest who brings out the Lord and places Him in the monstrance, leads an initial prayer asking God's help with the sick and dying, for the persecuted, for so many intentions. He speaks for all present when he affirms that Jesus is here, present before us.

Brother Michael Baker, MIC, leads the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

And I've never heard the like before.

As pilgrims finish saying each prayer, there's a rumble and reverberation as though I was hearing the receding tide, like some volley of guns being fired on a great battlefield. It's an echo and a continuation, here in this place given over to Our Lady of Victory, where the whole heavenly host, it seems, are depicted and the Lord of Hosts, Christ Victor, is Eucharistically present. Before us, behind the monstrance on the altar, carved angels uphold the mercy seat of the New Testament: the Crucifix, on which the Lord of all sits, His throne in His kingdom from which He dispenses His mercy and justice upon the whole world.

The sound is like a vast, measureless crowd, unseen, echoing the Chaplet.

We conclude with the Prayer to be Merciful to Others, Benediction, and then Fr. Kaz blesses all the religious articles.

And it's done. Another successful Buffalo Conference is complete. Stay tuned for more videos, images, and comments on the day over the next few weeks!

The 2014 Buffalo Conference will be available online here.


You might also like...

Father Martin is remembered as a gentle shepherd of souls, a polyglot, and an avid gardener and birder.
Please join the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and the Association of Marian Helpers in praying a worldwide 54-Day Rosary Novena for the respect for life from conception to natural death.
As his love for Christ grew, so did his talent for pitching.