Above, participants in the second Middle East Congress on Divine Mercy (MECOM II) in Lebanon gather at Our Lady of Lebanon, Harissa. Highlights of this month’s congress included a procession with and Mass in the presence of the relics of St. Faustina Kowalska, St. John Paul II and Blessed Father Michael Sopocko, the confessor and spiritual director of St. Faustina. Participants also prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the Forest of the Cedars of God. Below, congress participants joyfully gather after praying the chaplet near Becharre, Lebanon; and Sisters Lina and Rima Barakat, Syriac Catholic Ephremite Sisters of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy, from Homs, Syria, also attended. The sisters are twins. (Malvina Saade for MECOM II and Doreen Abi Raad)
Lives have been changed by the devotion given to St. Faustina and promulgated by St. John Paul II.
BEIRUT — In war-torn Homs, Syria, Sisters Lina and Rima Barakat, Syriac Catholic Ephremite Sisters of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Mercy, typically gather with other sisters from their congregation to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The 35-year-old twins entered the religious life together when they were 20.
The sisters live out a mission of mercy through their congregation’s Mother of Mercy center in Homs, where they care for 175 children, ranging in age from 3 months to 14 years old, who were injured in the war or who have developmental disabilities. “God is working, and the children are getting better with time,” Sister Rima told the Register during the second Middle East Congress on Divine Mercy (MECOM II) this month. “We consider that the presence of God is the protector and savior of Syria. War and darkness does not stay forever. God will prevail over everything.”
And from a broader perspective, Sister Lina added, “Divine Mercy is especially important in the Middle East, to prove that God is stronger than any terrorism or differences. Nothing can stop the light from shining from the East. We [Christians] will continue here.”
Seeds of Divine Mercy in Lebanon
The Divine Mercy devotion came to Syria when MECOM II secretary Rosy Chaanine discovered it while living for a time in Canada. After moving from North America back to Lebanon in 1996, she realized that the faithful in her homeland were mostly unfamiliar with the devotion. So Chaanine arranged for translation of a Divine Mercy booklet into Arabic, with the imprimatur of the Maronite bishop of Beirut, published that same year. Later, the diary of St. Faustina was also translated into Arabic. Chaanine started a Divine Mercy prayer group in her parish in the town of Beit Mary. Meantime, booklets were distributed, and in 2008 the late Maronite bishop of Zahle, Georges Scandar, decided to form groups of the faithful dedicated to the Divine Mercy prayer.
Now there are 20 Divine Mercy prayer groups in Lebanon, totaling around 250 participants.
“And what could be more powerful than the Divine Mercy Chaplet, wherein we ask our Almighty God in the name of and for the sake of the passion of his beloved Son to have mercy on us and on the whole world? We believe that this prayer is so powerful that it will move the heart of God,” Chaanine told the Register.
One of the prayer groups in Beirut has about 30 members and includes a Muslim convert, a Druze convert (both of whom found the group after they became Catholic) and a seminarian.
During their gathering they pray the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and they read and discuss the Bible. At first, they started meeting once a month; soon, they were meeting twice a month. Now they meet once a week, and sometimes more. “We stay in the church for hours,” 27-year-old member Christelle told the Register.
Most of that group’s participants were “in the dark and then came into the light, with Jesus. Each one has his story,” 34-year-old Charbel, Christelle’s fiancé, told the Register. The couple met at their Divine Mercy prayer group.
As a young adult, Charbel’s path astray from his baptized Catholic faith included hard-partying nightlife, alcohol and promiscuity. “I did a lot of wrong things,” he said. “I even tried to commit suicide twice. Jesus will always give us a sign that he’s with us. But being in the darkness, we don’t pay attention.”
“And then, with Jesus, I found the real love,” Charbel says of his homecoming to the Catholic faith. “I wish people would realize how much mercy Jesus has for each one of us.”
“We’re like a big family,” Christelle says. There is also a newlywed couple who met and became engaged through the group.
Additionally, in Lebanon, the Voice of Charity radio, managed by the Maronite Lebanese Missionaries, broadcasts the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily at 3pm, the hour of Divine Mercy, in Arabic. The Christian radio station can also be heard via the internet.
In Jordan, a laywoman who wishes to remain anonymous became acquainted with the message of Divine Mercy through the Divine Mercy booklet she received.
“All I know is I follow how Jesus prompts me, and I got hooked [on the Divine Mercy devotion],” the Jordanian laywoman told the Register.
She has personally printed and distributed tens of thousands of booklets since 1996 to churches in Jordan. “You can’t imagine how God blesses every little effort. The glory goes completely to Jesus,” she stressed.
Now there’s more awareness of Divine Mercy in Jordan, she said, noting that, for the past year or so, the chaplet is being prayed in most of the churches on Fridays at 3pm. “It is Jesus and Our Lady desiring a merciful outpouring,” she emphasized. Jordan itself is known for religious co-existence and mutual respect between Muslims and Christians.
She attended the first MECOM conference in Cairo in 2017 with four people; 11 Jordanians attended MECOM II in Lebanon.
“It’s great for all of us from various countries to be together, to share together, so that God can work through us,” she said of the congress. This year’s event in Lebanon drew some 300 religious and laypeople.
Divine Mercy, a Powerful Witness
In Egypt, devotion to the Divine Mercy is also helping Egyptian Catholics to offer a strong witness to the faith.
As Christians living among Muslims, “in our way of living and what we are doing for them,” particularly through charitable acts of mercy for the poor and the disadvantaged, “they see how Jesus is working in us,” said Franciscan Father Michael Selim, coordinator for MECOM I in Cairo.
Anisa Boghdady of Cairo came to this year’s congress with six others from her Divine Mercy group, which totals about 45 people.
“Especially because our region is not very stable, we pray in our group to save all souls by putting them in his mercy,” Boghdady told the Register. “And we pray for the grace to change ourselves by imitating our Savior, Jesus.”
Doreen Abi Raad writes from Beirut, Lebanon.