This week it seems like there are several reasons in the Church to rejoice. First, foremost, and obvious the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each year it seems that as a culture we celebrate less and less the true meaning of Easter. Yes, there actually is more to Easter than plastic and hard boiled eggs, jellybeans, chocolate bunnies, and annoying green tinsel. I was surprised to hear the symbolism of the eggs however.
But, my Easter week started with welcoming a good friend into full Communion of the Catholic faith. My friend was baptized a Christian and this last weekend he received his first Communion in the Holy Eucharist and was confirmed a member of the Catholic Church. The Easter Vigil celebration was beautiful and meaningful. Seeing a Church lit only by candles that each person was holding was so neat. Then each of us had our baptism renewed when the priest walked around the Church blessing us all sprinkling us with Holy Water. When I heard the Holy water hit me, it was refreshing and a renewal, just a unique experience of the water hitting me and a strange realization that went through my mind. I don’t know how to describe it other than that.
All week we have been in the Easter Octave, a reminder everyday that we should be rejoicing because not only did Jesus accept and willingly go through with His death on a cross but he rose from the dead! Alleluia!!
This last Thursday was the feast day of St. Gianna, the patron saint of doctors and of the unborn. Gianna was a loving wife and mother and stood boldly for her faith and pro-life beliefs. Gianna died after giving birth to her daughter, whom doctors suggested she abort if Gianna herself wanted to live. Gianna chose the life of her daughter. There is a beautiful painting of Gianna in La Crosse, Wisconsin at the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe. I learned an incredible story about her while I was there. The Shrine has gloves that belonged to Gianna and several women that have had difficulty conceiving have gone to pray with them hoping that through her intercession, God would give the gift of a child. As you can see in the painting there are several children in the picture. The children at each side and one she is holding are her own, the others are miracle children that have been born as result of her intercession. The tour guide in La Crosse told our group that he was in the gift shop when a little girl under the age of 5 came running into the shop yelling to her mother, “Look mama, look mama, it’s Gianna!” Our tour guide said that he approached the woman and began to tell her about Gianna. Not long after he started, the woman stopped the man and said, “I know, you see that child? (Pointing to one on the painting) That’s my daughter. This woman had asked Gianna to pray with Our Father in Heaven and through the grace of God this woman was blessed with a child!
The divine timing of this is amazing. Not only was St. Gianna an incredible human being and example for us all. She lived during the 1900’s and was canonized by the late (Blessed) Pope John Paul II. Now, why is he significant to mention. Well I said there was a “different” reason to wake up early and I meant different than waking up for the royal wedding. This Sunday morning in Rome, the late John Paul II will be beatified in the Roman Catholic Church, meaning he will from now on be called Blessed John Paul II. This means that he is one step closer to being a saint of the Church. And like the wedding yesterday, the beatification can be seen on tv at an odd hour in morning here in the States.
The significance and divinity does not stop there. This Sunday, the day of his beatification is Divine Mercy Sunday. Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated the first Sunday after Easter each year. Divine Mercy Sunday is something that John Paul II established while he was Pope. He decided to have this day celebrated because of a holy woman, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. She had visions of Jesus telling her to share prayers and ideas with the world. She did so in a book. John Paul II decided to go fourth with them and encouraged the entire Catholic Church to have a devotion to Divine Mercy through the Divine Mercy Chaplet and this image. Oh by the way, John Paul II canonized St. Faustina.
As the Easter season comes to a close please pray with special intentions and for the intercession of St. Gianna, (Blessed) Pope John Paul II, St. Faustina, and remember that it’s all possible because of what was celebrated a week ago…the greatest story in the history of the world, the death and resurrection of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
Emily Pochinski, may you rest in peace.