“Say unceasingly the Chaplet I have taught you”
– Merciful Jesus to Saint Faustina
Rosary beads are a very tactile object. There is something quite soothing about feeling the beads gently slipping through the fingers, while the mind is engaged elsewhere. The prayer of the holy Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy both make use of the beads, and both to very good effect. Elsewhere, I have written previously about the Chaplet itself as a devotion and how it came about. For now, I would like to look at some of the effects upon the person of praying this exquisite prayer.
The Chaplet is relatively new – certainly when compared to other devotions within the Church – as we have had it for less than one hundred years. It came to us fully formed, dictated to Saint Faustina by Jesus Himself during the revelations which we now refer to as the ‘Divine Mercy devotion’. The Lord gave the Chaplet to Saint Faustina in September 1935. He recommended it as a very powerful prayer for obtaining God’s mercy for ourselves and for others – the prayer itself is addressed to God the Father, asking His mercy for the sake of the Passion and Death of Jesus, His Son, upon the Cross. The Chaplet begs for mercy “on us and on the whole world”, offering Christ back to the Eternal Father in propitiation for the sins of humanity, so very deeply in need of that mercy.
The condition of the soul who prays the Chaplet is, by necessity, that of a sinner; we are all sinners. To ask for mercy, we must first recognise our need of that mercy – that is, we must first see ourselves as sinners before the holiness of God. This is our starting point with the Chaplet.
Even as sinners, we are confident (or at the very least, hopeful) that the mercy we beg will be given to us – otherwise, we would not be asking for it. The Gospels tell us over and over that God is merciful, that we are forgiven not once, not seven times, but as often as we need to be forgiven – so long as we ask for that forgiveness.
Speaking in 2006, Pope Benedict said that the message of Divine Mercy “.. is a really central message for our time: Mercy as the force of God, as the divine limit against the evil of the world”.
Two years later, the Holy Father added this –
“Indeed, mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the Face with which He revealed Himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive Love… From Divine Mercy, which brings peace to hearts, genuine peace flows into the world, peace between different peoples, cultures and religions.”
And this peace which Pope Benedict mentioned begins not at the global or the international or the national level, but at the individual level; it only when we ourselves as individual human beings experience that peace, that we can we hope to share it with others around us.
This sense of interior peace can begin with the prayerful recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
To pray the Chaplet, we generally go to a quiet place, where we can begin to settle ourselves in order to pray, and to pray as well as we are able. We may be sitting or kneeling, and we will have our beads, upon which we pray the Chaplet. We may already know the actual prayers of the Chaplet, or we may be reading it from a book or pamphlet. And then as we settle, we begin to pray.
This is the moment at which we begin to slip the beads through our fingers, and it is the moment at which the gentle repetition of the Chaplet commences. Particularly as we become more familiar with the prayers, we can focus on what it is we are actually praying. Our hands are occupied with one thing – slipping the beads as a way of counting – whilst our minds (and hopefully our hearts) are engaged in the actual praying part of the exercise. Now, we can begin to experience the gentle effects of this repetition. It helps to relax us, to quieten us and to still our minds, and to focus us. It is not too dissimilar to being lulled to sleep by the gentle whisperings of a mother to her child. This is the exterior part of the practice.
The interior part of our devotion begins with the grace of God; our initial desire to pray the Chaplet is not, in fact, ours at all – rather, it is our repsonse to a grace given to us by the Lord, who desires that we approach Him to ask His mercy for ourselves and for others. And so the real starting point is not with us, but with Him.
And when we do respond to this grace which He so generously grants to us, then the real work can begin. This initial response of our soul to the Lord’s grace opens the way for further grace to be given to us in our prayers. Having called us to pray, we can be certain that the Lord is listening intently to our prayers; we can be equally certain that the Lord would not call us to pray if He were then going to grant us nothing further in repsonse to our petitions.
Now, what the Lord grants us may not always be what we have asked for, and it will be granted in His time rather than ours – but what is certain is that He will grant us what we need. The heart of the prayer of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is trust in God – as the Divine Mercy Image proclaims, ‘Jesus, I trust in You’.
If you have not prayed the Chaplet before, or if you have not prayed it for a while, then why not go and take up your beads, find a quiet spot, familiaraise yourself with the Chaplet prayers, and pray. You might be surprised at just how powerful this Chaplet really is.