The Church of Divine Mercy (CDM) in Sg Ara, Penang, celebrated the Feast of St Faustina on 6th October at the sunset Mass. Preparations for the celebration had begun two weeks earlier that included novenas to St Faustina and a Holy Hour.
Since the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary fell on the same weekend, parish priest, Fr Martin Arlando, recounted the story of the Battle of Lepanto in his homily. This naval battle took place in 1571 in the waters off western Greece between Christian forces and the fleet of the Ottoman Empire. As the Christian forces were greatly outnumbered by the Ottomans, Pope Pius V had urged Catholics to recite the rosary daily. It is said that all the Christian soldiers fought with a sword in one hand and a rosary in the other. Thus, when the Christian forces finally won the battle after much fierce fighting, the victory was credited to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and 7th October became the Feast of the Holy Rosary. However, the victory came at great cost as both victor and vanquished suffered tremendous casualties. About 7,500 Christian soldiers died while over 20,000 died on the other side. In addition, 150 enemy ships were captured and about 10,000 slaves on those ships were freed. The reality is that in any war there will be casualties.
At this point, Fr Martin directed the congregation's attention to the Gospel reading of the day (Mk 10: 2-12) in which the Pharisees asked Jesus whether it is lawful for a husband to divorce his wife. Fr Martin pointed out that a man divorcing his wife is akin to him declaring war on her. In this war, the first casualty is love – God’s love because God created marriage. In Jesus' answer to the Pharisees, we are reminded that “God made them male and female” and “what God has united, man must not divide”. In other words, marriage was God's intention from the beginning, He intended it to reflect His faithful and unfailing love for His people. And therein lies the challenge of marriage: to love as God loves. Therefore, when couples find their marriage in trouble, they must reclaim that love, the love which was planted in them by God and which brought them together in marriage. In order to do this, they need to pray for healing, to persevere and be persistent in their efforts. They need to remember that they have God on their side as God instituted marriage. And just as Pope Pius V did in the Battle of Lepanto, couples too may pray the rosary together and ask for the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary to make their marriage loving again. Fr Martin then reminded the congregation of yet another beautiful gift at their disposal, that is, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. In fact, there are so many ways in which we can reclaim God's love, all we need to do is to turn to Him, persist in prayer and trust in Him. A good example we can look to is that of St Faustina who trusted in Jesus completely.
After Mass, the congregation took part in the outdoor procession, chanting the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as they followed the statue of St Faustina around the church. When the procession ended, they re-entered the church for Benediction, then stayed on to venerate the relics of St Faustina and Pope St John Paul II. The celebration ended with a simple but delicious dinner that was sponsored by a generous donor. It was an occasion that reminded everyone of the sanctity of the Christian marriage, of the trust that we need to place in God, and the need to persevere in prayer and love each other as God loves us.
Ng Wai Queen
16th October, 2018