In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI gave us "a mandate" to "go forth and be witnesses of God's mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world."
By David Came (Jan 25, 2009)
Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate, which was just released by Marian Press, had its beginning as a hunch in April 2005 when I was working as executive editor on the Summer 2005 issue of Marian Helper magazine.
Let me explain. The focus of the issue was honoring the rich legacy of John Paul II, the Great Mercy Pope — who had just died on April 2, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday of that year. What intrigued me at that time was how the day after Pope Benedict XVI's election as the successor of John Paul, the new Pontiff talked of having received "a gift of Divine Mercy" through John Paul's intercession.
'The Next Mercy Pope?'
It raised the question in my mind: Is Benedict XVI our next Mercy Pope? So, I wrote an article for the issue entitled "The Next Mercy Pope?: Benedict XVI's First Message Highlights Divine Mercy." In fact, we posed this very question on the front cover of the Summer 2005 issue next to an inset photo of Pope Benedict XVI. Of course, the main photo on the cover was of John Paul II of beloved memory.
As you can imagine, after Benedict's election, my radar was up as a journalist. I kept following Benedict's statements to see if my hunch would prove true: Was he, in fact, our new Mercy Pope, following in the footsteps of John Paul II? Or was this a fluke?
I followed up with a news feature in the Fall 2006 issue of Marian Helper on Pope Benedict's pastoral visit to John Paul II's homeland in Poland in May of 2006. While there, he honored John Paul as the Great Mercy Pope by visiting the International Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, Poland. At the shrine, he addressed the sick, referring to them as the "most eloquent witnesses of God's mercy." He said that a stop at the shrine "could not have been omitted from my itinerary" in his General Audience in Rome after the visit.
Sleuthing on Benedict and Divine Mercy
My sleuthing continued in 2006-2007 with a series of columns on Pope Benedict and Divine Mercy for the Marians' website, thedivinemercy.org. They served as the basis for some chapters in my book. You may have read some of them. Here are the titles:
• "Christ's Betrayal and Divine Mercy: Pope Benedict XVI on How the Betrayal of Christ by Judas Reveals God's Mercy" (November 2006).
• "Our Mercy Pope in 2006: In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI Embraced Divine Mercy, Inspired by John Paul II" (January 2007).
• "Divine Mercy Breakthrough: Movement Coming of Age as We Mark Mercy Sunday 2007" (April 2007).
• "Mercy and Trust in the Pope's Book on Jesus" (June 2007).
• "Mercy in the Day's Headlines: News Happening Illumines Pope's Insight on the Good Samaritan" (August 2007).
My book probes these and other fascinating discoveries I have made concerning Pope Benedict and Divine Mercy. And it's not only about Benedict, it's about his "permanent [spiritual] dialogue" with John Paul II, which has proved fascinating. (Mention of the dialogue is based on an interview of Pope Benedict conducted by Polish State Television in 2006.)
The prominent Divine Mercy authority Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, said this about the dialogue in his endorsement of the book: "Each new Divine Mercy insight is commented on and related to a progressive conversation between Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II, with the reader invited to listen in." Read my book to learn more.
Congress Provides 'Controlling Idea'
My discoveries culminate with what Pope Benedict said and did at the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in April 2008. Here, I was able to draw upon the coverage of the World Mercy Congress that we provided at mercycongress.org and in the Summer 2008 issue of Marian Helper magazine, which was our commemorative issue for the Congress.
At the conclusion of this watershed event in the life of the Church, Pope Benedict gave participants a "mandate" to "go forth and be witnesses of God's mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world." In effect, he issued marching orders at this Congress for the universal Church to all the faithful who desire to spread the Good News of God's mercy.
His mandate provided the title and controlling idea for this book. So, I was finally ready to write it by the fall of 2008. As the Introduction states:
In considering what this mandate might mean to all the faithful who desire to implement it, I began to trace the thread of Divine Mercy throughout the papacy of Benedict. To my joy, I discovered what might be considered a papal program for what it means to "go forth and be witnesses of God's mercy" — fulfilling the mandate.
The book includes summaries of Pope Benedict's teachings on Divine Mercy and personal examples on applying his teaching. May they inspire you to live the mandate, as you reflect on your own life in answering the call to be an apostle of Divine Mercy.
So, with all this in mind, Happy Mercy reading. And keep your eyes on Pope Benedict. It's his mandate, after all. All I did was provide some analysis and connect the dots.
You may order a copy of Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate online.
David Came is executive editor of Marian Helper magazine, the flagship publication of the Association of Marian Helpers, which is headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass.