Those of you who are regular readers of Life on Purpose know I fully enter into the ebb and flow of the liturgical seasons of my Catholic faith. I love the extended times of fasting and the celebrations. It’s one of the many reasons I am a lifelong committed Catholic. We pray hard and we celebrate as much.
I do love celebrating the birth of Christ with the 12 days of Christmas. And Easter — well that’s the culmination of the reason behind Christ coming to earth. We need a longer time to get ready for Easter — enter the 40 days of Lent — and an even longer time to celebrate Easter. We celebrate Easter for 50 days! This year I started my fast in January. That glass of rose’ never tasted so good as on Easter Sunday.
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter and since the year 2000, this Sunday has been celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.
The Divine Mercy devotion started with a nun in Poland, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska. Jesus appeared to her over a period of seven years from 1931 to 1938. The basic message of Divine Mercy is trusting in and abandoning oneself to the infinite love and mercy of God. It’s not a new message— but Jesus taught it to Sister Faustina, a simple farm girl become nun, in a new and profound way so that it could be the message for a new millennium.
The devotion to Divine Mercy is promoted and practiced in the image, a novena, and in praying a simple series of prayers called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. There is an excellent movie about Divine Mercy on Amazon Prime. You can read about the devotion here.
After 20 years of being banned by the Vatican because of a faulty translation of Saint Faustina’s diary, the Divine Mercy message and devotion was promoted and promulgated by Pope John Paul II, the first Polish Pope, who also canonized Saint Faustina in the year 2000. At that same time, he designated the First Sunday after Easter be devoted to Divine Mercy — a request Jesus made to Saint Faustina.
Providentially, Saint JPII died on the vigil before Divine Mercy Sunday — a testament to his life’s mission for the mercy of God.
Catholic devotions often involve special prayers and petitions that can appear to be a type of “Catholic calisthenics.” Like any rituals we practice —even exercise, diet changes, and meditation — the practices themselves are not the goal. Living healthier lives with a more positive perspective is the goal ahead. It’s the same with these prayers and practices; the prayers and practices are a means to deepening our relationship with God.
The devotion to Divine Mercy incorporates a series of prayers which focus on the mercy of God and an image of Jesus as He appeared to Faustina in these visions. Saint Faustina commissioned an artist to paint the image of Jesus according to her descriptions. It is said that Saint Faustina cried at the depiction, realizing that no artist on earth could capture the beauty of Jesus as she witnessed Him in these apparitions.
In the image, the eyes of Jesus seem to look into the depths of one’s heart. St Faustina saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left hand was touching His garment in the area of the Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other white, a reminder of the blood of Christ and the waters of baptism. Jesus instructed St. Faustina to have the words “Jesus I Trust in You” written on the bottom of the image.
“Divine Mercy in My Soul —The Diary of Saint Faustina” is a beautiful account of these years of visions and revelations. A simple Polish nun with little education or theological training was infused with a deep knowledge of the mercy of God.
Over the past 35 years, I have found the image of and the prayers to Divine Mercy to be helpful in the hours of my greatest needs. I prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at the bedside of many family and friends in the final hours before death — offering all of us a sense of consolation in the mercy of God.
The novena to Divine Mercy which is traditionally prayed for nine days beginning on Good Friday is a call from the heart of God to immerse the world in the ocean of mercy. From the time my daughter Johanna was born, I had a very real and personal experience of God’s mercy —especially through a nightmare turned into a message.
In this recurring nightmare, I was treading water, out in the middle of the ocean holding my infant daughter in my arms. After she was diagnosed with a large brain tumor at three months of age, I knew the nightmares were a message. But it would be many years later that I would come to a deeper understanding of the dreams and the ocean in which I fought to stay alive.
One night in the dream, I heard the Lord speak to me — “You can let go. You are in the ocean of my mercy. You will feel like you are drowning as the ocean rises over your heads, but I will teach you a new way of breathing —how to breathe underwater.”
If I have learned anything about the mercy of God in these past 30 years, it is that mercy is the very essence of who God is —infinite, inexhaustible love. If we want God in our lives at all —we often want Him to be the one who protects us and answers our well-prayed prayers.
Divine Mercy teaches us that God is immeasurably more— an unfathomable ocean of forgiveness and love.
Terrorist bombings of churches at Easter, acts of hatred and intolerance all show us that this world needs more of the mercy of God.
No matter what’s going on in your life or whatever good or bad you have done or have yet do —God loves you and desires you to be immersed in the ocean of His mercy. May the prayer of our hearts be, “Jesus, I trust in You.”
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