by Brother John Raymond
The Monks of Adoration
P.O. Box 546
Petersham, MA 01366
The fact that God is merciful should not surprise us. The Holy
Bible has over 400 direct references to the Mercy of God. There
are many more indirect references. Fifty-five of the Psalms
praise God's Mercy. Belief in a Merciful God became one of the
characteristics of the Jewish religion. We could almost call the
Holy Bible the DIARY OF GOD'S MERCY toward mankind.
The greatest act of God's Mercy toward mankind was to send His
Son. We had lost the way to God, the truth about God and a life
in God by our own fault. Jesus came to give us the Way, to give
us the Truth and to give us new Life. Jesus taught us to be
MERCIFUL as His Father is MERCIFUL. (Luke: 6:36) The Parable of
the Prodigal Son is perhaps the most beautiful lesson of God's
Mercy toward us. (Luke 15:32) The ultimate act of God's Mercy was
the Passion and Death Jesus endured to pay OUR debt for sin. From
His pierced Heart on the Cross began the institution of the Holy
Catholic Church that shares the graces (or gifts) which Jesus has
earned for us until the end of time. How easy God has made it for
us, through the Sacraments of the Church, to receive His free
gifts. In the Sacrament of Confession Jesus forgives us and
strengthens us. His forgiveness cannot be exhausted since we can
avail ourselves of this Sacrament again and again. Even greater
is THE GIFT OF GIFTS - Jesus Himself Truly Present in the Holy
Eucharist. In this Sacrament Jesus wants to share Himself totally
with each of us.
Some of the Apostles and Evangelists make reference to God's Mercy
in the New Testament. One example of this is St. Paul reference
to God as "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." (II
Cor. 1,3) But let us see what the saints and others have said
about God's Mercy throughout history. The early teachers of the
Faith, known as the Fathers of the Church, say that Our Lord
saved the thief in the last hour of his life so that sinners
might never doubt God's Mercy.
St. Athanasius (d.373) wrote, "It is the great Mercy of God that
He becomes the Father of those to whom He is first the Creator."
St. Ambrose (d.397) stated, "Mercy, also, is a good thing, for it
makes men perfect, in that it imitates the perfect Father.
Nothing graces the Christian soul so much as mercy."
St. John Chrysostom (d.407) explained, "Everything that God does
is born of His Mercy and His clemency."
St. Augustine (d.430) prayed, "I confess, O Lord, that Thou art
merciful in all Thine acts. And this Saint explained that "God's
Mercy is not lacking to any of His works" Also he wrote that
"Man, created in the image of God, is not of the same nature as
God, and therefore is not His true son, but he becomes His son
through the grace of Divine Mercy." St. Augustine speaks of mercy
"flying" after him as if on wings. This same Saint referred to
the Holy Eucharist as the "Sacrament of Mercy."
St. Benedict (d.547) taught that one should "never despair of
Pope St. Gregory I (d.604) asked, "Are you a sinner? Then believe
in His [God's] mercy, that you may rise."
St. Bernard (d.1153) taught that "God is not the Father of
Judgement, but only the Father of Mercy, and punishment comes
from our own selves."
St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) taught that God's mercy is the chief
motive of all His external activity.
St. Gertrude the Great (d.1302) was even taught the identical
chaplet to the Mercy of God as was Sr. Faustina.
St. Catherine of Siena (d.1380) prayed, "Oh, Divine Mercy!. . . On
every side which I turn my thought I find nothing but mercy."
God the Father said to her: "I gave My Word, My Only-begotten Son,
because the whole. . . human generation was corrupted. . .[that]
He might endure suffering in that self-same nature in which man
had offended. . .so He satisfied My justice and My Divine Mercy.
For My Mercy willed to make satisfaction for the sin of man and
to dispose him to that good for which I had created him. . . My
mercy is greater without any comparison than all the sins which
any creature can commit. . . it greatly displeases Me that they
should consider their sins to be greater. Despair is the sin
which is pardoned neither here nor hereafter, and it is because
despair displeases Me so much that I wish them to hope in My
mercy at the point of death, even if their life has been
disordered and wicked."
