Early Suggestions on How Our Parishes Can Observe Divine Mercy Sunday This Year

The feast is intended to highlight divine mercy as God’s greatest attribute, the crowning work” of all his works.  As such, it should form a Catholic’s spiritual attitudes and behaviors. 

Divine Mercy image of Christ.

Each year since 2000, the Church Universal has marked the Second Sunday of Easter as “Divine Mercy Sunday.”  Blessed John Paul II designated that day as the Feast of Divine Mercy when he canonized Maria Faustina Kowalska (1908-38) in 2000, the first saint canonized in the third millennium. 

St. Faustina was a nun who, in the 1930s, received a series of private revelations centered on God’s mercy as his greatest attribute.  She recorded those experiences in her Diary. 1  In addition to a theology and spirituality of Divine Mercy, the revelations also contain five concrete forms of devotion requested by the Lord, one of which was the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy.  (The others include a chaplet prayer, similar to the rosary; a daily 3:00 p.m. reflection on Christ’s passion and divine mercy; an image of Jesus as the Divine Mercy; and a request to spread mercy, both in terms of the devotions themselves, as well as through concrete spiritual and corporeal acts of mercy).  The devotions themselves also have promises attached to them for those who pray them sincerely.

In the case of the Feast of Divine Mercy, our Lord promises that ” . . . {W}however approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment” (Diary, # 300).  “On this day, the very depths of my tender mercy are open. I pour 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 .  …  Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet” (Diary, # 699).

Because the Feast of Divine Mercy is relatively new to the Church worldwide, some parishes may wonder how best to mark it.  Here are some suggestions for how parishes can observe the Feast of Divine Mercy, which next occurs April 27, 2014.

Mention the Feast in the Sunday Liturgy and Homily.  At the very least, the Feast of Divine Mercy should be mentioned during the regular Sunday liturgies, and its theme form a component of the Sunday homily.  The Gospel of the Second Sunday of Easter, which focuses on Christ giving his disciples peace through the ministry of reconciliation (“whose sins you shall forgive …”) obviously lends itself to this theme.  According to her Diary, Christ asked priests to preach about the feast and spread awareness of God’s mercy.  The theme is hardly an intrusion into the liturgy of the day, since the Church has been in the middle of one long commemoration of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection “for us and our salvation,” which began on Ash Wednesday, and extends to Pentecost.  The whole of Lent and Eastertide is about God’s mercy!  On the Second Sunday of Easter, the Church is focused in a special way on the Paschal Mystery, which took place “so that sins can be forgiven.”  The Gospel of the day (John 20:19-31) presents the Divine Mercy through the forgiveness of sins as Christ’s Easter gift to his Church.  The opportunity is there to invite sacramentally inactive Catholics back to God’s mercy.  Let’s use it!  Prominently displaying the image of Divine Mercy near the altar is also most appropriate.

While these ideas can be implemented in virtually every parish, we should also not content ourselves with such a bare minimalism on such a rich and important feast.  Parishes should also strongly consider following up this theme with a Divine Mercy service that Sunday afternoon.

Schedule a Particular Divine Mercy Service.  Parishes should schedule a 3:00 p.m. service in honor of the Divine Mercy, at the hour that Jesus designated in this devotion as “the Hour of Mercy,” commemorating his death.  The service ideally could be a special Mass ,or at least a holy hour, to which recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and some explanation of the theology of mercy, can be joined.  Such an afternoon service also provides an opportunity for pre-service confessions, considering the association Our Lord makes in his revelations to Sr. Faustina between this feast and the sacraments of confession and Communion.  Finally, for those parishes that have prepared for the feast through celebration of a preparatory novena (discussed below), such a service represents a consummation of that preparation.

The Heart of the Feast is the Reception of Penance and the Eucharist.  Jesus’ particular promises for the Feast are bound up with a good confession and communion.  Most commentators understand that the sacrament of reconciliation can be received in the period preceding the feast, e.g., during the nine day novena (discussed below) preceding it.  Receiving the Eucharist on the feast should pose no problem, because the feast always falls on Sunday.

The sacrament of penance, however, may pose another issue.  Since the feast marks God’s mercy, the consummate expression of that mercy lies in the forgiveness of sins, the encounter with the merciful Christ in the sacrament of reconciliation.  Many Catholics are likely already to have received the sacrament in conjunction with Easter. 

