Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament was born as Helena Kowalska, in Glogowiec, Leczyca County, north-west of Lódz in Poland on August 25, 1905. She was the third of 10 children to a poor and religious family.
Faustina first felt a calling to the religious life when she was just seven-years-old and attended the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After finishing her schooling, Faustina wanted to immediately join a convent. However, her parents refused to let her.
Instead, at 16-years-old, Faustina became a housekeeper to help her parents and support herself.
In 1924, Faustina experienced her first vision of Jesus. While at a dance with her sister, Natalia, Faustina saw a suffering Jesus and then went to a Cathedral. According to Faustina, Jesus instructed her to leave for Warsaw immediately and join a convent.
Faustina packed her bags at once and departed the following morning. When she arrived in Warsaw, she entered Saint James Church in Warsaw, the first church she came across, and attended Mass.
While in Warsaw, Faustina approached many different convents, but was turned away every time. She was judged on her appearances and sometimes rejected for poverty.
Finally, the mother superior for the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy decided to take in Faustina on the condition that she could pay for her own religious habit. Working as a housekeeper, Faustina began to save her money and make deposits to the Convent.
On April 30, 1926, at 20-years-old, she finally received her habit and took the religious name of Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament and in 1928, she took her first religious vows as a nun.
Over the next year, Faustina traveled convents as a cook. In May 1930 she arrived in Plock, Poland. Soon after, she began to show the first signs of her illness and was sent away to rest. Several months later, Faustina returned to the convent.
On February 22, 1931, Faustina was visited by Jesus, who presented himself as the “King of Divine Mercy” wearing a white garment with red and pale rays coming from his heart. She was asked to become the apostle and secretary of God’s mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing God’s plan of mercy for the world.
In her diary, Faustina writes:
“In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, ‘paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.'”
Faustina also describes during that same message, Jesus explained he wanted the Divine Mercy image to be “solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy.”
Faustina, not knowing how to paint, asked around her Plock convent for help but was denied. It wasn’t until three years later, in 1934, that the first painting of the image was created by Eugene Kazimierowski.
In 1932, Faustina returned to Warsaw. On May 1, 1933 she took her final vows in Lagiewniki and became a perpetual sister of Our Lady of Mercy.
After taking her vows, Faustina was transferred to Vilnius, where she met Father Michael Sopocko, the appointed confessor to the nuns. During her first confession with Sopocko, Faustina told him about her conversations with Jesus and his plan for her. Father Sopocko insisted she be evaluated by a psychiatrist. Faustina passed all the required tests and was determined sane, leading Sopocko to support her religious efforts.
Sopocko encouraged her to start keeping a diary and to record all of her conversations with Jesus. Faustina told Sopocko about the Divine Mercy image and it was Sopocko who introduced her to Kazimierowski, the artist of the first Divine Mercy painting.
According to Faustina’s diary, on Good Friday, April 19, 1935, Jesus told her he wanted the Divine Mercy image publically honored. On April 26, 1935, Father Sopocko delivered the very first sermon on the Divine Mercy.
In September 1935, Faustina wrote about her vision of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, used to obtain mercy, trust in Christ’s mercy and to show mercy to others.
During the following year, Faustina attempted to set up a new congregation for Divine Mercy, but was reminded that she was perpetually vowed to her current order and sent back to Warsaw. She reported Jesus said to her, “My Daughter, do whatever is within your power to spread devotion to My Divine Mercy, I will make up for what you lack.”
In 1936, Faustina fell ill again. She moved to the sanatorium in Pradnik, Krakow and continued to spend most of her time in prayer.
In July 1937, the first holy cards with the Divine Mercy image were created and Faustina provided instructions for the Novena of Divine Mercy, which she reported was a message from Jesus. Throughout the rest of 1937, the Divine Mercy image continued to be promoted and grow in popularity.
Faustina’s health significantly deteriorated by the end of 1937. Her visions intensified and she was said to be looking forward to the end of her life. On October 5, 1938, Faustina passed away. She was buried on October 7 and currently rests at the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland.
Her entire life, in imitation of Christ’s, was to be a sacrifice – a life lived for others. At the Divine Lord’s request, she willingly offered her personal sufferings in union with Him to atone for the sins of others. In her daily life she was to become a doer of mercy, bringing joy and peace to others, and by writing about God’s mercy, she was to encourage others to trust in Him and thus prepare the world for His coming again.
