Yard signs like the one pictured below have been popping up all over. What is it all about? These signs are related to the Catholic devotion known as Divine Mercy. The signs have been appearing lately because Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter each year, is this coming Sunday, April 12. The devotion has its origin in the life of a saint by the name of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a 20th century saint of the Catholic Church.
Faustina was born in a small village in Poland in 1905 and lived her entire life in Poland. She became a nun at the age of 20, entering the order known as the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She reported having visions and conversations with Jesus throughout her life. During one of her visions, Jesus asked her to keep a diary – a written record of the conversations. Sister Faustina died in 1938 at the age of 33. She was canonized a saint by Pope John Paul II in 2000. The Sunday after Easter was designated Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope John Paul II at the canonization ceremony.
I have to admit that, although the Divine Mercy devotion is now 15 years old, I never really took notice until this month when a friend at my church gave me a brochure with the Divine Mercy Novena prayers. Another friend came by to ask me to post the sign in front of my house. So then I began to research the history and the diary. I have not yet read the diary (it is a daunting 700+ page account of the conversations) but it is on my to-do list. My research did lead me to two shorter (much) booklets. So what is it all about? Let me hit the major points as I understand them.
1) God wishes to make known his love and to extend his great mercy to all persons living on the face of the earth. All persons means just that … no matter a person’s creed, ethnicity, degree of sinfulness, or anything else. This is nothing new. It is the reason why Jesus became incarnate in the first place.
2) Jesus gave Sister Faustina a special prayer to be used by all who wish to participate in this special extension of his mercy. It is known as the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Rosary beads are used to assist in the recitation of the prayer.
3) Jesus gave to Sister Faustina a special image of himself that suggests how he is extending his mercy. In the image, our Risen Savior has pale and red rays streaming from his heart. These rays symbolize the blood and water that flowed from his side while he was on the cross. Jesus said: “I want it (the image) to be venerated publicly so that every soul will know about it.” This is a quote from the diary. The image is accompanied by this statement: "Jesus, I trust in you."
There is much more that I could say about this, but, in the interest of brevity in this blog, I’m going to leave it up to you to research it further. I suggest googling “Divine Mercy Sunday” or “Sister Faustina” for more information. I hope you will all want to do this. The mercy of God in regard to one’s sinfulness is a wonderful, beautiful concept in today’s world, something that everyone needs and should seek. And that is my prayer for today. Amen.