Photo: Marian Archives
The Church's Mercy Doctor?
The following is adapted in part from the Beatification Edition of John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope (Marian Press, 2011).
by David Came
Will the next Holy Father declare St. Faustina a Doctor of the Church, as formally requested by the cardinals and bishops who attended the second World Apostolic World Congress on Mercy in October 2011?
As we wait, it's fascinating to explore how Pope John Paul II made a strong case for recognizing St. Faustina as the Church's Mercy Doctor.
Before making the case, though, we need to know the criteria the
Pope weighs in deciding whether to declare a particular saint a Doctor of the Church.
Father Joe Roesch, MIC, the "Ask a Marian" columnist for Marian Helper magazine, researched the matter. He says, "The traditional criteria have been that the person is a canonized saint whose holiness is exemplary, even among the saints, and whose learning and teaching is outstanding.
"In 1970, Pope Paul VI added three new criteria: that the saint's message has current and permanent value; that he or she bore witness to the faith in life; and that the person's testimony has a particular character, especially a spiritual and mystical character that inspires others."
So, let's see if John Paul II's case for St. Faustina meets these criteria.
A Message, a Feast for Mercy
First, consider the significance of what Pope John Paul II said and did when he canonized Sr. Faustina on April 30, 2000. By canonizing her, he said in his homily that he was passing on "this message" of Divine Mercy — the message Jesus had given her — to the new millennium:
Sister Faustina's canonization has a particular eloquence. By this act I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium. I pass it on to all people, so that they will learn to know even better the true face of God and the true face of their brethren.
In his homily, the Great Mercy Pope also established Divine Mercy Sunday — the most important aspect of the Divine Mercy message and devotion — as a universal feast day: "It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the Word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called 'Divine Mercy Sunday.'"
Thus, John Paul II gave the Church a universal feast day and a message for our times, both emphasizing Divine Mercy.
Urgency of the Message
Then, John Paul II in 2002 went to the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, Poland, where St. Faustina lived, died, and was buried. He came to consecrate the Basilica and entrust the world to Divine Mercy. In his entrustment homily, he strikes a note of urgency about spreading Divine Mercy:
Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to 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. May the binding promise 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.
Here, John Paul not only emphasizes the need to pass on "this fire of mercy," but he also quotes from St. Faustina's Diary about the important role of Divine Mercy in preparing the world for the Second Coming of Christ.
Value of the Diary
In his final book, Memory and Identity, John Paul II highlighted St. Faustina's "rich mystical life" and the great value of her Diary:
[Saint Faustina] was chosen by Christ to be a particularly enlightened interpreter of the truth of Divine Mercy. For Sister Faustina, this truth led to an extraordinarily rich mystical life. She was a simple, uneducated person, and yet those who read the Diary of her revelations are astounded by the depth of her mystical experience.
It is also telling that in two places in Memory and Identity, John Paul states that St. Faustina's patrimony is not only for the Poles but for all peoples. Here's what he says in one place:
I mention Sister Faustina because her revelations, focused on the mystery of Divine Mercy, occurred during the period preceding the Second World War. This was precisely the time when those ideologies of evil, Nazism, and communism, were taking shape. Sister Faustina became the herald of the one message capable of off-setting the evil of those ideologies, the fact that God is Mercy — the truth of the merciful Christ. And for this reason, when I was called to the See of Peter, I felt impelled to pass on those experiences of a fellow Pole that deserved a place in the treasury of the universal Church.
Now, I invite you to return to the criteria for a Doctor of the Church. I think you'll agree that the Great Mercy Pope makes a strong case for St. Faustina.
Please join with the Marian Fathers in praying that the next Holy Father soon declares her the Church's Mercy Doctor.
David Came is executive editor of Marian Helper magazine, the flagship publication of the Association of Marian Helpers, which is headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass. He is the author of Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate.