|The Blessed Sacrament is processed through the Knights of Columbus Mercy Centre, a festival site at the Tauron Arena in Kraków, during World Youth Day events July 27. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)|
Mercy has been something I've heard about for my entire life.
My family was blessed enough to be able to send me to Catholic school from elementary through high school. The high school I went to was Faustina Academy, located in Irving. The school has a great devotion to St. Faustina; we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day at 3:00 p.m. Because of this and other aspects of my Catholic education, I have learned about mercy, but I never fully understood it, or how it could possibly apply to me. So when I knew I was going on this pilgrimage to World Youth Day, I began to ask God to grant me a real understanding of his Divine Mercy.
On Wednesday we went to the Divine Mercy Shrine, which was one of the things that I was very excited about going to on this pilgrimage. We walked there from the dorm, which was a VERY long walk. Once we arrived at the shrine, we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It was such an awesome experience to pray something that I have prayed almost every day for four years in high school at the place where Jesus revealed it to St. Faustina. After that, my mother and I went to see the original Divine Mercy image. It was so amazing to see it in person.
After our group went to Mass, most of the pilgrims who had not been able to see the image went to get in line. Since my mother and I had already seen the image, we decided to head on to the Tauron Arena, where there was going to be a meeting for American pilgrims and later, Eucharistic Adoration with Matt Maher, Audrey Assad, and Bishop Robert Barron. I really enjoy Matt Maher and Audrey Assad's music, so I was very excited to see them. And Bishop Robert Barron is amazing. Once we hailed a taxi, my mom, two other girls from our group, and I all arrived at the arena. When we got inside, we quickly realized how crazy it was — there were so many people there! Unfortunately, the rest of our group was not able to make it into the arena, so only 11 of us attended.
The main event of the night began with Matt Maher and Audrey Assad leading us all in worship. It was so beautiful to be worshipping God in a massive arena with 18,000 Catholic youth from all over the world. Then, Joel Stepanek, of Life Teen, got on stage and began to speak to us about God's Divine Mercy. There was one thing he said that stood out to me.
"Jesus says to you 'It's not over. I am going to win your heart.' He says this to you every time you fall. He wants your heart, in all of its pain and brokenness."
Then Adoration began, and as soon as Jesus came into the room, I knew something was different.
I have been to many different retreats, and I have experienced many emotions during Adoration before, so these feelings I was having were nothing new. However, I came on this pilgrimage with the intention of asking God to give me a greater understanding of His Divine Mercy, especially because I am in the country that has such a beautiful devotion to the Divine Mercy and it is the Year of Mercy. And in those moments of the beginning of Adoration, I felt God telling me, "This, this is my Divine Mercy. Why do you keep running away?" It was such a powerful moment for me. Then I realized that I was one of 11 people from our group who were able to make it into the arena before they closed the doors. God wanted me to be in that arena; He had a purpose for me being there. I realized that this was God answering my prayer: He was showing me — through Joel Stepanek's talk, through Matt Maher and Audrey Assad's music, through Bishop Robert Barron's address, and especially through his Son, Jesus, in the presence of the Eucharist — the depth of His Divine Mercy. I was overwhelmed. The entire night was absolutely incredible. It was so fitting that where I began to really understand God's mercy in my heart and not just in my head, was also the place where St. Faustina heard Jesus telling her to spread his Divine Mercy around the world.
I am so thankful that I am able to be on this pilgrimage, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for me next.
Hannah is a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller. She is a core team member for the Catholic Student Association at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and also works with the youth group at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Birmingham. She also volunteers for Alabama Awakening, a Catholic retreat for college students.
Mercy has been something I've heard about for my entire life. My family was blessed enough to be able to send me to Catholic school from elementary through high school.