Her special devotion to Mary Immaculate and to the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation gave her the strength to bear all her sufferings as an offering to God on behalf of the Church and those in special need, especially great sinners and the dying.
The message of mercy that Sister Faustina received is now being spread throughout the world; her diary, Divine Mercy in my Soul, has become the handbook for devotion to the Divine Mercy.
In 1965, Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II, opened up the first investigations into Faustina’s life and virtues. He submitted a number of documents on her life to the Vatican and requested the official beatification process to start.
One of his documents noted the case of Maureen Digan of Massachusetts. In March 1981, Digan reported she was healed from Lymphedema after praying at Faustina’s tomb. She explained, while there, she heard a voice saying “ask for my help and I will help you,” and her pain stopped. After returning to the United States, five different doctors all reported she was healed with no medical explanation. In 1992, the Vatican declared Digan’s case miraculous.
St. Faustina Kowalska was beatified on April 18, 1993 and canonized on April 30, 2000, both by Pope St. John Paul II. Her feast day is celebrated on October 5 and she is the patron saint of Mercy.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet originated from a vision that St. Faustina had of an Angel, the executor of divine wrath, on the evening of September 13, 1935. She wrote: “He was clothed in a dazzling robe, his face gloriously bright, a cloud beneath his feet. From the cloud, bolts of thunder and flashes of lightning were springing into his hands; and from his hand they were going forth, and only then were they striking the earth. When I saw this sign of divine wrath which was about to strike the earth, and in particular a certain place, which for good reasons I cannot name, I began to implore the angel to hold off for a few moments, and the world would do penance. But my plea was a mere nothing in the face of the divine anger. Just then I saw the Most Holy Trinity. The greatness of Its majesty pierced me deeply, and I did not dare to repeat my entreaties. At that very moment I felt in my soul the power of Jesus’ grace, which dwells in my soul. When I became conscious of this grace, I was instantly snatched up before the Throne of God. Oh, how great is our Lord and God and how incomprehensible His holiness! I will make no attempt to describe this greatness, because before long we shall all see Him as He is. I found myself pleading with God for the world with words heard interiorly.
As I was praying in this manner, I saw the Angel’s helplessness: he could not carry out the just punishment which was rightly due for sins. Never before had I prayed with such inner power as I did then. The words with which I entreated God are these: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us.
The next morning, when I entered chapel, I heard these words interiorly: “‘Every time you enter the chapel, immediately recite the prayer which I taught you yesterday.’ When I had said the prayer, in my soul I heard these words: ‘This prayer will serve to appease My wrath. You will recite it for nine days, on the beads of the rosary, in the following manner: First of all, you will say one OUR FATHER and HAIL MARY and the I BELIEVE IN GOD. Then on the OUR FATHER beads you will say the following words: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. On the HAIL MARY beads you will say the following words: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world. In conclusion, three times you will recite these words: Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world'” (Diary, 474-476).
An ancient Christian writer wrote that, “of all divine things, the most divine is to share with God in the saving of souls.” GOD AND SOULS was the motto of St. Faustina. Our Lord asked her to pray and offer the Chaplet for sinners and the dying, saying:
“Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties [that is, insistent prayers] obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer. You know the whole abyss of My mercy, so draw upon it for yourself and especially for poor sinners. Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul” (Diary, 1777).
Saint Faustina was often given the grace to know when a certain dying person desired or needed prayer; she would be alerted to the moment, by her Guardian Angel or by Our Lord Himself. At those times she would pray until she no longer felt the need to pray, or a sense of peace came upon her, or she learned that the person had died, or heard the soul say, “Thank You!” She wrote: “Oh, dying souls are in such great need of prayer! O Jesus, inspire souls to pray often for the dying” (Diary, 1015).
One of the best means of assisting the dying is the one that Jesus revealed to St. Faustina and insisted that she use often — even continuously: The Divine Mercy Chaplet. Jesus said: “My daughter, encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given to you. It pleases Me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet. … Write that when they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the merciful Savior (Diary, 1541).
Earlier, Our Lord said to her, “At the hour of their death, I defend as My own glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or when others say it for a dying person, the indulgence is the same” (Diary, 811).
What if the person prays from a distance? Saint Faustina had a love for the sick and dying, and prayed for them with great fervor. The following experiences recorded in her Diary make it clear that one does not have to be at the bedside physically. She wrote, “It sometimes happens that the dying person is in the second or third building away, yet for the spirit, space does not exist. It sometimes happens that I know about a death occurring several hundred kilometers away. This has happened several times with regard to my family and relatives and also sisters in religion, and even souls whom I have not known during their lifetime” (Diary, 835).
