The Divine Mercy devotion was revealed by God to a young nun of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, Poland, St. Faustina Kowalska, in 1931. The Lord Jesus instructed her to have an image painted of what she saw. He would speak to her a lot about His desire to pour out His mercy upon the world, if only we would ask for His mercy and show mercy to others. In the image Jesus has one hand raised in blessing and the other is pointing at His heart. There are two rays of light coming from His heart, representing the blood and water that flowed from His side when He was pierced by the soldier’s lance as He hung upon the Cross. The light ray represents the healing waters of Baptism, and the red represents the Most Precious Blood of our Lord, which “is the life of souls.”
St. Faustina’s spiritual director instructed her to write a diary about all her visions of Jesus and everything that He revealed to her. The devotion to the Divine Mercy began to spread in the 1930’s, even before her death in 1938. On April 30, 2000, Pope St. John Paul II canonized St. Faustina, and declared the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday for the Church throughout the world.
There are three parts of the devotion. The first part is the image, which is meant to help us to meditate on the mercy of God, and on our need for His mercy. The second is the novena, which is prayed from Good Friday through Easter Saturday. The Divine Mercy chaplet can be prayed throughout the year at any time of day, but it is recommended to pray it during the 3 o’clock hour, the hour of mercy when Jesus died on the Cross. Jesus told St. Faustina, “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. This is the hour of great mercy.”
This devotion reminds us of the great mercy of God and that God is always ready to forgive the sins of those who ask. No sin is greater than God’s mercy. We may think that our sins are too great or that we aren’t worthy of forgiveness, but remember that Jesus Christ even forgave the very people who put Him on the Cross, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Being reminded of the mercy of God also reminds us that we do, in fact, need mercy and forgiveness. God won’t force anything on us, even forgiveness; we have to recognize that we’ve sinned, that we’ve offended Him, that we’re in need of forgiveness, and ask for it. For the novena prayers, follow the link on the parish website, under the “Resources” tab under “Resources for Prayer”: www.olol-church.com.
How to Prayer the Divine Mercy Chaplet on a Rosary:
1. Make the Sign of the Cross, then say the optional opening prayer: You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed fourth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty yourself our upon us. O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You! (say last sentence 3 times).
2. Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostles Creed.
3. On the Our Father beads, pray: Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
4. On the Hail Mary beads, pray: For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
5. After 5 decades, on the medallion pray 3 times: Holy God, Holy Might One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
6. Say the Optional Closing Prayer: Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us, and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair, nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy Itself. Amen.
7. Finish with the Sign of the Cross
In the Gospel of Matthew the Sermon on the Mount, in chapters 5-7, introduces Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Beatitudes introduce the Sermon on the Mount. The word “beatitude” comes from the Latin translation of the passage. The Latin word for “blessed” is beati, from which we get the word Beatitudes. It’s also related to the term “Beatific Vision,” or blessed vision, which is the vision of God in heaven. So, in a way, we might say that the Beatitudes are the instructions for achieving the Beatific Vision in heaven.
Throughout the Old Testament of the Bible God makes certain promises to the chosen people; descendants as numerous as the stars, the land, a kingdom, the blessing to the nations, etc. The Catechism, paragraph 1716, says that the Beatitudes “take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfill the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of heaven.” The beatitudes help to reorient us to heaven, the ultimate goal of our life. They’re an invitation and call to the entire Church and to each individual, showing us that our ultimate vocation, or calling, is the vocation to holiness, which each person lives out in the particular vocation that they are called to, either religious life or Holy Matrimony, and in day-to-day life.
Every human being naturally seeks happiness, and happiness is the only thing that we seek for its own sake. Why do I go to work? To make money. Why do I need money? To buy a new fishing reel. Why do I want a new fishing reel? Because fishing makes me happy. Ultimately, every decision comes back to something that we think will make us happy. Therefore, the key is to know what will truly make us happy and what will only bring about more misery. Ironically, when we do things out of a completely selfish desire for happiness, we find that they make us unhappy in the end. The things that we do for others are what make us happiest in the long run.
The beatitudes may seem to be contradictory, by saying that the poor, hungry, and persecuted are blessed, or happy, but the beatitudes all change our focus from ourselves to God and to our neighbor. The beatitudes are part of God’s law, the moral law, like the Ten Commandments. Whereas the Ten Commandments are more direct commands, the Beatitudes invite us to do those things that will make us blessed, but both the Commandments and the Beatitudes are about our relationship with God and with our neighbors.
