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Jesus Asked for Them Both
The Sacred Heart of Jesus and The Divine Mercy, Part Four
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Jun 13, 2012)
[EDITOR'S NOTE: June is dedicated to The Sacred Heart of Jesus. This series by Robert Stackpole, STD, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, explores the relationship between The Sacred Heart and The Divine Mercy. Catch up on the series by reading Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.]
It was Jesus Christ Himself who requested, through St. Margaret Mary, the establishment of the annual Feast of the Sacred Heart. In His fourth great apparition to her (1675), He said:
Behold this Heart that has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to show them its love. And in return I receive from most men only ingratitude, by their irreverences and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt which they show to Me in this Sacrament of love... This is why I ask that the first Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi shall be kept as a special Feast in honor of My Heart, that on that day Communion shall be offered as a special act of reparation for the indignities committed. And I promise that My Heart will pour out abundantly the power of its love upon those who pay it ... honor.40
We should notice here that the Lord Jesus was quite specific in desiring that this feast be a special act of "reparation," in other words, on the basis of Christ's merits, a special return and offering of love to Him to make up for the denial and betrayal of His love implied by our sins. Like the traditional images of the Sacred Heart, therefore, the Feast is a special call from the wounded Heart of Jesus to "return love for love:" to love Him back, in reparation for all that His Heart has suffered from the sins of thankless men and women.41
The liturgical Feast of The Divine Mercy, however, is a feast of the Heart of Jesus with a different focus. It falls on the Sunday after Easter, which is the Octave Day of Easter. As we know from The Apostolic Constitutions, and the writings of St. Augustine and St. Gregory Nazianzen, this day was always kept as a special feast by the ancient Church.42 It was known by them as "the Sunday in White" (Dominica in Albis) because those newly baptized at Easter wore their white baptismal robes up through that day. A statement attributed to St. Augustine called the whole octave "the days of mercy and pardon," and the Sunday "the compendium of the days of mercy." Now revived as "Mercy Sunday," this feast enables the Church to celebrate the merciful love of Jesus Christ that flows from His Sacred Heart, and that lies behind all the acts He has undertaken for our salvation.
In fact, Jesus taught St. Faustina that the Feast itself is a gift to the Church from His merciful Heart. Father George Kosicki in his book Special Urgency of Mercy shows that just like the rays of Mercy in the Image, the Feast too flows from the Merciful Heart of Jesus:
The Merciful Heart of Jesus as a unifying element of the devotion to the Divine Mercy has a fascinating relationship to the requested Feast of Divine Mercy. Our Lord told St. Faustina: "This feast emerged from my most tender pity and it is confirmed in the depths of my mercy" (Diary, 699). The Polish word, translated by "depths" is literally the "innerds or organs, or viscera." This is the same word that is used by our Lord to describe the source of the rays of His mercy that come from His pierced Heart: "These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross" (Diary, no. 299). The source of the feast of mercy and the rays of mercy are the same - the pierced Heart of Jesus, the depths of His mercy.43
There would seem to have been a need in the liturgical calendar for the Feast of Mercy. It has become, as St. Augustine put it, "a compendium ... of mercy:" a feast that celebrates not just one particular event in the story of our redemption (e.g., Christmas, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter, or Pentecost) but the merciful love of Jesus Christ lying behind them all, and expressed in them all. If our Lord intends the Feast of Mercy to be this kind of "compendium" or summary, a celebration of the merciful love behind all of His saving acts, then it is no wonder that He promised the most extraordinary spiritual benefits to those who prepare for it by making a good confession, and who receive Him with true devotion on that day. As He said to St. Faustina:
This Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy ...44 It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter... I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fountain of My mercy...45
Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.46
In short, there is room both for the Feast of the Sacred Heart and for the Feast of The Divine Mercy in the liturgical calendar. The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was meant to be a day of loving reparation to His Heart, while the Feast of Mercy is intended to be a celebration of all the merciful love flowing from His Sacred Heart to us. Both feasts are needed, and Jesus Himself asked for them both.
Holy Hours, First Friday Communions, Novenas, and Chaplets
These various devotional acts are joined together under a single heading in order to illustrate that the new devotion to The Divine Mercy fits very well with the traditional devotion to the Sacred Heart, and easily flows from it.
