It was decided that this year’s celebrations at the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang (CDM) leading up to the feast of the Divine Mercy Sunday had to be especially auspicious. This was because we had been blessed with obtaining the First Class relics of St. Faustina (a piece of a major bone) and St. John Paul II (a drop of blood).
The Parish Pastoral Council was given the task of organizing the celebrations. The parish priest, Rev Fr Martin Arlando decided that different ministries each be given the task of carrying out various activities. Even though some ministries did not have any previous experience in performing some of the tasks, this brave step was to ensure that new ideas and creative ways be introduced. They were to seek the advice of the previous committees on the way things were done last year and to bring a new approach to performing the task for this year. In doing so, this also ensured that, in addition, to bringing alternative ways of doing things, more people gained experience and to foster greater cooperation among ministries. Initially, there were some hiccups but eventually there was great camaraderie among parishioners to get things done on schedule.
Renovation works were carried out to improve the facilities at CDM. The car porch and basement areas of the church were covered with awning. A reliquarium for the two relics was designed to mirror the one in Poland was constructed inside the church. Another place for devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Help was also constructed. Running water flowing from the picture of the Divine Mercy at the reliquarium to the new immersion baptismal pool was also creatively designed. Statues of angels for holy water fonts and two large guardian angels were purchased from Thailand were set up at the church entrance doors and the main gate of the church to welcome visitors.
A nine-day Novena was planned leading up to Divine Mercy Sunday. Themes were debated for the homilies during the masses after the novenas. Fr Martin also had the difficult task of inviting fellow priests to come give the homilies during this time as it was after the hectic celebrations of Easter. Fr also invited the parishioners to provide food for fellowship after all the novenas. This was taken up by the BECs, Living Spring and Hospitality ministries. The church provided the main meals on the eve and the Sunday of the feast day.
As the feast day approached large banners were printed to put on display at the entrances of the church. Directional signs were also put up at traffic lights at roads leading to CDM to show the pilgrims way to the church. RELA volunteers were employed to direct traffic on the feast day. On the part of parishioners, a shuttle service was formed to help pilgrims reach the church from their parked cars. The Youth ministry formed an Umbrella Squad to accompany people to church from their cars shading them from the sun and rain while sharing some information about the church to them. Flowers were on sale to help decorate the reliquarium and the Divine Mercy statute.
During the week leading up to the feast day, four different priests were invited to celebrate the masses and give homilies. Rev Fr Matthew Bun from Church of St Louis, Kluang, Johore began the first homily English/Mandarin explaining that there were two types of courage. The first being the courage of reflex action when people come quickly to aid of someone in an accident or in danger. The other type of courage is more difficult to attain. It is the courage to face something that is to come. This was the courage of Jesus as he knew that he was going to be tortured and crucified as a sacrifice to save our souls. In showing this courage, Jesus reminds us that he will never abandon us and be there for us if we turn to him.
Rev Fr Andrew Manickam from the Church of St Francis of Assisi in Cheras who gave his homily in English/Tamil reminded us of the words of Rick Warren that “Life is not about duration but of donation.” We need to show how meaningful we have lived our lives by the lives of those we touch. He also said that as an individual most of us cannot change the world. However, every small good deed we do is significant. In the end things do add up. We also should not look at our inability to do things. Do not say you cannot, it is not about limitations but about availability to serve the church. He also said that we should not to ask for a receipt when we do good. It is not about ourselves but doing it for others for the greater glory of God’s name. We are to remember that when we are faced with the challenges and adversities of life, if we believe in our faith, we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out.
Rev Fr Marshall Fernandez from Kedah in his lively homily reminded us that in God’s eyes we are not an accident or a coincidence. We are all chosen by God. At the earthly level we belong to two worlds. One is the physical and tangible world where we daily work to live our lives. Then there is the spiritual world where we need to see ourselves at the divine level. We are indeed better people than we think we are because we are all chosen by God. Instead of condemning others and ourselves we should see things in God’s loving and forgiving eyes as we look to his Divine Mercy. We need to follow the culture of heaven but we are generally very lax in doing so. We are supposed to live 24 hours in the Lord’s presence and we can do this by offering everything we do each day, as a prayer. As a guide we can look towards the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy as CDM enters coming Holy Year of Mercy declared by the Holy Father.
At every mass, all mass intentions and petitions were offered up and later all petition cards were hung up from the main crucifix radiating towards the altar from the heart of Jesus.
The climax of the celebrations began at the 3 pm mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. After mass, a procession was carried out around the church compound while the Divine Mercy chaplet was recited. This was followed by Benediction and the veneration of the relics. After that everyone was invited for fellowship at the church basement. It was estimated that over a thousand people attended the fellowship on that day. As a good omen, the rain that always falls on every Divine Mercy Sunday held back until after all the celebrations and cleaning up was done.
At the post-mortem and appreciation dinner held a week later, there was glowing praise for the success of the feast day celebrations . It was heard remarked by many pilgrims who visited CDM that the community spirit of the parishioners was clearly seen in the running of the celebrations. This was ranged from the young people who escorted visitors with their umbrellas to those senior citizens who formed the shuttle service. Although there were a few minor incidents of miscommunication and malfunction of technical equipment, there was praise all around for everyone who helped out. Much praise was given to Fr Martin for all his efforts as a good shepherd looking after his flock here at CDM. One parishioner testified that he even witnessed a miracle on the feast day. His relative who came from afar was having serious attack of an allergy that made both his eyes all swollen. He could barely see. After mass and his veneration of the relics he found his eyes all tearing up. By the time he left the church for fellowship, his eyes were all completely normal again. By this incident, we were all reminded that great things are possible when we proclaim, Jesus, I Trust in You.
Dr. Ivan Filmer
21st April, 2015.