Divine Mercy Sunday offers spiritual benefits - Catholic Courier
The image of Divine Mercy.

The image of Divine Mercy is seen at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral April 19, 2020. (Courier file photo)

Divine Mercy Sunday offers spiritual benefits

For almost 24 years, the Sunday after Easter has had a special place in the life of the Catholic Church. St. John Paul II designated it as Divine Mercy Sunday when he canonized St. Maria Faustina Kowalska on April 30, 2000.

But who was St. Faustina, and what is meant by Divine Mercy?

A Polish nun becomes ‘Secretary of Divine Mercy’

St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who lived from 1905-38, received private revelations from Jesus Christ during the 1930s. The Catholic Church approved these revelations as authentic, according to a profile of St. Faustina on the Vatican website, and she was declared a saint.

In appearances to St. Faustina, Jesus asked her to spread the Divine Mercy devotion. Naming her the “Secretary of Divine Mercy,” he instructed her to keep a diary of his messages and her experiences. The diary has been published in several languages as Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska — Divine Mercy in My Soul.

According to the diary, Jesus asked St. Faustina to have an image painted of him with the caption “Jesus, I trust in you.” He also asked for the establishment of a feast day, which became Divine Mercy Sunday. In addition, the Lord gave her the Novena to Divine Mercy, which runs from Good Friday to Divine Mercy Sunday, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which is to be prayed with rosary beads.

The message of Divine Mercy given to St. Faustina prompts the faithful to ask Christ for his mercy, to be merciful to others and to completely trust in Jesus, according to the Divine Mercy website administered by the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. The congregation operates the National Shrine to the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., as well as Marian Press, which publishes the diary.

Divine Mercy Sunday offers spiritual benefits

In entry 699 of her diary, St. Faustina wrote that Jesus called for the special feast to be created in honor of Divine Mercy:

“My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a 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.”

Yet, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception website states: “Divine Mercy Sunday is NOT a feast based solely on St. Faustina’s revelations. Indeed, it is not primarily about St. Faustina — nor is it altogether a new feast. The Second Sunday of Easter was already a solemnity as the Octave Day of Easter. The title ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’ does, however, highlight the meaning of the day.”

To encourage devotion to Divine Mercy, St. John Paul II called for the establishment of indulgences to be granted to the faithful who participate in prayers and devotions in honor of Divine Mercy.

“The faithful with deep spiritual affection are drawn to commemorate the mysteries of divine pardon and to celebrate them devoutly. They clearly understand the supreme benefit, indeed the duty, that the People of God have to praise Divine Mercy with special prayers and, at the same time, they realize that by gratefully performing the works required and satisfying the necessary conditions, they can obtain spiritual benefits that derive from the Treasury of the Church,” notes the Vatican decree granting the indulgences.

The Divine Mercy is a private revelation recognized by the Catholic Church

According to the apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (“The Word of the Lord”), the Catholic Church gives its approval to private revelations if the message “contains nothing contrary to faith and morals.” Once approved, a revelation and message may be made public, and “the faithful are authorized to give to it their prudent adhesion” (Verbum Domini No. 14).

The document explains that private revelation can introduce new emphases, give rise to pious practices, and possess a prophetic character for better understanding and living out the Gospel in a certain time of history.

While private revelation should not be treated lightly, Verbum Domini states that “it is a help which is proffered, but its use is not obligatory” (No. 14).

Examples of other approved private revelations include the apparition of Mary as the Immaculate Conception to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, in 1858, and the apparitions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in Paray, France (1673-75).

The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception’s Divine Mercy website also notes that “The message and devotional practices proposed in the Diary of Saint Faustina … are completely in accordance with the teachings of the Church and are firmly rooted in the Gospel message of our Merciful Savior. Properly understood and implemented, they will help us grow as genuine followers of Christ.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Why Do Catholics…?” is a feature series that aims to answer questions about what Catholics do and believe. To suggest a question to feature, email Newsroom@CatholicCourier.com.

Tags: Religious Orders, Why do Catholics?
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