Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy
Nihil Obstat Imprimi Potest © Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, 2003 All Rights Reserved This booklet has been prepared by the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, based at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Eden Hill, Stockbridge, MA 01262 Telephone: 413-298-1184 E-mail: [email protected]
My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. 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. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska, # 699)
Table of Contents Introduction I. Divine Mercy Sunday, the Pope, and St. Faustina..........................................................5 II. Prophetic Revelations and Popular Devotions in the Life of the Church: Selected Texts 12 III. The “Extraordinary Graces” of Divine Mercy Sunday by Robert Stackpole, S.T.D. 16 1. The Promise and the Liturgical Tradition16 2. The Promise Draws us to the Sacraments18 3. Theological Analysis of the Extraordinary Graces Promised for Mercy Sunday 19 IV. The Celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday.........................................................................30 1. Preparing for Divine Mercy Sunday 30 2. Celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday 32 3. Indulgences available to the faithful for Divine Mercy Sunday devotions 34 V. Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Justin Rigali 36 Appendix A: The Church’s Teaching on Indulgences 40 Appendix B: The Decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship .................................44 and the Discipline of the Sacraments, May 5, 2000
I. Divine Mercy Sunday, the Pope, and St. Faustina On the Second Sunday of Easter of the Jubilee Year 2000, at the Mass for the Canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II proclaimed to the world that “from now on throughout the Church” this Sunday will be called “Divine Mercy Sunday.” Many of the Church’s pastors and liturgists were taken by surprise by this announcement. Some wondered: “Why is the Holy Father doing this? Is he simply creating a new feast because of the private revelations given to the Polish mystic St. Faustina Kowalska?” To be sure, the Holy Father was well aware that the visions of Christ received by St. Faustina, and the messages and disciplines flowing from them, remain in the category of private revelations. The Church’s doctrine of Divine Mercy, and her liturgical practices are not based on St. Faustina’s revelations: they are based on Holy Scripture, the faith handed down by the apostles, and on liturgical traditions rooted in the worship life of the ancient, apostolic communities. St. Faustina’s revelations add nothing new to this deposit of Faith, nor anything novel to the official liturgy of the Church. Moreover, it is also true that the Holy See did not establish “Divine Mercy Sunday” to commemorate St. Faustina’s mystical experiences (see Appendix B below). Thus, it remains true that no one is required by the Holy See, on Mercy Sunday, to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or venerate the Image of The Divine Mercy, or do anything else that springs from St. Faustina’s revelations. No priest could be called a “heretic”, or in any way disobedient to liturgical law, for ignoring these things entirely. Nevertheless, what makes St. Faustina’s revelations striking is the way that they so powerfully express the central truths that lie at the heart of the Gospel: the merciful love of God, manifest especially in the Passion and Resurrection of His Son. Indeed, some of the devotional forms which spring from her “ private revelations” (such as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the veneration of the Image of The Divine Mercy) are especially vivid ways of contemplating the Paschal Mystery: the Mystery which lies at the very heart of the “public revelation” passed down to us from the apostles, as well as at the very heart of the ancient liturgical traditions for the Easter Octave. In short, what is not required--i.e., not a matter of law or precept-- can still be a matter of good counsel. Given the fact that our chief shepherd and pastor, Pope John Paul II, has strongly encouraged the whole, universal Church, on several occasions, to pay heed to the messages and revelations given to St. Faustina as a special call to our time to turn back to the God of merciful love – and given that the Pope has also recommended both the Image and the Chaplet as helpful means to that end -- it would surely be rash and imprudent to ignore those exhortations from the
Vicar of Christ. Just listen to what the Holy Father said about all this at St. Faustina’s tomb in Lagiewniki , Poland, in 1997: “There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy—that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God. “In this place we become particularly aware of this. From here, in fact, went out the Message of Divine Mercy that Christ Himself chose to pass on to our generation through Blessed Faustina. “And it is a message that is clear and understandable for everyone. Anyone can come here, look at this image of the merciful Jesus, His Heart radiating grace, and hear in the depths of his own soul what Blessed Faustina heard: “Fear nothing. I am with you always” (Diary, 586). “And if this person responds with a sincere heart: “Jesus, I trust in you,” he will find comfort in all his anxieties and fears…. “I give thanks to divine Providence that I have been enabled to contribute personally to the fulfillment of Christ’s will, through the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy. Here, near the relics of Blessed Faustina Kowalska, I give thanks also for the gift of her beatification. I pray unceasingly that God will have “mercy on us and on the whole world” [from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Diary, 476]. Again, listen to the words the Holy Father spoke in his homily on Mercy Sunday, 2001: “We are celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter, which, since last year, the year of the Great Jubilee is also called “Divine Mercy Sunday.” It is a great joy for me to be able to join all of you, dear pilgrims and faithful who have come here from various nations to commemorate, after one year, the canonization of Sr. Faustina Kowalska, witness and messenger of the Lord’s merciful love. The elevation to the honours of the altar of this humble religious is not only a gift for Poland, but for all humanity. Indeed the message she brought is the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies. Jesus said to Sr. Faustina one day: “Humanity will not have peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy” (Diary, 300). Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium….
