By Felix Carroll (Oct 16, 2009)
Organizers for the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy on Nov. 14-15, are pleased to have Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, among the speakers. In the following Q&A, Fr. Donald, whose powerful conversion story will soon be published in the upcoming book No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy, looks ahead to the Mercy Congress:
So what are your initial thoughts about the Mercy Congress?
I'm really happy to be a part of this. It's really a major event in Church history, and there couldn't be a better place to have it than at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C. It's such a beautiful place, and it's considered the center of Catholicism in the United States and America's shrine to Our Lady. Also, for me, being able to give a talk at the Basilica is significant because that's the place where I was ordained a deacon. For me to be able to go back there and preach is neat because that's kind of where it all started for me.
So what will your talk be about?
The title of my talk is "Mary: Mother and Masterpiece of Mercy." My community's charism includes spreading devotion to Mary Immaculate and spreading the message of The Divine Mercy. So, as I did in my book Purist of All Lilies, I will integrate the message of The Divine Mercy with the role of Our Lady. I'll show how Our Lady is really the greatest recipient of God's mercy and is really the masterpiece of creation, the masterpiece of mercy. Hopefully, I'll get people thinking about Our Lady's role in the whole Divine Mercy message, how she really is the one who has the deepest knowledge of God's mercy, and how we can turn to her to help guide us deeper in our relationship with The Divine Mercy.
Why do you think the Mercy Congress is such an important event for the Church?
The theme of the Mercy Congress is "Mercy: Our Hope." The message of The Divine Mercy certainly gives people a lot of hope, and that's the thing people need most in this world. I think there's a lot of people who don't understand that God's greatest attribute is mercy: He's our Merciful Father. His mercy is greater than our sins. But people still think they can't be forgiven. They still feel they've done so many bad things and that God doesn't love them anymore. Nowadays, many people have just given up — on each other and on themselves. They think that others will never change, or that they, themselves, can never change. The Divine Mercy message teaches us how we can change, and the key to change is through trust in Jesus. His mercy is greater than our sins. He knows everything looks like chaos. He knows how families have a lot of problems. But the key to overcoming our sinfulness, overcoming evil, and overcoming the brokenness in the world is through trust in Jesus. We can't overcome these things by simply trusting in ourselves or trusting in political regimes or trusting in the latest fads. What the world needs right now is to hear the message of truth from God — that He's all merciful, therefore we don't have to go into panic mode. We can rely on Him and have a hope that doesn't diminish. He doesn't promise to take away all our problems. He will give us something that will sustain us. "My peace I give you," He tells us. Through trust we attain hope.
What do you hope the effects will be of the Mercy Congress?
I think the fruit of this Mercy Congress is that people are going to come together and rejoice together in God's mercy and receive a lot of instruction about mercy, but that's not all. They will then be inspired to become apostles of mercy to their families, their neighbors, and their community. I think there's going to be a lot of brainstorming at the Congress about different ways to do that. But the bottom line is that the Mercy Congress is not intended to just be a weekend to come together and feel good. It's intended to inspire people to take this message and make mercy a part of their lives so that they not only receive and experience the mercy of God but also practice mercy towards others.
In what ways can people practice mercy?
They can practice mercy in so many ways, such as by starting or joining a Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy cenacle or through the many ways of serving the less fortunate, visiting the sick or dying or imprisoned, or just little things done with great love.
This must be a particularly exciting time to be a Marian of the Immaculate Conception since the Church has so clearly embraced the message of The Divine Mercy, a message the Marians have been entrusted to preach and spread throughout the world.
It really is an exciting time for us. Now we're kind of known as the "Divine Mercy priests," and it's a real gift to us as Marians because God has used this tiny community to do some tremendous work in our time with this message. I think that we have been really blessed by the message because it enables us, as Marians, to really embrace this message ourselves. It helps us embrace a priestly spirituality — of being men of compassion and mercy and being easy to talk to. People can approach us. I think when you represent something so awesome as mercy it really opens you up to many graces. We've been blessed with a lot of vocations, recently. We have been able to help a lot of people through spiritual direction. We see the blessings at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy where we have confessions every day for hours. It's just awesome. People see us as priests they can come to because we're the "mercy specialists." We know this message changes lives. Our role really is to just hand on this great gift to others so that their lives can be transformed through God. It's awesome for us as Marians to be a part of what God is doing with this message. And this Mercy Congress is one more sign that God wants us to spread His mercy throughout the world.
* * * Learn more about the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy, to be held in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14-15, including how to register. * * *
Father Donald Calloway, MIC, serves as vocation director of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. Visit his website, fathercalloway.com.