April 17-19, 

    John Paul II and Divine Mercy - graphic from IDM site      Devotion to Divine Mercy as imparted in the 1930's by Our Lord to His faithful servant Blessed Sister Faustina Kowalska is considered Private Revelation and not officially recognized by the Church. Yet this devotion is so closely related to Sacred Scripture and the Will of God that Holy Mother Church is unofficially favorable, thanks in part to our present pontiff Pope John Paul II who has worked ceaselessly to promote this devotion and veneration of Jesus of Divine Mercy. No one should know better than this Polish prelate who was only a youngster in his teens during the purported messages to Blessed Faustina, but he has lived long enough to see the fruits of this devotion and the truth of these teachings...so much so that he personally oversaw the beatification of Sister Faustina on the unofficial Feast of Divine Mercy on April 18, 1993 in St. Peter's Square before hundreds of thousands. Two years prior to this the Pope spoke about Sister Faustina and this devotion in his Encyclical Dives in Misericordia - "Rich in Mercy" in which he coupled Matthew 5:7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" with the message of Mercy promulgated by this saintly Polish nun - Christ's hand-picked "apostle of Mercy." In elevating Faustina, the Holy Father was fulfilling part of what Our Lord had asked - for it is also Jesus' desire that a "Feast of Mercy" be established officially in the Church calendar when He told her, "This Feast emerged from the very depths of My Mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of My Tender Mercies (420)...It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the First Sunday after Easter...I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, 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 fountain of My Mercy." (699).

          Jesus also asked her to spread devotion to Divine Mercy through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, an annual special Novena to Divine Mercy and Veneration of the Image above. It is meant to be a reminder of all that Jesus did for us as the Paschal Victim and Victor. He told Blessed Faustina, "I want the image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it." (341).

          Though devotion to Divine Mercy has now spread throughout the world, it had its roots in Poland with an uneducated nun of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Closely confiding in her spiritual director Father Michael Sopocko, she wrote down over 600 pages of messages from Jesus which she compiled into what is today called her diary in the form of the book "Divine Mercy in my soul." In this diary Jesus mapped out the course all must take to beg for Mercy through the A,B,C's of Ask for His Mercy, Be Merciful, and Completely Trust in Jesus.

          It is often said that God allows evil for good. So was the case with His Devotion to Divine Mercy. Poland was one of the first countries to feel the full brunt of World War II suffering through six painful years which prompted the Slavic peoples to turn to Jesus and petition for His Mercy by constant recital of the Chaplet. As the war heated up in 1941, a Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception priest by the name of Father Joseph Jarzebowski stole away to the United States, smuggling this devotion with him. Though he was at first a doubter, during the tenuous and fearful trip eluding the Nazis, Fr. Joseph vowed that if he safely reached the shores of America he would do all in his power to spread this devotion throughout the U.S. In 1944, after much travail but with cooperation from fellow priests and the Felician Sisters, Fr. Joseph established the "Mercy of God Apostolate" in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on what is today Eden Hill and today the international hub for spreading devotion to Divine Mercy and furthering the cause of canonization for Blessed Faustina.

          The axiom "Anything worthwhile is worth fighting for" holds true for this devotion and the perseverance of all involved for in 1958 to 59, the words from Jesus about those who would try to stop it (378) came true when the Vatican proclaimed that no one could spread this devotion specifically given to Blessed Faustina. Their decision was based on false translations of excerpts from the Diary which somehow found their way into the Vatican Halls. It wasn't until the Polish Cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyla was elected Pope in 1978 that the ban was lifted. He and his dear friend and fellow countryman prelate Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski had fought, through proper channels to get the ban lifted. Once permission was given to once again spread devotion to Divine Mercy as given to Sister Faustina it spread like wildfire. Officially, the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation released a statement on July 12, 1979 to the Congregation of Marians which said in part, "there no longer exists, on the part of this Sacred Congregation, any impediment to the spreading of the devotion to The Divine Mercy in the authentic forms proposed by the Religious Sister mentioned above [Sister Faustina Kowalska]." It cleared the way for the Marians to once again take up the work begun by Fr. Joseph thirty five years before. This time, besides the Supernatural Ally of the Trinity, those spreading this devotion had a powerful earthly ally - the Holy Father himself.