Because of the particular focus of this feast on Divine Mercy priests should not, however, be content with the minimum: they should make Christ’s sacramental mercy readily available during this period.  Pastors should provide occasions with enhanced sacramental access during this period.  Ecclesiastical discipline allows for opportunities for confession on Good Friday (right after the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, or in the evening, perhaps in conjunction with Stations of the Cross) and Holy Saturday (perhaps in the morning or traditional afternoon periods).  Granted, a phenomenon has arisen in the United States to banish sacramental penance from the Paschal Triduum but, as I have argued in these pages, that phenomenon is unjustified liturgically and, frankly, baldly utilitarian.  Other opportunities for providing sacramental reconciliation include before weekday Masses during the Easter Octave (or at least on the last three days before the Feast), an extended period on the Saturday before the Second Sunday of Easter, and even on Divine Mercy Sunday itself.  (Confessions can even be heard during Mass, a phenomenon not unusual even in St. Peter’s Basilica, and once commonplace in America).  If we are serious about God’s mercy, we can be serious about making available opportunities for extending it sacramentally. 

Celebrate the Divine Mercy Novena.  St. Faustina’s Diary contains a preparatory novena for the feast.  The novena, which begins on Good Friday, consists in commending particular groups of people each day (mankind in general; priests and religious; the devout and faithful; those who do not know God and Christ; pagans and schismatics; the meek, humble, and children; those dedicated to divine mercy; the souls in purgatory; and the lukewarm) to God’s mercy.  The best observance for the feast involves, therefore, preparing for it through the novena, which can be fostered privately among parishioners or included in regular gatherings throughout the nine days preceding the feast (e.g., within or after liturgies).  Novena booklets are available.  Many Catholics lament the demise of popular devotions; here is an opportunity to respond to that need.

Display the Image of Divine Mercy.  St. Faustina also said that the Lord instructed her  to have a painting made of the Divine Mercy, according to a vision he gave her.  The image depicts Jesus in a white tunic, one hand raised in blessing, the other parting his tunic at the breast, from which emanates two great rays of light, one red, the other “pale.”  Below the image is the motto Christ entrusted to Sr. Faustina: “Jesus, I trust in you.”  He requested veneration of the image, and that it is displayed on the feast, promising a multiplication of graces to those who venerate it. 

In many post-Vatican II American churches, art and iconography have truly become minimalistic, and many Catholic homes, likewise, are largely devoid of distinctive religious art.  The Feast of Divine Mercy is an occasion for parishes to display this image in the Church, and to place it in parishioners’ homes, e.g., as a holy card reproduction, or on a leaflet explaining how to pray the chaplet.  Parishes should consider handing these out as mementoes of the feast during regular Sunday Masses of the day. 2

Realize Divine Mercy is not a One-Time Event, and Extend it Throughout the Year.  The feast is intended to highlight divine mercy as God’s greatest attribute, the crowning work” of all his works.  As such, it should form a Catholic’s spiritual attitudes and behaviors.  Consideration of the Divine Mercy does not end at 4:00 on that Sunday, to be revisited in a year.  An awareness of God’s mercy should foster a sacramental lifestyle, including the gradual reincorporation of the sacrament of penance into that spirituality.  It should also foster an awareness of the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy as an everyday fact-of-life for Christians.  A parish that sincerely celebrates this feast should reflect on how it shapes that parish’s life throughout the year.

Throughout the year, priests can return to the theme of mercy in their homilies.  Opportunities to observe Divine Mercy devotions (e.g., communal recitation of the chaplet) can be joined to a time before or after Sunday Mass, or on First Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays (thus recovering that tradition as a monthly “spiritual checkup”).  Because devotion to Divine Mercy involves doing merciful deeds, parishes and parish organizations can consider how their activities involve them in spiritual and corporeal works of mercy in the parish, neighborhood, and community.  Priests should consider how to bring the Divine Mercy devotion to the sick and dying, especially when celebrating the sacrament of the sick.  (Our Lord especially recommended the recitation of the chaplet at the bedside of the dying.  Once devotion to Divine Mercy takes root, subsequent observances of the feast will acquire a certain connaturality, because they will be part of what that parish is about spiritually.

Bl. John Paul called Divine Mercy devotion a special gift to the contemporary Church.  It is a special gift to alienated humanity who needs to trust in God, who wants to save us, and make us fully alive.  By making the Feast of Divine Mercy a living reality in our parishes, we will go a long way towards the contemporary renewal of spiritual life.

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 Editor’s Note:    The Canonization of Blessed Pope John Paul II and Blessed Pope John XXIII
will occur on

Sunday, April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday.

