“The souls who especially venerate and glorify My mercy.. are living images of My Compassionate Heart.”
– Diary of Saint Faustina, para. 1224.
Every year, the Feast of Divine Mercy, commonly called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’, is preceded by a Novena. This Novena is composed of prayers dictated to Saint Faustina by the Merciful Jesus and recorded in her Diary (parae.1209-1229), and the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Beginning on Good Friday, the Novena concludes the day before the great Feast of Mercy on the Sunday after Easter. Each day of the Novena is offered for a particular group of souls – for all mankind, for the Holy Souls, for those who do not know God, for those who have separated themselves from the Church and so forth. For the purposes of this piece, I want to look at the group for whom the Novena is offered on the seventh day – those especially devoted to Divine Mercy.
To have a devotion to the Divine Mercy is a great grace in our days, for this is the devotion most needed in our days. As Pope Francis said when he announced the Jubilee of Mercy – “this is the time of mercy”.
St John Paul II had recognised this too and drew our attention to the need for Divine Mercy in this period of human history. Canonising Saint Faustina in 2000, making her the first Saint of the Third Millenium, Pope John Paul explicitly noted his reasons for doing so –
“The Message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me… which I took with me to the See of Peter and which in a sense forms the image of this Pontificate.. Sister Faustina’s canonisation has a particular eloquence; by this act, I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium.”
Similarly, Pope Benedict reminded us that –
“Mercy is the core of the Gospel.. In our time, humanity needs a strong proclamation and witness of God’s mercy.”
Those who are especially devoted to the message of Divine Mercy pay heed to these words from the Holy Fathers, taking them to heart and living out the message of Divine Mercy.
For such souls it is more than just a devotion, one among many; rather, the message of Divine Mercy is a call to a particular way of living – to “be merciful, as the Father is merciful” (cf. Lk.6:36). This message of Mercy calls us back to the Gospels, where that Mercy is revealed perfectly in Jesus Christ. And so, Mercy becomes a way of life, seeking to ever more perfectly reflect the face of the Merciful Lord. Such a life is a constant plea to the Merciful Lord, begging His mercy for ourselves and for all the world.
In the Diary, the Lord tells St Faustina that there are three degrees of Mercy –
“I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbour – the first, by deed; the second, by word; the third, by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means, a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy.” (para.742)
And so a soul devoted to this message of Divine Mercy does all it can to be merciful in these three ways, mindful that all of us are sinners and – consequently – in need of that mercy. The deeds, words and prayers of such souls obtain mercy for others and for themselves; as the Gospel reminds us – “blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy shown them” (cf. Mt.5:7)
The Lord comments in St Faustina’s Diary about such souls who are especially devoted to His Divine Mercy –
“These souls sorrowed most over My Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of Hell. I shall particularly defend each one at the hour of death.” (Diary, para.1224)
The Diary tells us that –
“These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy. These souls are united to Jesus and carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart this life.” (Diary, para.1225)
And so, let us take a moment to stop and to pray, to ask the Merciful Lord for the grace that we might be numbered amongst those souls who are especially devoted to the message of Divine Mercy, to become living images of His Compassionate Heart and who, in this way, hold up the entire world by our deeds, our words and our prayers of mercy.