“Today the Lord also shows us His glorious wounds and His heart, an inexhaustible source of light and truth, of love and forgiveness…. St. Faustina saw coming from this Heart that was overflowing with generous love, two rays of light which illuminated the world. “The two rays”, according to what Jesus Himself told her, “represent the blood and the water” (Diary, 299). The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha, and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water, according to the rich symbolism of the Evangelist St. John, makes us think of Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5; 4:14). “Through the mystery of this wounded heart, the restorative tide of God’s merciful love continues to spread over the men and women of our time. Here alone can those who long for true and lasting happiness find its secret.” Why does the Pope so strongly recommend that we pay heed to the Divine Mercy message and devotion – even the Image and the Chaplet -- given to us through St. Faustina ? Clearly, he does so because he sees all this as more than just a collection of “private revelations”; rather, he sees them as prophetic revelations, in other words revelations given to us by God to proclaim the heart of the Gospel – the merciful love of God shining through the death, burial and resurrection of his Son – in a way especially suited to meet the needs of our era. The liturgy for the Easter Octave, therefore, and for the Octave Sunday itself, is not something that needs to be “protected” or “sealed off” from the alien influence of the “private revelations” of a Polish nun. On the contrary, the celebration of Mercy Sunday should be open to all the enhancement and amplification of the message of merciful love which prudent use of her devotions can bring to it. Again, this does not mean that Divine Mercy Sunday is merely a new feast established to celebrate St. Faustina’s revelations. Indeed, it is not primarily about St. Faustina at all--nor is it altogether a new feast! As many commentators have pointed out, The Second Sunday of Easter was already a solemnity as the Octave Day of Easter; nevertheless, the title “Divine Mercy Sunday” does highlight and amplify the meaning of the day. In this way, it recovers an ancient liturgical tradition, reflected in a teaching attributed to St. Augustine about the Easter Octave, which he called “the days of mercy and pardon,” and the Octave Day itself “the compendium of the days of mercy.” For a deeper understanding of the place of the Octave Day of Easter in the ancient liturgical tradition, especially in the Didache and St. Gregory Nazianzen, see the essay by Rev. S. Seraphim Michalenko, M.I.C., in Divine Mercy, the Heart of the Gospel, published by the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy in 1999. Moreover, it is well known that the title “Divine Mercy Sunday” expresses the message of the prayers and readings traditionally
appointed for this Octave Day. Liturgically the day has always been centered on the theme of Divine mercy and forgiveness. That is why in its decree establishing Divine Mercy Sunday, the Holy See insisted that the texts already assigned for that day in the Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman Rite “are always to be used for the liturgical celebration of this Sunday.” The Octave Day of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, therefore point us to the merciful love of God that lies behind the whole Paschal Mystery – the whole mystery of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ – made present for us in the Eucharist. In this way, it also sums up the whole Easter Octave. As Pope John Paul II pointed out in his Regina Caeli address on Divine Mercy Sunday, 1995: “the whole octave of Easter is like a single day,” and the Octave Sunday is meant to be the day of “thanksgiving for the goodness God has shown to man in the whole Easter mystery.” Given the liturgical appropriateness of the title “Divine Mercy Sunday” for the Octave Day of Easter, therefore, the Holy See did not give this title to the Second Sunday of Easter merely as an “option,” for those dioceses who happen to like that sort of thing! Rather, the decree issued on May 5, 2000, by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and The Discipline of the Sacraments clearly states: “the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II has graciously determined that in the Roman Missal, after the title Second Sunday of Easter, there shall henceforth be added the appellation ‘or [that is] Divine Mercy Sunday’…”. Divine Mercy Sunday, therefore, is not an optional title for this solemnity; rather, Divine Mercy is the second name for this Feast Day. In a similar way, the Octave Day of the Nativity of Our Lord was named by the Church “The Feast of the Mother of God.” This means that preaching on God’s mercy is also not just an option for the clergy on that day — it is strongly encouraged. To fail to preach on God’s mercy on that day would mean largely to ignore the prayers, readings and psalms appointed for that day, as well as the title “Divine Mercy Sunday” now given to that day in the Roman Missal. Clearly, the celebration of Mercy Sunday does not compete with, nor endanger the integrity of the Easter Season. After all, Mercy Sunday is the Octave Day of Easter, a day that celebrates the merciful love of God shining through the whole Easter Triduum and the whole Easter mystery. Sometimes the fear is expressed that the recitation of St. Faustina’s Novena of Chaplets of The Divine Mercy from Good Friday until Mercy Sunday distracts us from the focus of the
