Photo: Felix Carroll
Organizers for the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy on Nov. 14-15 are pleased to have renowned Divine Mercy expert Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, as the homilist for the closing Mass. Father Seraphim was vice-postulator for St. Maria Faustina's canonization cause. In the following piece, he discusses centerpieces to the mercy congress, including the importance of trust, works of mercy, and the message of The Divine Mercy for our times.
On Feb. 22, 1931, our Lord Jesus Christ granted a vision of Himself to a humble religious sister of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in the city of Plock, Poland, instructing her to paint an image according to the pattern she was looking at, and signed: Jesus, I trust in You. The Lord next expressed the desire that this image be venerated — given deep religious respect, first in the convent chapel, and then throughout the world.
Jesus then added: "I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish [will not be utterly destroyed, or lost] … I Myself will defend it as My own glory" (Diary of St. Faustina 47, 48).
Jesus also complained: "Distrust on the part of souls is tearing at My innards [internal organs of the body — regarded as the source of pity, tenderness, mercy, etc., that is, the tender emotions]. The distrust of a chosen soul causes Me even greater pain; despite My inexhaustible love for them — they do not trust Me. Even My death is not enough for them. Woe to the soul that abuses them" (50). These declarations of our Lord indicate that the most essential element of His Divine Mercy message given to the Church and to the world through St. Faustina, as well as of the devotion flowing from it, is TRUST in God's mercy, and, even more so, trust in Him who is The Divine Mercy in Person.
The trust that Jesus desires and needs, and, we can say, even demands, from His beloved humankind, created in His own divine image and likeness, is bold acts of instinctive and unquestioning dependence and reliance on His goodness, honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness, by which we express our absolute conviction that we will not be deceived, or injured, or let down in the expectation of God's being faithful to His promises. Our placing complete trust in God binds us to Him most intimately, and, according to our Lord's own admission, renders Him the greatest honor.
Such trust can only be the fruit of genuine faith by which one is unwaveringly convinced, upon the very word of God, who is Truth itself, and so cannot deceive or be deceived, that He is All-Good, All-Knowing, All-Wise, All-Loving, All-Powerful and All-Just. That is, above all, Faithful to fulfill His promises.
Placing boundless trust in God and His mercy through Jesus guarantees to us creatures what we innately crave — whether we realize it or not — unfailing assurance of utmost security. Jesus declared to St. Faustina, "I am Love and Mercy itself. There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted — it increases. The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it."
This is what Azariah asserted in a prayer long before, when the three young men walked about in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace in Babylon uninjured: "… for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame" (Dn 3:40).
Twice Jesus stated emphatically through St. Faustina (here rendered in a more literal translation), "Mankind will not experience [or, enjoy] security so long as it does not turn with trust to the Fount of My mercy" (Diary, 300, 699). He also declared this assurance: "Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul."
And so, the often-quoted saying of an ancient Greek can serve to help us understand our Lord's insistence on relying on divine mercy with trust. The mathematician, Archimedes, said: "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum, and I will move the earth." The "least" of Believers can move heaven and earth with the lever of trust because there is an eternal, slip-proof and immovable fulcrum — a solid stand-point, or, fixed-point, to lean against: divine mercy.
Certain of what we believe of God, living and true, trust is our act of courage to accept His loving acceptance of us. It is an action for the "here-and-now." It differs from what we call "hope," which is not "wishful thinking" about something improbable (not likely to happen or be true), but is the confident expectation of what is unfailingly assured us in the future by God's promises, although we don't yet see it. Meanwhile, these words of our Lord should greatly encourage us: "Most dear to Me is the soul that strongly believes in My goodness and has complete trust in Me" (Diary, 453).
Works of Mercy
The blessed (happy) assurance that, "if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from Him whatever we ask, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him" (1 Jn 3:21,22); and the assurance that "we have this confidence in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked Him for is ours" (1 Jn 5:14,15), we have with God's commandment to "believe in the name [person] of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as He commanded us" (1 Jn 3:23), namely, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another" (Jn 13:34). "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13). "Be[come] merciful even as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36).
Through St. Faustina, Jesus tells us: "I demand from you deeds of mercy which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors [fellow human beings] always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse yourself from it … Even the strongest faith is of no avail without works" (Diary, 742). [See Jas 2:17 — "So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead."]
G.K. Chesterton defined mercy thus: It is "loving the unlovable and pardoning the unpardonable." This is truly divine mercy, which our Lord urges us to attain. Until we are able to become merciful even as our heavenly Father, Jesus told St. Faustina: "But write this for the many souls who are often worried because they do not have the material means with which to carry out an act of mercy. Yet spiritual mercy, which requires neither permissions nor storehouses, is much more meritorious and is within the grasp of every soul. If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the day of judgment. Oh, if only souls knew how to gather eternal treasure for themselves, they would not be judged, for they would forestall My judgment with their mercy" (Diary, 1317).
How seriously Jesus considers the exercise of mercy by those who belong to Him can be gauged by this entry from St. Faustina's Diary: "Every soul, and especially the soul of every religious, should reflect My mercy. My heart overflows with compassion and mercy for all. The heart of My beloved must resemble Mine; from her heart must spring the fountain of My mercy for souls; otherwise I will not acknowledge her as Mine" (Diary, 1148).
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 Divine 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 come 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."
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 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!
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, 104 years have gone by since our dear saint's birth on Aug. 25, 1905. And, as of Oct. 5, 71 years passed since her departure to take the place destined for her, close to God (see Diary 417, 683). 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.
Saint Faustina, pray for us!
In addition to serving as the homilist for the North American Congress on Mercy's closing Mass on Sunday, Nov. 15, Fr. Seraphim will serve as a panalist for the Marians' Divine Mercy Networking Forum on Friday, Nov. 13, at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, 3900 Harewood Road, NE, Washington, D.C. Visit mercycongress.org for more information.