In November 2018 my husband Noel and I visited the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. The Shrine is run by the Congregation of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. The name of the property is called” Eden Hill” because of its natural beauty and sits on 375 acres of land. The Shrine church is open 365 days a year. Each day Holy Mass is celebrated, confessions, adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, rosary and benediction. The chaplet of Divine Mercy is recited at 3 o clock daily and after which the congregation comes forward to receive a blessing with the first class relic of St. Maria Faustina.
It was a glorious day of brilliant sunshine but very crisp cold weather. We were so delighted to be here again as we had visited on a number of occasions previously. As we drove up the magnificent drive just past the Church entrance we came to the main house. There standing tall with hands outstretched to the world and to God was the most magnificent Bronze life size statue of St. John Paul II. It was sculpted by W.L. Dudek in 1993. The statue depicts St. John Paul in his papal garb, bare headed and wearing a large crucifix around his neck. The front of the statue has a bronze copy of his coat of arms. We felt a closeness to this Holy man as we stood there. This was the place of Divine Mercy, a devotion that was actively promoted by St. John Paul II. This is the place where pilgrims gather from all over the world to receive the sacraments of reconciliation, and food for their journey in life through the Holy Eucharist. Praying as they walk the grounds, visiting the different shrines, seeking healing and consolation for themselves and their loved ones. This is the place to find a beautiful peace, this place is an Oasis of Peace. Isn’t that the mission of St. John Paul II to bring Gods Mercy and love to all, to reach deep into their hearts and minds. To give them a PEACE that only God can give.
On April 30th, 2000 St. John Paul II canonized St. Faustina Kowalska. It was Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina received visions and visitations from Jesus. Conversations from Jesus which she kept in a diary, messages of the promise of God’s grace and mercy to the whole world to those who would trust in Him and his Divine Mercy. Jesus asked for her to paint the vision of His Divine Mercy, and to have a Feast especially to His Mercy on the Sunday following Easter. This was named Divine Mercy Sunday. The following year on April 22, 2001, Pope John Paul II re-emphasized its message in the resurrection context of Easter. Jesus said to St. Faustina one day “Humanity will never find PEACE until it turns with Trust to Divine Mercy” Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity.
On the ground on either side of St. John Paul II statue there are two plaques with inscriptions on them. On the right side is written Be Apostles of Divine Mercy under the Maternal and Loving Guidance of Mary. On the left is written Do Not Be Afraid, Open Wide the Door for Christ. Further down the Avenue there is a Guest House called the John Paul II Guesthouse. It has 7 bedrooms, simple but very comfortable. Each room in the house has a Saints name.
St. Peregrine Room
St. Francis Room
The Blessed Mother Room,
St Faustina Room,
St Therese Room,
St. Josephs Room,
St. John Paul 11 Room.
Another beautiful tribute to this wonderful Saint. Inside the beautiful Church on Eden Hill where Holy Mass is said daily there are two side alters. On August 12th, 2012 a white linen cloth that holds the blood of St. John Paul II the great Mercy Pope was enshrined permanently at the National Shrine during the 3 o’clock hour of Divine Mercy. Cardinal Dziwisz the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, who was John Paul’s private Secretary, advisor and friend presented the relic to Fr. Chwalek during the Marian priests visit to Poland. It was given in appreciation for the Marians long and pivotal role in promoting the official Divine Mercy Message and devotion for seven decades. The provincial superior of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek incensed the relic and told pilgrims to pray for St. John Paul’s intercession. By coming to our Shrine, He came to his Spiritual Home, He belongs here as one of the great promotors of Divine Mercy. Now we can experience His presence and protection more fully. Fr. Chwalek reminded the faithful that John Paul II said spreading the message of mercy was His special task assigned to him by God:” God called him to be a witness for Divine Mercy.” The relic is enshrined in a white marble kneeler in close proximity to the first class relics of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. It is fitting that these two great promotors of Divine Mercy are so close to each other in this beautiful Church on Eden Hill. (highlights of the enshrinement can be seen on u-tube and an article A Relic’s New Home by Marian’s of the Immaculate Conception website).
Over to the side between the two alters of St. John Paul II and St. Faustina and in close proximity to the Statue of Our Lady of Fatima there is a glass case and in it sits a Rosary beads and a Zucchetto belonging to St. John Paul II. Back in May 1982 St. John Paul visited Fatima a year following the attempt on his life in St. Peters square on the Feast of our Lady of Fatima May 13th, 1981. As he prayed before the statue he took the beads from Our Lady’s hands and replaced them with His own. The Holy Father decided to give the Rosary to his very dear friend the future Cardinal Andrew Decker. During the time St. John Paul was recovering from the assassination attempt, Fr. Deskur read him the manuscript of St. Faustina’s Diary, which was provided by Fr. Seraphin Michalenko MIC. As it turns out the first edition of the diary was printed in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, because the communist’s occupation of Poland at the time prevented the diary been printed there. St. John Paul II gave the Rosary to Fr. Deskur for his mother who in turn gave as a gift to Fr. Seraphin Michalenko, MIC, for his mother. In humble gratitude Fr. Seraphin accepted the gift, and after his mother’s passing, he gave it to his sister Sr. Sophia Michalenko, CMGT, who also worked on the first edition of the Diary. After Sr. Sophia’s death in 2017, the Rosary has rested in the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy beside the relics of St. John Paul II and St. Faustina and Our Lady of Fatima. It’s very fitting that the Rosary has come home so to speak to its resting place beside the relics of these two great Saints. (see full story on Marian’s of the Immaculate Conception website headed What Is It?)
The Rosary symbolizing the great love that St. John Paul had for the Rosary. He said, “it was his favorite prayer”. How wonderful it is to see this devotion been revived, how fitting for the people of the world to pray this beautiful prayer around so many coasts in different countries, in honor of our Blessed Mother. St John Paul II firmly believed in the power of the Rosary to heal and change lives, and especially in supporting and strengthening families. It is a prayer that focusses on Christ by seeing through the eyes of His Mother who is also Our Mother.
After Holy Mass, Benediction and The Divine Mercy, we received the Blessings with the Holy relics. We prayed at the Alters of St. Faustina and St. John Paul II for all our families and the families of the Chapters of the Foundation. We left very grateful for all of the blessings we had received on our trip to Eden Hill and we looked forward to visiting again. Perhaps next time to stay at the St. John Paul II Guesthouse.
Marian and Noel O Connor.
Members of the Irish Chapter of St. John Paul II Foundation.