A Walk Through the Words of the Chaplet, Part II
Dr. Robert Stackpole Answers Your Questions On Divine Mercy
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Nov 7, 2007)
Last week we started our "stroll" through the Divine Mercy Chaplet in response to several questions I had received about the meaning of phrases in the Chaplet. We left off at the phrase:
4. "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion ..."
This part of the Chaplet is not just a repeat of the first part. We are not praying here that the Son of God's sacrifice may cover our sins, compensating divine justice for them. Rather, the original Polish of this line of the Chaplet suggests that a new prayer-intention is being introduced. Rev. Ignacy Rozycki, the Polish theologian who examined the writings of Sister Faustina as part of the Church's official investigation into her life and virtues, explained the meaning of this phrase of the Chaplet like this:
"For the sake of His sorrowful Passion" is not an appeal to the satisfaction which Jesus offered for our sins. Fidelity to the spirit and the letter of the devotion demands rather an appeal to the love and mercy of the Father and the Son for us, and to that love which is attested by the sufferings of the Son. In other words, we again emphasize the strongest motive upon which the efficacy of the Chaplet is based; we briefly call, "May so much hardship, so much suffering not be in vain." We repeat the same idea which Thomas of Celano expressed in the hymn Dies Irae: "Exhausted You sought me, crucified You saved me, may Your wounds not be in vain."
Out of love for Jesus our Savior, therefore, we pray to the Father that all that Jesus suffered for us might not be wasted, but might bring about our salvation, as the graces He won for us by His Agony and Passion pour out upon us from His merciful Heart. The Chaplet, therefore, just like the Mass, emphasizes that the Son of God's sacrifice reveals the depths of His merciful love for this lost and broken world. If our Savior was willing to go that far — even to the point of accepting a horrible death by public torture on the Cross for us, and experiencing in his Heart the feeling of total abandonment by His heavenly Father (see Mt 27:45-50) — then how can we not love Him and trust Him in return? As St. Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Romans: "God showed His love for us in this: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:6-8). St. Faustina saw that it is the wounds of our Savior's "sorrowful Passion," that clearly speak to us of His love and mercy. Jesus said to her:
From all My wounds, as from streams, mercy flows for souls, but the wound in My Heart is the fountain of unfathomable mercy. From this fountain springs all graces for souls. ... Speak to the whole world about My Mercy. ... My Heart is sorrowful, because even chosen souls do not understand the greatness of My mercy. ... Remember My passion, and if you do not believe my words, at least believe My wounds (Diary of St. Faustina, 1190 and 379).
The Chaplet enables us to do just this: by leading us to repeat five decades of the phrase "for the sake of His sorrowful Passion," it centers our minds and hearts on the principal testimony of God's love for us: the sorrowful Passion of his Son.
5. " ... have mercy on us, and on the whole world."
The Chaplet is not a self-centered prayer. It does not say "have mercy on me," but "have mercy on us"— which includes "me"— and "on the whole world." Saying the Chaplet, therefore, is not just an exercise of personal piety: rightly understood, it is in itself a work of mercy!
In fact, the benefits that Jesus promised to pour out upon us through the sincere and devout recitation of the Chaplet are boundless: just as the graces He pours out upon the world through the intercessory prayers offered up at Holy Mass are boundless, for as we discussed last week, the Chaplet is like an echo, an extension, of the supplications and intercessions we offer up at every Eucharist. Jesus said to St. Faustina:
My daughter, encourage souls to say the Chaplet I have given you. It pleases Me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the Chaplet. ... Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will (Diary, 1541 and 1731).
Jesus summarized some of the particular graces we can obtain through the Chaplet, calling us to use it especially for the conversion of sinners, and for those struggling at the hour of death:
Say unceasingly the Chaplet I have given you. Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope for salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he recites the Chaplet only once, he will receive grace from My infinite mercy (Diary, 687).
At the hour of death, I defend as my own glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or when others say it for a dying person, the indulgence [pardon] is the same. When this chaplet is said by the bedside of a dying person, God's anger is placated, and unfathomable mercy envelopes the soul, and the very depths of My tender mercy will be moved for the sake of the sorrowful Passion of My Son (Diary, 811).
Saint Faustina once had a vivid experience of the power of the Chaplet for the dying, recorded in Diary entry 1565:
When I entered the chapel for a moment, the Lord said to me, My daughter, help Me to save a certain dying sinner. Say the Chaplet that I have taught you for him. When I began to say the Chaplet, I saw the man dying in the midst of terrible torment and struggle. His guardian Angel was defending him, but he was, as it were, powerless against the enormity of the soul's misery. A multitude of devils was waiting for the soul. But while I was saying the Chaplet, I saw Jesus just as He is depicted in the image. The rays which issued from His Jesus' heart enveloped the sick man, and the powers of darkness fled in panic. The sick man breathed his last. When I came to myself, I understood how very important the Chaplet was for the dying. It appeases the anger of God.
The devout recitation of the Chaplet does not, of course, guarantee the conversion of a dying sinner. What it guarantees is the outpouring of all the graces needed for true repentance and conversion, even for a hardened sinner who cannot or will not pray for himself. This gives us a good hope — though not an absolute certainty — that the person will be saved, but salvation depends upon the sinner actually receiving and cooperating with those graces. Saint Faustina described the final struggle of such a soul in her Diary:
Then the mercy of God begins to exert itself, and without any cooperation from the soul, God grants it final grace. If this too is spurned, God will leave the soul in this self-chosen state for eternity. This grace emerges from the merciful Heart of Jesus and gives the soul a special light by means of which the soul begins to understand God's effort; but conversion depends on its won will. The soul knows that this, for her, is final grace and, should it show even a flicker of good will, the mercy of God will accomplish the rest (1486).
In fact, the Chaplet can be offered not only for spiritual needs, but for any of our legitimate human needs: temporal or physical as well as spiritual and eternal. (See, for example, Diary, 1128, where St. Faustina uses the Chaplet to pray for the relief of drought.)
In short, what a tremendous gift we have received in the Chaplet! In a world in which sin, the forces of evil, and darkness seem to be everywhere "on the march," here is a prayer that we can take with us everywhere, and that applies the power of the Eucharist to the needs of humanity. Again: the Chaplet is given to us as an extension of the offering of our prayers at Holy Eucharist [the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass], and applies the benefits of that offering to any need, at any time. That is the secret of the Chaplet, and the reason for its extraordinary power.
6. "Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us, and on the whole world."
The Chaplet then closes with one of the most ancient intercessory prayers of the Church, addressed to the Holy Trinity, a prayer widely used in the churches of the Byzantine rite, and on Good Friday in churches that worship according to the Roman Missal. This prayer echoes Sacred Scripture, the book of the prophet Isaiah, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory" (Is 6:3), and the book of the prophet Habbakuk, "Art Thou not from everlasting [immortal], O Lord my God, my Holy One?" (Hab 1:2).
Clearly, the Chaplet ends precisely where our merciful Savior wants to bring each and every one of us: into the embrace of the Blessed Trinity. This is the mercy of all mercies, the mercy that He has in store for every one of us at our journey's end, where, as St. Paul promised, "Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, the things that God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor 2:9). The Trinity, after all, shines with the infinite radiance of Divine Mercy. For those who love and trust Him, there is surely no better place to be.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. Got a question? E-mail him at email@example.com.