LAST Thursday night was quite a treat for me. I had dinner with Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, the former Rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and the Vice-Postulator for North American for the Canonization Cause of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska. I had met him several times before at Puri and Dario Narvaez’s house in Glendale, California, but this night was the time that he impressed me the most through his non-stop sharing of stories and accounts of miracles and conversions about the devotion to the Divine Mercy until 11 o’clock at night.
How timely that I met Fr. Michalenko again on the first week of Easter before the Feast Day of Divine Mercy this coming Sunday, I told myself. Fr. Michalenko played a significant role in the canonization cause of Sister Faustina Kowalska, the “Secretary” and “Apostle” of Jesus (The Divine Mercy). He was a witness to the first healing miracle attributed to Sr. M. Faustina for her beatification in 1993. He coordinated all efforts to verify this miracle and a second one that led Sr. M. Faustina to Sainthood on April 30, 2000.
There is something more special about Fr. Michalenko when you are with him. He exudes a genuine holiness that is marked with humility and childlike faith. Armed with licentiate degrees from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (The Angelicum) and the Pontifical Institute of Eastern Church Studies (The Orientale) in Rome, you would never hear him brag about these academic degrees or hear him talk about sophisticated theological concepts. Instead, you would hear him speak kindly and simply about the devotion and spirituality. He would hand you pictures of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, and tell you countless stories of miracles attributed to this piety.
Fr. Michalenko is truly an apostle of the Divine Mercy for he speaks with authority, not just because of his long years of experience and studies about this devotion, but most of all because of the way he presents himself as a man of prayer and holiness. God has touched his life beautifully and has given him long years of service as a priest, now 60 years! Ask him to fly from his home, the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Massachusetts, to give talks to your parish, and he’ll respond to you lovingly, “If I’m still alive.”
As we celebrate the Feast of the Divine Mercy on this Second Sunday of Easter, let’s remind one another to give witness to our faith not only through piety and prayer but most importantly through the way we relate with people in acts of love and mercy.
A blessed Divine Mercy Day to all!
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of ImmAaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.