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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Sep 7, 2011)
If you live long enough, I guess, you will eventually find every form of lunacy somewhere in print. I recently celebrated my 50th birthday (personally, I like to think of it as "my first half century"), and around the same time, several of the readers of this column brought to my attention some websites claiming to represent "Traditional Catholicism." I saw articles attacking St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy devotion as "heresy."

For years I have been responding to complaints from more "liberal" clergy that devotion to The Divine Mercy is too "traditional" and "pre-Vatican II," and now some people are actually complaining that it is too modern and a deviation from the traditional faith of the Church! I think G.K. Chesterton put forward the best response to this kind of thing in his book Orthodoxy:

Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One ex0planation ... would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall. Old bucks who are growing stout might consider him insufficiently filled out, old beaux who were growing thin might feel that he expanded beyond the narrow lines of elegance. ... Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics are mad — in various ways.

I think the same holds true here. Isn't it likely that it is the overly "traditionalist" minded Catholics that find St. Faustina too contemporary and the excessively "liberal" and "modernist" ones that find her too traditional?

If you'll pardon me, in honor of my birthday I am going to spend the rest of this column answering some of the silly charges made against St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy devotion from the ultra-traditionalists — those who evidently think they are more Catholic than the Pope.

First, they claim (on some of their lamentable websites) that St. Faustina's Diary "was concocted by her sisters after her death. Because of the incongruities in the diary (different handwriting, different use of terms), the devotion was suppressed, and the book ... was placed on the ... Index of Forbidden Books."

This is not even half-true. The Diary was certainly not concocted by her sisters after her death, many of whom originally thought that she was a "fantasist" and not a true visionary. There is no evidence of tampering with the original text. (I have seen the original autograph myself.) Furthermore, anyone who reads the Diary in the Polish original or in English can clearly tell that the text was written by a single author.

In any case, it was not banned for any of these reasons. Rather, because it was very hard to bring religious books out from behind the Iron Curtain in those days, the only text of the Diary that the Vatican had in its possession at the time was a faulty Italian translation of the book. It was due to mistakes in that translation (not alleged tampering with the original text, which Vatican officials had never seen) that led to the banning of St. Faustina's mercy devotion. For example, when Jesus said to Sister Faustina, "I am Love and Mercy itself" (Diary, 1074), the Italian translation made it seem as if Sister Faustina was saying that about herself! Finally, Bl. Pope John XXIII quite deliberately did not ban the devotion for all time, but only pending further investigation. Is the Church not allowed to change its mind on its evaluation of extraordinary private/prophetic revelations in the light of new and better evidence?

Secondly, it is said that the Feast of The Divine Mercy violates ancient liturgical tradition and longstanding liturgical law by pushing aside and replacing the solemnity of the Octave Day of Easter. This is nonsense. According to ancient Church Fathers St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Augustine as well as the Apostolic Constitutions, the Octave Day of Easter was always a day that celebrated the Mercy of God in a special way. In North Africa it was called "the Sunday in White" because the catechumens who had been baptized on Easter Sunday were allowed to wear their white baptismal robes up through that Sunday. So deep and longstanding is the tradition to highlight the Mercy of God on that octave day that when Pope John Paul II named that day in the liturgical calendar "Mercy Sunday," the Vatican also ordered that the traditional readings and collects for that Sunday were always to be retained because they were already about Divine Mercy anyway! (By the way: you can read more about the liturgical issues surrounding Divine Mercy Sunday by going to the homepage of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy and downloading the document "Understanding Divine Mercy Sunday.")

Third, these websites claim that the Divine Mercy message and devotion competes with and tries to supplant the traditional and honored devotion to the Sacred Heart. That is not true either. I wrote a whole chapter about this matter in my first book: Jesus, Mercy Incarnate (Marian Press, 2000). You can order a copy of that little book (which, to be honest, is my favorite of the books I have written!) by calling the Marian Helper's Center customer service at 1-800-462-7426 or online. By the way, if this devotion did compete with and necessarily supplant devotion to the Heart of Jesus, you can be sure that I would have nothing to do with it: my doctoral thesis for the Angelicum in Rome was on the theology of devotion to the Sacred Heart. You can get a small sample of how these two devotions fit together by reading the ninth part of the "Parish Renewal Program" ("His Sacred Heart: Is This What Makes You Tick?") on this website.

