Can we be 'Certain' about Divine Mercy Sunday?
Answers to Your Questions on Divine Mercy
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Dec 9, 2006)
The Special Graces of Mercy Sunday and the status of St. Faustina's "Private Revelations"
My answers last week created quite a "fuss"! I was commenting on the extraordinary graces promised by Jesus to St. Faustina for all who devoutly receive Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday (see her Diary, entry 699). In response, several people wrote to me asking how we can be sure that St. Faustina's revelations are authentic in this regard. One person wrote that their parish priest (a "Fr. Dave"), after he read my article last week, insisted that we cannot be "certain" about the authenticity of St. Faustina's revelations about Divine Mercy Sunday because they are merely "private revelations" which (according to the Church), can only be accepted with "human faith," not "divine faith."
Fr. Dave is not entirely correct here. The Church does indeed make a distinction between private revelations and the public revelation of divine truth revealed to the apostles, as definitively and infallibly proclaimed by Sacred Tradition and the Church's magisterium. Here is what the Catechism has to say about this matter (entry 67):
Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.
Look at that last line again: the sensus fidelium means the capacity of the faithful to hear and discern the voice of Christ calling. I would argue that this is precisely what the faithful have discerned with regard to the private revelations of St. Faustina in general, and her revelations about Divine Mercy Sunday in particular. First of all, never before, in the history of the Church, has there been such a rapid widespread embrace by the Catholic faithful of any set of private revelations given to any saint. Secondly, the bishops, and especially Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, have warmly embraced St. Faustina's writings, and her message. Unless the Holy Spirit has abandoned the Church (which, of course, is impossible!), one would have to be blind not to see the hand of the Holy Spirit at work in this discernment process.
Fr. Dave implies that, in any case, as these still "private revelations," we cannot be "certain" about them. But he may have forgotten something that I am sure he learned in his seminary days: in addition to the "certainty of faith," there are other kinds of authentic mental certitude, such as "moral certainty." This "moral certainty" happens when we have so many converging evidences for the truth of something that it removes any psychological reason for doubt. For example, I am sure we are all in a state of moral certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow morning. We know this not on the basis of "divine faith" — it was not revealed to the apostles by Jesus Christ! — but on the basis of "human faith," that is, on the basis of repeated past experience with the natural behavior of the sun, along with data from legitimate scientific study. It is still infinitesimally possible, of course, that the sun will explode tonight and will not rise tomorrow (so in that sense, we can be less "certain" about it than a truth of Faith revealed by God through Christ to the apostles). Nevertheless, it is so overwhelmingly probable that the sun will rise tomorrow, that we can say we have a "moral certainty" about it, in other words, that it is "true beyond any reasonable doubt."
I would argue that we can also have a "moral certainty" about the authenticity of the promises given to St. Faustina by Jesus Christ regarding the special graces of Divine Mercy Sunday:
(1) because she is a canonized saint who was also the first saint ever to be put through a mental health exam (by the way, she passed with flying colors!);
(2) because the distinguished theologian who examined her Diary for the Vatican as part of her canonization process, Fr. Ignacy Rozycki, could find no discrepancies between the main revelations about Divine Mercy Sunday and the Faith of the Catholic Church (on this, see our essay on this website entitled "Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday," which includes a full English translation of Fr. Rozycki's report to the Vatican on this matter);
(3) because of the many miracles that keep happening on Divine Mercy Sunday, including one that happened to me and changed my whole life (more on that another time!); and
(4) because by divine providence, at the very canonization Mass of St. Faustina, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the octave day of Easter as "Divine Mercy Sunday" for the universal Church. He certainly never would have done such a thing if he had believed that the revelations given to Sr. Faustina about Divine Mercy Sunday were dubious or misleading.
This evidence, therefore, makes a strong cumulative case for the authenticity of these promises from Jesus to St. Faustina about Divine Mercy Sunday. I believe we can accept these recorded promises as true, beyond any reasonable doubt.
Robert Stackpole, STD
John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy