|The Divine Mercy|
|Witness||Saint Faustina Kowalska|
Blessed Micha? Sopo?ko
Servant of God Józef Andrasz
|Approval||Pope John Paul II|
|Shrine||Divine Mercy Sanctuary, Kraków|
The Divine Mercy is a devotion to Jesus Christ associated with the apparitions of Jesus to Faustina Kowalska. The venerated image under this Christological title refers to what Kowalska's diary describes as "God's loving mercy" towards all people, especially for sinners. Kowalska was granted the title "Secretary of Mercy" by the Holy See in the Jubilee Year of 2000. Kowalska reported a number of apparitions during religious ecstasy which she wrote in her diary, later published as the book Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. The two main themes of the devotion are to trust in Christ's endless goodness, and to show mercy to others acting as a conduit for God's love towards them.
Pope John Paul II, a native of Poland, had great affinity towards this devotion and authorized it in the Liturgical Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. The liturgical Feast of the Divine Mercy is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Worshippers of the Divine Mercy commemorate the Hour of Mercy (3 PM), which according to Kowalska's diary is the time of the death of Jesus. Another very popular form of the devotion is the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. Some members of the Anglican Communion also share its pious beliefs and devotions in an effort towards church renewal. The devotion is believed to be the preparation for the end time.
The term and concept of divine mercy in Catholicism is from the Hebrew word chesed, which in the Bible can be translated as "great mercy," "goodness," "loving-kindness, "steadfast love," "covenant faithfulness," "favor," "grace," or "love and mercy," and which refers to God's love for the Children of Israel and for all of mankind.
The primary focus of the Divine Mercy devotion is the merciful love of God and the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one's own heart towards those in need of it. As he dedicated the Shrine of Divine Mercy, John Paul II referred to this when he said: "Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind".
There are seven main forms of this devotion:
As in the prayers that form the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, there are three main themes to the Divine Mercy devotion: to ask for and obtain the mercy of God, to trust in Christ's abundant mercy, and finally to show mercy to others and act as a conduit for God's mercy towards them.
The first and second elements relate to the signature "Jesus I trust in You" on the Divine Mercy image and Kowalska stated that on April 28, 1935, the day the first Divine Mercy Sunday was celebrated, Jesus told her: "Every soul believing and trusting in My Mercy will obtain it."
The third component is reflected in the statement "Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners" attributed to Jesus in Kowalska's diary (Notebook I, items 186-187). This statement is followed in the diary by a specific short prayer: "O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You." which Kowalska also recommended for the Hour of Divine Mercy. In her diary (Notebook II, item 742) Kowalska wrote that Jesus told her: "I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me." and that he explained that there are three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first-by deed, the second-by word, the third-by prayer.
The Divine Mercy devotion views mercy as the key element in the plan of God for salvation and emphasizes the belief that it was through mercy that God gave his only son for the redemption of mankind, after the fall of Adam. The opening prayer for Divine Mercy Sunday Mass refers to this and begins: "Heavenly Father and God of Mercy, We no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for He is alive and has become the Lord of Life".
In 1959 the Vatican banned the image and devotion to it because of a number of factors. Some Polish bishops questioned Kowalska's claims and were uncomfortable with the image's similarity to the red and white Polish flag. Polish priests were reported to be interpreting the rays as a symbol of the flag. The ban on devotion was lifted on April 15, 1978, due to pressure from future Polish pope Karol Wojty?a, who had great interest on Kowalska.
The chaplet is associated with the paintings of the image as in Kowalska's diary. The most widely used is an image painted by Adolf Hyla. Hyla painted the image in thanksgiving for having survived World War II.
In the image, Jesus stands with one hand outstretched in blessing, the other clutching the side wounded by the spear, from which proceed beams of falling light, coloured red and white. An explanation of these colors was given by Kowalska, which she attributed to Jesus in her diary: "The two rays represent blood and water". These colors of the rays refer to the "blood and water'" of the Gospel of John (John 19:34) which are also mentioned in the optional prayer of the Chaplet. The words "Jesus I Trust in Thee" usually accompany the image (Jezu Ufam Tobie in Polish).
The original Divine Mercy image was painted by Eugene Kazimierowski in Vilnius, Lithuania, under Kowalska's direction. However, according to her diary, she cried upon seeing that the finished picture was not as beautiful as the vision she had received, but Jesus comforted her saying, "Not in the beauty of the colour, nor of the brush is the greatness of this image, but in My grace". The picture was widely used during the early years of the devotion, and is still in circulation within the movement, but the Hyla image remains one of the most reproduced renderings. After the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday was granted to the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II on 30 April 2000 new versions of the image have emerged from a new generation of Catholic artists.
In her diary Kowalska wrote that Jesus specified 3:00 pm each day as the hour at which mercy was best received, and asked her to pray the Chaplet of Mercy and venerate the Divine Mercy image at that hour. On October 10, 1937, in her diary (Notebook V, item 1320) Kowalska attributed the following statement to Jesus:
As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it, invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners, for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul.
In an entry in her diary, Kowalska stated that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins and punishments.
A number of Marian churches and shrines have been dedicated to Divine Mercy. One of the most important is the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, when also the Divine Mercy image was exhibited for the first time.
The worldwide center of the devotion is Divine Mercy Sanctuary (Kraków), commonly known as ?agiewniki. This is where Kowalska is interred, and it houses the most popular version of the Divine Mercy image (by Adolf Hy?a).
The Divine Mercy Sanctuary (Vilnius) houses Eugeniusz Kazimirowski's initial rendition.
The Divine Mercy Sanctuary (P?ock) is where Kowalska is said to have had the first vision of the Divine Mercy image. The Divine Mercy Sanctuary (Bia?ystok) has the remains of Micha? Sopo?ko, the spiritual director of Kowalska and the Apostle of Divine Mercy. G?ogowiec, czyca County as well as nearby ?winice Warckie (central Poland) are the places of birth and childhood as well as baptism and first communion of Kowalska.
The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Marilao, Bulacan is the major church dedicated to Divine Mercy in the Philippines. The Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador City, Philippines, has a 50-foot (15-meter) statue of Merciful Jesus.
A number of Christian orders and institutions are devoted to the Divine Mercy. The John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy is managed by the Congregation of Marian Fathers, which takes an active role in promoting the Divine Mercy message.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, to which Kowalska belonged, and the Congregation of Sisters of Merciful Jesus, established by Micha? Sopo?ko on the request of Christ reported by her, have also very important role in spreading the devotion.
Two new religious communities - the Sisters of Jesus' Merciful Passion and the Littlest Sons of the Sweetest Heart of Mary - are being raised up in Michigan through the Servants of Jesus of The Divine Mercy, a lay association of the faithful led by Archbishop Allen Vigneron.
[Although] The word 'lovingkindness'...is archaic, [it is] not far from the fullness of meaning of the word [chesed or hesed].
The Hebrew hesed (plural hasadim) is usually translated as "grace" or "loving-kindness", but sometimes also as "mercy" or "love".