Finally, some people are concerned that the devotion to The Divine Mercy is pushing aside the practice of praying the Rosary and devotion to Mary. One reader named Frank (not an arch-traditionalist, but just a concerned inquirer) wrote these words to me:

I have always struggled with the idea that the Rosary seems to be usurped by the Divine Chaplet. The result will no doubt be less Rosaries said (Divine Chaplet is easier and faster). Then I noticed in the Divine Mercy booklet that the Memorarium for Mary has been altered to be for St. Joseph not Mary. It just seems that the Divine Mercy movement is one not just for Jesus but one that takes away from Mary. It takes her Rosary away, it takes memorarium away, and other things. So why do you support this? Granted it may be a great idea on its own but it seems to feed on Mary which is a little scary and makes me wonder if it really is of God. I could say much more but I'm sure you have been asked this many times before and have a pat answer so I will stop here and wait for the pat answer. Thanks and God Bless.

Well, Frank, I will try to give you more than a "pat answer"!

First, with regard to the Memorare of St. Joseph: the booklet in which you found that prayer also explains that it was not an invention of St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy movement, rather, it was a traditional Polish prayer that St. Faustina's religious community recited every day. To recite a prayer to St. Joseph does not mean that one cannot recite the Memorare to Our Lady as well — as I am sure the Sisters of our Lady of Mercy have always done. Moreover, that same booklet (on the facing page!) includes several of St. Faustina's prayers "To the Mother of God," including her own prayer of consecration to Our Lady from the Diary (entry 79) in which she offers her "my soul, my body, my life, my death, and everything that will come after it" and she says, "I place everything in your hands, O my Mother." All of this hardly "feeds on" or subtracts from devotion to Mary!

As for the Chaplet competing with the Rosary: I guess the simple answer is that it doesn't, if the prayers are used according to their primary intentions. Again, I wrote about this in Jesus, Mercy Incarnate (p. 124):

The evening is the traditional (and usually most practical) time for praying the Rosary together as a family. Devotees of the Divine Mercy need to remember that the Rosary is not in competition with the Chaplet, even though they are recited on the same beads. First of all, the Rosary is primarily a prayer of meditation. It calls us to meditate with Mary on all the mysteries of our redemption, helping us to do what St. Luke tells us the Mother of God herself did: she "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart" (2:19, 51). The Chaplet, on the other hand, is primarily a prayer of intercession: a plea to the Lord for "mercy upon us, and upon the whole world." Moreover, it is important to note that our Lord never asked for the Chaplet to be recited daily. One may recite the Chaplet daily, of course, and that is certainly a commendable practice, but it is not a pattern that either Jesus or St. Faustina specifically requested. In fact, our Lord's instructions to St. Faustina were both more flexible and more demanding. She was encouraged to say the Chaplet "without ceasing" (Diary, 687), in other words, not once per day, but — precisely because it is an intercessory prayer — whenever and wherever intercession was needed. Our Lady of Fatima, however, specifically asked the faithful to try to recite at least part of the Rosary each day:

I am the Lady of the Rosary. I have come to warn the faithful to amend their lives and to ask pardon for their sins... People must say the Rosary. Let them continue saying it every day.

Whatever prayers and devotions one may choose in order to sanctify each day, the important thing to remember is that the Lord regards not the number or magnitude of the devotions that we practice, but the faith and love with which we offer them. This alone is what brings delight to the Merciful Heart of Jesus from acts of piety.

Well, that's all on this topic. I doubt that many people will be swayed by the doubts being sown about St. Faustina and devotion to The Divine Mercy by arch-traditionalist websites. So I am not going to let it spoil my left-over birthday cake. As soon as I am done writing this column here, I am headed for the refrigerator for precisely that culinary intention!

