In 2005, I was assigned as pastor of two parishes, one of which was St. Mary’s of Pine Bluff, a Catholic parish in a small, unincorporated town near Madison, Wisconsin. The little town of Pine Bluff has one church, two bars, and a handful of homes. Fields and idyllic countryside surround it. It’s the kind of town where people dream of raising their kids.
Discerning God’s will, I organized a mile-long Stations of the Cross through the town. I invited everyone to pray along this “miracle mile,” in an effort to reclaim this surrendered ground and to consecrate the soil back to Our Lord.
After that first prayer walk, a container holding prayer sheets and ribbons was placed at the first station on the walk. All were invited to come, pick up a prayer sheet and white ribbon, and pray at anytime of the day or night, as they wished. Over the next six months, prayer warriors walked the path, prayed the Stations, and sang hymns nearly round the clock. It was estimated that 600-700 ribbons were tied onto the cemetery kneeler over that period of time.
The miracle mile was, indeed, miraculous. Even though many say that the porn industry is more protected (under First Amendment rights) than are the babies in their mothers’ wombs, within six months the strip club was chased out of town. Little Pine Bluff was overjoyed, and a victory was won for Our Lord.
Seeing that the power of prayer moved a very significant mountain, a seed was planted and a lion was awakened. Recall that this year of 2005 was also the year our mercy pope, John Paul the Great, went to be with his merciful Savior, as he passed on the very eve of Divine Mercy Sunday. Pope John Paul II’s love for the Divine Mercy devotion and the inspiration of this faithful remnant in Pine Bluff, who believed and saw their prayers answered, led me to found the Knights of Divine Mercy, an organization calling Catholic men to heroic virtue, to be strong husbands and fathers, and to be powerful men of prayer.
Our first leadership meeting for the Knights of Divine Mercy was at a round table (Get it? Knights of the Roundtable?), and was held on the very spot the strippers danced in the “former” strip club. We began the meeting by breaking out Holy Water, Blessed Salt, and the prayers of the Church, as we blessed that place and, quite literally “reclaimed surrendered ground.”
The Knights of Divine Mercy apostolate seeks to awaken in men the eager desire for a knight’s true calling: The quest for heroic virtue, to be strong husbands and fathers, and to be powerful men of prayer. Men gather once a month for prayer, inspired teaching and a chance to become a “band of brothers” together pursuing virtue, holiness and chivalry.
The scripture passage that stands as the very foundation of this apostolate is from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians: “Draw your strength from the Lord and His mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of God if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires, and hold your ground” (Eph 6:10-12).
We help men understand and embrace their call to “live supernaturally.” We are living in an intensely secular era. Spiritually speaking, the devil is doing all that he can to catch us isolated and unarmed on the battlefield — no spiritual armor, no spiritual weapons, and no comrades to fight alongside of us. In other words, the reason evil is promoted so effectively today is because we’re ignoring God’s offer of supernatural strength and power.
We immerse these men in sacred beauty and awe-inspiring reverence. We want our men to appreciate it as a moment when Heaven and Earth meet; when they are better able to make a Divine connection with their almighty God.
7:00 PM Divine Mercy Chaplet, Inspirational Talk, Benediction
8:00 PM Social (usually man food – pizza, beer and soda)
The first thing I would recommend is to gather a group of men together and do some preliminary research into the feasibility of such an apostolate in their area. I’d like to stress that this apostolate is designed, generally, to be regional. In other words, its reach is usually beyond one parish. This helps marshal your efforts and makes it easier to find priests and speakers (usually priests). Of course, in more sparsely populated areas, this may not be possible.
I cannot begin to describe how fruitful the Knights of Divine Mercy has been. I have seen men choking back tears as they state, “Where has this been all my life?” They are inspired by God and by discovering what it really means to be a “Band of Brothers.”
There is only a handful, at this point, mostly because we have never ventured into any great marketing campaign to get the word out about Knights of Divine Mercy. It seems that, once people hear about it, they show great interest. There are some in Wisconsin, one in Wyoming, and one getting ready to be established in Rockford, Illinois. We’re hoping someone with marketing skills comes our way.