First of all, the Lord Jesus Himself asked St. Margaret Mary to keep a weekly Holy Hour before Him in the tabernacle. He said to her:
If only (mankind) would make Me some return for My love, I should think but little of all I have done for them and would wish, were it possible, to suffer still more. But the sole return they make for all my eagerness to do them good is to reject Me and treat Me with coldness. Do thou at least console Me by supplying for their ingratitude as far as thou art able... Every night between Thursday and Friday, in order to bear Me company in the humble prayer (in the Garden of Olives) that I then offered to My Father in the midst of My anguish, thou shalt arise between eleven o'clock and midnight, and remain prostrate with Me for an hour, not only to appease the divine anger by begging mercy for sinners, but also to mitigate in some way the bitterness which I felt at that time on finding Myself abandoned by My apostles, which obliged Me to reproach them for not being able to watch one hour with Me.47
Thus, our Lord asked St. Margaret Mary to console His loving Heart by making a Holy Hour each week. But He did not proscribe any set prayers or meditations for her to make during that time. In fact, it is entirely appropriate for the devotees of His Heart to include the recitation of the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy during their Holy Hours. The Chaplet was dictated by the Lord Jesus Himself to St. Faustina, and it involves an offering up of His "Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity" to the eternal Father so that graces of mercy may be poured out upon the whole world.48
Nothing could be more appropriate than to recite these prayers in the very presence of the eucharistic Jesus in the sacred Host. Moreover, the prayers in St. Faustina's "Novena of Divine Mercy" are also appropriate for the Holy Hour, since most of them are offered to "console" the Heart of Jesus, and to bring all sinners into "the abode of Your most compassionate Heart" — the very same things that Jesus asked St. Margaret Mary to do in her Holy Hours!49
At the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., for example, the custom is to keep a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament exposed at three o'clock every day, and during that Holy Hour to recite the Chaplet, and carry on a perpetual Novena to The Divine Mercy. It is a beautiful and natural synthesis of the Sacred Heart and Divine Mercy traditions.
Our Lord also asked St. Margaret Mary to communicate on the First Friday of every month, and He promised extraordinary graces to those who would do so with the proper dispositions. As we know from her own writings, and the writings of one of her spiritual directors, Fr. Jean Croiset, S.J., these dispositions were to be fostered on the day by prayerful acts of reparation and consecration to the loving Heart of Jesus.50 Again, the Chaplet is entirely appropriate in this context. After all, on the First Fridays devout souls are not supposed to be making reparation just for their own sins, but also for the sins of the whole world, and that is precisely what the Chaplet was intended for as well:
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.51
Once again, it is not difficult to keep up the daily practice of both the Sacred Heart and Divine Mercy devotions at once. In fact, they easily blend together, and they fit quite easily with the basic daily Marian devotions as well.
For example, the traditional "Morning Offering" to the Sacred Heart is an excellent way to start each day, offering up all our prayers, works, joys and sufferings, in union with the Heart of Jesus in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. At noon, we can follow the counsel of Pope Paul VI and recite the "Angelus," asking for Mary's intercession and example of faith to guide us throughout the day.52 By three o'clock, we are ready to make a prayerful plea for mercy upon ourselves, and upon the whole world, for by that time most of us are already growing weary from carrying our daily crosses. The three o'clock "Hour of Mercy" prayers are well suited to meet this need, and they also enable us to make a brief remembrance of our Lord's passion at that time, as Jesus Himself requested of St. Faustina.53 The customary prayers for this time of day in the Divine Mercy tradition were written by St. Faustina herself, although they were not intended for use exclusively during that hour:
You expired Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fountain of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty yourself out upon us.54
O Blood and Water which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in You.55
The Morning Offering, the Angelus, and the "Hour of Mercy" prayers — these are just three ways of keeping ourselves recollected in the presence of God and of His saints throughout the day. In these ways we draw nearer to the Heart of Jesus each day for spiritual refreshment. None of these prayers takes more than a minute to say. Thus, far from being a "chore," they actually open us up to receive many spiritual benefits.56
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.57
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. Moreover, such pious practices are means, not ends in themselves. They are meant to nurture and form in us, by the grace of God, not just devotions and "devotionalism," but true devotion: true love for God. In other words, we are not merely to remain gazing at images of the Merciful Heart of Jesus, or reciting prayers to Him; rather, we are invited to come to know His love for us so deeply, personally, and intimately that we enter into that Heart, as into an ocean and fountain of mercy, a burning furnace of love and light.
