In what seemed like an ordinary day of worship, Catholics from Most Holy Redeemer Church in Evergreen Park actually came for mercy.
For most in the congregation, that prevailing notion and the man who championed it were at the heart of yesterday's sermon.
“This will be our 22nd year celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday,” said usher Barbara Lascola. “On this feast day, if we go to confession, go to Mass and implore [Jesus Christ's] mercy and celebrate his mercy, the reparation of your sin will be washed away like when you were baptized.”
In the early 1930s, as the church tale goes, Christ came to Sister Mary Faustina Kowalska in a vision. In her diaries she wrote of the instructions Christ gave her.
“Whosoever should approach the Fountain of Life on the first Sunday after Easter should receive eternal life,” Christ supposedly told Sister Faustina, “and receive forgiveness for any sins.”
In 2000, Pope John Paul II established the day permanently in the Roman Catholic Calender, based on Sister Faustina's visions and the actions of other religious leaders. He then declared her a saint in the church canon.
Because of this, many Catholics see Pope John Paul II as the champion of mercy and Sister Faustina. He's even called the "Mercy" Pope.
“He is the rock of our faith,” said congregation member Marlene Briscoe. “Without faith I have nothing. It's the basis of life, and [mine] continues to grow.”
Shortly after Pope John Paul II's death in 2005, thousands of Catholics filled St. Peter's Square outside the Vatican in Rome. They chanted “sainthood now” in Latin, which led Pope Benedict XVI to speed up canonization, usually granted five years after a religious leader's death.
“Almost immediately everybody started paying attention,” said Leo Crotty, a Chicago Police Officer. “It's certainly uplifting. It makes my faith stronger.”
On the job, kindness and virtue are now part of Crotty's interactions with the public, including criminals. And he credits the pontiff.
“I do my best to uphold the letter of the law,” Crotty continued, “but in a kinder manner. The pope made mercy the focus of the church in the '90s.”
Peter Rookey, ordained international healer, spoke of the meeting he had with Pope John Paul II when he came to the U.S. Though the meeting was private, he spoke to the pope's character.
“He has such a loving personality,” Rookey said. “He had a beautiful relationship with the world, and he could relate with those who suffered. He was one of the greatest popes we had.”
As of today, Pope John Paul II is decreed beatific for performing one miracle. If the church finds that he performed two miracles, he'll be made a saint.
“Just to see what he's done,” Briscoe said, “and how he lived his life, has not only helped my family but the world. It's very exciting that he's becoming a saint.”