__________________

 

  1. The Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul is available from the Marian Fathers (Box 559, Eden Hill, Stockbridge, MA 01262-0559), who have promoted the devotion.  They also can provide supplies (holy cards, pamphlets, etc.) for observance of the feast. Visit www.divinemercygiftshop.org or call 1-888-484-1112 (toll-free in the U.S.) for more information.
  2. See the previous note regarding sources for such leaflets.
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avatar About John M. Grondelski

John M. Grondelski is an independent scholar from Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He holds a Ph.D. in moral theology from Fordham, and served as associate dean of the School of Theology at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. He has written for Angelicum, Antonianum, Irish Theological Studies, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

Comments

  1. avatar Maurice Faulds says:

    After a pilgrimage to Poland a couple of years ago, our parish priest has instigated the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in our parish of St Hilaire in Blanzay France every Friday before morning Mass.

    One of the fruits has been that we have two of our young men now attending seminary training to become priests.

    Christus Vinci

  2. A few suggestions here:
    1. The Church issued a special plenary indulgence for Divine Mercy Sunday on June 29th, 2002, which included the “duties for priests”. http://divinemercysunday.com/plenary_indulgence.htm
    2. The Church allows 20 days, before or after, for Confession for a plenary indulgence and those, who have already confessed in preparation for Easter should make room for others that need to go. http://divinemercysunday.com/clarification_for_confession.htm
    3. Instead of organizing afternoon devotions, how about reaching out into our neighborhoods and searching for the lost sheep and inviting them to come back home to the Church and to the feast? http://divinemercysunday.com/Is_Your_Parish_Correctly_Celebrating_Divine_Mercy_Sunday.htm

  3. avatar Jim St. Raymond says:

    Father Tony, Father John, Father George:

    A great article on celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

  4. avatar Tom Wilson says:

    I have been devoted to the Divine Mercy for years now, but to make sure I am doing all that is required to gain complete forgiveness of sin and punishment is to make a good confession within 9 days of Divine Mercy Sunday with the intent to be free from sin in the future and then receive communion on Divine Mercy Sunday, right?

  5. avatar Frank says:

    Luv Divine Mercy was a Eucharistic minister at the Stockbridge shrine many years even while doing so I was and still founder of the following Marian apostolate for anyone wishing information of it.. Given okay by my bishop .

    Sanctuaryhouse.tumblr.com

    Frank faas

    • avatar Marge says:

      I truly beleive that the floodgates are opened on Divine Mercy Sunday. Christ completed His mission on earth; once again showing His love for us by wanting all souls to be saved. I feel Divine Mercy is for all – not just Catholics. I would hope all denominations would preach concerning Divine Mercy Sunday. “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and the WHOLE WORLD.”

      The whole world really needs Christ Mercy, especially now.

  6. The article on Divine Mercy Sunday doesn’t mention the solemn blessing of the image of Divine Mercy. Shouldn’t this be a part of the ceremony? I think Our Lord requested this to St. Faustina in her diary.

  7. avatar mark endres says:

    Thank you for this nice article. I hope that someday, every parish is aware of Divine Mercy Sunday. Once again, the parish I attended last year did not even mention it……

  8. I’d like to offer Saint Luke Productions’ newest live drama Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy. The production, which is currently on a nationwide tour, offers a profound message of mercy that is so needed for each one of us and for our world today – and it is a must see!

    This riveting multimedia production of Faustina is a modern message of mercy centered around the spirit and life of Polish nun Faustina Kowalska, whose personal encounters with Jesus have inspired a world-wide devotion and zeal to Christ’s Divine Mercy. A parallel modern story within the drama offers audiences a compelling personal connection to the current moral issues of our times. This show is deeply touching many, many souls and is bringing St. Faustina to life in a face-to-face experience.

    I recommend viewing the trailer for the drama at http://www.DivineMercyDrama.com to get a sense of the impact of the production.

  9. avatar Joseph says:

    Joseph &Carolyn: Financial health. Healthy relationship. reconcile. Get married. happiness. get along. All quarrels, misfortunes, plagues, impoverishment and attacks to be quench and subside. Blessings in daily lives, works, minds, health, happiness.

    Those in my prayer lists: Protections, resources, happiness, safety, quench storms, remove thorns, bless in our daily lives, families, relationships, resources, works, foods, water, shelters. Grant us final perseverance.
    Health: of Mind, Body, resources, careers, finances, families, relationships, future, shelter, foods, water, air, emotions, heart, soul, studies, careers, businesses.

    Those in most need of Gods Mercy:
    Yahweh our God and Mother of Perpetual Help. We commit this world and everything into your hands forever. With all souls, sinners, our families, bloodline, hopes, works, relationships and future. Have mercy on us always through the blood, wounds, face , heart & works of Jesus our Lord. Bless our ways, Grant us protection ,safety and final perseverance always. Unite all our works and prayers with those of the Confraternity of Capuchin, Rosary Confraternity of Dominican& Fatima always. In Jesus Name. Amen.

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