At the very heart of the Divine Mercy devotion as revealed to St Faustina, is the Feast of Mercy. In His revelations to the saint, the Lord said –
“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.”
In her Diary, St Faustina records time and again the very direct and explicit demands of the Lord to have the feast established in the Church, and His promises attached to this feast when celebrated as He instructs –
“I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy.. whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.. Mankind will not have peace until it turns with confidence to My Mercy .. No soul will be justified until it turns with confidence to My Mercy, and this is why the first Sunday after Easter is to be the Feast of Mercy. On that day, Priests are to tell everyone about My great and unfathomable Mercy.”
The Feast is to be preceded by a Novena of Chaplets of the Divine Mercy, beginning on Good Friday. The Lord gave St Faustina particular intentions for which to pray on each day of the Novena. She was to bring various groups of souls to Lord through her prayers; the Lord told St Faustina – “By this Novena, I will grant every possible grace to souls”. Although these intentions were for Faustina herself, it is a good practice for us to follow suit and to do the same, as they are contained within the Diary. However, strictly speaking we are asked simply to make a Novena of Chaplets – there is no requirement for us to use the prayers for the intentions noted to her by the Lord.
The Feast of Mercy is a liturgical feast, with Mass and the homily dedicated to Divine Mercy, and so Priests receive a special mention as their role is crucial – “On that day, Priests are to tell everyone about My Mercy”.
Previously known as ‘Low Sunday’, the Mass readings and prayers of that day already focussed clearly on the theme of Divine Mercy – and the Gospel of the day recounts the appearance of the Risen Lord to the Apostles in the Upper Room, granting them His peace. In other words, the Gospel and the Image of the Divine Mercy clearly reflect one another.
It is extraordinary that the Church should accede to the request for a liturgical feast, stemming from a private revelation; and yet, that is precisely what happened. And the instruction to have it celebrated came from the Holy Father himself. St John Paul II was directly responsible for the final establishment of the Divine Mercy devotion by removing the final obstacles which had impeded the spreading of the devotion; also by beatifying and then canonising St Faustina; and by establishing the Feast of Divine Mercy in accordance with the request of the Most Merciful Jesus in His revelations to St Faustina. This was done by means of the Papal Decree issued on 5th May 2000 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments –
“In our times, the Christian faithful.. wish to praise Divine Mercy..particularly in the celebration of the Paschal Mystery.. Acceding to these wishes, 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 Divine Mercy Sunday)’”
The Great Promise of the Lord
At Mass on the Feast of Divine Mercy, souls are to receive Holy Communion in the state of grace –
“The soul that will go to Confession and Communion on that day shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment”.
This is the great promise of the Most Merciful Jesus for the Feast of Mercy – it is greater than a plenary indulgence, which does not grant remission of sins, only of ‘temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1471). By virtue of the Apostolic Penitentiary Decree issued on 29th June 2002, the Holy See also grants both plenary and partial indulgences to those who undertake devotions in honour of the Divine Mercy; the linked document gives the official decree and contains the conditions required.
Fr Rozycki notes that this particular grace is quite singular and astonishing and he likens it to a ‘second baptism’, it’s grace being equal in terms of it’s effect on the soul. It is not baptism, of course, but the effects of the grace are the same – restoring the soul to the perfect state. Writing in ‘Pillars Of Fire’, and quoted in ‘A Divine Mercy Resource: How To Understand The Devotion To The Divine Mercy’, Fr Rozycki says this –
“The grace of the complete remission of sins and punishment is theologically possible since neither this grace, nor the conditions for obtaining it, contradict revealed teachings. If God is able to bestow this grace through the Sacrament of Baptism, why would He not be able to bestow it – if He so wishes – through the Eucharist, which is the greatest Sacrament?”
At that Mass, Priests should speak to the faithful about Divine Mercy, as the Lord requested through St Faustina so that we may be moved to sorrow for our sins and be properly disposed to receive the Lord worthily in Holy Communion. And in being properly disclosed in this way, we are reminded of our duty to “be merciful, as your Father in Heaven is merciful” – and of the Beatitude which tells us plainly that “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”.
Finally, the Image of the Most Merciful Jesus should be solemnly blessed and publicly venerated, as requested by the Lord to St Faustina –
“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”.
These, then, are the essentials of celebrating the Feast of Divine Mercy –
- a novena of Chaplets preceding the Feast, beginning on Good Friday;
- and on the Feast itself, solemn blessing and veneration of the Divine Mercy Image;
- Mass, with worthy reception of Holy Communion;
- and a homily on the theme of Divine Mercy;
- and acts of mercy (in word, deed or prayer) since we who receive mercy are obliged to be merciful, as the Gospel commands us.
Many Catholic parishes, dioceses and shrines now publicly celebrate the Feast of Divine Mercy, often with Eucharistic adoration and the opportunity for Sacramental Confession, public Chaplet of Divine Mercy, blessing and veneration of the Image of Divine Mercy, and culminating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In Scotland, the Feast of Divine Mercy is celebrated in several parishes across the country and there is a large gathering at Carfin Grotto, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and St Therese.
Check your local Catholic press for details.