Today, Catholics worldwide will mark Divine Mercy Sunday. Blessed John Paul II established Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000 as a feast celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter – a day when the liturgical readings highlight mercy and the clergy urge the lay faithful to seek God’s unending mercy. The Pope announced the new feast on the same day he canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, a 20th century Polish nun who had a vision of Jesus in which He asked for devotions to Divine Mercy. This devotion is multifaceted and has many different components: it involves a divinely inspired painting of Jesus with attached promises for its veneration, vocal prayers (the Divine Mercy chaplet and Divine Mercy Novena), a book (The Diary of Faustina Kowalska), a Holy Hour (3 O’clock), and a solemn feast day with attached indulgences (Divine Mercy Sunday). The Acting Editor, NETA NWOSU chats with Rev. Fr. Sylvester-Mary Oladunjoye, Chaplain, Divine Mercy Devotion, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos on the significance of the devotion as well as the 3 ‘O clock prayer, what the Feast of Divine Mercy entails, plenary indulgence and lots more. Excerpts
How did the Devotion to “The Divine Mercy’ come about? What does the Devotion to “The Divine Mercy” signify?
The Devotion to the Divine Mercy (or God’s Mercy) became popular after the contents of the Diary, “Divine Mercy in my Soul” of St. Maria Faustina Helena Kowalska (St. Faustina for short – 1905 – 1938) were released. Prior to that time, the knowledge of the mercy of God has always been there. The life and Diary of St. Faustina made the knowledge and devotion to Divine Mercy popular and widespread. The Devotion to the Divine Mercy signify our unwavering trust in the Mercy of God as the only hope of humanity (Diary no. 699). The sacred scripture is full of stories of Divine Mercy in action. In the Gospels, Divine Mercy became incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. Indeed, God isn’t merciful because of Himself. He’s because of us. And we make Him happy when we not only ask Him for mercy but also trust in His unfathomable and infinite mercy. In Diary no. 699, He said: “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.”
Why is 3 ‘O’ Clock so important for practising the Devotion to Divine Mercy?
3 O’clock is the time our Lord died on the cross on Good Friday. In His several Apparitions to St. Faustina, He named 3 O’clock (in the afternoon) as the “Hour of Great Mercy for the whole world” (Diary no. 1320). At this time, we’re called to implore His mercy, even for a brief moment and immerse ourselves in His passion particularly His abandonment at the time of agony. To anyone who’ll observe this hour of mercy is promised several favours, blessings and mercies. The 3 O’clock prayer can be found in Diary no. 187 which is “O blood and water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You (3ce).” In the Divine Mercy Devotion, ‘trust’ in God’s mercy is very fundamental. Without it, every hope for mercy will be in vain. That’s why the signature of the Divine Mercy Image is not “Jesus, have mercy on me” but “Jesus, I trust in You” (Diary nos. 47, 50).
What happens when you pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet?
We surrender ourselves trustfully to the infinite, unfailing and unfathomable mercy of God. Divine Mercy is the only hope of humanity, saints and sinners. Without it, even the holiest can’t be saved.
What is the meaning of Divine Mercy Sunday? What does the Feast of Divine Mercy entail?
Divine Mercy Sunday was demanded by our Lord in several of His apparitions to St. Faustina. Indeed, the entire Easter Octave is about Divine Mercy and forgiveness. That’s why the Novena to Divine Mercy covers the most of this period, beginning on Good Friday. The theme of Mercy has always been in the Mass of the second Sunday of Easter. The title “Divine Mercy Sunday” was given to this second Sunday of Easter for the universal Church by Pope St. John Paul II on 30th April, 2000 at the canonization ceremony of the first Saint of the 21st century – St. Maria Faustina. By 5th May, 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacrament issued a decree that this appellation is not an optional one for the second Sunday of Easter. It’s an obligatory one for the universal Church.
What is the role of the Parish primarily on Divine Mercy Sunday?