liturgy. But the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is an intercessory prayer on the basis of the Passion of Christ, and the Image of the Divine Mercy (before which the Novena is usually recited) is primarily a manifestation of the Risen Christ. The Novena of Chaplets (with the Image), therefore, focuses our minds and hearts on the Paschal Mystery – the death and resurrection of Christ. Nothing could be more appropriate at this time in the liturgical year! In a similar way, reciting the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, and the Tre Ore devotions, which often include meditations on the seven last words of Christ – while in no way required by the Missal – are good liturgical customs that amplify the meaning of this important time in the Church’s liturgical year. They do not compete with, nor distract from, the official liturgy for Good Friday. Some times the fear is expressed that the prominence of the Easter Candle as the chief visual symbol of Christ risen and living among us might be reduced by the display and veneration of the Image of The Divine Mercy on Mercy Sunday. But no such competition exists. The Paschal Candle is a symbol of the risen Christ. The Image of The Divine Mercy, on the other hand, is an icon or holy image, a pictorial representation of the risen Christ. As such, it is helpful to us in a different way.In a sense, we direct our prayers through an icon to the person they represent (Catechism, 2132, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas: “The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.”). We do not, however, generally use symbols, such as the Easter Candle, in quite the same way. In other words, Easter Candle is an ancient and abiding symbol of the presence of the risen Christ, living among us, while the icon manifests in particular the personal and merciful love of the risen Christ for us, and thereby elicits a response of trust and of prayer. In short, what the Holy Father has done by establishing “Divine Mercy Sunday” is not create an alternate theme or celebration for the Easter Season. All he has done is recover an ancient tradition of celebrating The Octave Day of Easter as a summary of the whole Paschal Mystery, and the merciful love of God that shines through that Mystery. In so far as the revelations and devotional forms given to St. Faustina direct us to, and amplify for us, this same Paschal Mystery, and this same merciful love, then her witness is an aid and not a hindrance to the People of God in their celebration of this great solemnity. Robert Stackpole, STD Director John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy
II. Prophetic Revelations and Popular Devotions in the Life of the Church: Selected Texts 3. A private revelation as a mission to the Church signifies not so much an Indicative communicating something new (which would be difficult to reconcile with the essence of a private revelation directed to the Church), but an Imperative which, within the context of a particular historical situation of the Church, points out a particular course of action from among the many possible according to the universal and public revelation as the one most urgently needing to be realized. The new feature in such a private revelation consists therefore not in its particular material elements but in the imperative marking and shifting of accentuation within the possibilities of Christianity. An imperative of this kind is possible because, while in the knowledge of the faith many things at the same time can be true and good, in the action of the faith not everything that is true and good can be actuated at the same time, to the same degree and with the same intensity. Hence the private revelation as a mission to the Church can be conceived as a heavenly imperative interpretation of the particular situation of the Church at this time; it answers the question as to what is most urgently to be done here and now in accordance with the general principles of the faith. (Karl Rahner, S.J., “Les Révélations Privées. Quelques Remarques Théologiques,” RAM XXV (1949), pp.506-514) Father Walter Kern in his work “Updated Devotion to the Sacred Heart” (pp. 74, 75)., commenting upon Fr. Rahner’s statement, says: “Since public revelation is proposed for the obedience of faith on the authority of God, one must believe it — if he knows about it — to be pleasing to God and to assure his eternal salvation. Private revelations are to be accepted ‘with an assent of human belief according to the rules of prudence, when these rules present them as probable and devoutly believable’ (Pope Benedict XIV). Yet they are offered as a special grace
for the good of men in general. One can save his or her soul without every special grace from God, but the fact that God offered it, because it is or was useful, must weigh heavily in one’s judgment of it.” In general we content ourselves with a distinction between the one “Public Revelation”, that of the Gospel, and the many “private revelations”, lumping them together in the second category all the supernatural communications made to the “mystics”. And we usually add that only the first is of obligation, the second at the most being allowed to be accepted and held as true with a purely human faith. Two very simple considerations show that that view is faulty. The first is that, among the supernatural communications being given to some at present, we must distinguish [between] those whose immediate object is the good and the management of their [own] souls, and those made to them to be communicated by them to the Church. That is the case at Fatima, at Lourdes and all the great Marian apparitions of modern times. The second reflection is that if it is true that the nature of the act of faith is determined by the motive on which the act rests, we should conclude that a human faith is one resting on human testimony, and that, inversely, where a supernatural testimony of divine origin appears, the act of faith required will also be marked with a supernatural character. It will not be theological faith which, by definition, can be demanded and founded only by the evangelical Revelation proposed by the Church. But neither will it be a purely human faith, left to each one’s free choice. To put it in simple terms: from the moment it is established that God is speaking to us, by Himself or by a messenger, His word justifies an act of faith which belongs in a certain manner to the supernatural order. His word is the basis of it and demands it: there is an obligation to believe and therefore to obey. For the question here is of prophecy. Now the function proper to prophecy, in the New Covenant as in the Old, is to bring back the one to whom it is addressed –king, priest, people of God– to fulfil the duties of that Covenant. It does not take the place of the Covenant, even when it uncovers implications in it up to then hidden: it is rooted in it and entirely in its service. On the other hand, it could be that the prophet had to supply for weakness in the priest. But he, in the New Covenant, stays in possession of apostolic authority and is officially the one in charge of the Covenant. That is why the basic motive for his decision to act is always the word of the Covenant, that of the Gospel – as we have seen for the Popes we have quoted. But the immediate motive prompting the pastor to act and to go back to that fundamental motive could
