Fr. Mike Paraniuk
Fr. Mike Paraniuk
By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church
and St. Benignus Catholic Church

A man was walking along a narrow path at night. The only light was from a half moon. He could not clearly see the edge of the cliff. Suddenly, he slipped over the edge. As he fell, he could see a branch growing from the side of the cliff. He grabbed it, holding on for dear life. Realizing that he couldn’t hang on for long, he called for help.

Man: Is anybody up there?

Voice: Yes, I’m here!

Man: Who’s that?

Voice: The Lord.

Man: Lord, help me!

Voice: Do you trust me?

Man: I trust you completely, Lord.

Voice: Good. Let go of the branch.

Man: What?!

Voice: I said, let go of the branch.

Man: [After a long pause] Is anybody else up there?

On the journey of life, sometimes God tells you to let go. Let go of the things you are familiar with. Trust God, who always leads you where you need to be.

This takes a lot of faith and super-human courage. Jesus wanted the apostles to let go of their fear and believe in Him. It’s easy to believe when you see the Lord right there near you. But many times, we may not see nor feel His presence. That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:29.)

Today, Catholics around the world are celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday. It is a celebration of God’s Mercy that Jesus won for us from the cross. This celebration was started by a teenage girl who had the courage to let go and follow Jesus to wherever He would lead her.

In 1924, at the age of 19, Helena Kowalska went with her sister Natalia to a dance in a park. At the dance, Helena had a vision of a suffering Jesus. She then went to the local church to pray.

She had a second vision of Jesus who told her to go to Warsaw where she would enter a convent. She immediately took a train for Warsaw, some 85 miles away, without asking her parents' permission and even though she knew nobody in Warsaw. The only belongings she took was the dress that she was wearing. Upon arrival, she entered the first church that she saw (Saint James Church) and attended Mass. She asked the local priest for suggestions of convents. The priest placed her with a trusted woman who cared for Helena till she could find a convent that would take her.

The girl approached several convents in Warsaw but was turned down each time. One nun told Helena "we do not accept maids here." Though poor, Helena could read and write. After several weeks of searching, the Mother Superior at the convent of Our Lady of Mercy decided to give Kowalska a chance. Helena could join under the condition that she pay for her religious habit. She knew nothing of the convent except that she believed Jesus wanted her there.

Helena worked as a maid to save the money she needed to buy her habit. Imagine all the dirty bathrooms she had to clean. On April 30, 1926, at the age of 20, she was clothed in the habit and received the religious name of Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament.

Then on Feb. 22, 1931, it happened. In her little bedroom cell, Jesus appeared in a glowing white gown with red and blue rays shining from His sacred heart. He told Sr. Faustina, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’”

Faustina could not paint. She could find no one to paint the image, but she persisted. Three years later, her priest spiritual director found an artist who agreed to paint the image based on Faustina’s charcoal drawing. Jesus had said to Sr. Faustina: "My Daughter, do whatever is within your power to spread devotion to My Divine Mercy. I will make up for what you lack." The first Mass during which the Divine Mercy image was displayed occurred on April 28, 1935 the second Sunday of Easter. Sr. Faustina stayed true to the commands of Her Merciful Savior. Jesus rewarded her with eternal life on Oct. 5, 1938. She died from tuberculosis at the young age of 33, just like Jesus.

In 1959, the Vatican banned her writings based on a faulty translation of her diary. The ban lasted for 20 years until this unknown Polish prelate, Karol Wojtyla, became Pope John Paul II.

One thing about Polish people – they stick together! (I am Polish, I know). John Paul lifted the ban in 1978. He declared her a saint in 2000, on the anniversary of her death Oct. 5. Today, millions of Christians celebrate God’s Mercy on the second Sunday of Easter because St. Faustina trusted Jesus.

As for the man holding on to the branch, he eventually trusted God. He let go. God could see what he couldn’t see. The branch was only one foot off the ground. You don’t have to wait for God to rescue you. God waits on you to allow Him. Happy Divine Mercy Sunday from Pastor Michael Paraniuk.