“‘My daughter, help Me to save a certain dying sinner. Say the chaplet that I have taught you for him.’ When I began to say the chaplet, I saw the man dying in the midst of terrible torment and struggle. His Guardian Angel was defending him, but he was, as it were, powerless against the enormity of the soul’s misery. A multitude of devils was waiting for the soul. But while I was saying the chaplet, I saw Jesus just as He is depicted in the image. The rays which issued from Jesus’ Heart enveloped the sick man, and the powers of darkness fled in panic. The sick man peacefully breathed his last. When I came to myself, I understood how very important the chaplet was for the dying. It appeases the anger of God” (Diary, 1565).
Recite on ordinary rosary beads (Diary, 476).
The Our Father
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.
The Hail Mary
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
The Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
Then on the “Our Father” beads (before each decade):
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
On the “Hail Mary” beads (of each decade):
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Concluding Doxology (after five decades):
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world (Three times).
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself (Diary, 950).
In dozens of places in her Diary Sister Faustina wrote about the Holy Trinity, but let’s survey just a few of the principal ones here.
First of all, she says that as she advanced in her journey with Jesus Christ and came to appreciate more deeply the compassion of His Heart, “His Trinitarian Being enveloped me entirely” (Diary, 1056). In other words, the more she grew closer to Jesus, the more she felt enveloped in the Holy Trinity. For example, on the Feast of the Ascension, 1937, she wrote:
After Holy Communion I communed for a while with the heavenly Father. My soul was drawn into the glowing center of love. I understood that no exterior works could stand comparison with the pure love of God. … I saw the joy of the Incarnate Word, and I was immersed in the Divine Trinity. When I came to myself, longing filled my soul, and I yearned to be united with God (Diary, 1121).
Notice in the last quote how she connects a deeper appreciation for the Trinitarian mystery of God with an appreciation of the “glowing center of love” in God. We find this again in entry 1020:
I understand the spiritual espousal of a soul with God, which has no exterior manifestation. It is a purely interior act between the soul and God. This grace has drawn me into the very burning center of God’s love. I have come to understand His Trinitarian quality and the absolute Oneness of His Being.
Often she received a deeper understanding of the Blessed Trinity during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. For example, in entry 472 she tells how one time she heard an angel singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” at the moment of the elevation of the Host, and then she received new light into the mystery of the Trinity:
I knew more distinctly than ever before the Three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But their being, their equality, and their majesty are one. My soul is in communion with these Three; but I do not know how to express this in words; yet my soul understands this well. Whoever is united to One of the Three Persons is thereby united to the whole Blessed Trinity, for this Oneness is indivisible (472).
Once after Holy Communion, I heard these words: You are our dwelling place. At that moment I felt in my soul the presence of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I felt that I was the Temple of God. I felt that I was a child of the Father. I cannot explain all this, but the Spirit understands this well (451).
Sister Faustina even tells us that in heaven the souls of the saints forever contemplate the wonder of the Holy Trinity:
Today I was in heaven, in spirit, and I saw its inconceivable beauties and the happiness that awaits us after death. I saw how all creatures give ceaseless praise and glory to God. I saw how great is happiness in God, which spreads to all creatures making them happy; and then all the glory and praise which springs from this happiness returns to its source; and they enter into the depths of God, contemplating the inner life of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, whom they will never comprehend nor fathom.
This source of happiness is unchanging in its essence, but it is always new, gushing forth happiness for all creatures. Now I understand St. Paul who said, “Eye has not seen, not has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him” (777).
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “That is all very beautiful, but I still don’t get it! What does the Trinity really mean? How can God be One in being and essence, but Three Persons at the same time? And what difference does it really make if we believe all this or not?”
Well, Sr. Faustina wanted to know more, too! Listen to what she wrote near the very start of her Diary:
On one occasion I was reflecting on the Holy Trinity, on the essence of God. I absolutely wanted to know and fathom who God is. … In an instant my spirit was caught up into what seemed to be the next world. I saw an inaccessible light, and in this light what appeared like three sources of light that I could not understand. And out of this light came words in the form of lightning which encircled heaven and earth. Not understanding anything, I was very sad. Suddenly, from this sea of inaccessible light came our dearly beloved Savior, unutterably beautiful with His shining Wounds. And from this light there came a voice which said, Who God is in His Essence, no one will fathom, neither the mind of angels nor of man. Jesus said to me, Get to know God by contemplating His attributes. A moment later, He traced the sign of the cross with His hand and vanished (30).