be the prophetic message addressed to him. The two motives corroborate one another and fuse into one in the mind of the hierarch and his decision. That this economy is valid for the New as for the Old Covenant is stated clearly in the very forceful words by St. Paul. We recall just the two which follow: “The Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2, 30), meaning the prophets of the New Testament, as is shown beyond the shadow of doubt in the context. And this one: “Extinguish not the spirit. Despise not prophecies. Hold fast that which is good.” (Thess. 5, 19-20). “Hold fast”: St. Paul is here giving an order. That is why Saint Thomas Aquinas himself goes as far as saying that “Prophecy is necessary for the government of the people and (he adds in an emphatic way) principally in what concerns divine worship, for which nature is not adequate: grace is necessary.” Following Saint Augustine, he affirms also that “there has never been a lack of men possessing the spirit of prophecy; not to propose a new doctrine of faith but to direct man in his actions,” “so far as that was necessary for the salvation of the elect”. That necessity would have no meaning if it did not include the obligation to believe in prophecy. The repeated invitation of the Second Vatican Council to respect charisms should open minds today to that theology of prophetic charism and to its essential function in the divine economy of the government of the Church. So, then, when the Popes consecrate the world to the Heart of Christ or to the Heart of Mary [or the Divine Mercy Feast!] at a request made to them by the prophetic route and after satisfying themselves that their action fits perfectly the requirements of the New Covenant — discernment of the charism presented to them having been duly exercised — the step they take is not just legitimate; it is the response to a duty of the supernatural order which is obligatory. Reflections on the Act of Consecration at Fatima by Joseph DeSainte-Marie, O.C.D., The Teresianum, Rome, 1983 As regards the direction of human acts, prophetic revelation was diversified not according to the process of time, but according to the needs of circumstances; because, as is said in Proverbs, “Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint” (29:18). That is why at every period men were instructed by God about what they were to do, according as was expedient for the salvation of the elect. ... At each period there were always some who had the
spirit of prophecy, not for the purpose of setting out new doctrine to be believed, but for the governance of human activities. St. Thomas Aquinas (ST II-II, 176, 6) 13. Popular devotions of the Christian people are warmly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church. Such is especially the case with devotions called for by the Apostolic See. Devotions proper to individual churches also have a special dignity if they are conducted by mandate of the bishops in accord with customs or books lawfully approved. Nevertheless these devotions should be so drawn up that they harmonize with the liturgical seasons, accord with the sacred liturgy, are in some fashion derived from it, and lead the people to it, since the liturgy by its very nature far surpasses any of them. Second Vatican Council Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #13 The devotions to Jesus, The Divine Mercy, revealed to the Church through the recently canonized Polish mystic, Saint Maria Faustina (Kowalska) of The Most Blessed Sacrament, are perfectly in accord with this relevant directive of the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
III. The Extraordinary Graces of Divine Mercy Sunday According to St. Faustina’s Diary, Jesus Christ made a special promise, which she was to communicate to the whole world (Diary, 699): My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. In three places in her diary, St. Faustina records a promise from our Lord of specific, extraordinary graces He will make available through the devout reception of Holy Communion on this Feast Day; truly a “whole ocean of graces” is contained in these promises: I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy (1109). Whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment (300). The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion will obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment (699). 1. The Promise and the Liturgical Tradition Why would our Lord promise to pour out such extraordinary graces on this particular Feast Day? On the one hand, we should note the liturgical appropriateness of this promise. If the Octave Day of Easter is truly meant to be, as Pope John Paul II once said, a day of “thanksgiving for the goodness God has shown to man in the whole Easter mystery” (see Chapter I above), then we should not be surprised that He promised the most extraordinary spiritual benefits to those who come to Holy Communion on that day in a state of grace, and with the disposition of trust in His merciful love. After all, what better day could there be in the liturgical calendar for such a generous outpouring of divine grace than the day that recapitulates and completes the greatest annual celebration of the Paschal mystery? As Jesus said to St. Faustina, on this special day of the Church’s liturgical year “the very depths of my tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon these souls who approach the fount of My Mercy” (Diary, 699).
