Is the Chaplet Only for the Living and Dying?
Robert Stackpole Answers Your Divine Mercy Questions
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Aug 12, 2010)
I had an interesting question come in recently from overseas, and since it more or less matched several other questions I have received, I thought I would share it in full with my readers. It comes from a man named Christopher in Malaysia:
I have a question to ask and hope that you'll be able to guide and enlighten me about it. It is about using the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy to pray for the departed souls.
Traditionally, in our country, Malaysia, when we pray for the departed souls during wakes, we use the Rosary. After I started to promote the message of Divine Mercy, our group of people uses the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy instead of the Rosary. Not that we don't like to pray the Rosary but because during every wake, if say 20 groups of people come to pray for the departed soul, all of them will usually use the Rosary.
Not that we want to show some difference, but we believed that the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is a very powerful prayer even for the souls in Purgatory. Jesus also told us through the Diary that even if a soul just prays once, he will receive great grace of conversion through His mercy.
In our Church today, there are many Catholics who never go to church, some are feast-day Catholics, some are Christmas and Easter season Catholics and many more who do not practice their faith. But when some someone passed away, their family members and relatives will come to pray and to pay their last respect. My intention in using the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy instead of the Rosary is that at least they pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy once, and then the rest we leave them to the Lord's mercy and goodness.
From the time I started to promote the message of Mercy, from 1994 until now, there are quite a few times where whole families who already never go to Church for a long time were converted and reconciled with the Lord after we taught them to pray the chaplet during wakes.
The problem that I and our group face now is that some other promoters of Divine Mercy from other parishes went to the Philippines and came back telling us that we are not supposed to use the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy to pray for the departed souls. They say that the chaplet of is only for sinners and those who are alive only.
Please help, for the glory of God and the salvation of poor sinners.
Similarly, a woman named Carol sent in the following question:
I am a facilitator for a Divine Mercy cenacle. Near the end of the class, there is time for each member to state some petitions before we pray our Divine Mercy Chaplet.
One of our members said we shouldn't be praying petitions since the Divine Mercy Chaplet is only said for the dying.
Is she correct? Could someone advise me on this?
When I read these two letters side by side, it suddenly occurred to me that in one respect, Christopher's letter was a partial answer to Carol's question!
All we have to do is look at the fruits of the chaplet, from people who recite this prayer with a sincere heart around the world, and we can know for sure that the Chaplet is not only for the dying! The chaplet converts hardened hearts to Christ, reconciles families, heals bodies and souls, and rescues people from all kinds of catastrophic situations. Saint Faustina used it one time to pray for an end to a drought (see Diary of St. Faustina, entry 1128) and on another occasion she fended off a terrible storm by means of this powerful prayer:
When a great storm was approaching, I began to say the chaplet. Suddenly I heard the voice of an angel: "I cannot approach in this storm, because the light which comes from her mouth drives back both me and the storm." Such was the angel's complaint to God. I then recognized how much havoc he was to have made through this storm; but I also recognized that this prayer was pleasing to God, and that this chaplet was most powerful. (Diary, 1791)
Yes, it is true that Jesus promised that the chaplet is a special spiritual remedy for souls at the hour of their death:
[Jesus said to her] At the hour of their death, I defend as My own glory every soul that will say this Chaplet; or when others say it for the dying person, the indulgence [pardon] is the same. (Diary, 811).
Nevertheless, this does not mean that the chaplet can only be used for the dying, and Jesus never said that it can only be used for that purpose.
To understand why the chaplet is not just for the dying, we need to understand just why it is that the chaplet is so powerful.
The chaplet is not a magic formula. It does not obtain graces from God just because the words are recited, or recited at a certain time, or in a certain quantity (as if more chaplets, said at just the right time, such as the Hour of Great Mercy, will automatically get us more blessings!). Rather, the chaplet is an appeal for the outpouring of Divine Mercy on the basis of the Passion of Christ, the chief sign of His love for us (hence the refrain: "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world," from Diary entry 475). This truly glorifies and honors God when it is sincerely offered in prayer.
Moreover, the chaplet must be said with trust in the merciful love of God, otherwise, however much God may want to come to our aid, the door of our hearts is still shut fast to him, and He will not kick that door down (see Rev 3:20). He respects our freedom to "shut Him out," so to speak. That is why Jesus told St. Faustina that above all it is trust in His mercy that opens the floodgates to all the graces He wants to pour out upon us in torrents:
Let souls who are striving for perfection particularly adore my mercy, because the abundance of graces which I grant them flows from My mercy. I desire that these souls distinguish themselves by boundless trust in My mercy. I Myself will attend to the sanctification of such souls. I will provide them with everything they will need to attain sanctity. The graces of My mercy are drawn by the means of one vessel only, and that is — trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to Me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them. I rejoice that they ask for much, because it is My desire to give much, very much. On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their hearts. (Diary, 1578, my emphasis).
Thus, the power of the chaplet is really based on two things: (1) it is a prayer based on the Passion of Christ, which is the means by which He merited every saving and sanctifying grace for the world; and (2) if, and only if, this prayer is offered with sincere trust in Divine Mercy.
And this is also the reason why the chaplet is not only for the living or the dying. To answer Christopher's question: It is perfectly acceptable and theologically appropriate to offer it for the dead as well — that is, for the poor souls in purgatory. In fact, one of St. Faustina's spiritual directors, Fr. Joseph Andrasz, S.J., explicitly tells us that she used to pray the chaplet for the souls in purgatory (see Robert Stackpole, ed. Pillars of Fire in My Soul: The Spirituality of St. Faustina, Marian Press, 2003, p. 49).
In His revelations to her, Jesus put no limits at all on the kind or amount of graces that can be gained by means of the chaplet. As He said to St. Faustina:
My daughter, encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you. It pleases me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet. (Diary, 1541).
Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will. (Diary, 1731).
It all stands to reason, since our divine Savior merited an infinite ocean of graces when He died on the cross for us, and since sincere prayer offered up with sincere trust in God's mercy on the basis of our Savior's cross and resurrection is the best way to open the floodgates to all those graces that He longs to pour out upon us, then there is no authentic human need, in this life or the life to come, for which the chaplet cannot be offered.
In fact, Christopher, I would argue that the chaplet is usually even more appropriate to offer at a wake than the Rosary, if only because the chaplet is primarily a prayer of intercession, while the primary intention of the Rosary is meditation on the joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious mysteries of the life of Jesus. But, of course, the offering of prayer for the souls of the departed in either form, the Rosary or the chaplet, can be a true work of mercy. Either prayer, offered up with a sincere heart that trusts in the Lord, will not fail to be heard, and opens the floodgates of Divine Mercy.
Someone then will rightly ask: If the chaplet, recited with trust in God's merciful love, is such a powerful prayer, then why doesn't the chaplet always "work"?
That will be the topic of our next column.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at email@example.com.
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