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at questions@thedivinemercy.org.

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tom bailey, houston tx - Oct 7, 2009

They need to read Diary, and if they don't believe it true there is no way they will believe:

872 January 7. During the Holy Hour, the Lord allowed me to taste His Passion. I shared in the bitterness of the suffering that filled His soul to overflowing. Jesus gave me to understand how a soul should be faithful to prayer despite torments, dryness and temptations; because oftentimes the realization of God's great plans depends mainly on such prayer. If we do not persevere in such prayer, we frustrate what the Lord wanted to do through us or within us. Let every soul remember these words: "and being in anguish, He prayed longer." I always prolong such prayer as much as is in my power and in conformity with my duty. 873January 8. On Friday morning, as I was going to the chapel to attend Holy Mass, I suddenly saw a huge juniper tree on the pavement and in it a horrible cat who, looking angrily at me, blocked my way to the chapel. One whisper of the name of Jesus dissipated all that. I offered the whole day for dying sinners. During Holy Mass, I felt closeness of the Lord in a special way. After Holy Communion, I turned my gaze with trust toward the Lord and told him, "Jesus, I so much desire to tell You something." And the Lord looked at me with love and said,, And what is it that you desire to tell Me?Jesus, I beg you, by the inconceivable power of your mercy, that all souls who will die today escape the fire of hell, even if they have been the greatest sinners. Todayis Friday, the memorial of your bitter agony on the cross: because Your mercy is inconceivable, the Angels will not be surprised at this." Jesus pressed me to His Heart and said, My beloved daughter, you have come to know well the depths of My mercy, I will do what you ask, but unite yourself continually with My agonizing Heart and make reparation to My justice. Know that you have asked Me for a great thing, but I see that this was dictated by your pure love for Me; that is why I am complying with your request.

What a great day of Mercy, those who don't believe are missing out. Jesus will give unlimited mecy, if we ask, to not ask for this mercy of don't believe it. wow!

"LOVE is the tree; and Mercy is the Fruit"

Lynne-Marie - Oct 7, 2009

Best wishes for a blessed and happy 50th birthday! Thank you for your dedication and patience in teaching all the wonderful message of St. Faustina - to turn with total abandonment and love and place all our trust in Jesus, God's Divine Mercy, His greatest attribute. We are indeed blessed and grateful!

Edward - Oct 7, 2009

I know I have heard from some "traditionalists" that they find it disturbing that when Faustina was praying in front of the tabernacle that Jesus came and rested in her hands. Given that during this era of the Church, communion in the hand was taboo. But, I believe this to be a sign that the message of Divine Mercy is outside of time, and was foretelling the future when communion in the hand would be permissible.

Pat VP - Oct 7, 2009

Thank you Robert Stackpole for your dedication to Divine Mercy. I have this site as my homepage because it always makes me feel better when I turn on the computer and see all that is written. I totally enjoy your writing and learn so many things from what you write. Happy Birthday also.

Ziggy - Oct 8, 2009

Dear Robert - Sto Lat.
Thank you for your wonderful website to which I always turn to as a direct link to the Marians far away on the other side of the world. Speaking for all of us missionaries in the Philippines we wish you a very Happy Birthday and may God bless you and support your wondeful work.

Br. Angelo Casimiro, MIC - Oct 8, 2009

Happy 50th Birthday Robert! Thank you for writing this article and for your continued work on Divine Mercy. God bless you and here's wishing you another 50 years! Sto lat!

ics - Oct 8, 2009

JESUS, I trust in YOU. Jesus Christ, Son of God, King of Mercy, increase and strengthen our trust in You. To trust Divine Mercy is to love JESUS CHRIST. To love JESUS CHRIST is to love God and neighbour and to be always merciful and to breathe Divine Mercy. JESUS CHRIST, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Give us the grace to be always thinking and thanking the Divine Mercy.

Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC - Oct 10, 2009

Happy 50th Robert! Mine is next year - I am as old as the Shrine! Good work!