This would also be the reason why Christ asked the Church, through St. Faustina, publicly to venerate the Image of The Divine Mercy on this Feast Day. The Image of Jesus, The Divine Mercy, is to have a special place of honor on the Feast of Mercy because it is a visual reminder of all that Jesus did for us through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and a reminder, too, of what He asks of us in return — to trust in Him and be merciful to others: I want the Image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it (Diary, 341). In short, just as the Feast Day itself is a summary-celebration of the Paschal mystery, so the Image is the visual, iconic summary of the Paschal message. Pope John Paul II pointed this out in his homily for the canonization of St. Faustina: From that Heart [of Christ], Sr. Faustina Kowalska, the blessed whom from now on we will call a saint, will see two rays of light shining from that heart and illuminating the world. “The two rays”, Jesus Himself explained to her one day, “represent blood and water” (Diary, entry 299). Blood and water! We immediately think of the testimony given by the Evangelist John, who, when a soldier on Calvary pierced Christ’s side with his spear, sees blood and water flowing from it (see Jn 19:34). Moreover, if the blood recalls the sacrifice of the Cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water, in Johannine symbolism, represents not only Baptism but also the gift of the Holy Spirit (see Jn 3:5; 4:14; 7:37-39). Clearly, the promise from our Lord of extraordinary graces for Divine Mercy Sunday, as well as this request to venerate the Image of Mercy on that day spring from the same source: His desire to make that day the summarizing celebration, proclamation, and application of the graces of His merciful love that flow to us from the Paschal mystery. 2. The Promise Draws us to the Sacraments Rev. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, explains to us clearly in his booklet The Divine Mercy: Message and Devotion another, pastoral intention that the Lord seems to have had in promising extraordinary graces on this Feast day: Our Lord is also emphasizing, through this promise, the infinite value of Confession and Communion as miracles of mercy. He wants us to realize that
since the Eucharist is His own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, it is the “Fountain of Life” (Diary, 300). The Eucharist is Jesus, Himself, the Living God, longing to pour Himself as Mercy into our hearts. Why would Our Lord feel the need to emphasize this? Because so many people do not really understand it. They either see no need to receive Holy Communion, or they receive it simply out of habit. As St. Paul explains in his letter to the Corinthians, they eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, “without recognizing the body of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27-29). In His revelations to St. Faustina Our Lord makes it very clear what He is offering us in Holy Communion and how much it hurts Him when we treat His presence with indifference: My great delight is to unite Myself with souls. … When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay any attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things. Oh, how sad I am that souls do not recognize Love! They treat Me as a dead object (1385; also see 1288 and 1447). So, Our Lord’s promise of complete forgiveness is both a reminder and a call. It is a reminder that He is truly present and truly alive in the Eucharist, filled with love for us and waiting for us to turn to Him with trust. And it is a call for us all to be washed clean in His Love through Confession and Holy Communion — no matter how terrible our sins — and begin our lives again. He is offering us a new start. 3. Theological Analysis of the Extraordinary Graces Promised for Mercy Sunday The most in-depth analysis ever written of the graces of Divine Mercy Sunday was provided for the Vatican in the 1970's by Rev. Ignacy Rozycki, STD, a leading expert in Poland on the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, who also served as a member of the International Theological Commission for the Holy See. Fr. Rozycki devoted nearly ten years of his life to the task of making a thorough and systematic study of Sr. Faustina’s writings. The results of his
research were written in French: a massive tome of 500 pages which was presented to the Vatican as part of the official investigation into Sr. Faustina’s life and virtues by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. We have provided below a translation of the entire section of Fr. Rozycki’s work relating directly to the extraordinary graces of Divine Mercy Sunday (pp. 428-432): In this matter four points are beyond all doubt: (a) The “special grace” was promised in the context of the Feast of Mercy. (b) It was directly attached to receiving Holy Communion on this day. (c) It consists in the total remission of sins and punishment. (d) It is theologically possible. In the first place, Jesus promised the “special grace” because the purpose of the Feast is realized by this grace in an especially clear and striking manner. Immediately preceding the promulgation of this promise, Jesus declared: I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy ... On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. His intention seems clear from the words cited above: in order that the Feast truly be a refuge for all souls, the depths of the generosity of Jesus are entirely open on this day to pour out – without any reserve – graces of every kind and every degree, even the most extraordinary. Now, the promise of this extraordinary grace is a promise for all souls that the generosity of Jesus is really without any limit on this day. At the same time, it is for all souls a motivation for them to ask on this day of The Divine Mercy, with great and limitless trust, for all the graces that the Lord wants to lavish on this Sunday. Secondly, the obtaining of the “special grace” is, according to the 13th revelation, dependent upon the reception of Holy Communion on the first Sunday after Easter: “to approach the Fount of Life” in this context can only mean “to receive Communion.” Of course, the 33rd revelation enumerates two conditions: Confession and Holy Communion as the proper norm, the stipulation for acquiring the full pardon. But Jesus surely desired that the greatest possible