The parish, led by the Parish Priest or Priest-in-charge should help prepare the faithfuls for this Sunday by catechesis and sacramental confession. Specially on Divine Mercy Sunday, the homily should be based on the content of this Divine Mercy Doctrine. That Sunday, the priest should lead the faithful in the veneration of the Divine Mercy Image (following COVID protocols). The Divine Mercy Image is one special image of our Lord painted at His bidding by one Polish artist – Eugene Kazimirowski under the supervision of St. Faustina in 1934. According to our Lord’s prescription, the image should be on the Sanctuary as a constant reminder that the fount of Divine Mercy is always there for us to drink from. No one can have too much of God’s mercy. It’s the case that we don’t know much about it, trust in Him or devoted to Him.
Can one receive extraordinary graces on Divine Mercy Sunday?
Yes. Our Lord promised that “those who’ll make sacramental Confession and receive Holy Communion on this day shall receive the complete forgivenenss of sins and total cancellation of due punishments” (Diary no. 699).
How can the physically challenged receive the graces promised on Divine Mercy Sunday when they can’t get to the Church owing to their challenges?
Everyone who trusts in Divine Mercy and fulfils the conditions can obtain these graces. The physically challenged, the emotionally down, the spiritually lukewarm, etc are not left out. One of the special characteristics of the Divine Mercy Sunday is that the Divine Mercy Image will be solemnly blessed by the priest (Diary no. 49). The physically challenged can venerate this image wherever they see one, in the Church or an already blessed one at home. What is fundamental is that each venerating soul trusts in Him who’s Divine Mercy incarnate – Jesus Christ.
Please shed more light on God’s mercy in hell and purgatory.
In hell, God’s mercy is not available to damned souls. In fact, there damnation is as a result of the rejection of God’s mercy. On the other hand, Purgatory exists as a result of and testament to God’s Mercy. So, in hell, there’s no more redemption. In purgatory, there’s redemption. The destiny of the souls in purgatory is heaven. That’s why we have devotions to them. Simply put, for the souls in hell, no redemption is possible. For the souls in purgatory, no damnation is possible.
Why do we call Mary ‘Mother of Mercy’?
Mary is called the Mother of Mercy because she’s the daughter of God the Father, the eternal source of Divine Mercy; the Mother of God the Son, Jesus Christ, the mercy incarnate Himself; and the spouse of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of our merciful God. As she had mercy on the couple at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee (Jn. 2:1-11), She is ready to have mercy on every of her children, Christian or not, who trustfully approaches her for her unfailing intercession. The desire of God that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) is also her desire.
What is the theme of this year’s Divine Mercy Sunday celebration?
Please enlighten us on this theme. The theme is “Divine Mercy, accompanying us every moment of our life” (Diary no. 949). If Jesus Christ is the Mercy of God incarnate, and we live and move and have our being in Him (Acts 17:28), then, we cannot be in existence without His Mercy already in action (Diary no. 699) All of us are beneficiaries of His mercies. However, most of us take Him for granted, trust Him too little or theorize too much about His infinite mercy. Some even think that the mercy of God is an old teaching, already overemphasized, and like an indirect encouragement for sinners to continue sinning. Some even intentionally fail to talk about it. They talk about Divine Justice instead. Many are like Prophet Jonah of old, fearful that God’s Mercy will save sinners. The Doctrine of Divine Mercy is not a political ideology, scientific finding or psychological discovery.
It is not one that can be weakened, damaged or retailed. It is one that is fullest, purest, safest and most appropriate for every trusting soul, no matter the depth of sinfulness or the height of righteousness. As He said to her “Before I come as a just judge, I first open the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of my mercy, must pass through the door of my justice” (Diary no. 1146). And who is so righteous as to survive Divine Justice? No sin can overwhelm the Mercy of God. The totality of the sins ever committed by humanity cannot even weaken it. May God help us to trust in His unfathomable mercy, ever available for us. And may we become proud ambassadors of His endless mercy for fallen and helpless humanity. Amen. Jesus, I trust in You