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Praying the Chaplet as an Act of Reparation?
Dr. Robert Stackpole Answers Your Questions on Divine Mercy
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Feb 28, 2007)
Our readers should know that we have had so many questions come in over the last few weeks that I am now several weeks behind in being able to answer them all online. Please be patient with me!
A question came in about a fortnight ago from a Mr. Luis Valverde. I will quote it in full:
I have a question on extending the use of the Chaplet as a multiple act of reparation. Because of my lack of time, I was wondering if it would be possible to use the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy as an act of reparation to the Sacred Heart, Holy Face, crown of thorns, Holy Wounds, Precious Blood, etc., of Jesus, as well as to the Immaculate Heart and the Name of God. There are separate devotions to all these, and they are all very beautiful, but all together they would take up much of my time. I appreciate any help you can give me.
Luis, your question touches upon aspects of Catholic doctrine and spirituality that even Catholics sometimes misunderstand, so it is worth spending time on them.
First of all, what is an act of "reparation"? As you may know already, Luis, it is an act of restitution, of making compensation to some one for the wrongs we have done to them, and in some way repairing any damage that we have done by our wrongdoing.
Now some people may ask: Why do we need to make restitution to God for our sins? Didn't Jesus die for us on the Cross to make up for our sins ? Yes, of course He did. But in order for us to make His great act of "reparation" our own — that is, in order for it to cover my own sins — I have to fully repent and have faith in Him. In other words, I have to be fully contrite for my sins, and surrender my heart completely to Him.
The trouble is that most of us are lacking, to some degree, in such repentance and faith. The Catechism says in entry 1431: "Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with our whole heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. ... At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one's life, with hope in God's mercy and trust in the help of his grace."
Again, sadly, most of us are in a state of imperfect repentance and faith — what the Church calls "imperfect contrition" for sin. We may be sorry for our sins to some extent — but more out of fear of divine punishment or shame and disgust with ourselves than out of love for Jesus Christ. Imperfect contrition does not fully obtain the remission of all punishment due to sin, leaving us with a degree of remaining moral debt to God.
Sincere acts of reparation, done by the grace of Christ, not only help clear this temporal debt of sin, but also deepen our love for Christ and our contrition for sin. We begin to attain more "perfect contrition" for sin: in other words, repentance out of pure love for Jesus our Savior. We are sorry for our sins because they have betrayed His great love for us, and wounded His Sacred Heart. We are sorry just because we have let Him down.
As a matter of fact, almost any sincere and authentic act of Catholic piety can be offered to God as an act of "penance" or "reparation" that deepens our love for Him and deepens our contrition for sin. In some ways the Chaplet can be especially useful as an act of reparation because it focuses our attention on our Lord's principal act of merciful love for us: His "sorrowful passion." We can even offer prayerful acts of reparation to God for the good of others, to open the "floodgates" (so to speak) to all the graces of repentance and deeper conversion that our Lord wants to pour out upon them from His Merciful Heart!
Nevertheless, I want to add words of caution here.
First, the Chaplet was primarily intended by our Lord to be an intercessory prayer. We must never forget that the Chaplet is above all a plea for "mercy upon us, and upon the whole world." This dimension of the Chaplet must never be absent from our intentions in using it.
Jesus said to St. Faustina : "Oh, what great graces I will grant to souls who say this chaplet; the very depths of My tender mercy are stirred for the sake of those who say the chaplet" (Diary of St. Faustina, entry 848), and "My daughter, encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given you. I pleases me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet" (1541), and again, "Through the chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is according to My will" (1731).
Secondly, you ask about using the decades of the Chaplet as an act of "multiple reparation" to the Holy Face, Sacred Heart, Precious Blood, etc. Of course, one can do such things in one's private prayers — but I would caution against the multiplication of devotions in this way. The Lord does not look at the number of devotions we accomplish each day, no matter how beautiful they are, but at the loving attention and intention with which we do them.
The spiritual life of some Catholics is literally cluttered with special devotions. It would be better, I think, to choose one or two devotions upon which to focus each month, or each year, carefully cultivating the fruits of them one at a time, rather than trying to collect and use as many as possible, all at the same time.
The Bible says, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven" (Eccles3:1-8). All the devotions you mention are good, but I think they each bear more fruit in our hearts when we use them to focus upon the holy mysteries they represent one at a time, in gentle sequence. Of course, our holy Mother the Church encourages us to do just that when it sets aside particular months of the year as, for example, the month of Mary (May) or the month of the Sacred Heart (June). Why not use the chaplet as an act of reparation that joins in with that rhythm of prayer going on throughout the whole universal Church ?
Robert Stackpole, STD, is the director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy.
Got a question? E-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.