[RELIGION] Catholic Holy Year Shines Spotlight on Hancock Park Parish
A striking 12-foot-tall white Italian marble statue of a crowned and scepter-wielding Jesus Christ has welcomed southbound drivers on Vine Street to Hancock Park for most of Christ the King Roman Catholic Church’s 88-year history.
Visitors sometimes are so taken by the statue that they’ll park and wander inside for a moment of prayer or to examine the Italian Byzantine-style building’s architecture and artwork.
Fr. Paul Montoya, the parish’s pastor, is hoping a special holy year declared by Pope Francis to focus on God’s “divine mercy”—and the need for people to be merciful to each other—will inspire even more pilgrims to visit a humbler, but venerated image of Christ ensconced in a side chapel near the church’s main doors.
Christ the King is caretaker of an unusual image of Christ known as The Divine Mercy. The church’s print is considered the only one of its type in the United States blessed and signed by the late Pope John Paul II, who was canonized a saint last April.
Parishioners support an active Divine Mercy ministry, and their annual Divine Mercy Sunday celebration the week after Easter typically draws roughly 400 worshipers.
“Our church, for a whole year, will be a church of mercy even more than usual,” said Montoya, referring to Christ the King’s designation as one of 19 pilgrimage churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began December 8th and continues through November 20th, 2016.
Anxiety in the wake of last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East and the chronic homelessness situation in Los Angeles make a focus on mercy needed more than ever, Montoya said.
“We can’t live in fear; we must live in mercy,” he said.
The parish’s Divine Mercy image, depicting a white-robed Christ raising his hand in blessing as rays symbolizing blood and water stream from his heart, is based on a painting commissioned by a Polish mystic, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, following visions she received in 1931 and recorded in a diary.
Kowalska, who died in 1938, was canonized in 2000 by John Paul II.
Parishioner Tom Norris, a retired Air Force colonel who became Catholic 25 years ago, credits his personal Divine Mercy devotion and the prayers of the Divine Mercy ministry with helping him deal with chronic pain that had once left him bed-ridden.
With the aid of a cane, Norris today is able to attend early morning Mass daily, after which he leads a group in the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a contemplative prayer using rosary prayer beads.
“I feel it’s more and more important to pray these days,” said Norris, “and I’m also hoping this holy year will inspire more people to come to church.”
Christ the King Roman
617 N. Arden Boulevard