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The Origin and Purpose of the Divine Mercy Devotion


Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. This feast and devotion was given to us by Jesus Himself through St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, better known as simply St. Faustina. I would like to spend some time explaining this beautiful Catholic devotion.


I will not go into an in-depth biography of St. Faustina’s life, but briefly, she was the third of ten children born to a poor peasant family and given the name Helen in Glogowiec, Poland on August 25, 1905. Even as a child, she exhibited piety, obedience, gentleness, and great devotion to prayer. She felt called to religious life, but her parents were adamantly opposed, so she took on work as a housekeeper to help support her family. Eventually, however, she was able to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy on August 1, 1925, where she took the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. During her time in religious life, Faustina received many visions and communications directly from Jesus and enjoyed a very close relationship with Him. She was also given many sufferings, both physical and spiritual to serve as atonement for all of the sinners of the world because, as we know, with great love comes great suffering and she deeply loved Jesus.


For the duration of the last four years of her life, Jesus instructed Faustina to keep a diary. In it, she documented her encounters with God, her interactions with others, insights into her suffering, and most importantly, accounts of the depths of God’s mercy as she continually seeks out to do His will as He instructs her. The diary of St. Faustina is now a book, printed in many languages, and readily available to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of Jesus’ bottomless font of super-abundant mercy for us. The book is nearly 700 pages long and is comprised of 1,828 paragraphs. Now, before you let the sheer volume of content be a deterrent to you, let me explain further. The diary entries are not made up of exhaustive explanations of her entire day. Rather, they are typically short reflections on an interaction with Jesus, another person, or her personal reflection on mercy. While they do follow a chronological order from which her story emerges, it does not necessarily have to be read that way to speak to your soul. It is possible to open the book at random and choose one single entry on which to meditate. That single entry will be more than enough material to penetrate your heart. The book also contains an index in which you can find a particular topic on which to meditate. The entries are so profound, that a particular entry can speak one thing to you in one season in life, and something entirely different in another season. Therefore, it is a book in which you can return to repeatedly, whatever your situation. I must also add, this a particularly good book to bring into Eucharistic Adoration as you can choose one paragraph and allow the truth and beauty of the mercy of God to penetrate your heart in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.


As Jesus spoke to Faustina, He gave her specific instructions on how she was to promote this devotion to His Divine Mercy. On February 22, 1931, Faustina was given a vision of an image:


In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand [was] raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside from at breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale…After a while, Jesus said to me, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You.” (Diary, 47)


In explaining the meaning of the rays coming out of Jesus’ heart, Faustina explains:


The pale ray stands for Water which makes our souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls…Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter. (Diary, 299)


By venerating this image, we are called into contemplation of both trust and mercy.

Along with the image, Jesus instructed the institution of a feast day to accompany it. He said to Faustina:

I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy.(Diary, 49)


The very feast we celebrate today was instituted by Christ Himself and implemented by obedient, Holy Mother Church. The timing of the feast points to the deep connection between the Paschal Mystery – Christ’s work of redemption accomplished principally by His Passion, death, Resurrection, and glorious Ascension – and the mystery of Divine Mercy, which He extends to us so that we can receive the benefits of that redemptive work. Jesus says:


On this 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 …Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. (Diary, 699)


Jesus also gave to us the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy through St. Faustina. It is a chaplet prayer in which we offer to God the Father, “the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of … Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the entire world.” In other words, we appeal to Jesus’ endless mercy for all of humanity. This prayer is particularly powerful for the dying, as Jesus said to St. Faustina:


When this chaplet is said by the bedside of a dying person, God’s anger is placated, unfathomable mercy envelops the soul. (Diary, 811) It pleases me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet, …if what you ask for is compatible with my will. (Diary, 1541 & 1731)


While praying the chaplet at any time is always efficacious, even more graces can be found when praying it during the hour of mercy, which is 3:00pm – the hour in which Christ died on the cross. By praying at this time for divine mercy to pour out of the heart of Jesus for all the sinners of the world, you are mystically placing yourself at the foot of the cross when Jesus perfectly completed His act of love and mercy for us. Jesus promised:


In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world – mercy triumphed over justice. (Diary, 1572)


Divine Mercy is such a gift to us! One that we don’t even deserve. How will you respond to this gift today and everyday going forward? Spend this day with a disposition of profound gratitude for the gift Jesus has given you, both through His Paschal Mystery and His continued font of Divine Mercy. In being open to receiving this gift, it follows that you will then extend that mercy to others, which continues to spread the gift into the entire world. If you do not yet have a devotion to praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, find a good aid. It is easy to learn and only takes about six to seven minutes to pray on your own. It will be well worth the time invested.


OUR LORD’S PROMISES ATTACHED TO THE PRAYING OF THE CHAPLET OF DIVINE MERCY AS REVEALED TO ST. FAUSTINA KOWALSKA

  1. “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image (of Divine Mercy) 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.” (Diary, 48)

  1. “The souls that say this chaplet will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death.” (Diary, 754)

  1. “When hardened sinners say it, I will fill their souls with peace, and the hour of their death will be a happy one.” (Diary, 1541)

  1. “When they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as a just Judge but as a merciful Savior.” (Diary, 1541)

  1. “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death.” (Diary, 687)

  1. “Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy…I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy.” (Diary, 687)

  1. “To priests who proclaim and extol My mercy, I will give wondrous power; I will anoint their words and touch the hearts of those to whom they will speak.” (Diary, 1521)

  1. “The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion for sinners. Know, my daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered.” (Diary, 1397)

  1. “At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony…I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion.” (Diary, 1320; also, cf. Diary, 1572)

  1. “Souls who spread the honor of My mercy…at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but the Merciful Savior.” (Diary, 1075)

  1. “The two rays denote Blood and Water…These two rays issued from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father…I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy…whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment. Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy.” (Diary, 299-300)

  1. “I desire that the Feast of Mercy…be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter…The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion (in a state of grace on this day) shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Diary, 699)

  1. “Through this chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will.” (Diary, 1731)

  1. “My mercy is greater than your sins and those of the entire world.” (Diary, 1485)

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