'Fear Is Useless. Trust.'

How often do you hear a crowd applaud being called to suffer well?

That actually happened when around 350 people gathered for the "Fear is useless. Trust": Mercy Weekend Conference on April 7 on the grounds of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Drawing pilgrims from as far away as Arizona and as close to home as western Massachusetts, the conference opened with a talk and songs by Dana Rosemary Scallon, the noted singer, Irish politician, and pro-life activist. She shared her own struggles with living trust in God and in being merciful to those who had done her harm in the past, as well as how her husband, Damien, had helped her to forgive and to heal.

"Damien glanced around," she said, when they were sitting in the car together, "and asked, 'Are you all right?' I said, 'No.' I felt as though my stomach was twisted. He said, 'Say this after me: Thank God for what has happened.' I said, 'I can't.' He said, 'Just say it after me.'"

When she finally managed to echo his words, she began to feel a release. By thanking God for what had been permitted to happen, she also began to be able to forgive those who had caused her hurt. She led the crowd in saying out loud, "Thank you, Lord, for what has happened."

Dana also asked for prayers from the crowd for Ireland as they confront a referendum seeking to open the doors to abortion in that country. She spoke of the beauty of the Shrine of the Holy Innocents on Eden Hill, a place to memorialize unborn children and children lost far too young.

And Dana talked about how she and her husband had become deeply devoted to Divine Mercy. They'd received a copy of the Divine Mercy Image on Oct. 5, 1978, their wedding day. She later learned that Oct. 5 is the anniversary of the death of St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), the Polish consecrated religious sister whose visions of Jesus sparked the Divine Mercy movement around the world. October 5 is now St. Faustina's feast day, as well. That same year of 1978, Blessed Pope Paul VI lifted the nearly 20-year ecclesiastical ban on the Divine Mercy message and devotion. Further, St. John Paul II, who as cardinal had set in motion St. Faustina's cause for canonization, would be elected pope shortly after Dana's wedding, on Oct. 16. The Divine Mercy Image the Scallons were given that day has always had a special place in their home ever since.

In the mid-90s, she was approached by a member of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, St. Faustina's congregation, who told her that, in prayer, the sister had heard that Dana was supposed to put the Divine Mercy Chaplet to music. The sister also gave Dana a copy of St. Faustina's Diary to read.

Dana and her husband, Damien, began reading a portion of the Diary every night before bed, and were amazed at how specifically it spoke to them each in turn. By the time they had finished, Dana said, they felt that their relationship had deepened and grown as a result of being accompanied by a wise and loving friend, by St. Faustina.
Dana's version of the Chaplet was released in 2008.

Following Dana's message of trust and living mercy, Marian Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers, took his listeners on a dive into the theology of trust.

He explained how the two great commandments of loving God and neighbor can be summed up and synthesized into one commandment: Always do the will of God.

But, he pointed out, doing the will of God demands trust in God. The fruit of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) is trust, is loving obedience to the will of God.

"Doing God's will and not our own will leads us to salvation," said Fr. Chris.

From the time of Adam and Eve through to the present day, he explained, sin has been synonymous with failing to trust God, and so failing to lovingly obey Him. Further, when we have failed to obey God, our lack of trust often also leads us to fail to confess our sins or to seek God's mercy. Why? Because we expect His wrath, not His mercy.

"Because God cannot change, His love for us cannot change," said Fr. Chris. And more than that: Christ tells St. Faustina that "the greater the sinner, the greater the right to my mercy" (Diary, 723). Father Chris emphasized that God's mercy is most available to great sinners in the same way a battlefield medic will prioritize the most wounded soldiers.

Another reason we often hesitate to trust, acknowledged Fr. Chris, is that part of following God faithfully is taking up our crosses like He did.

"The fact that the Father allows us to suffer is a great grace," Fr. Chris said, emphasizing that souls are saved through sacrifice and prayer. We have a role to play as the Mystical Body of Christ in joining our sufferings to Christ's (see Col 1:24) and thus opening up the floodgates of Divine Mercy to the world.

The conference offered pilgrims a chance to immerse themselves in the spirituality of Divine Mercy in preparation for the National Shrine's biggest annual event, the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday. Of the conference, Dana said, "Coming to this sort of gathering is very strengthening and uplifting, and we need this."

And the pilgrims in attendance agreed.

Mary Sikora, a parishioner at Corpus Christi in Buffalo, New York, said that she and her daughter have been coming to Eden Hill on Mercy Weekend every year "for 15 years, maybe more!"

"We just love to learn new things, hear new speakers," she said. "There's always something you can derive from the talks. If you can possibly come once, you'll keep coming back. I just feel blessed that I'm able to do this."

She saw it as a sort of retreat, a time to be strengthened before she has to go in and have surgery done on her leg next month. The conference would prepare her to suffer well, she said, and to trust.

Mission accomplished.

Here's the full conference:

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