Photo: Felix Carroll
Why is Divine Mercy So Important?
By Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC (Dec 7, 2006)
The Lord makes clear in Scripture that when He returns He's not going to deal with sin, because He's done that once and for all. When He comes again, it's "to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him" (Heb 9:28).
So when people ask me why is the message of Divine Mercy important for the world today, the answer is simple: Through the message of Divine Mercy, our Lord is preparing us for His final coming.
He told the great prophet of Divine Mercy, St. Maria Faustina, in one of a series of revelations in the 1930s: "Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My Mercy" (Diary of St. Faustina, 300).
Helena Kowalska, known today throughout the world as St. Maria Faustina (1905-38), was designated by Our Lord Himself as the "Secretary" and "Apostle" of His Mercy. The Lord told her: "You will prepare the world for My final coming" (Diary, 429).
The mission the Lord gave her was not only to remind the world of the great mercy of God as revealed in Sacred Scripture, but also to teach us new forms of devotion to The Divine Mercy and to initiate a movement of apostles of The Divine Mercy who show a childlike trust in God and love of neighbor.
Still, some people pay no heed to the message of Divine Mercy because it comes by way of a "private revelation." But it's important to remember what St. Paul said. He said the Church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (see Eph 2:19-22). Then St. Augustine and St. Thomas after him identify the prophets of the Church as the people who receive private revelations.
But why does God resort to private revelations? Father 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 — and 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 need to pay special attention to at a given time.
Message tailored to our times
The revelations of The Divine Mercy are particularly tailored to our times.
It is quite evident that Pope John Paul II took these revelations very seriously. In 1981 he wrote an entire encyclical dedicated to The Divine Mercy entitled Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), illustrating that the heart of the mission of Jesus Christ was to reveal the merciful love of the Father. In 1993 he beatified Sr. Faustina.
In 1997 he visited Blessed Faustina's tomb in Lagiewniki, Poland, and proclaimed: "There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy. ... From here went out the message of Mercy that Christ Himself chose to pass on to our generation through Blessed Faustina." In 2000 he canonized St. Faustina, the first canonized saint of the new millennium, and on that same day he also established "Divine Mercy Sunday" as a special title for the Octave Sunday of Easter for the universal Church.
In his homily on Mercy Sunday in 2001, Pope John Paul II called the mercy message given to St. Faustina "The appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies. ... Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium."
In Lagiewniki, Poland in 2002, at the consecration of the new Shrine of The Divine Mercy, the Pope referred to a passage in the Diary in which the saint recorded: "As I was praying for Poland, I heard these words: I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will comes forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming" (Diary, 1732).
The Holy Father said: "Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to The Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God's merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world" (the emphasis is the Holy Father's).
Then, with direct allusion to Our Lord's statement to St. Faustina, and quoting the last part of it, the Holy Father declared: "May the binding promise [writer's emphasis] of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: From here there must go forth 'the spark which will prepare the world for His final coming' (Diary, 1732). This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God; the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! [Holy Father's emphasis].
The Pope calls this a "binding promise." That's a startling phrase. Some people just gloss right over it. But the Pope took the word of the Lord seriously, and he calls it a "binding promise."
Why did Pope John Paul II so strongly recommend that we pay heed to the Divine Mercy message and devotion given to the world through St. Faustina? Clearly, he did so because he saw it as more than just a collection of "private revelations"; rather, he saw them as prophetic revelations. In other words, revelations given to us by God to proclaim the heart of the Gospel in a way especially suited to meet the needs of our era.
Now, 101 years have gone by since our dear saint's birth on Aug. 25, 1905. And on Oct. 5, 69 years will have passed since her departure to take the place destined for her, close to God. However, we who wish to stand ready and "eagerly await Him" should not forget her promise to us: "Poor earth, I will not forget you," she wrote. "Although I feel that I will be immediately drowned in God as in an ocean of happiness, that will not be an obstacle to my returning to earth to encourage souls and incite them to trust in God's mercy. Indeed, this immersion in God will give me the possibility to boundless action" (Diary, 1582).
May our going ever deeper into St. Faustina's life and writings, and our counting on her promised help, bring about what our Lord so much desires from us and needs from us to be able to fulfill His divine will in us: boundless trust in Him who is the unfailing Divine Mercy in Person.
Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, served as vice-postulator for North America in St. Maria Faustina's canonization cause.