My most cherished birthday gift this year was a beautiful, leather-bound copy of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska’s “Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul.” It’s published by Marian Press of Stockbridge, MA, home to the Divine Mercy Shrine.

It is a work that one reads slowly. You savor it, your reflect on Faustina’s life and her suffering, you feel awed as she reveals her heart and soul, as she brings you the very words Jesus uttered to her in His miraculous appearances.   You experience a sort of calm, a sort of Divine Mercy as you turn the pages. Definitely food for the soul!

I visited Krakow in 2016 and spent part of a day in Kraków-Łagiewniki where I visited the new John Paul II shrine as well as the nearby chapel that houses the miraculous image of Merciful Jesus and the tomb of St. Faustina. Photos inside the chapel were not allowed so the image of the chapel is from the St. Faustine website. Other photos are mine.

Today is the feast of St. Faustina….


( – Saint Faustina’s name is forever linked to the annual feast of the Divine Mercy, the Divine Mercy chaplet, and the Divine Mercy prayer recited each day at 3 p.m. by many people.

Born in what is now west-central Poland, Helena Kowalska was the third of 10 children. She worked as a housekeeper in three cities before joining the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1925. She worked as a cook, gardener and porter in three of their houses.

In addition to carrying out her work faithfully, generously serving the needs of the sisters and the local people, Sister Faustina also had a deep interior life. This included receiving revelations from the Lord Jesus, messages that she recorded in her diary at the request of Christ and of her confessors.


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At a time when some Catholics had an image of God as such a strict judge that they might be tempted to despair about the possibility of being forgiven, Jesus chose to emphasize his mercy and forgiveness for sins acknowledged and confessed. “I do not want to punish aching mankind,” he once told Saint Faustina, “but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart.” The two rays emanating from Christ’s heart, she said, represent the blood and water poured out after Jesus’ death.

Because Sister Maria Faustina knew that the revelations she had already received did not constitute holiness itself, she wrote in her diary: “Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God.”


Sister Maria Faustina died of tuberculosis in Krakow, Poland, on October 5, 1938. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1993, and canonized her seven years later.


Devotion to God’s Divine Mercy bears some resemblance to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In both cases, sinners are encouraged not to despair, not to doubt God’s willingness to forgive them if they repent. As Psalm 136 says in each of its 26 verses, “God’s love [mercy] endures forever.”


Today’s column is about memories.

I have posted this before, on another anniversary of St. John Paul’s death, but felt compelled to do so again today as I sat in silence for a while to ponder the events of 15 years ago – the day the man people call John Paul the Great died – and all the years before that of his magnificent papacy and the honor I had to work at the Vatican during those years.

Yesterday I looked back at the vigil of John Paul’s death. Today I remember the day of his death – 9:37 pm on Saturday, April 2, 2005, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday – through some of the emails I received from people in Rome and in the U.S. I am also look forward, looking to the future by publishing some of the memories I have from the years I worked for the Vatican during his papacy.

I am writing a book about John Paul II called “I Made Cookies For a Saint” in which I focus on his humor and humanity. It will have my memories, my stories, but also those of friends I’ve contacted – cardinals, bishops, priests and lay people – who had such up-close-and-personal-moments. For many reasons, the book has gotten a bit side-tracked but I hope I am now back on track.

And that is the reason I asked yesterday – and ask again today: Did you – or a family member or someone very close to you – ever have the chance, at some point in John Paul’s 26-year plus papacy to have an encounter with him, to share a few minutes, to be in his presence for one shining moment?

I don’t mean a general audience. I mean up close and personal! I would like stories that highlight Pope John Paul’s humor and humanity. We know his writings, his travels, his legacy. I want personal, touching stories, stories that will make readers smile, laugh out loud or simply sigh at a beautiful story of the Holy Father’s humanity.  You might even know someone with a great story!

If you believe you have such a story, write me at:


Today – specifically this evening at 9:37 – marks the 15th anniversary of the death of Saint John Paul II. Those years at times seem very short and, at other times, very long. After all, we are in the second papacy since John Paul’s death, following eight years of Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis, elected in 2013.

When I woke this morning, I reflected back on that cool April day in 2005, remembering with a vividness beyond telling how I spent the last days, the last hours of the Pope’s life. In fact, it’s as if it had happened just hours ago. After all, there are days, moments, perhaps even seconds, in one’s life that are so unique, so strongly seared into our hearts, minds and souls, that they truly are unforgettable.

I mentioned some of this in a column I wrote here yesterday, recalling the vigil, then the death of John Paul and featuring two of the many emails I wrote at the time – one to a niece, the other to a priest friend, that expressed my emotions and what I was witnessing. I went back to the files I have from April 2005, most notably email exchanges with family and friends, and today offer a very, very small number of the tsunami of emails I received:

From my niece Susan:
Hi again, I was just thinking…how lucky Grandpa is! He gets to meet the Pope now! And now when it is our time to go home, we will be greeted by both great men… Love and hugs…Susan

From my friend Laurie in Rome:

Dear, dear Joan,
I know how close he is to your heart! I can only imagine the loss. But, it seems to me that it is a time to rejoice! Few have lived lives better than this man. He has poured himself out for the good of others, for the good of the Church, and he is about to win the crown of victory! What a wonderful gift the Lord has given us in JPII! I spent the day in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at St. Peter’s, which was packed full from noon on. It was very prayerful and calm and not at all sad. Santo Spirito (church) was also packed (went for Divine Mercy.)

I stayed in the Square until after the Rosary, but had to come home because I wasn’t dressed for the cold. I noticed that as many people were entering the Square as were leaving it! Most of those arriving at that hour were young people. I saw groups of young people with flags, boxes of votive candles and other supplies to spend the night with their Holy Father. You can be assured that you are in my prayers! I’ve actually been carrying my cell phone. … I would be happy to help in any way … I could pick up lunch! But most of all, I will pray. Hang in there! The Holy Father needs you!

From a friend in the U.S.:
A bright light went out in the world tonight but that bright light’s glow will shine in our hearts forever.

From Msgr D:
Dear Joan,
Please accept my sympathy on the loss of your Bishop, the Bishop of Rome, and our Holy Father, a great and holy man. While we mourn his loss to us, we rejoice that he now with the Saints in the abode of the Holy Trinity. Let us pray for him and our Church. We pray that, like the Apostles, he guides us still.

From Fred and Debbie,
We love you and wish we were there to give you a big hug. We too are shedding tears for this Holy man who now is an intercessor for us in heaven.
I am assured God sits on your shoulder today for all your efforts for His Church. God bless you and our Church and the successor of Giovanni Paolo II!
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,

From Ann:
Dear Joanie:
….and so he went to his God, uttering Amen. It is truly the end of an era and how I will miss him. His utter kindness and gentle manner, coupled with his strength both physical, in his early Papacy, and later in his illnesses and suffering…what an example of dying with dignity. I particularly loved his love of children, the sick, his quick humor, his loyalty to the country of his birth and, of course, his deep and abiding Faith.

I think of you, who knew him well and I offer my deepest sympathy. I know you feel as I do that he is now where we are all striving to end but on a day-to-day basis, you will, I am sure, miss him deeply.

I’ve been crying on and off all day, but the rational “me” knows he is now at peace. There is no doubt in my mind that that soul is in heaven, no doubt at all. the angels took him, the Blessed Mother met him and her Son received him……Amen.


In a conversation with the Polish news agency KAI, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, former secretary to Pope John Paul, asked all people of good will to join in prayer on Thursday, April 2, at 9.37 pm, to ask God, through the intercession of John Paul II, to end the coronavirus pandemic. “I ask all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to unite with John Paul II again on the fifteenth anniversary of his departure for the Father’s house. I ask you all to be present in this spiritual community on April 2 at 9:37 pm. May our prayer of entrustment go up to Heaven.”

“We need each other so that all together we can plead merciful God, through the intercession of Saint John Paul II, for the cessation of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The cardinal proposed reciting at 9:37 pm the act of entrustment to Divine Mercy that he himself recently pronounced in the sanctuary of Łagiewniki in the chapel of Saint Faustyna Kowalska:

“Almighty God, faced with the pandemic that hit humanity, we zealously renew the act of entrusting St. John Paul II to your Divine Mercy. To you, Merciful Father, we humbly entrust the fate of the world and of every person.

“Stop this coronavirus pandemic. Bless all those who work intensely to ensure that the sick are treated and protect the healthy from infection. Give health to all those affected, instill patience for those in quarantine and welcome the deceased to your heavenly home. Strengthen the sense of responsibility of all healthy people, so that they watch over themselves and others, for the good of the needy. Strengthen our faith, the relationship with Christ, your Son, who has become man for us and is with us every day. Spread your Spirit on the nations and on the whole world, so that those who fight against disease may be united in praising You, Creator of the universe, fighting the virus of sin that destroys human hearts with Christian fortitude.

“Eternal Father, for the painful passion and resurrection of Your Son, have mercy on us and the whole world. Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us. Saint John Paul II, Saint Faustina and all the Saints, pray for us. Amen.” (Source ACI Stampa)



We hope you can join us!

At 3pm EST on Wednesday December 21st, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver will be leading the Divine Mercy Chaplet on a Facebook Live video. We want as many people as possible to pray with us!

To join us, at 3pm EST simply go to the ChurchPOP Facebook pageYou’ll be able to post prayer requests in the comments, and, most importantly, hopefully you’ll join with us and many others from around the world to pray wherever you are!

Abp. Aquila was appointed Archbishop of Denver on May 29, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. For his episcopal motto he chose, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2.5)

How often do you get to pray with an Archbishop? So help spread the word!

Don’t know the prayers? Here’s How to Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.



A heads up for tomorrow. I will try to post some photos on Facebook but tomorrow I have some appointments in the morning and then take off for the airport and my flight to Rome, thus time for writing may either be rare or perhaps nonexistent. I did prepare a VATICAN INSIDER for this weekend so be sure not to miss that – I did a special report on Krakow and the papal visit. If I do have time to post photos, there will probably be little or no commentary.


I don’t have much time to write tonight because I had to spend much of the morning trying to check in for my Ryanair flight tomorrow (the first time I’ve ever taken this airline and probably the last, given this experience) and getting a new suitcase (a much used carry on suitcase got ripped on the flight from Rome and is unusable).

Later morning and early afternoon were delightful, however. I went to the Divine Mercy Shrine and the new St. John Paul II Shrine in Lagiewniki, about 7 kilometers from the center of Krakow, where I roamed the grounds, prayed in various chapels and attended Mass. The afternoon included a late lunch and a carriage ride through the Old City to Wawel Castle.

Pope Francis will visit both shrines on July 30. He will go through the Door of Mercy and confess several young people and, at 10:30, he will celebrate Mass for Polish priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and seminarians in the John Paul II Shrine. This great, modern church and shrine complex was built in only three years.

I’ll have to let the photos I took today do the talking for now, although I have no pictures of the chapel at Divine Mercy where Saint Faustina is buried and where there is the miraculous image of Divine Mercy. Photos are forbidden and I could not find a way around that – and no one else was even thinking of taking photos. Not a cell phone or camera in sight. People kept pouring into the small chapel – though none were allowed in while Mass was ongoing – and lining up to kiss the small relic under glass of a knuckle of this Polish saint. Other relics were on the altar above her tomb and under the Divine Mercy image.

John Paul II Shrine:









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Divine Mercy grounds