    Blessed Sister Faustina - graphic from IDM site      On August 25, 1905 Helene Kowalska, the third of ten children, was born in the tiny village of Glogowiec just west of Lodz in Poland. In 1925, seeking a vocation she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy as a postulant. Their mission of taking care of and educating troubled young women appealed to the young Kowalska even though she herself was not educated. In 1926, upon entering the Novitiate, she was given the religious name of Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. During the 1930's as a professed nun Jesus appeared to her asking this humble servant to become His secretary for recording His Plan for Divine Mercy. As it turned out, with the help of Fr. Michael in 1934, she complied, compiling her diary even though this uneducated girl was terrified to write anything down fearing ridicule from her fellow nuns. Yet she did as Jesus asked as well as suffering as a victim soul. Yet she went about her religious duties joyfully and always offered everything to Jesus in atonement for her own sins and those of the whole world. Though she sought out a contemplative way of life in prayer, her fiat was to do whatever Our Lord asked of her including becoming a doer of mercy for and to all she came in contact with as her spiritual life became one of "deep humility, purity of intention, and loving obedience to the will of God in imitation of the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary." Her devotion to Our Lady and love for the Eucharist saw her through her darkest times for as the years waned her suffering increased, yet she continued to write, offering everything up and truly living what she was preaching. She knew intuitively from the Holy Spirit that her work would not die with her impending work as she wrote, "I feel certain that my mission will not come to an end upon my death, but will begin. O doubting souls, I will draw aside for you the veils of Heaven to convince you of God's goodness" (281).

          Jesus said in Matthew 7: 7,8, "Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened." This is His message of Divine Mercy to Blessed Faustina.

          Before Faustina died of tuberculosis in 1938, she had been asked by Jesus to begin a contemplative order of nuns, dedicated solely to calling down Divine Mercy night and day on a sinful world. Already a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and dying of tuberculosis, Faustina was unable to fulfill this request. But Jesus did not give up, and through His Blessed Mother, made this request known again on February 25, 1991 in a locution to the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart that she and her Divine Son desired this Order be founded. They again reiterated this in later messages, until through the tireless and selfless efforts of the Hidden Flower and many persecutions and setbacks, the Order was at last realized in the Institute of Divine Mercy with its Rule and Constitutions being officially approved and allowed to begin in the Diocese of Dallas by his Excellency Bishop Charles V. Grahmann on May 23, 1995. Less than two years later the Institute's monastery has graduated one class to the novitiate with a second group midway through their postulancy, all housed in a quiet monastic house on a spacious, cloistered lot in the quiet area of Forest Hills in East Dallas near the shores of White Rock Lake.

          The Institute's spiritual directors Father Karl Claver and Father Santos Mendoza are devoted not only to the objectives of the Rule, based on the teachings of Blessed Faustina, but are life-long advocates of devotion to Divine Mercy. For more on the Institute of Divine Mercy please see today's review for SIGNIFICANT SITES OF THE WEEK. Each nun is called to become as a chalice into which God will pour out His Infinite Mercy for the whole world. They strive to preserve the Latin tradition stated in their Holy Rule, spending a minimum of six hours each day in choir chanting the Divine Office in addition to the daily Latin Mass, the full fifteen decades of the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy three times a day and a generous amount of time before the Most Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Monstrance in the monastery chapel. There also is private time for solid spiritual reading and sessions for discussing Holy Scripture and the Diary of Blessed Faustina "Divine Mercy in my soul."

          Yes, finally, all that Jesus asked Blessed Faustina for is being fulfilled. Only one request remains, that of officially making the Feast of Mercy by the Church. There have been petitions processed with over 80,000 signatures and passed on to the Pope and the bishops in prayerful hope they'll follow the lead of John Paul II who on January 23, 1995 officially designated the Sunday after Easter as the Feast of Divine Mercy in Poland. Our prayer is that it will become worldwide. Each year the central focus in the United States is in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where the weekend draws upwards to 15,000 pilgrims. If you would like more information on this and the Devotion to Divine Mercy, you are invited to check out our review this issue on Divine Mercy

          A good prayer is the Memorare to St. Joseph of which Faustina wrote: "Saint Joseph urged me to have a constant devotion to him. He himself told me to recite every day three prayers [the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be] along with the Memorare once every day. He looked at me with great kindness and gave me to know how much he is supporting this work [of mercy]. He has promised me his special help and protection. I recite the requested prayers every day and feel his special protection" (1203).

    Following is the Memorare to Saint Joseph:
    Remember, O most pure spouse of Mary, and my dearly beloved guardian, Saint Joseph, that never was it known that anyone who invoked your care and requested your help was left without consolation. Inspired with this confidence, I come to you, and with all the ardor of my spirit I commend myself to you. Do not reject my prayer, O Foster Father of the Savior, but graciously receive and answer it. Amen.

          There are countless other prayers that can be obtained by checking out the Marian Helpers site. We are grateful to the Marians of the Immaculate Conception for their thorough material in helping us compile this article on Divine Mercy and the devotions provided. We leave you with one thought:JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU!

    April 17-19, 1998 volume 9, no. 75     LITURGY

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