number of the faithful benefit from this grace and consequently, did not require that Communion as well as Confession be made on that same Sunday, since in the case of a large crowd it would be impossible, for example, in parishes with only one priest. It is permitted then to infer that He allows confession to be made several days before the Feast of Mercy; He insists, however, that one receive Holy Communion on the day of the Feast itself. By this requirement, He incorporates the Devotion into the sacramental life of the Church, because the end of the ordinary period for making Easter Communion falls on that Sunday! Thirdly, the nature of this special grace was defined in the 13th and 33rd revelations in terms which do not leave any ambiguity: the complete remission of sins and punishment, as said before: it is a total remission of all sins – which have not yet been remitted – and of all punishment due for sins. As for the remission of sins, this grace is therefore equal to that of baptism. Fourthly, the grace of the total remission of sins and punishment is theologically possible because neither this grace nor the conditions for obtaining it contradict revealed doctrine. If God wants to bestow this grace by the sacrament of baptism, why would He not be able to bestow it – if He wants to – by the Eucharist which is the greatest sacrament? And the requirement of trust, taught by the 13th as well as the 33rd revelation, and absolutely necessary to every act of the Devotion, is only a reminder of the exhortations of Holy Scripture. Even more, the immensity of this [promise of] grace is precisely the most natural way to revive in us the boundless trust that Jesus so much desires that we have on this day of the Feast of Mercy. For Jesus does not limit His generosity this day only to the one special grace. On the contrary, He declares in the 33rd revelation that He desires that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. He does not want this Feast to be one of many similar feasts, alongside others. Rather, to be truly the refuge and shelter for all souls will be its own property which distinguishes it from all other feasts. Thus, it is in this way that on that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a
whole ocean of graces on souls who approach the Fount of My mercy. And Jesus piles up expressions which describe the intensity of His desire to lavish graces on this day: On that day are open all the divine floodgates through which graces flow. These words end by a call to trust: Let no soul fear to draw near to me. This saying consists of a correlation between mercy and trust: for the only reasonable response to the generosity of Mercy is unlimited trust. The declarations of Jesus above: what practical direction do they have? It is necessary to interpret them in the context of the totality of the Devotion. We will notice first that Jesus did not say that the Feast is the only refuge and the only shelter. As we read in the 43rd revelation: I am giving mankind the last hope of salvation; that is, recourse to My mercy. There are, therefore, alongside the Feast, other ways of finding refuge in Mercy; these are the other forms of the Devotion, and above all, unwavering trust, which is the only means of drawing graces from the Fount of Mercy. [see Diary entry 1578: The graces of My Mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is – trust. The more a souls trusts, the more it will receive.] So, if the different forms of the Devotion are a recourse to Mercy, the declarations [of Jesus] above are able to have only one meaning: Jesus ardently desires that the Feast of Mercy be for all men without exception – and especially for sinners – the refuge “par excellence,” incomparably more efficacious than all the other forms of the Devotion. The supreme excellence of this refuge is shown in three ways: first, by the universality of the divine offer. All men – even those who up until now have not practiced the Devotion, even sinners who convert on the day of the Feast – are called to participate in all the graces, in all their extent, that Jesus “prepared” for this feast. Secondly, it is manifest in the fact that all kinds of graces are offered this day to men; spiritual as well as temporal blessings, as much to individuals as
to communities and to all humanity which “will not find peace until it turns to the fount of my Mercy.” Third, all degrees of graces are this day within the reach of all, provided that with great trust they ask for great graces. Such an extraordinary abundance of graces are not attached to any other form of the Devotion. And since Mercy rejoices when it is able to give much, the heart of Jesus also delights in this feast. The extraordinary generosity that the Savior wants to show is also the reason why the practice of mercy is not necessarily required on this day itself in order to receive the special grace and the other promises. The Feast of Mercy will become for everyone truly the refuge “par excellence,” if we fulfill three conditions. 1. If we will bear in mind the extraordinary fervor with which Jesus wants to fill us with an abundance of graces on this day. 2. If we have the courage to bring to the Mercy of Jesus all our needs – known and unknown, temporal and spiritual, individual and communal – in all their real extent (which often lies beyond our knowledge). 