Linda Z. Pettipas - Oct 11, 2009

Dear Dr. Stackpole, this article was very helpful to me! I am currently praying the Chaplet twice a day for my son who is serving in Afghanistan as a medic and for his patients. His deployment has brought about a whole new understanding of trust in Jesus. I thank God every day for giving St. Faustina the Chaplet. I think the Chaplet is also a wonderful ecumenical prayer - many non-Catholics would never consider "praying to Mary" through the Rosary but they are happy to pray the Chapelt. I wonder too if the radical traditionalists think the message is "too merciful" - they often seem to be scrupulous types.

Maria P. (Ott-Canada) - Oct 11, 2009

First of all, Happy Birthday Dr. Stackpole with many happy returns! It is Thanksgiving in Canada, and I thank God so much for the Divine Mercy--the greatest message in our century. I also thank God for you and all the ministries of Divine Mercy/Marian Helpers. Thanks too for this response as many make the following comment to me and to some wonderful priests that have accepted DM message: "I didn't know you were so much into Faustina". This century has been very troubled and indeed we need mercy more than ever. St. Faustina (with humility and little education) has conveyed Jesus's message of mercy to the world with wisdom and prudence. She was gifted by the Lord to be His Secretary of Mercy which brings me to think of the many saints before her. Are we going to question St. Teresa of Avila in conveying the message of "contemplation"; are we going to question St. Catherine of Siena "why bring back the Pope to Rome"; are we going to question St. Theresa of the Child Jesus "in her little way "---All Doctors of the Church. Plus Divine Mercy would never take away from Our Lady and anyone devoted to Our Blessed Mother, they would know that She is always interceding for us to grow with love and mercy in accepting Her Son and have a relationship with Our Savior. Dr. Stackpole, I hope that Fr. Michael Sopocko's book will be made in print again. It may help many to understand the greatest attribute (mercy) through St. Faustina's spiritual director's writings too. One last thing, there is enough divisions in the world--religions, and among our Christian denominations. I ask everyone to join hearts and ask the Lord for "unity" into the One Body of Christ and pray with the words Jesus said to the Father in St. John 17:17: "Consecrate them in the truth". Happy thanksgiving to all with many blessings.

Humble Servant of God's Love and Mercy - Oct 12, 2009

Jesus becomes manifest in the world as the expression of our Father's fruitfulness, which will bestow His word with force and resonance. Jesus will make a gift of Himself, and, in taking us back to our Father, He takes Himself back by letting His fruitful word act within us. The Eternal Word thus becomes our door to the Father. Jesus has divulged Himself in the redemption as much as was pleasing to our Father; the ultimate revelation of His fruitfulfulness will take place, however, in heaven.

For the trusting believer and loving soul, the ultimate mysteries of the Eternal Word are played out in him in a sphere that is closed to others; this withdrawn sphere corresponds to the sphere that will undergo its mighty expansion in heaven.

We are not told continually to believe more, to love more, or to hope more; God lets us believe, love, and hope more because we pray. God increases the virtue of a trusting believer that yearns for Him by accepting his word of prayer into His Divine Silence and returning them as deeds of mercy which are works of peace for which this loving soul cannot account but deeds of which the Church takes note because the effects of one pass to all; the increased faith of one bears fruit in all; and the Communion of Saints is built up in and through the Word of the Father. And Jesus is revealed each and every time so that the Infinite Love and Immeasurable Mercy that is in the Holy Trinity might also be in all of us.

Jesus' commandment of love, which extols the love of one person for another as the meaning and goal of life, is nothing other than the expression of Inner-Divine Love. We should love one another because God loves us so much and because God simply is Love. And when we are commanded to be as perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, this is only a completion of the commandment of love, because perfection consts in, and leads to, Merciful, Eternal Love.

