Lights, Cameras, Divine Mercy!
On EWTN Broadcast, Two Longtime Friends Discuss the Revelations of St. Faustina
The red lights atop the television tower blinked mutedly against the dark sky on Sunday evening on the grounds of St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. But inside Studio B, in a small brick building by the tower's base, things were far from muted.
The topic was Divine Mercy.
The two men talking were Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, the famous author and lecturer, and Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, the world-renowned expert on the message and devotion of The Divine Mercy.
Father Groeschel, whose weekly television show on EWTN, "Sunday Night Live with Father Benedict Groeschel," broadcasts to more than a million people, said he invited his longtime friend to appear on his show because of the importance of Divine Mercy in the world today.
"I frequently quote the Diary of St. Faustina on my show," he said before the broadcast began at 7 p.m. "People need to hear this message."
Father Seraphim, who serves as the director of the Association of Marian Helpers headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass., served for 20 years as Vice-Postulator in North America for the canonization cause of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun to whom Jesus entrusted the message of The Divine Mercy in the 1930s.
The broadcast, which will air again on Saturday at 5 p.m., covered a wide range of topics — including who St. Faustina was, why the revelations she received are crucial in the world, and how people can come to a richer understanding of our Lord through devotion to The Divine Mercy.
"It's a real honor to have you with us," Fr. Groeschel said. "I realize that a number of our audience members are not Catholic, and they may not be too familiar with what we mean by 'Divine Mercy.' Could you tell us about it?"
"Well," said Fr. Seraphim, "Divine Mercy is an attribute of God, a characteristic of God. But when we're dealing with the message of Divine Mercy, as revealed to Sr. Faustina, we are speaking of the Person of Jesus as The Divine Mercy in the flesh. He represents, through the way He lived, through the way he behaved, and through the way He taught, the means by which we come to know more intimately the mercy of God."
Father Groeschel invited Fr. Seraphim to discuss a little bit about St. Faustina, who was born on Aug. 25, 1905, in the Polish village of Glogowiec.
"She was born in the heart of Poland. And if you look on a map, Poland is the heart of Europe. Very close to where she was born, St. Maximilian Kolbe also lived," said Fr. Seraphim, referring to the Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. "According to one of the historians of Poland, Norman Davies, what happens to the heart influences the whole body. So he says to watch out for what's happening in Poland," Fr. Seraphim said.
And, perhaps, the greatest thing to have happened in Poland during the last 75 years, he said, is the life and writings of St. Faustina. Saint Faustina was added to the list of saints on April 30, 2000, thanks in large part to another major Polish figure, Pope John Paul II.
Father Seraphim went on to explain how St. Faustina was first led to enter the religious life.
"She was 19 when she joined the convent," said Fr. Seraphim. "She was at a dance in the village of Lodz, out in the fields. As she got up to dance, she saw Jesus by her side. And Jesus said to her: 'How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting Me off?' (Diary, 9). He had been inviting her to join a convent, but her parents wouldn't allow her. So she left the dance, went to the cathedral, prostrated herself before the altar, and asked the Lord what she was to do. The Lord told her to go to Warsaw."
And that's what she did.
Father Groeschel said: "After she entered the convent, these mystical events took place. Let me just explain a little bit, to those who are not too familiar, that in the history of the Church and in the history of religion, at times All Mighty God, the Divine Being, manifests Himself to people. Now this is recorded in many places in the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments. And those are considered 'public revelations' because they are recorded in Sacred Scripture.
"When they happen after the Scriptures were written, they are called 'private revelations,' " Fr. Groeschel continued. "It's a somewhat ambiguous term. But some of these private revelations have shaped the history of the world."
He used as example, St. Joan of Arc, who in the 1400s, after God appeared to her, led the army of France in victory over the British. He mentioned St. Bernadette, the saint of Lourdes, France, and the visionary and messenger of the Immaculate Conception. And he mentioned the children of Fatima, Portugal, whom saw Mary and received the instructions to pray the Rosary and repent.
Father Groeschel then asked Fr. Seraphim to explain how The Divine Mercy revelations began for St. Faustina.
Father Seraphim explained an apparition she had on Feb. 22, 1931. Saint Faustina saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left hand was touching His garment in the area of the Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. She gazed intently at the Lord in silence, her soul filled with awe, but also with great joy.
