Photo: Felix Carroll
Attendees of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy, held in Rome in April, carry a banner with the Image of The Divine Mercy in St. Peter's Square.
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Oct 16, 2007)
This week I received an excellent question from a man named Brian: "Is the Image of The Divine Mercy the only image that our Lord has directed to be made of Himself? ... If the Image is the only one that has been prepared under express command of Jesus Christ, what are the implications of this?"
Brian has hit on something very important here.
Yes, to the best of my knowledge, the Image of the Divine Mercy is the only image of Jesus Himself that Jesus expressly commanded to be painted in a particular manner, and disseminated throughout the world in a particular form.
On at least one occasion, the Blessed Virgin Mary has asked for a specific image of herself to be created and disseminated: the image for the Miraculous Medal revealed to St. Catherine Laboure in the 19th century. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, a special image of Mary was also miraculously imprinted upon the tilma of St. Juan Diego of Guadalupe in Mexico in the 16th century and can still be seen in all its splendor at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe today.
But, of course, these are not images of our Lord. Moreover, the image of the Sacred Heart revealed to St. Margaret Mary in the 17th century was actually revealed to her in several forms, and she was not commanded by Jesus to have it painted in a particular way. Catholic artists, therefore, have created several different renditions of this image of the Sacred Heart in the various ways that it was viewed by St. Margaret Mary.
Christ's command to her was that the image of His Heart of flesh should be venerated by the faithful throughout the world and that He would especially bless those who wore it on their person and the homes where it was exposed and honored. But He did not command that a specific artistic form should be used.
The Image of the Divine Mercy would seem to be a unique image of Jesus in this respect: "Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world" (Diary entry 47).
Obviously, the Image of The Divine Mercy must play a very important part in our Savior's plan to bring the world back to His love!
However, I do not think that the significance of this fact can be fully appreciated without taking into account another important image of Himself that our Lord, in His Providence, has given to our troubled world over this past century. I am referring, of course, to the image of our crucified Lord on the Holy Shroud of Turin. As the result of advances in technology, this image can now be viewed in stunning, photographic negative: a vivid, and certainly miraculous image of Jesus Christ radioactively burned into his burial clothes at the moment of his resurrection from the dead.
Why did our Savior make this image of his terrible wounds and suffering available to the world in the same era that he made available to us the Image of the Divine Mercy? Surely because the two together offer the most stunning and supernatural portrayal of the heart of the gospel message: that God loved lost sinners so much, He sent His Son to die for our sins on Calvary and rise again on Easter morning, to be with us always and to give us the hope of everlasting life.
The blood and the wounds imprinted on the Shroud bring home to us the tremendous sacrifice made for us when Jesus, the Son of God, took away our sins on the Cross. The Image of the Divine Mercy, on the other hand, focuses on the risen Christ, shining with radiant Easter light, blessing us with the rays of sanctifying grace and pardon that He won for us, and calling us now to entrust our hearts to Him.
The importance of these two images together — both 20th century gifts from God to us — should not be underestimated. Is God trying to tell us something here? You bet! He is trying to remind us of the Heart of the Gospel, for the world desperately needs to hear it. But because most of the world has closed its ears to the message, He has proclaimed the gospel now to our eyes, through these two special images.
By the way, there is a Marian Mercy apostolate that uses both of these images to great effect in proclaiming the mercy message to parishes and schools: please go on this website to the Mercy Apostolates section, and look up all the information on the Mother of Mercy Messengers (MOMM), and the great evangelistic work that they do, utilizing these two great gifts from our Lord.
And by the way: Did you know that the Marians' own world-renowned Divine Mercy expert, Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, had these two images tested by an Italian photographic scientist, and it turns out that the facial and bone structure features on the figure on the original Image of The Divine Mercy and on the Image on the Shroud of Turin are an exact match?! Do we need any more proof that our Lord wants us to use these two images to proclaim to the world the truth of His love?! And MOMM is doing just that! Be sure to check out their ministry on this website.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.