What Does Devotion to 'The Divine Mercy' Signify?

By Dr. Robert Stackpole

Have you ever had the experience of being unable to express in words exactly what you meant? Sometimes this happens because of our own faulty skills in oral or written communication. But other times - and especially when dealing with supernatural realities - it is almost impossible to "capture" in mere human words the mysteries of God we are trying to convey.

One of our readers, named Rita, recently sent to me the following question, which relates to one of our linguistic difficulties in speaking about the mystery of The Divine Mercy:


People in my prayer group ask me to explain what is the difference between Jesus and The Divine Mercy? Isn't it the same? We pray continuously to Jesus, and so we pray to the Divine Mercy.

Rita, what may be confusing the members of your prayer group is that sometimes St. Faustina speaks in her Diary about Divine Mercy as an attribute of God. An attribute of someone's nature is a natural capacity that they have. Thus, we say that human beings have as natural attributes the inherent capacity for thinking and choosing. Human beings are creatures made up of body and soul, and the soul has the natural capacity to think and to make choices. Of course, God's attributes, His capacities, are somewhat different than ours: His are infinite, and there is never a moment that He is not enacting them all in an infinitely perfect way.

Jesus told St. Faustina, "Mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy" (Diary, 301). Here, Jesus was clearly speaking about God's mercy as a divine attribute and telling us that everything God does is an expression of His mercy. Similarly, almost every line of St. Faustina's "Praises of The Divine Mercy" seems to begin by referring to Divine Mercy as an attribute of God (see Diary, 948-949).

But then, oddly enough, at the end of every line of those "Praises" comes the phrase "I trust in You." Saint Faustina is adoring the wonders of the attribute of Divine Mercy, but she could not pray to a mere attribute, so she finishes each line by addressing her prayer to the divine persons who actually have and manifest that attribute. That's why her prayer is actually addressed to a "You": That is, to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, precisely because of their wonderful attribute and everlasting outpouring of mercy upon us.

In fact, in most cases, in this devotion, our prayers are addressed to the Second Person of the Trinity, the divine Son of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, because it is precisely through Him that we are able to see the merciful love of the Trinity most clearly.

Pope John Paul II wrote about this in his great encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy):

In Christ and through Christ, God ... becomes especially visible in His mercy. ... Not only does He [Christ] speak of it and explain it, by the use of comparisons and parables, but above all He Himself makes it incarnate and personifies it. He Himself, in a certain sense, is mercy (no. 2).

Saint Faustina even calls Jesus "Mercy Incarnate" (Divine Mercy in-the-flesh), for it is through Him above all that we can come to see and experience for ourselves, the merciful love of the Blessed Trinity (see Diary, 1745). In fact, this is the message implied in the famous prayers of St. Faustina that we use at the Hour of Great Mercy each day. Here she refers to Jesus simply as "unfathomable Divine Mercy" because He is the source of that mercy pouring out upon the world:

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fountain of life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us (Diary, 1319).

In short, Rita, you are largely correct: When we pray and worship, we cannot address ourselves to an abstraction, like an attribute, but only to a person or persons who have and manifest that attribute. The divine person who has opened the floodgates of Divine Mercy for us is none other than Jesus Christ our Savior, who is therefore called simply "The Divine Mercy."

Finally, to reassure you that you are on the right track I will quote here for you the words of the Rev. Dr. Ignacy Rozycki, the Polish theologian who examined the Diary of St. Faustina in depth for the formal investigation of her writings undertaken by the Vatican as part of the process for her canonization. Fr. Rozycki explains:

Concerning His Sacred Heart, Jesus speaks to Sister Faustina: "My Heart is Mercy Itself" (Diary, 1777). But He also states the same thing about Himself [Diary, 1074]. Therefore, Jesus, as the incarnation of Divine Mercy is also the proper object of the devotion. It follows that this devotion may equally well be called Devotion to The Divine Mercy and Devotion to The Merciful Jesus, with both names expressing exactly the essence of the devotion in reference to its object.

Jesus, The Divine Mercy Incarnate, occupies, however, a privileged place in this devotion. He is not only the proper object of it, but He is the main object, in the sense that all acts of this devotion actually have Jesus as their proper aim, even those acts which are directed to the other Persons of God. For instance, the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is clearly directed to the Mercy of God the Father. However, the 31st and 49th revelations (Diary, 687 and 848) represent Jesus as the one who bestows all graces associated with this chaplet.

Furthermore, He is presented as the object of trust in [Divine] Mercy which we express by reciting the chaplet. This exceptional place of Jesus within the framework of the devotion has its doctrinal basis in the words of the Gospel: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one goes to the Father except through Me" [Jn 14:6]. Since Jesus is the main object of this devotion, it may rightly be called in a shortened form The Devotion to the Merciful Lord Jesus (Rev. Ignacy Rozycki, STD, "Essential Features of Devotion to The Divine Mercy," in Robert Stackpole, STD, Ed., Pillars of Fire in My Soul: The Spirituality of St. Faustina. Stockbridge: Marian Press, 2003; pp. 98-99).

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy.


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