Jesus said to her: "Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory" (Diary, 47, 48).
"That was the beginning of her duties, as God wanted," said Fr. Seraphim.
Holding up a copy of St. Faustina's Diary, Fr. Groeschel said, "This is written by a girl with two years of education, and it is a beautiful, simple, but profound book. Many people have found this book to illustrate, enlighten, and extend, in a way, their faith."
He then shared with his viewers that one of the most frequent questions he receives concerns the salvation of loved ones who appear to have died while turning away from God.
"It's a very, very painful question," he said, "particularly for people who are experiencing the terrible reality of suicide, which I am, unfortunately, familiar with, personally. I think one of the most enlightening and consoling aspects of the revelations of St. Faustina is precisely that. Could you speak to that question?"
Father Seraphim opened the Diary and read St. Faustina's words: "I often attend upon the dying and through entreaties obtain for them trust in God's mercy, and I implore God for an abundance of divine grace, which is always victorious. God's mercy sometimes touches the sinner at the last moment in a wondrous and mysterious way. Outwardly, it seems as if everything were lost, but it is not so. The soul, illumined by a ray of God's powerful final grace, turns to God in the last moment with such a power of love that, in an instant, it receives from God forgiveness of sin and punishment, while outwardly it shows no sign either of repentance or of contrition, because souls [at that stage] no longer react to external things. Oh, how beyond comprehension is God's mercy! â€¦ Although a person is at the point of death, the merciful God gives the soul that interior vivid moment, so that if the soul is willing, it has the possibility of returning to God" (Diary, 1698).
Father Groeschel said: "I find this extremely helpful. And it has a very good foundation in Scripture." He used as an example the words Jesus spoke to the penitent being crucified with Him: "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23:40-43).
Father Seraphim said, "One of the things that St. Faustina recorded that sounds astounding are the words of Jesus: 'The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My Mercy' (Diary, 723). So mercy is really bending down to misery to lift it up. As she says in one of the prayers she composed, our very misery calls out to God for His mercy."
The Diary as prophecy
Father Groeschel then steered the conversation toward the historical timing of The Divine Mercy revelations.
"What was so fascinating is that this was the eve of the Second World War, a terrible, terrible time," Fr. Groeschel said.
"The witnesses (to St. Faustina's life) said that she was predicting it, but people didn't want to believe her," said Fr. Seraphim. "After her death, the Bishop of Vilnius, knowing that the war broke out and that this was exactly what she was saying, gave permission to let the people know where this message and devotion came from."
Father Seraphim later went on to discuss the topic of prophecies and their importance to the Church. "Saint Paul said that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets" he said (see Eph 2: 19-22). "The prophets aren't identified as much. But then St. Augustine and St. Thomas after him say that the prophets of the Church, today, are the people who receive private revelations."
"It's unfortunate that you hear now and then, here and there, from some people, and even clergy, who dismiss private revelations out of hand â€¦ which I find completely incomprehensible," said Fr. Groeschel. "You would think that an age like our own, which says it has an understanding of psychological need and human weakness and forgiveness, you think it would recognize that here is God responding."
"Well," said Fr. Seraphim, "Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ, the great German theologian writing about private revelations, said that all the mysteries of the Church, taken together, can not be emphasized all at once to the same degree. So from time to time, he says, the Holy Spirit puts a spotlight on a particular mystery that the Church and the world needs at that time. That's what most of the private revelations do."
The revelations of The Divine Mercy, said Fr. Seraphim, are particularly tailored to our times.
"Anyone who is skeptical about these things ought to do some reading," Fr. Groeschel said.
Later, a caller to the program from New Jersey expressed frustration in her efforts to promote Divine Mercy with some people.
Father Seraphim responded, "From my experience, the spreading of the message and devotion to The Divine Mercy is the greatest grassroots movement in the whole history of the Church, and it is precisely the laity who are the instruments of the spreading of this message. When people have seen the effects of the prayers and the trusting in Jesus, they spread the word to others. They realize: Here is something that is helpful in their spiritual lives, and in their physical and material needs as well."
Father Groeschel said the essence of Divine Mercy is to trust in God. "I've already told the brothers in my community that when I die, I want my little granite stone to say 'Jesus, I trust You.' "
Learn more about The Divine Mercy message and devotion.