So, right from the start, Jesus was telling her that no one can ever completely fathom the mystery of the Trinitarian Being of God, but that if we contemplate God’s attributes, we can at least begin to understand it. And as we have seen, that is precisely what Sr. Faustina did: The more she contemplated the compassionate love in the Heart of Jesus, and the more she appreciated the “glowing center of love” in God and the “burning center of God’s love,” especially manifested in the Holy Eucharist, the more she began to appreciate what it means to say that God is Three Persons in One Being or Essence. She tells us the same thing in her extended meditation on the Trinity in entry 911:
On one occasion God’s presence pervaded my whole being and my mind was mysteriously enlightened in respect to His Essence. He allowed me to understand His interior life. In spirit I saw the Three Divine Persons; none of them is either greater or smaller; there is no difference in either beauty or sanctity, for They are One. They are absolutely One. His Love transported me into this knowledge and united me with Himself. When I was united to One, I was equally united to the Second and to the Third in such a way that when we are united with One, by that very fact, we are equally united to the Two Persons in the same way as with the One. Their will is One, One God though in Three Persons. When One of the Three Persons communicates with a soul, by the power of that one will, it finds itself united with the Three Persons and is inundated in the happiness flowing from the Most Holy Trinity, the same happiness that nourishes the saints. This same happiness that streams from the Most Holy Trinity makes all creation happy; from it springs that life which vivifies and bestows all life which takes its beginning from Him. In these moments, my soul experienced such great delights that I find this difficult to express.
Sr. Faustina was actually given the key that unlocks for us the mystery of the Trinity. Not only is the Trinity entirely true and justifiable on the basis of logic and of Scripture, but in the light of Divine Love, it begins to make sense of the mystery of God Himself.
After Holy Communion I communicated for a while with the heavenly Father. My soul was drawn into the glowing center of love. I understood that no exterior works could stand comparison with the pure love of God. … I saw the joy of the Incarnate word, and I was immersed in the Divine Trinity. When I came to myself, longing filled my soul, and I yearned to be united with God. …
I understood the spiritual espousal of a soul with God, which has no exterior manifestation. It is a purely interior act between the soul and God. This grace has drawn me into the very burning center of God’s love. I have come to understand His Trinitarian quality and the absolute Oneness of His Being.
~from the Diary of St. Faustina, 1121
According to Scripture and Sacred Tradition, God must not be seen as a solitary heavenly being, as if sitting alone on the heavenly throne by Himself. In St. John’s vision of the heavenly Kingdom, recorded in the last chapter of the Bible, he sees “the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev 22:1), in other words, the Spirit of God flowing eternally from the Father and the Son.
Thus, God’s own inner life, in a mysterious way, is Tripersonal. God is not a solitary person. Rather, from all eternity, from everlasting to everlasting, before He ever made the universe, and even if He had never made any universe at all, God already knew what it was like to love; in fact, He already enjoyed the fullness of perfect love — love given, love received, and love returned — within His own divine nature. As St. John wrote: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:7). “Love” is what God is by definition; in other words, perfect Love is going on within the divine nature all the time. It is not something God just chooses to do now and then. In His own eternal, infinite Being, therefore, God was never one solitary person, but always Three divine Persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — united forever in mutual, self-giving love.
As C.S. Lewis once wrote, their unity is like the unity among dancers who are moving to the same song in perfect harmony and perfect self-giving. Even so, the Three Persons share eternal joys, cooperate in divine purposes, and manifest together every divine perfection: an eternal dance of love among the Persons of the Blessed Trinity.
If God is a Holy Trinity defined in this way — a Trinity of eternal, perfect love — then this doctrine also tells us something important about why God created the world. He obviously did not create the world because He needed to, as if to cure Himself of His own loneliness, or to fulfill some unrealized potential in His own nature for loving relationship. God didn’t need to do any such thing, for He already knew what loving personal relationship was like — love given, love received, and love returned.
God already enjoyed the perfect fulfillment of loving relationship within His own nature, in the Trinity. Then if God did not need to create us, why did He do so? It can only be because He wanted to share His perfect love with creatures: He wanted to create beings who could take part, each one in its own way, in His perfect divine love, and enjoy it by joining in the dance!
