Mercy Sunday or Feast of Mercy 


The Revelations of Our Lord to St. Faustina

According to the doctrine of the Church we must distinguish between those matters communicated by God through the prophets, the apostles and the other sacred writers, and found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and the private revelations or apparitions He grants to individuals. These latter are given for our guidance, usually refer also to things in Public Revelation which must be believed, but in and of themselves are not of the faith. The revelations given to St. Faustina are private revelations about the Divine Mercy. As with most approved private revelations, much is simply the repetition in a new way of the perennial truths of the Catholic Faith. Other elements have a prophetic content, or make promises or requests, which depend entirely on the credibility of the witness, Sister Faustina.

A private revelation could obtain no higher degree of human credibility, the standard of reason applied by the Church,  as one in which the mystic is canonized and the requests are acted upon by the Holy See. No one today disputes the devotion to the Sacred Heart, for example, which is now well-founded in Tradition, even though the impetus for its specific theological development was a private revelation. The same is true of the Mercy Devotion. The Pope in his prophetic office has sounded many of the same warnings as St. Faustina, as he has of Our Lady of Fátima. Nonetheless, while it may be imprudent or unreasonable to not accept the specific promises and warnings of St. Faustina, given the authentication of her life and message by the Church, it is not contrary to the faith. The conscience of each must nonetheless judge, avoiding both blind credulity and incredulity. As St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, "Virtue is in the middle." Or, as St. Paul says, "Test all things, retain what is good" (1 Thes. 5:21).

The Feast of Mercy

One of the requests of Our Lord which the Church has acted upon is the Feast of Mercy. On 30 April 2000, at the Canonization of Sr. Faustina, the Pope responded to this request by establishing on the Sunday after Easter a Feast dedicated to the Divine Mercy. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments officially notified the world's Bishops of this decree on 23 May 2000.  Today, the liturgical calendar, or Ordo, of all dioceses in the world now reflect that the Sunday after  the Solemnity of Easter is the "Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday".

Some confusion exists over the fact that this day is not officially called "The Feast of Mercy". Feast can be understood in two senses, as a liturgical class, or as a general way for referring to all special days regardless of their liturgical class.

According to the first sense, liturgical class, Mercy Sunday is a Solemnity, the highest possible liturgical class (solemnity, feast, memorial, optional memorial). Beginning with Easter Sunday, the Solemnity of Solemnities, the Church celebrates an octave (8 days) of the Resurrection. This practice goes back to the Old Covenant and the Jewish practice of celebrating feasts, such as Unleavened Bread (of which Passover is a part), for eight days. Each day of the Octave is a Solemnity, in essence an extension of Easter Sunday. The principal prayers of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are those of Easter Sunday. This octave concludes with the Gospel account of Easter night, in which Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance, that is, of His Divine Mercy. 

According to the general sense of feast, it is legitimate to refer to Divine Mercy Sunday as the Feast of Mercy, even though it is a Solemnity. A  feast is the celebration of a saint or a special day. Regardless of liturgical class, we refer to a saint's day as his or her feast day.  Thus, it is appropriate here, too, to speak of the Feast of Mercy, or Easter, or Pentecost, all of which are Solemnities.

The Promise.  

According to St. Faustina, Our Lord promises to those who go to confession and communion on this day, the remission of the guilt and the punishment of sins.

On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. (Diary of Sr. Faustina, 699)

Many take this to mean that they must go to Confession ON Mercy Sunday. This is not true. To receive the benefits of the Promise one must be in the state of grace. The Lord does not promise the absolution of grave sin on Mercy Sunday, but points us to the Sacrament of Penance. To receive the grace we should be disposed. This is done by a confession near the time of Mercy Sunday. According to the Cardinal of Krakow, the confession which a Catholic makes during Lent in preparation for Easter is sufficient. Priests do not have to provide confession on Mercy Sunday so that Catholics can satisfy this condition. Since it is a Sunday the condition of Communion can be easily satisfied (including at the Saturday Vigil Mass). Our Communion, as our Confession, should be especially devout.

Some refer to this grace as a Plenary Indulgence. While the effect is the same, complete remission of sin and the punishment due to it, it is not granted by the Church but by a promise of the Lord. Also, the conditions are fewer, only Confession and Communion. While the Lord also asks for veneration of His Image on Mercy Sunday, as well as acts of mercy, these do not appear to be essential to the Promise, though they certainly could manifest the disposition, or lack of disposition, of the person seeking it. The receipt of the grace is not magic, but necessarily involves the opening of our hearts to mercy. This is best done by deeds, words and thoughts of mercy towards others. That, too, takes God's grace, but we can surely expect the actual graces to be merciful available to us on Mercy Sunday, if we but trust. The message clearly states the Lord's willingness for the greatest generosity on this day. We do what our circumstances permit us, and trust in God. This is true also of those whose circumstances do not permit them to get to Communion on that day, such as the infirm and the home-bound. God does not ask the impossible.

The Image. 

I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. (Diary 341)

The Holy See has not obliged anything in this regard. Indeed, whatever a parish does beyond the liturgical celebration of the Divine Mercy is regulated by the bishop and the pastor. However, there are several ways that a willing pastor can facilitate the public veneration of the Image of the Divine Mercy.

1. A parish which has just acquired the Image of the Divine Mercy for public veneration should have it blessed according to the rite for the “Blessing of an Image of Our Lord” (Book of Blessings, 1263-1276). Every parish should have this ritual book. This rite, however, may not be used within the Mass. Such a solemn blessing would be conferred only once on a particular Image.

2. A previously blessed image can be displayed in the Sanctuary during Mass. There is already in the rubrics the provision for incensing an image during the incensations of the Mass.

3. A previously blessed image can be left in the sanctuary for veneration by the faithful throughout the Feast of Mercy.

4. A previously blessed image can be used in processions, be the object of veneration during a communal recitation of the Chaplet of Mercy, or other devotions as the parish may celebrate during the Feast of Mercy.

Similar things can be done in the home also, privately venerating the Image, by the use of devotional candles, by a public display of the Image, family prayer, etc… These images should also be blessed. However, they do not receive the solemn blessing of an image used for “public veneration” (#1 above), just the simply blessing ordinarily given to religious objects (Book of Blessing 1442ff). This could even be done communally, if the pastor is willing.

For more questions and answers, please see the FAQ of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who are responsible for promoting the Divine Mercy throughout the world. http://thedivinemercy.org/library/faq/commonquestions.php

See also EWTN's Divine Mercy mini-site:
/Devotionals/mercy/dmhome.htm

 

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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