Like many elements of our Catholic faith, the Divine Mercy devotion is deeply rich and powerful in numerous ways. It is relatively new compared to the rest of our Catholic history, although the message originates with Jesus. For three years, Jesus spent time with His disciples, teaching them, healing the sick, and forgiving sins. In fact, this act of forgiving sins was one of the most shocking things Jesus did! In the Gospel of Mark, we hear:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, ‘Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?’” (2:5-7).
As Christians, we know that Jesus is God and definitely can forgive each of us. As we recently journeyed through Holy Week, we recalled His singular purpose for becoming a man was to die – to be the perfect atoning sacrifice for sin – all sin! His passion, death, and resurrection are the ultimate act of Love and Mercy.
While there are abundant resources for learning how to pray the chaplet and novena, it is good and helpful to know the history of it as well. Nearly one-hundred years ago, a young woman entered the convent of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland. Her name was Helena Kowalska. In 1926, she received the habit and religious name of Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament. During her short life, Sister Faustina had visions of Jesus and received messages that she was told to write down. Today, we know her as Saint Faustina Kowalska, canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II in 2000, and we can read her Diary.
Sister Faustina’s vision of Jesus, with His hand revealing His heart streaming forth rays of red and white, provides a beautiful image for pondering the reason why He died for us. In the Gospel of John, we read:
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (19:33-34).
At that moment, His heart poured forth life-giving water and saving blood. His one, eternal sacrifice makes eternal life possible for all of us.
There is a beautiful website (thedivinemercy.org) by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that is a great resource of information, images, stories, podcasts, and videos about Divine Mercy. Here is their summary of this devotion:
The message of The Divine Mercy is simple. It is that God loves us – all of us. And, He wants us to recognize that His mercy is greater than our sins, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy.
The Divine Mercy message is one we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC:
A - Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly,
repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.
B - Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.
C - Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that all the graces of His mercy can only be received by our trust. The more we open the doors of our hearts and lives to Him with trust, the more we can receive.
The beauty of this message is that the Love and Mercy of God is not just for each of us and our own sins, but also, more especially, to have His Love and Mercy flow through us to others! At one point or another in our lives, we may have found ourselves so caught up in sin that we believed we could not be forgiven. If one person offered us forgiveness for something, no matter how minor, then we were back on the path toward God. How amazing it is to realize that we can genuinely share God’s Love and Mercy with others?!
Each part of the Divine Mercy Chaplet reminds us of these essential aspects of Love and Mercy. While using the same set of beads for praying a rosary, we offer these prayers:
On the bead before each decade:
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.
With Jesus being the perfect sacrifice for every one of us, we can claim the redeeming value of His body and blood – and intercede for others! What an ideal prayer to offer for those who are stuck in the mire of sin!
On the ten decade beads in each decade:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Have you ever found yourself repeating a particular petition? “Please, please, please, Lord, please help... heal… find….” Perhaps in doing so, we find ourselves simply seeking the peace of knowing that God will resolve the situation in ways that will bring us and others closer to Him. This prayer is like that – discover the rhythm of the words and rolling the beads between your fingers – and find that peaceful sense of God’s will being done.
At the end of the five decades, we pray the following three times:
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Resting in His peace, it is easy to offer praise and glory to God, reminding ourselves that He is God and we are not – that we must rely completely on Him. We must recognize our weakness and replace our anxieties and worries with abounding trust in God.
The final prayer is powerful and worthy of memorizing:
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.
Finally, consider this profound description that Jesus gave to St. Faustina:
Say unceasingly the Chaplet that I have taught you. Whoever will recite it, they will receive great mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to
sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most
hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. (Diary, 687)
This Divine Mercy Sunday, be encouraged to take up this beautiful devotion and contemplate the times in your life when God extended His mercy to you. How might you take one step further in extending Love and Mercy to others in thanksgiving for all that has been offered to you?BACK TO LIST