Other religious faiths (such as Judaism and Islam) share our belief that there is One God. But what they fail to see is that if God is, as they hold, one single divine Person, then He cannot be said to have the attribute of perfect Love. For before such a God made the world, and apart from His relationship with the world, He would not have known the joy and perfection of loving personal relationship. Thus, in Himself, such a God could not be called the God of Love; He would only be “potentially loving,” for He would need to create a world in order to have something or someone to love. And even in His love relationship with the world, such a God would never know the perfect joy of having His love fully received and fully returned, something that finite creatures, even the best of them, could never do. Only divine Persons can fully receive infinite divine Love, and infinitely return it. In short, a unipersonal God would be a “needy” God: a divine being who created the world in order to fulfill His own potentials for loving personal relationship, and never quite succeeded. This hardly matches the Biblical witness to the infinite majesty, glory, and holiness of God!
On the other hand, if, as Christianity teaches, from everlasting to everlasting God is perfect Love within Himself, if He enjoys the perfection of personal relationship within His own eternal Being, if He is not one solitary person but Three Divine Persons united in self-giving love and sharing all the divine perfections, then it follows that God did not create us out of any selfish need of His own, but out of selfless generosity: out of an overflow, so to speak, of His Trinitarian love. He created us so that we might one day share in the same interpersonal love that makes up His own eternal joy. For it is the same divine love that eternally binds the Three into One, and it is the same Trinitarian Love that called us into being and invites us now to join in the dance.
Perhaps now we can begin to understand what St. Faustina meant when she wrote that coming to know the secret of the Trinity involves being “drawn into the glowing center of love,” when one is “immersed in the Divine Trinity.” But, she also added: “I do not know how to express this in words.”
Mercy Sunday or the Feast of Divine Mercy
The Revelations of Our Lord to St. Faustina
According to the doctrine of the Church we must distinguish between those matters communicated by God through the prophets, the apostles and the other sacred writers, and found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and the private revelations or apparitions He grants to individuals. These latter are given for our guidance, usually refer also to things in Public Revelation which must be believed, but in and of themselves are not of the faith. The revelations given to St. Faustina are private revelations about the Divine Mercy. As with most approved private revelations, much is simply the repetition in a new way of the perennial truths of the Catholic Faith. Other elements have a prophetic content, or make promises or requests, which depend entirely on the credibility of the witness, Sister Faustina.
A private revelation could obtain no higher degree of human credibility, the standard of reason applied by the Church, as one in which the mystic is canonized and the requests are acted upon by the Holy See. No one today disputes the devotion to the Sacred Heart, for example, which is now well-founded in Tradition, even though the impetus for its specific theological development was a private revelation. The same is true of the Mercy Devotion. The Pope in his prophetic office has sounded many of the same warnings as St. Faustina, as he has of Our Lady of Fátima. Nonetheless, while it may be imprudent or unreasonable to not accept the specific promises and warnings of St. Faustina, given the authentication of her life and message by the Church, it is not contrary to the faith. The conscience of each must nonetheless judge, avoiding both blind credulity and incredulity. As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, “Virtue is in the middle.” Or, as St. Paul says, “Test all things, retain what is good” (1 Thes. 5:21).
The Feast of Mercy
One of the requests of Our Lord which the Church has acted upon is the Feast of Mercy. On 30 April 2000, at the Canonization of Sr. Faustina, the Pope responded to this request by establishing on the Sunday after Easter a Feast dedicated to the Divine Mercy. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments officially notified the world’s Bishops of this decree on 23 May 2000. Today, the liturgical calendar, or Ordo, of all dioceses in the world now reflect that the Sunday after the Solemnity of Easter is the “Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday”.
Some confusion exists over the fact that this day is not officially called “The Feast of Mercy”. Feast can be understood in two senses, as a liturgical class, or as a general way for referring to all special days regardless of their liturgical class.
According to the first sense, liturgical class, Mercy Sunday is a Solemnity, the highest possible liturgical class (solemnity, feast, memorial, optional memorial). Beginning with Easter Sunday, the Solemnity of Solemnities, the Church celebrates an octave (8 days) of the Resurrection. This practice goes back to the Old Covenant and the Jewish practice of celebrating feasts, such as Unleavened Bread (of which Passover is a part), for eight days. Each day of the Octave is a Solemnity, in essence an extension of Easter Sunday. The principal prayers of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are those of Easter Sunday. This octave concludes with the Gospel account of Easter night, in which Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance, that is, of His Divine Mercy.
