Promises, Promises: How Far Do They Go?
Robert Stackpole Answers Your Divine Mercy Questions
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Jan 18, 2012)
Over the past few weeks I have received a bunch of questions about some of the promises our Lord has made about the graces He wants to pour out upon us through the Image of The Divine Mercy and the Feast of The Divine Mercy.
First, with regard to the image, a man named Edward asked me to help him understand what our Lord meant by the promise He made to St. Faustina when He first appeared to her in her cell in the form of the image and 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 of St. Faustina, 47 and 48)
In particular, Edward asked if there are any "conditions" attached to the promise that "the soul that will venerate this image will not perish." He suggested that it almost sounds like a "Get out of Jail Free" card from the Monopoly board game!
Thanks so much for your good question, Edward. Our Lord did not spell out any particular conditions for obtaining this promise other than the general one for every form of the Divine Mercy devotion: "The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is — trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive" (Diary, 1578). Thus, devotions and prayers made to the Merciful Lord through use of this image will open the heart to receive graces in proportion to the amount of trust that the soul places in Him. Notice also that the rays flowing from the Heart of Jesus are already flowing toward the viewer, unconditionally (there is no "on" or "off" button that we need to press to get them to flow). To receive them all we need to do is bring a vessel of trust.
See also the very first entry in St. Faustina's Diary: "O Eternal love, You commanded Your Sacred Image to be painted and reveal to us the inconceivable fount of mercy. You bless whoever approaches Your rays, and a soul all black will be turned to snow... from Your open Heart, as from a pure fount, flows comfort to a repentant heart and soul." There are no "hoops" we need to jump through to receive this free grace: just a heart that has let go of its sins through repentance so there is room enough in that heart for grace to flow in — and a heart that has opened the floodgates to that grace through the virtue of trust.
A reader of this column named Kathleen asked me about the promises of the Feast of The Divine Mercy, and how they might be extended to the needs of the souls of our children and grandchildren who are wandering far from the faith. She wrote:
I would like to think that the Feast of The Divine Mercy blessings may be extended even to our unbaptized grandbabies. However, recently I read that Canon Law indicates that the unbaptized cannot participate in nor receive any indulgences. Of course, I'm not a theologian so I really don't know how to take this information.
Can you give me any advice about how more fully to extend the Divine Mercy blessings and healings to our non-practicing children and grandchildren?
Well, Kathleen, I will do my best. But, as a matter of fact, our Lord makes it easy for us to help them. Some people get very upset when they learn that an "indulgence" can only be obtained for oneself, or for a soul suffering in purgatory, and that the special grace of Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday ("the complete remission of sins and punishment," as our Lord promised in Diary, entry 699) are only available to souls who receive Holy Communion themselves that day in a state of grace, with trust in Divine Mercy. It seems as if we can help the faithful departed and ourselves on Divine Mercy Sunday but not our living loved ones all around us!
But let's look at the promises Jesus made to St. Faustina more closely. He says in that same entry (699): "On that day, all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened." If all those floodgates are open, then that means more channels of grace are open than just the special graces of Holy Communion on that day and the special indulgences available on that Feast. Father Ignacy Rozycki, the theologian who examined St. Faustina's Diary on behalf of the Vatican as part of the official Church investigation of her life and teachings, discussed this matter in his famous address, "Essential Features of the Devotion to The Divine Mercy":
Jesus did not limit His generosity on the Feast of Divine Mercy exclusively to this one, supreme grace [that is, to the extraordinary grace promised for the devout reception of Holy Communion on that day]. On the contrary, He declared "On that day, the very depths of My tender mercy are open... On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened" (Diary, 699). For this reason, "let no soul fear to approach Me." From these words of Christ it is evident that He fervently desires the Feast of Divine Mercy to be an unusually effective refuge for all mankind, especially for sinners, incomparably more effective than all other forms of Devotion to The Divine Mercy.
So, Kathleen, I think this means that there is no day on which intercessory prayer for our loved ones who have wandered from the faith, and for their children, can be more powerful than prayers said at the Mass of Divine Mercy Sunday. Heart-sprung prayers offered up on that feast day to the Merciful Heart of Jesus for the sake of His lost sheep, with trust in His Divine Mercy, and in honor of His Divine Mercy, cannot fail to partake of His promises, whether in unseen ways, or even in dramatic and miraculous ways: "Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me," Jesus said. "To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask" (Diary, 1146).
Your good letter has reminded me, Kathleen, of some relatives of mine that also need the grace of the Good Shepherd to be led back to His flock. Let's pray the Chaplet for them often — and bring them in our hearts to His Merciful heart on Mercy Sunday:
We pray Thee too for wanderers from Thy fold;
Oh bring them back Good Shepherd of the sheep,
Back to the faith which saints believed of old,
Back to Thy Church which still that faith doth keep;
Soon may we all one bread one Body be,
One in this Sacrament of Unity.
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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