In this, the final goal, as in so many other respects, the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the devotion to the Divine Mercy are in perfect accord. In closing we have only to quote the words of St. Faustina and Sr. Josefa to show that these two devotions recommend the same means — complete, trustful surrender to the open Heart of Jesus - to reach the same end, namely mystical union with that Heart as with a veritable "sea of mercy" and "abyss of light":
Today the Lord said to me, I have opened My Heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust. Sinners will attain justification, and the just will be confirmed in good. Whoever places his trust in My mercy will be filled with My divine peace at the hour of death.
O my Master, I surrender myself completely to You, who are the rudder of my soul; steer it Yourself according to Your divine wishes. I enclose myself in Your most compassionate Heart, which is a sea of unfathomable mercy.58 (St. Faustina Kowalska)
I was thus in converse with (Jesus), when again He made me enter the Wound of His side...
I cannot very well describe what I saw; my heart was being consumed in a great flame. I could not see the bottom of this abyss, for it is an immense space and full of light. I was so taken up with what I saw that I was not able to speak or ask anything... I spent meditation and part of Mass in this way... till, a little before the Elevation, my eyes, even my poor eyes ... saw my Beloved Jesus, my heart's desire, my Lord and my God; His Heart in the midst of a great flame. I cannot say what passed; it is not possible... Would that the whole world knew the secret of happiness. There is but one thing to do; love and abandon oneself. Jesus Himself will take charge of all the rest...59(Sr. Josefa Menendez)
This series continues next week with important theological clarifications of the relationship between the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Divine Mercy.
40 Williams, The Sacred Heart, p. 116-117.
41 Unfortunately, this emphasis has been obscured in the modern Roman Missal, in which only one of the three options for the opening prayer (or Collect) mentions "making amends" as a central intention of the Feast. The lessons and proper preface now appointed for the Feast show that it has become focused more on celebrating "the boundless love of Christ" than on reparation. The establishment of the Feast of Mercy as a celebration of Christ's merciful love should enable the Feast of the Sacred Heart to regain its distinctive purpose.
42 See Jean Danielou, S.J., The Bible and the Liturgy (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1956), 269; The Apostolic Constitutions V. 20, and St. Augustine, Sermon no. 156, "Dominica in Albis." See Rev. George W. Kosicki, CSB, Now is the Time for Mercy (Stockbridge: Marian Helpers, 1993), 81.
43 George W. Kosicki, CSB, Special Urgency of Mercy: why Sister Faustina? (Stockbridge, Marian Helpers, 1990), 90.
44 Sr. Faustina, Diary, entry no. 420, p. 186.
45 Ibid., no. 699, p. 286.
46 Ibid., no. 300, p. 139.
47 St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, The Autobiography (Rockford, IL: TAN books, 1986), no. 55-56, p. 70-71.
48 Sr. Faustina, Diary, no. 476, p. 207-208.
49 Ibid., no. 1209-1229, p. 435-443. Cf. St. Margaret Mary, The Autobiography, no. 55-56, p. 70-71.
50 Fr. John Croiset, S.J., The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Rockford, IL: TAN books, 1988), 180-182. Popular prayers to this effect include a "Little Act of Consecration" composed by St. Margaret Mary herself (p. 326-327), and the Litany of the Sacred Heart, endorsed and promulgated by Pope Leo XIII.
51 Sr. Faustina, Diary, no. 476, p. 207-208.
52 Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation "Marialis Cultus" (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1974), no. 41, p. 69-70.
53 Sr. Faustina, Diary, no. 1320 and 1572, p. 474 and 558. Jesus said to her: "it was the hour of grace for the whole world - mercy triumphed over justice" (1572).
54 Ibid., no. 1319, p. 474.
55 Ibid., no. 84, p. 42.
56 Fr. Croiset taught that the faithful, despite their frequent communions and confessions, bear so little fruit of holiness precisely because of their negligence in guarding their hearts and keeping themselves in interior recollection throughout the day. See, The Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, II. 1. 4, p. 102-109.
57 Rev. Edward Carter, S.J., The Spirituality of Fatima and Medjugorje (Milford, OH: Faith Publishing, 1994), 16.
58 Sr. Faustina, Diary, no. 1520 and 1450, p. 542-543, and 512-513.
59 Menendez, The Way of Divine Love, p. 24-25.