Story and Photos By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald
God’s offer of divine mercy to every person is just that – an “offer” – but by its very nature must be “claimed” in order for that mercy to take effect, former Archbishop Alfred Hughes told worshipers at the Divine Mercy Sunday Mass April 28 at St. Joseph Church in New Orleans.
“What we always want to appreciate is that the incredible offer of divine mercy is only an offer if it isn’t claimed,” Archbishop Hughes said. “We must accept it. We must turn to him with a loving heart in confident, repentant love. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, we are invited to turn to the risen Lord in repentant love.”
One of the biggest churches in the Archdiocese of New Orleans attracted a large congregation for the 3 p.m. Mass, which also included confessions at several stations in the church, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Mass and veneration of a relic of St. Faustina, the Polish nun whose writings about the Divine Mercy prompted St. John Paul II to declare the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Archbishop Hughes said no one is beyond God’s mercy. He drew upon a recent article by Catholic journalist Charles Lewis, who wrote in the National Catholic Register about visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in 2006 with his wife on their 10th wedding anniversary.
At the time, Lewis considered himself nothing more than a “spiritual” person.
“There was no profound plan: Eat good food, absorb the gorgeous architecture and see the sites,” Lewis wrote. “Everyone should see Paris.
“Religion seemed unnecessary. Jesus never spoke about building giant edifices. I used to think the money could be spent on something better. Churches were about rules. To me, sin was subjective.
“In a word, I was clueless.”
At the time, Lewis said, rather than the beauty of the cathedral’s architecture, what stopped him in his tracks was seeing “a beautiful young woman, perfectly dressed, kneeling” and confessing her sins.
“I visited a number of churches over those two weeks,” Lewis wrote. “But that interior scene in Notre Dame is what I remember best. There was something about the rawness, the honesty, of someone confessing that I had never seen before. I knew that she would find relief from her sins. But what about me? Who was I to bring my sins to? To logic? To reason?”
By the time Lewis finished his Paris vacation, he said he “knew for certain” that he needed “to be baptized and start to live another life, a Christian life.”
His conversion to Catholicism had begun.
“Thanks be to God for that trip to Notre Dame,” he wrote recently while watching the church engulfed in flames.
Archbishop Hughes said Pope Francis has chosen to make God’s mercy “the very face of his unpacking the Gospel message.”
“The message of Divine Mercy is incredibly important to hear in a world convulsed by war and terrorism, in a country torn apart by ugly political rhetoric and in a church brought to her knees by the clergy sex scandal.”
He concluded his homily with a recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet: “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.