According to the general sense of feast, it is legitimate to refer to Divine Mercy Sunday as the Feast of Mercy, even though it is a Solemnity. A feast is the celebration of a saint or a special day. Regardless of liturgical class, we refer to a saint’s day as his or her feast day. Thus, it is appropriate here, too, to speak of the Feast of Mercy, or Easter, or Pentecost, all of which are Solemnities.
On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. (Diary of Sr. Faustina, 699)
Many take this to mean that they must go to Confession ON Mercy Sunday. This is not true. To receive the benefits of the Promise one must be in the state of grace. The Lord does not promise the absolution of grave sin on Mercy Sunday, but points us to the Sacrament of Penance. To receive the grace we should be disposed. This is done by a confession near the time of Mercy Sunday. According to the Cardinal of Krakow, the confession which a Catholic makes during Lent in preparation for Easter is sufficient. Priests do not have to provide confession on Mercy Sunday so that Catholics can satisfy this condition. Since it is a Sunday the condition of Communion can be easily satisfied (including at the Saturday Vigil Mass). Our Communion, as our Confession, should be especially devout.
Some refer to this grace as a Plenary Indulgence. While the effect is the same, complete remission of sin and the punishment due to it, it is not granted by the Church but by a promise of the Lord. Also, the conditions are fewer, only Confession and Communion. While the Lord also asks for veneration of His Image on Mercy Sunday, as well as acts of mercy, these do not appear to be essential to the Promise, though they certainly could manifest the disposition, or lack of disposition, of the person seeking it. The receipt of the grace is not magic, but necessarily involves the opening of our hearts to mercy. This is best done by deeds, words and thoughts of mercy towards others. That, too, takes God’s grace, but we can surely expect the actual graces to be merciful available to us on Mercy Sunday, if we but trust. The message clearly states the Lord’s willingness for the greatest generosity on this day. We do what our circumstances permit us, and trust in God. This is true also of those whose circumstances do not permit them to get to Communion on that day, such as the infirm and the home-bound. God does not ask the impossible.
The Holy See has not obliged anything in this regard. Indeed, whatever a parish does beyond the liturgical celebration of the Divine Mercy is regulated by the bishop and the pastor. However, there are several ways that a willing pastor can facilitate the public veneration of the Image of the Divine Mercy.
1. A parish which has just acquired the Image of the Divine Mercy for public veneration should have it blessed according to the rite for the “Blessing of an Image of Our Lord” (Book of Blessings, 1263-1276). Every parish should have this ritual book. This rite, however, may not be used within the Mass. Such a solemn blessing would be conferred only once on a particular Image.
2. A previously blessed image can be displayed in the Sanctuary during Mass. There is already in the rubrics the provision for incensing an image during the incensations of the Mass.
3. A previously blessed image can be left in the sanctuary for veneration by the faithful throughout the Feast of Mercy.
4. A previously blessed image can be used in processions, be the object of veneration during a communal recitation of the Chaplet of Mercy, or other devotions as the parish may celebrate during the Feast of Mercy.
Similar things can be done in the home also, privately venerating the Image, by the use of devotional candles, by a public display of the Image, family prayer, etc… These images should also be blessed. However, they do not receive the solemn blessing of an image used for “public veneration” (#1 above), just the simply blessing ordinarily given to religious objects (Book of Blessing 1442ff). This could even be done communally, if the pastor is willing.
The message and devotion to Jesus as The Divine Mercy is based on the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God’s mercy. Even before her death in 1938, the devotion to The Divine Mercy had begun to spread.The Divine Mercy Devotion involves a total commitment to God as Mercy. It is a decision to trust completely in Him, to accept His mercy with thanksgiving, and to be merciful as He is merciful.
