STOCKBRIDGE — A devout friend of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception will lead the religious order and estimated 20,000 pilgrims in celebrating Mercy Sunday this weekend.
The Most Rev. Edward Scharfenberger, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Albany, N.Y., returns for the second time in three years as the main celebrant of Sunday's 1 p.m. Mass at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy on Eden Hill.
Scharfenberger has led efforts to promote the message of divine mercy in his diocese, through Marian Fathers' literature, since he arrived there five years ago, according Marc Massery, spokesman for the Association of Marian Helpers, organizers of the event.
"The bishop has encouraged parishes to consecrate themselves to the blessed mother, Mary, using the book '33 Days to Morning Glory' by the Rev. Michael Gaitley," Massery said. "[Scharfenberger] has a great ability to focus on laity becoming good Catholics."
In 2017 during Mercy Sunday in Stockbridge, Scharfenberger equated sunlight to divine mercy — God's light, reaching all corners of the Earth and purifying what it touches.
"We live by the power of God's radiance," he said that day.
Massery said the bishop has yet to divulge the message of his homily for this Sunday.
The Feast of the Divine Mercy is celebrated by Roman Catholics around the world the weekend after Easter. Divine mercy stems from a holy vision, that of Jesus appearing to Saint Faustina Kowalska in 1938, promoting a message to the Polish nun that Jesus is merciful, and that people should trust in his mercy and lead a compassionate life.
Known for its weather extremes in past years, Mercy Sunday 2019 on Eden Hill is shaping up to be a typical April day. Forecasters are predicting a 50 percent chance of showers with temperatures in the 50s, a far cry from the wind-swept cold and snow of 2016 or the heat of a few years ago.
Should the weather deter would-be attendees, the EWTN Global Catholic Network will broadcast live from the shrine beginning at noon Sunday. EWTN is channel 70 on Spectrum cable in Berkshire County.
Preceding the international telecast, the Very Rev. Joseph Roesch and the Rev. Chris Alar, both of the Marian Fathers, will host a one-hour show.
"We will focus on the healing power of divine mercy spread through our books, video, radio, retreats and social media," Massery said. "We have four million Facebook followers. That's pretty amazing."
Massery said it's fitting that a relic of the patron saint of parish priests will spend Mercy Sunday weekend at the shrine.
The relic — the "incorrupt" heart of St. John Vianney of Ars, France — arrives Saturday. At noon, the relic will be placed in the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, where it will remain until after the 4 p.m. Mass.
The celebrant will bless the congregants by lifting the relic after the homily.
Later that day, there will be veneration of the relic from 7 to 9 p.m. at St. Joseph's Church in Pittsfield before returning to the shrine, where it will be on display from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
St. John Vianney, who died in 1859, was a dedicated pastor who became known in particular as a confessor, often spending up to 16 hours a day listening to and absolving sins, according to the Diocese of Springfield.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com and 413-496-6233.