3. If we will present [our needs] with a trust that is not only unwavering, but also boundless, because it is trust that opens up to us the treasures of Mercy. In 1981, at a symposium in Cracow celebrating the 50th anniversary of the revelations given to Sr. Faustina, Fr. Rozycki delivered a lecture entitled The Essential Features of the Devotion to The Divine Mercy in which he summarized his analysis of the extraordinary graces of Divine Mercy Sunday. As the phrasing of this passage has given rise to misunderstanding on occasion, we will quote the passage below, and then provide clarification: The most exceptional grace promised by Jesus for the Feast of the Divine Mercy is something considerably greater than a plenary indulgence. The latter consists only of the remission of temporal punishments for committed sins, but is never the remission of sins itself. The exceptional grace of [the Communion on] Divine Mercy Sunday is also greater than the graces of the other sacraments, with the exception of the Sacrament of Baptism, for the remission of all sins and punishment is found only in the sacramental grace of Baptism. In the promises cited, Christ tied the remission of all sins and punishment to the reception of Holy
Communion on the Feast of Divine Mercy. In other words, in this regard, He raised it to the rank of a “second Baptism.” It is obvious that in order to effect a complete forgiveness of sins and punishment the Holy Communion received on the Feast of Divine Mercy must not only be partaken of worthily, but it must also fulfill the basic requirements of the Divine Mercy devotion. ... However, received unworthily, without trust in Divine Mercy and devoid of some deed of mercy toward neighbor, it would be a contradiction of Devotion to the Divine Mercy. Instead of the exceptional grace, it would bring down upon the recipient the Divine Wrath. The spiritual good of the faithful demands that they know what graces they can obtain, and under what conditions through the reception of Holy Communion on the Feast of Divine Mercy. We should note several things about Fr. Rozycki’s summary statement here: 1. By “second Baptism” Fr. Rozycki did not mean a repetition of baptism, or some kind of additional baptism (as though an eighth sacrament) but a renewal of grace in the soul akin to that enjoyed as a result of the reception of the sacrament of Baptism. That this was Fr. Rozycki’s meaning is clear from the longer text (quoted above) which he had prepared for the Vatican. 2. According to Jesus’ promise the extraordinary grace of the complete remission of sins and punishment is received from the worthy reception of Holy Communion on Mercy Sunday. It is not an extra-sacramental grace! This is clear from the longer text (quoted above) and from the shorter summary, (also quoted above) where Fr. Rozycki states this explicitly several times. Thus, when Fr. Rozycki writes in his shorter text that the exceptional grace of Divine Mercy Sunday “is also greater than the graces of the other sacraments, with the exception of the Sacrament of Baptism,” he does not mean to imply that this exceptional grace comes to us other than through the reception of Holy Communion on that day – rather, he is simply telling us that, ordinarily, only the sacrament of Baptism effects in the soul the “complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” Reception of the Eucharist in a state of grace ordinarily remits only venial sin, while strengthening the soul against both venial and mortal sin (Catechism, 1394-1395). But on Mercy Sunday, according to Fr. Rozycki (based on our Lord’s words, to St. Faustina), reception of Holy Communion pours out upon the soul a complete renewal of baptismal grace. Of course, this immediately raises the question of whether it is proper to the nature of the Eucharist to be the source of such an extraordinary measure of grace. The answer is clear from the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and of the magisterium itself. St. Thomas declares very
clearly: “Moreover, not only are all the other sacraments ordered toward the Eucharist, but they produce their proper grace only in virtue of their relationship to the Eucharist. The Eucharist alone has of itself the power to confer grace, while the other sacraments confer grace only in virtue of the desire (votum) which their recipients have of receiving the Eucharist also. St. Thomas elaborates further: “This sacrament [of the Eucharist] has in itself the power to confer grace. No one has grace receiving this sacrament except by a certain desire (votum) to receive it, the person’s own desire in the case of an adult, or the Church’s desire in the case of infants, as has been said above (Summa, III, q.73, art.3). Accordingly it is from the effectiveness of its power that even from the mere desire to receive [this sacrament] a person obtains grace whereby he is spiritually alive. Still it is true that when the sacrament itself is actually received, grace is increased and the spiritual life is perfected. ...It is by this sacrament, however, that grace is increased and the spiritual life is perfected, in order that man may be made perfect in himself through his being conjoined to God” (Summa, III, q.79, art.I ad I. See also parallel passages). Following St. Thomas on this matter, the Church clearly teaches that all the other sacraments are directed towards the Eucharist and draw their power from it. In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council, for example, we read “Especially from the Eucharist, grace is poured forth upon us as from a fountain.” And, in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, pastors are urged to “compare the Eucharist to a fountain and the other Sacraments to rivulets. For the Holy Eucharist is truly and necessarily to be called the fountain of all graces, containing, as it does, after an admirable manner, the fountain itself of celestial gifts and graces, and the Author of all the Sacraments, Christ our Lord, from whom, as from its source, is derived whatever of goodness and perfection the other sacraments possess.” The centrality of the Eucharist as the fountain of all sacramental graces has also been clearly taught in the writings of great contemporary theologians. In Theological Dimensions of the Liturgy, for example, the great 20th century scholar Cyprian Vagaggini, OSB, argues persuasively that “the Eucharist, therefore [is the] sacrament and sacrifice, which realizes to the full the common notion and end of all the sacraments.” He writes: All that has been said of the sacraments, that they are ordained to the Eucharistic sacrifice, can be said with even greater reason about all those rites in