The Catechism, paragraph 1717, says, “The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray his charity. They express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection; they shed light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life; they are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope int he midst of tribulations; they proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples; they have begun in the lives of the Virgin Mary and all the saints.” The beatitudes are a description of Jesus Christ, who is the Most Blessed One. He is the One who is truly poor in spirit, meek, merciful, and pure in heart. He is the peacemaker who hungers and thirst for righteousness and who mourns for the sins of the world. He is the One who was persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Therefore, we can only be blessed by becoming conformed to Christ.
Whether you’re trying to put together a piece of furniture or trying to figure out a new computer application there’s a well-known catch phrase, “If all else fails, read the directions.” I’ve been known to live by that sort of thinking myself, since figuring it out for yourself is a greater challenge, like solving a puzzle. If you mess up your new bookshelf, though, you’re probably going to be okay. I wouldn’t recommend rebuilding your cars transmission without some sort of training, though, because you’re risking a lot more.
In the same way, God hasn’t left us in the dark about what is necessary for salvation. He’s given us the Bible and the Church, He’s sent prophets and apostles to teach us His ways, and He’s sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to show us the way. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me” (Jn 14:6), and “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). One of the most fruitful things we can do for our spiritual life is to spend time every day meditating on the Passion, Cross, and Resurrection of Christ. You can do that by praying the Rosary and using it to meditate on the mysteries of the life of Christ, praying the Stations of the Cross, other devotions that help you to meditate on the Cross, or reading the Gospels accounts of the Passion of Christ. These can be found in Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, and John 18-21.
Christian meditation is a form of mental prayer. It isn’t about emptying your mind or thinking about nothing; that isn’t prayer. Rather, meditation is the process of using your mind, your reason and imagination, to enter into the mysteries of the faith and apply them to your own life. You should begin by asking the Holy Spirit to guide your prayer. Then, read through the Bible passage your using, and don’t be tempted to use too long of a passage. You may find it useful to read it several times. Ask yourself what the Bible is saying in context. What does it teach you about God? What moral or spiritual lesson does it have? Sometimes it can be helpful to imagine yourself in the story as a witness or even as a participant. If you’re not sure about something look to the teachings of the Church, especially in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to interpret the Bible. Then, apply it to your own life. What is God saying to me in this passage? How is God calling me to conversion and holiness? How can I apply this call to my own life? End you time of prayer by thanking the Lord.
When we do this the Bible, the mysteries of the faith, and the life of Christ stop being some far off thing and become something very personal. God can then use them to speak directly to you. During this Lent, prepare yourself for the Resurrection of the Lord and the everlasting life of heaven by spending some time meditating on the Cross of Christ.
When we do something often, like driving, we become more and more familiar with it. This is one of the reasons that new drivers get in more accidents than experienced drivers. New drivers have to pay more attention to what they’re doing because experienced drivers have trained themselves to do these things almost automatically. It reaches a point where we become so familiar with something that we actually stop paying attention to it; like when you miss your turn because the route you’re taking is so familiar that you automatically start driving home instead of where you meant to go. Food can be like that, too, and music, and even relationships with other people. We become so familiar with them that we’re not really paying attention to them, because we think we know them already.
Religion, our relationship with God, is the same. The more familiar we become with Mass, prayer, and the faith, the more depths we see in it, but if we’re not careful we might stop paying real attention to God. Lent is a time to remind ourselves to pay attention. We do this by rededicating ourselves to fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Through fasting we step back from the good things of this world and deny our passions. Fasting shows that we love God more than the good things that He gives us and allows us to focus on God Himself without distractions. We then turn to prayer to grow closer to the Lord, especially by meditating on the Passion and Crucifixion of the Lord. Prayer and fasting should lead us to almsgiving and acts of charity to stir up our love for God and neighbor.
Catholics from 18 to 59 years old fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We fast by having only one normal-sized meal throughout the day and two snacks that together don’t equal a full meal, liquids are not restricted, and those whose health prohibits them from doing this are excused. Catholics aged 14 and older abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent, and abstain from a food of their choice on all Fridays, unless a solemnity falls on a Friday. Many Catholics also choose some other penance to do during Lent. Our fast is an offering to the Lord. So, we don’t fast from sinful things because we shouldn’t be doing those things anyway. We fast from good things to make a worthy offering to the Lord. Then, our fasting can lead us to repentance, prayer, and almsgiving.
The key to having a good Lent, to really renewing our spiritual lives and relationship with God, is the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion. The prayer and fasting of Lent ought to remind us of how our sins have damaged our relationship with God. Through confession our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled with the Lord, and in the Eucharist we encounter God Himself. Our prayers, fasting, and almsgiving should be inspired by the sacraments and lead us back to the sacraments.
Fr. Bryan became pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes on July 3, 2017. Read his bio here.