When a trusting believer loves a fellow believer, he loves him in a way directed toward God; he loves his neighbor with a view of God. This is not simply in a love that he can measure or monitor, but in a love that places him in the service of the ever greater God, a love that he offers up like an act of worship so that God might perfect it. He does not just love with his sight directed at human beings, and his love may not just be fruitful in his own sense of it; he entrusts his love to God so that God can draw it to Himself and let it be efficacious from heaven. Such love might just as well be called prayer as called love; for God accepts all genuine love like a prayer in order to use it exactly where He needs it. He can make do just as well with the love of two lovers or the love of a trusting believer for his parish and Church or a believer's love of God as he can with an express sacrifice or prayer. He takes this love to Himself, purifies it completely, and gives it back sanctified to the world, to the Church, and to men in order to lead them back to a deeper, loving intimacy with God.

Humble Servant of God's Love and Mercy - Oct 12, 2009

typing correction:

Jesus' commandment of love, which extols the love of one person for another as the meaning and goal of life, is nothing other than the expression of Inner-Divine Love. We should love one another because God loves us so much and because God simply is Love. And when we are commanded to be as perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, this is only a completion of the commandment of love, because perfection CONSISTS in, and leads to, Merciful, Eternal Love.

Father Robert Stackpole thanks for your deep understanding of God that is bound to a greater faith which shows itself as your will to make a more complete gift of self, as your will to trust more unceasingly God's Mercy. May God always find His Humble Love and Gratuitous Mercy in your generous and courageous heart.

Bea - Oct 12, 2009

So many people think that their "opinion" of what is the truth counts. Who cares what an individual decides for himself is true. We should all start believing what the Church has decided for a change.

Rachel - Oct 13, 2009

You know, I don't know what about this devotion being too liberal or too traditional is? All I know is that when I needed to find Gods mercy at some critical times in my life, I found this booklet and chaplet....truly it lead me to The Catholic Church and it lead me to the Rosary. In my case, it did not take away from Mother Mary or Jesus in His Most Holy and Sacred Heart; they were all found so deeply by reciting this chaplet at the 3 oclock hour. I've been through many things in my life and different religions have confused me. God knew that, and I needed His Mercy to believe The Truth through it all. Knowing how impossible it is to believe in this great gift God has given us with the chaplet, but by the grace of remembering what is impossible for man is possible for God, I'm grateful that through the chaplet, we are all praying for the peace of all our Church and the world to know it and for all religions to come to it to find Jesus and Mary the way we need to find Them. All I know, is, for me, I'm so grateful I found the Chaplet. After I was finally able to pray it, as I was told by people that the Catholic Church and their prayers and Mother Mary was not right, this chaplet, enabled me to "Know" The truth. And knowing God is eternal life. That which for us, is His Love and Mercy. Thank you St. Faustina for praying for a poor sinner like me. Please St. Faustina, and all you who appreciate this chaplet too, pray for me and my family. Hope no one minds, and I don't think they will, that I'm just writing something about this chaplet of Divine Mercy because I'm so grateful for it, and need so many prayers too as you all pray your chaplet.So glad God let me find it and believe that it was Him who gave it to us through the intercession of Mother Mary and St. Faustina. May God bless us every one through this wonderful source of His Grace. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Psalm 67:36- "God is wonderful in His Saints: the God of Israel is he who will give power and strength to his people. Blessed be God." That I believe, especially now.

Jim - Sep 21, 2011

To Traditional!!! What does that mean?? If being devoted to the Divine Mercy Novena and Chaplet and all that Jesus promises us through devotion to is to traditional and perhaps wrong, then, Lord, let my being wrong in this devotion draw me closer to you. I've never heard of anything so crazy in my life. The real saddness is that I personally know priests who will not even talk about Divine Mercy. They try to link it to the Devotion to the Sacred Heart, or claim that the only reason it got as much attention as it did was because St.Faustina was Polish and so was John Paul II. Had it not been for that, then it would have never gotten any attention. Ha ha, thank God they were both Polish. What...like God in all of his wisdom didn't design the plan to work out like that. Perhaps we have many of the problems we have today because we question the essence and value of the graces and God provides to us to save our very soul. The one phrase that Jesus uttered speaks volumes about the plight of mankind - "Mankind will not know peace until he turns with trust to my mercy." What are we waiting for??????