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  April 2004


What The World Needs Now


by Ludmila Grygiel

The message of Divine Mercy transmitted by St. Faustina Kowalska and being furthered by the Knights is a very contemporary one

In this article:

Spiritual and Material Gains

Meditation On Christ's Passion

A Daily Act of Mercy

Convince the World


Icon of St. Faustina Kowalska written by Marek Czarnecki of Seraphic Restorations in Avon, Conn.

Icon of St. Faustina Kowalska written by Marek Czarnecki of Seraphic Restorations in Avon, Conn.

Through the mediation of St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-38), Jesus has given us a teaching on God's mercy, and a new form of devotion known as the Divine Mercy. The devotion centers on veneration of the image of the merciful Jesus. The image was described by the Lord to Sister Faustina, a Polish nun, and then painted by her. The Divine Mercy devotion includes recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, celebration of the feast of Divine Mercy the first Sunday after Easter, and keeping holy the hour of Christ’s death.

On Sept. 13, 1935, in Vilnius (now the capital of Lithuania), Jesus "dictated" the words of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to Sister Faustina. It is important to note that this took place after a vision of an angel, "the executor of Divine wrath," during which the mystic nun, terrified, began to "implore God for the world with words heard interiorly." This was recorded in her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul (I, 196-197) [Stockbridge, Mass.: Marians of the Immaculate Conception, 2001; subsequent quotes are also from this source]. The next day Christ taught Sister Faustina to pray the chaplet, which she called "the prayer that serves to appease the wrath of God" (I, 197).


Spiritual and Material Gains

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The chaplet is by design a prayer to be offered in community by a group. Its purpose is to implore mercy not only for the one who is reciting it but those for whom it is being recited; to implore mercy not only for us but for the whole world. It is an act of love toward all sinners who are in need; it is an act of mercy.

On one occasion, when Sister Faustina was confiding to Jesus her ardent desire that all mankind turn with trust and confidence to Divine Mercy, the Lord said to her: "By saying the Chaplet, you bring all of humanity closer to me" (II, 281). These words reflect the dynamic reality of the action of Divine Mercy and the motivation behind Christ's request. The prayer that is lifted up to God the Father is in a certain sense a "reminder" to him of his Son’s painful passion. It is because of Christ’s suffering and death that man can ask and, by right, have confidence that God will hear him. One who prays the Chaplet of Divine Mercy uses one of the strongest means possible for presenting his petition to God. As with any prayer or devotion, the efficacy of the chaplet is dependent upon the confidence, the perseverance and the conformity to the will of God with which it is prayed.

Christ often suggested the chaplet as a prayer to obtain the grace of a holy death; those who are dying can obtain that grace both when they themselves pray and when someone else prays for them. Sister Faustina herself experienced often the efficacy of this prayer, particularly during her last hospitalization. Jesus assured her more than once that through perseverance and trust, one could obtain all things in prayer: both spiritual benefits, such as conversion and salvation, and prosperity in temporal matters, such as the end of a drought or storm. The only condition was that what was asked must conform to the divine will (VI, 93).


Meditation On Christ's Passion

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Christ's passion referenced in the Chaplet of Divine Mercy constitutes the essence of another related devotion, namely meditation on his death at 3 p.m., "the hour of great mercy for the whole world." Christ instructed Sister Faustina: "At 3 o’clock in the afternoon implore my mercy, especially for sinners and, for just a brief moment, immerse yourself in my passion, particularly in my abandonment at my death" (IV, 59). It should be noted that, according to Christ's explanation, the meditation on his passion must not be a meditation only on his physical suffering, but also on his spiritual torments, "mortal sadness," and agonizing experience of having been abandoned by God the Father.

For the Church, the high point of veneration of the Divine Mercy is the feast day, celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. This year’s celebration will be April 18. Preparation for the feast begins on Good Friday, with a novena (nine days of prayer) consisting of praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily. The choice of the first Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday highlights the interconnectedness of the work of mercy and that of Christ's redemption, the most powerful act of his mercy. The image of Christ as the Divine Mercy is the image of the resurrected Jesus, and it constitutes a particular illustration of the Gospel reading that Sunday on Jesus' appearance to his disciples.

Divine Mercy Sunday is a joyous feast for Catholics who hope to rise and live eternally with the resurrected Christ. The celebration of the feast includes almost all forms of devotion, including public veneration of the image of Divine Mercy, recitation of the chaplet and homilies on the theme of mercy. At the same time, these devotions are part of the Church’s sacramental life.

The importance of trust, the indispensable condition for proper and effective prayer, cannot be overemphasized. An attitude of trust must be the primary characteristic of those devoted to Divine Mercy.


A Daily Act of Mercy

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That having been said, however, the cult of Divine Mercy has one overriding characteristic: the attitude of the faithful as practitioners of mercy. The devotional practices are of less importance than the constant, daily practice of mercy. Through action, words and prayer, we must become people filled with mercy. Jesus reiterated the evangelical warning: "If a soul does not, in some way, practice mercy, it will not receive my mercy on the day of judgment" (IV, 57).

One who is truly devoted to Divine Mercy "must fulfill at least one act of mercy a day" (III, 430). This can be simply saying a prayer for someone in need of God's mercy. The devotion does not require a particular kind of charitable activity. More than an exterior action, it calls for spiritual maturity, a trusting abandonment to God rather than a program of good works. Devotion to Divine Mercy is a powerful instrument for the formation of Christians. That is why we strive to bring the message of Divine Mercy and devotion to Christ as Divine Mercy to the whole world.

The message of Divine Mercy transmitted by St. Faustina Kowalska and being furthered by the Knights of Columbus during its prayer program is a very contemporary message. It represents, one might say, a "To be or not to be" decision for the believer and nonbeliever alike. The world today needs witnesses of the Divine Mercy and evangelizers of its message.

The Divine Mercy message shows a new relationship between justice and mercy, a relationship that emerges directly from the scandal of Christ's crucifixion. Christ does not negate the concept of justice; rather, he changes it. He said to his disciples, "If your justice does not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:20).


Convince the World

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On the cross, mercy prevailed over justice. On the cross, Jesus broke the vicious cycle of sin and punishment that kept the sinner from hoping for salvation and finding his way to happiness in eternity. From Christ’s death on the cross to the end of time, "mercy triumphs over justice" (Jas 2:13). From this point on, man has the right to ask for God’s forgiveness and be confident that God will always forgive him. In fact, God continues to assure us, "I did not allot only a certain number of pardons" (V, 90).

Man's evil deeds will never be able to diminish God's willingness to forgive him. There is one condition, though: We must be truly penitent, moved by trust in God’s mercy and not by fear of being punished by him. The man who learns mercy from God changes both himself and the world in which he lives. This is the challenge for us Christians in a world where evil seemingly surpasses all limits. For this very reason, we must never despair or allow ourselves to be passive observers of the chaos around us. Instead, what we see must convince us of the world’s desperate need for Divine Mercy.

In the 1930s, Christ spoke to Sister Faustina words that are just as true now at the start of the 21st century: "Tell suffering humanity to snuggle close to my merciful heart and I will fill it with peace" (III, 20). It would not be incorrect then, that while we work for justice and peace we must work above all for mercy.

Ludmila Grygiel writes from Rome. She is the author of a spiritual biography of St. Faustina in Polish.






A Father Rich In Mercy

by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

A famous painting holds a lesson for us on the Father's Divine Mercy.


After his death in 1669, officials found in the studio of the Dutch artist Rembrandt a painting they considered unfinished. Titled "The Return of the Prodigal Son," it remains one of his greatest masterpieces.

The painting depicts the moment recounted in Luke's Gospel (cf. 15:11-31) when the son returns, kneels before his father and embraces him. His father returns the embrace, his hands on his son’s shoulders, drawing him still closer to himself.

