Divine Mercy Sunday
ROME, APRIL 18, 2007 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
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Q: Would you please clarify what is "special" about Divine Mercy Sunday, and what the faithful and priests have to do in order to obtain the special grace associated with this day? According to the priests that I have spoken to, the same graces can be obtained at reception of holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday as on any other day when Communion is received by a communicant in a state of grace, i.e., a plenary indulgence. So what is different about Divine Mercy Sunday and how should the liturgy be properly celebrated so that the faithful may receive the special graces associated with it? -- J.C., Ballina, Ireland
A: The devotion to the Divine Mercy stems from the revelations made to the Polish nun St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) over a number of years and at several convents, including the one in Krakow where she is buried.
There are several elements involved in this devotion. One is the image of the merciful Jesus based on a vision of February 1931. In it Our Lord is pictured in the act of blessing, with two rays, one red and the other pallid (representing blood and water), shining from his heart. The words "Jesus, I trust in thee" are placed at his feet.
Copies of this image are today found in many churches all over the world -- a sign of the rapid extension of this devotion.
Other elements are the hour of mercy, at 3 in the afternoon, in which the Passion is meditated upon and certain prayers recommended by the revelations are recited. As well as this, there is the chaplet of Divine Mercy with its attendant litany. It is recited using rosary beads but substituting other prayers such as "Through your sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the entire world" on the beads of the Hail Mary.
A special request of these visions was that the first Sunday after Easter should be the feast of Divine Mercy and that on this day the Divine Mercy should be proclaimed in a special way.
The spirituality of Pope John Paul II was deeply influenced by the devotion to the Divine Mercy, and he dedicated his second encyclical, "Dives in Misericordia," to this theme. As archbishop of Krakow he promoted the beatification of Sister Faustina and on the occasion of her canonization in April 2000 announced that henceforth the second Sunday of Easter would be the feast of Divine Mercy.
This announcement was followed by two juridical acts by Vatican offices.
With the decree "Misericors et Miserator" (May 5, 2000) the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments stated: "And so with provident pastoral sensitivity and in order to impress deeply on the souls of the faithful these precepts and teachings of the Christian faith, the Supreme Pontiff, John Paul II, moved by the consideration of the Father of Mercy, has willed that the Second Sunday of Easter be dedicated to recalling with special devotion these gifts of grace and gave this Sunday the name, 'Divine Mercy Sunday.'"
The congregation explained that the change consisted in the additional name for this day. The liturgy would suffer no change whatsoever. All the texts and readings would remain those of the Second Sunday of Easter.
The second decree was published two years later by the Apostolic Penitentiary. This Vatican tribunal, among other tasks, oversees the granting of indulgences. This decree granted new perpetual indulgences attached to devotions in honor of Divine Mercy.
Among other considerations, this text states:
"The faithful with deep spiritual affection are drawn to commemorate the mysteries of divine pardon and to celebrate them devoutly. They clearly understand the supreme benefit, indeed the duty, that the People of God have to praise Divine Mercy with special prayers and, at the same time, they realize that by gratefully performing the works required and satisfying the necessary conditions, they can obtain spiritual benefits that derive from the Treasury of the Church. 'The paschal mystery is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of mercy, which is able to justify man, to restore justice in the sense of that salvific order which God willed from the beginning in man, and through man, in the world' (Encyclical Letter 'Dives in Misericordia,' n. 7).
"Indeed, Divine Mercy knows how to pardon even the most serious sins, and in doing so it moves the faithful to perceive a supernatural, not merely psychological, sorrow for their sins so that, ever with the help of divine grace, they may make a firm resolution not to sin any more. Such spiritual dispositions undeniably follow upon the forgiveness of mortal sin when the faithful fruitfully receive the sacrament of Penance or repent of their sin with an act of perfect charity and perfect contrition, with the ...
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