STOCKBRIDGE — Mother Nature may show no mercy for the thousands of pilgrims expected to flock to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy on Eden Hill this weekend for the annual Divine Mercy Sunday celebration.
Gusty winds and unseasonable temperatures in the 30s are forecast for Sunday's outdoor Mass known for its weather extremes over the years such as heavy rain, sweltering heat, even sleet and snow.
Millions more around the globe will be watching the live broadcast from the comforts of home, according to the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
EWTN Global Catholic Network begins airing Sunday's main event at noon via television, radio and live-streaming on the Internet. Locally, EWTN is channel 70 on the Time Warner Cable digital system.
This year's annual event takes on heightened importance as Catholic Pope Francis has declared this the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The Marian Fathers have promoted the Divine Mercy message and devotion since 1941.
"Stockbridge is the epicenter this year to spread God's mercy — that's a huge honor for the town," said the Rev. Chris Alar. He is director of the Association of Marian Helpers, the business operations branch of the shrine.
Divine Mercy Sunday is an international Catholic feast day promoting Jesus' message that he's merciful to everyone and that people should trust in his mercy and lead a compassionate life.
The Friday through Sunday celebration, held the weekend after Easter Sunday, culminates with the area's largest outdoor Catholic Mass starting at 1 p.m.
Sunday's principal celebrant, the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, said he is honored to be preaching on Eden Hill.
"I have a long standing affinity for Divine Mercy," he said in an email to The Eagle. "It is a special honor during this Jubilee Year of Mercy to take part in this celebration which brings attention to this important spiritual practice."
In his recent pastoral letter to the diocese, "The Wideness of God's Mercy," Rozanski asked Catholics if they believe God is merciful and can they trust in his love. The bishop also wrote in seeking forgiveness for the church's handling of the priest sex abuse scandal and alienating the faithful.
"As I have travelled the diocese in recent months I have heard stories of many people, after long absences, taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the graces provided through God's infinite mercy," he said in the email. "I hope Sunday will be an occasion for more of these opportunities."
The Marian Fathers hope the faithful carry the spirit of Mercy Sunday beyond the weekend celebration.
"God's Mercy is available every day of the year and acts of mercy should be done every day," he said.
Some 5,500 volunteers, along with staff, will be on hand Sunday to guide pilgrims to the shrine's chapel, man the concessions areas; provide, if needed, medical care and generally make the experience enjoyable for all, according to shrine officials.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413 496-6233.
What: Divine Mercy Sunday weekend in Stockbridge
When: Two outdoor Divine Mercy Sunday Masses will be celebrated: the Vigil Mass on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday's Solemn Liturgy at 1 p.m. at the Outdoor Shrine.
Where: National Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Eden Hill, Stockbridge.