The Difference Between the Chaplet and Novena
Dr. Robert Stackpole Answers Your Questions on Divine Mercy
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Mar 6, 2007)
As we draw near to Divine Mercy Sunday 2007, many of you will hear about parishes doing a "Divine Mercy Novena" or a "Novena of Chaplets" starting on Good Friday. One of our readers, a woman named Elena, asked what the difference is between the Chaplet and the Novena. Another person asked if it is necessary to recite the Novena in order to receive the extraordinary graces promised by Jesus for Divine Mercy Sunday.
Let's answer Elena's question first. To begin with, I am simply going to reprint for you here some excerpts from a section of this Web site. If you go to the home page, at the top you will see a tab entitled "What is Divine Mercy?" There you will find all of the basics of the Divine Mercy message and devotion clearly explained, including the following:
(By the way, this section of our site can be a great resource for your local Divine Mercy group, or to help explain the message and devotion to newcomers!)
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
In 1935, St. Faustina received a vision of an angel sent by God to chastise a certain city. She began to pray for mercy, but her prayers were powerless. Suddenly she saw the Holy Trinity and felt the power of Jesus' grace within her. At the same time she found herself pleading with God for mercy with words she heard interiorly:
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; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us. (Diary, 475)
As she continued saying this inspired prayer, the angel became helpless and could not carry out the deserved punishment (474). The next day, as she was entering the chapel, she again heard this interior voice, instructing her how to recite the prayer that our Lord later called "the Chaplet." This time, after "have mercy on us" were added the words "and on the whole world" (476). From then on, she recited this form of prayer almost constantly, offering it especially for the dying.
In subsequent revelations, the Lord made it clear that the Chaplet was not just for her, but for the whole world. He also attached extraordinary promises to its recitation:
Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you (1541). Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death (687). When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior (1541). Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this Chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy (687). I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy (687). Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will (1731).
Prayed on ordinary rosary beads, The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is an intercessory prayer that extends the offering of the Eucharist, so it is especially appropriate to use it after having received Holy Communion at Holy Mass. It may be said at any time, but our Lord specifically told St. Faustina to recite it during the nine days before the Feast of Mercy (the first Sunday after Easter). He then added: "By this Novena [of Chaplets], I will grant every possible grace to souls" (796).
It is likewise appropriate to pray the Chaplet during the "Hour of Great Mercy" — three o'clock each afternoon (recalling the time of Christ's death on the cross). In His revelations to St. Faustina, Our Lord asked for a special remembrance of His Passion at that hour.
The Novena of Chaplets
A novena is typically nine days of prayer in preparation of a celebration of a feast day. At the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy Novena is recited perpetually at the Hour of Great Mercy — the three o'clock hour.
The Chaplet can be said anytime, but the Lord specifically asked that it be recited as a novena. He promised, "By this Novena (of Chaplets), I will grant every possible grace to souls."
As I am sure you can see, Elena, that section of this website is full of helpful information! Now let's continue by looking at the special "Novena" given to St. Faustina.
The Novena to The Divine Mercy
When devotees of The Divine Mercy refer to "the Novena," what they usually have in mind are the special novena intentions dictated by our Lord to St. Faustina (Diary entries 1209-1229). These intentions are customarily used together with the Novena of Chaplets beginning on Good Friday.
Unlike the novena of Chaplets discussed above, these special novena intentions seem to have been intended for St. Faustina's personal use. This can be seen from our Lord's instructions, in which He addresses her with the word "you" in the singular. However, since St. Faustina was commanded to write these special novena intentions down in her Diary, our Lord must have intended this longer Novena to be available for public use as well.
Many people pray this novena not only in preparation for the Feast of Mercy, to accompany the Novena of Chaplets that Jesus requested at that time, but at other times as well. In fact, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., these intentions are used each and every day at the Hour of Great Mercy.
For each day of this Novena, our Lord gave St. Faustina a special prayer intention: All mankind, especially sinners; the souls of priests and religious; all devout and faithful souls; those who do not believe in God and those who do not yet know Jesus; the souls who have separated themselves from the Church; the meek and humble souls and the souls of little children; the souls who especially venerate and glorify His mercy; the souls detained in purgatory; and souls who have become lukewarm.
Jesus said: "I desire that during these nine days you bring souls to the fountain of My mercy, that they may draw therefrom strength and refreshment and whatever grace they have need of in the hardships of life, and especially at the hour of death" (1209).
In short, the Lord promised that the devout use of these special novena intentions would bring many graces to souls. But that is not the same thing as what are known as the "extraordinary graces" of Divine Mercy Sunday. These are obtained solely by receiving Holy Communion in a state of grace, with great trust in God's mercy, on Mercy Sunday itself. For more on that, please refer back to my previous column in this series entitled "Christ's Promise of Extraordinary Graces."
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy.
Got a question? E-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.