The father's eyes are closed, but it is obvious that he now sees his son in a way that transcends what is merely visible. The father's face is bathed in light, a sign of the grace that has brought him and his son to this moment. There is no smile on his face. His own suffering and that which he now sees in his son’s condition is too profound. The prodigal son had insisted upon his inheritance early and embarked on a way of life that could only be seen as a total repudiation of his family's values. His isolation from them is complete when, by his own recklessness, he is driven into poverty.

Rembrandt depicts the father wearing a red mantle, traditionally a symbol of the Lord's glory. This image reminds us what the Church Fathers taught: The glory of the Lord is man redeemed. The son is redeemed by his return. The father too finds redemption in his willingness to accept the son’s return. Thus is the grace of God the Father sufficient to reconcile both father and son and to heal the family.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son places one telling petition of the Lord's Prayer within the context of the family: "Our Father…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Rembrandt has painted the prodigal son in such a way that he represents Everyman kneeling repentant before the Father.

Pope John Paul II has observed that at the heart of the struggle between the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death there exists an "eclipse of the sense of God." A society that no longer believes in God abandons those values which protect the sanctity of life. We have seen this happen with abortion, euthanasia and other grave evils. But the Father stands ready to lavish upon his children love, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. By embracing these values we can truly build a Culture of Life, a civilization of love.

The Holy Father often reminds us that in the Christian family we find present the mystery of the Holy Trinity. As the Parable of the Prodigal Son teaches, we also see in the family the occasion for Divine Mercy and reconciliation.

The Knights of Columbus has many programs to strengthen family life. One of the most important is our current Divine Mercy Hour of Prayer. This devotion has a special place in the Holy Father's heart. It can have a special place as well in each of our families, councils and parishes. And it can — and will — strengthen the bond of brother Knights committed to the principles of Charity, Unity and Fraternity.

Vivat Jesus!

15 posted on 05/01/2004 9:32:55 PM PDT by Coleus (Roe v. Wade and Endangered Species Act both passed in 1973, Murder Babies/save trees, birds, algae)
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To: Coleus; Siobhan
Question from Corina Ernst on 07-01-2004:
I was wondering if you could shed some light on chaplets. There are many different kind of chaplets out there. Personally I love to pray them. I've been told by elders of the Catholic Church that they are not recognized or approved by the Church. I would appreciate it if you could give me an answer on if they are approved or recognized by the Catholic Church? Thank you very much. God Bless Corina Ernst
Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 08-02-2004:
I'm not sure what you mean by elders. This is not a term used by Catholics. The Greek word for elder, presbyter, is the word which indicates a priest.

As for chaplets, they are simply a kind of rosary (or the rosary is a kind of chaplet) developed to foster a particular devotion. They receive various approbations of the Church, most importantly the imprimatur attesting to the doctrinal correctness of the content. In the case of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, this was part of the private revelation to St. Faustina and is imprimatured in every language. Thus, there is no question that the Church approves of the use of chaplets, in general, as a legitimate form of private devotion. Those should be used which have some ecclesiastical recognition, either by imprimatur of a bishop or imprimi potest of a religious congregation's superior.

In the directory on piety from the Congregation for Divine Worship, chaplets are favorably mentioned several times:

178. The veneration of the Blood of Christ has passed from the Liturgy into popular piety where it has been widely diffused in numerous forms of devotional practices. Among these mention can be made of the following:
- the Chaplet of the Most Precious Blood, in which the seven "effusions of the Blood of Christ", implicitly or explicitly mentioned in the Gospels, are recalled in a series of biblical meditations and devotional prayers...

202. "In recommending the value and beauty of the Rosary to the faithful, care should be taken to avoid discrediting other forms of prayer, or of overlooking the existence of a diversity of other Marian chaplets which have also been approved by the Church"...

222. St. Joseph plays a prominent part in popular devotion: in numerous popular traditions; ... and in the recitation of the chaplet of St Joseph, recollecting the Seven agonies and seven joys of St. Joseph.

16 posted on 04/02/2005 9:03:36 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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