No time in history is our world in need of Divine Mercy than at this very moment.Our world deserves Gods swift and unrelenting justice more now than at any other time in history.Never has evil been so prevelant nor hearts so cold and never has God been more hated,shown more disdain or been blasphemed or ridiculed more than our very day.And yet this good God comes with a message of divine mercy that is infinitely incomprehensible to our weak human understanding.Many Catholics even have a hard time accepting this devotion because it sounds too good to be true,it sounds too easy.However a look back at our catholic history will show us that Jesus and Mary have showered us relentlessly with spiritual gifts and weapons that seemed too good to be true.The love of our Good God for us as St Therese loved to refer to him is foolish and endless,his love for us will not stop.He longs to shower us with his love and mercy and what we give him in return is so little.When Jesus brought us the Divine Mercy Devotion he brought us an enormous treasure that we can’t even begin to comprehend!Listen to Jesus in his own words and really let these sink into your soul:
~I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. Diary 699 (Note: confession does not have to be done on the Sunday itself. Beforehand is fine)
~Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My Mercy. —St. Faustina’s Diary300
~Let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. Diary 848
~Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity. Diary965
~My Heart overflows with great mercy for souls, and especially for poor sinners. If only they could understand that I am the best of Fathers to them and that it is for them that the Blood and Water flowed from My Heart as from a fount overflowing with mercy. Diary 367
~These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him. I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy. Diary 299
~My daughter, write that the greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to My mercy; [urge] all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of My mercy, because I want to save them all. Diary 1182
~The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy. My mercy is confirmed in every work of My hands. He who trusts in My mercy will not perish, for all his affairs are Mine, and his enemies will be shattered at the base of My footstool. Diary 723
~[Let] the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy. Diary 1146
~I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy. Diary 1109
~I desire trust from My creatures. Encourage souls to place great trust in My fathomless mercy. Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the unmeasurable depths of My mercy. Diary 1059
~I demand the worship of My mercy through the solemn celebration of the Feast and through the veneration of the image which is painted. By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works. Diary 742
~ Tell [all people], My daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls. Jesus, Diary 1074
~I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You.” Diary327
~I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory. Jesus, Diary 48
~Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire lives as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but the Merciful Savior. At that last hour, a soul has nothing with which to defend itself except My mercy. Happy is the soul that during its lifetime immersed itself in the Fountain of Mercy, because justice will have no hold on it. Diary1075
During the course of Jesus’ revelations to Saint Faustina on the Divine Mercy He asked on numerous occasions that a feast day be dedicated to the Divine Mercy and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. The liturgical texts of that day, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, concern the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, the Tribunal of the Divine Mercy, and are thus already suited to the request of Our Lord. This Feast, which had already been granted to the nation of Poland and been celebrated within Vatican City, was granted to the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization of Sr. Faustina on 30 April 2000. In a decree dated 23 May 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.” These papal acts represent the highest endorsement that the Church can give to a private revelation, an act of papal infallibility proclaiming the certain sanctity of the mystic, and the granting of a universal feast, as requested by Our Lord to St. Faustina.
Concerning the Feast of Mercy Jesus said:
Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. (Diary 300)
I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. (Diary 341)
On one occasion, I heard these words: My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.*[our emphasis] On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary 699)
Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it. (Diary 742)
I want to grant complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy. (Diary 1109)
As you can see the Lord’s desire for the Feast includes the solemn, public veneration of the Image of Divine Mercy by the Church, as well as personal acts of veneration and mercy. The great promise for the individual soul is that a devotional act of sacramental penance and Communion will obtain for that soul the plenitude of the divine mercy on the Feast.
(*The Cardinal of Krakow, Cardinal Macharski, whose diocese is the center of the spread of the devotion and the sponsor of the Cause of Sr. Faustina, has written that we should use Lent as preparation for the Feast and confess even before Holy Week! So, it is clear that the confessional requirement does not have to be met on the Feast itself. That would be an impossible burden for the clergy if it did. The Communion requirement is easily met that day, however, since it is a day of obligation, being Sunday. We would only need confession again, if received earlier in Lenten or Easter Season, if we were in the state of mortal sin on the Feast.)
Jesus asked that the Feast of the Divine Mercy be preceded by a Novena to the Divine Mercy which would begin on Good Friday. He gave St. Faustina an intention to pray for on each day of the Novena, saving for the last day the most difficult intention of all, the lukewarm and indifferent of whom He said:”These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.’ The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy.”In her diary, St. Faustina wrote that Jesus told her:”On each day of the novena you will bring to My heart a different group of souls and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy … On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My passion, for the graces for these souls.
I will post the Novena prayers every morning starting on Good Friday so we can all pray it in union with all of the church.Remember the article what if this is your last Lent?Ask yourself what if this is my last Divine Mercy Sunday?As the great Mother Angelica would say:”Don’t miss the opportunity”!
Jesus we I trust in you!