the liturgy which are of ecclesiastical institution: ceremonies, sacramentals, prayers, and especially the divine office. The basic reason is the same: we know that all these liturgical rites of ecclesiastical origin have no other aim than divine worship in Christ and the sanctification of man in Christ. Moreover, both of these categories exist only as participation in the sacrifice of Golgotha and as derivations from it, a sacrifice which is continued sacramentally in the Mass. It is therefore only in the fact that they are dispositions, more or less immediate, to communion in the Eucharistic sacrifice, that all these rites have a significance. Finally, we should bear in mind that theological analysis of Divine Mercy Sunday, and the extraordinary graces available on that day, has only just begun. In the future, no doubt, new perspectives will arise, both to extend the insights of Fr. Michalenko and Fr. Rozycki, and to supplement their work. For example, there is a theological tradition in the Church which states that a complete renewal of baptismal grace is available to the soul at every sacramental confession, if the soul comes to the Lord with perfect contrition, i.e., perfect love of God. St. Catherine of Siena, for example, writes in The Dialogue (no. 75) of how martyrdom, baptism by desire, and sacramental confession undertaken with a pure heart, all wash the soul as clean as baptism itself. Our Lord said to her: By shedding both blood and water I showed you the holy baptism of water that you receive through the power of my blood. But I was also showing you the baptism of blood, and this in two ways. The first touches those who are baptized in their own blood poured out for me. Though they could not have the other baptism, their own blood has power because of mine. Others are baptized in fire when they lovingly desire baptism but cannot have it. ... There is a second way the soul receives this baptism of blood, figuratively speaking. This my divine charity provided because I know how people sin because of their weakness. Not that weakness or anything else can force them to sin if they do not want to, but being weak they do fall into deadly sin and lose the grace they had drawn from the power of the blood in holy baptism. So my divine charity had to leave them an ongoing baptism of blood accessible by heartfelt contrition and a holy confession as soon as they can confess to my ministers who hold the key to the blood. This blood the priest pours over the soul in absolution. But if they cannot confess, heartfelt contrition is enough for the hand of my
mercy to give them the fruit of this precious blood. ... So you see, this baptism is ongoing, and the soul ought to be baptized in it right up to the end, in the way I have told you. In this baptism you experience that though my act of suffering on the cross was finite, the fruit of that suffering which you have received through me is infinite. This is because of the infinite divine nature joined with finite human nature [in Christ]. According to St. Catherine of Siena, therefore, the complete renewal of baptismal grace is available to the soul from the Mercy of God in a variety of ways, and a renewal of these graces should be a constant feature of the life of the soul journeying toward perfection. If so, then what is so “extraordinary” about the grace of baptismal renewal offered to souls on Divine Mercy Sunday? Is not such an extraordinary grace always available to us? First, let us examine the nature of the extraordinary grace itself. One can, theoretically, receive the complete remission of sins and punishment any time from the sacrament of Confession followed by Holy Communion, all undertaken with the perfect love of God. But how many of the faithful ordinarily receive these sacraments with such a pure disposition? Usually, the intentions of the penitent-communicant are more mixed, including fear of God as well as love, and, to some extent, with continuing attachment to their sins. As a result, while their sins are forgiven, there remains the temporal punishment due to sin (see Catechism 1472-1473). Of course, this temporal punishment can be completely taken away through a plenary indulgence, granted by the Church, for the devout performance of certain designated good works (such as the recitation of prayers, giving of alms, visiting of a shrine, etc.) — but, again, if these works are not undertaken with pure love of God, then the indulgence is only partial, not plenary. The complete remission of sins and punishment, ex opere operato, is ordinary only available to the soul at baptism. What Jesus Christ has promised to the world, through St. Faustina, is that this complete renewal of this same baptismal grace — the complete remission of sins and punishment — is also available to the faithful through the reception in a state of grace of Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday. In other words, one could argue that what makes Mercy Sunday so extraordinary is not just the eminence of the graces offered, but also, uniquely, the lesser requirement for receiving them: the reception of Holy Communion by a heart filled only with trust in Divine Mercy. This “trust,” it might be said, is not yet an act of perfect love of God, not yet perfect contrition. For