Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday

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