The great English writer William Shakespeare (d.1616) wrote that
"The quality of mercy is not strained, It droppeth as the gentle
rain from Heaven. . ."
St. Francis de Sales (d.1622) explained that "If God had not
created man He would still indeed have been perfect in goodness,
but He would not have been actually merciful, since mercy can
only be exercised toward the miserable. . . Our misery is the
throne of God's mercy."
Venerable Leonard Lessius (d.1623) said there were three major
works of Divine Mercy: creating and preserving the world in
existence, raising Man to a supernatural state of life with God
in the Garden of Eden and the Redemption of the fallen human race
by God's Son.
St. Margaret Mary (d.1690) was told by Our Blessed Lord, "Sinners
shall find My Heart an ocean of mercy." Fr. Sopocko (the
confessor of Sr. Faustina) said, "devotion to the Divine Mercy is
the logical consequence of devotion to the Sacred Heart of
In our century Sister Benigna Consolata, an Italian Visitation Nun
(d.1916), was told by Our Lord to say in her heart, "I have a
Jesus, and I trust in Him," and "I am buried in the abyss of the
Mercy of my Jesus."
Sister Josefa Menendez, a Spanish mystic (d.1923), was told by Our
Lord about the infinite Mercy of His Heart for souls, for sinners
and for the world. He referred to His Heart as an "Abyss of
Dom Marmion, O.S.B. the great Benedictine Abbot (d.1923) wrote,
"There is in God one perfection which is perhaps the key of all
that befalls us here below: it is mercy. Mercy is love in the
face of misery; if there were no misery, there would be no mercy.
. . we shall be in Heaven the living witnesses of the Divine
Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical about the Sacred Heart in 1956
stated that the love of God for men is a "merciful love."
Even with all these reminders throughout the history of His Mercy,
God raised up a special Apostle of His Mercy, Sister Faustina,
for our time, which surely needs this devotion.
Helenka Kowalska was born in Glogowiec, Poland in 1905. Her father
was a carpenter during the day and attended to the 12-acre family
farm in the evening. With the outbreak of World War I schools
were closed. Helenka received only a second-grade education. At
the age of twenty Helenka entered the Sisters of Our Lady of
Mercy guided there by Our Lord's interior voice. When, on April
30th, 1926, Helenka received the religious habit to begin her
novitiate she fainted. God had let her know how much she was to
suffer by this commitment. She chose for her religious name
Sister Mary Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament.
On the evening of February 22, 1931, while in her cell Sister
Faustina had a vision of Jesus clothed in white with one Hand
raised in the gesture of blessing while the other Hand was
touching His garments at His Heart. Two rays of light streamed
out from His Sacred Chest, one red and the other white. He said,
"Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the words
`Jesus, I trust in You.' I desire that this image be venerated,
first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world. I promise
that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I
also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth,
especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My
own glory" (Divine Mercy in my Soul: The Diary of Sister M.
Faustina Kowalska, page 24, copyright 1987 Congregation of
Marians, all rights reserved). Jesus went on to mention His
desire for a Feast of Mercy. Sr. Faustina tried to paint this
image herself but could not do it.
In 1933 Sr. Faustina met Fr. Michael Sopocko whom she had
previously seen in a vision. He became her confessor and
spiritual director. Our Lord said about him, "This is My faithful
servant; he will help you to fulfill My will here on earth"
(ibid, page 127). Fr. Sopocko was a seminary professor and did
not have time to discuss the numerous spiritual experiences of
Sister Faustina in the confessional. So he asked her to write down
in a diary all that she considered to be the will of God which he
would periodically read. She began to write the "Diary" in 1934.
During this same year a painter finished the first image of the
Divine Mercy which Our Lord had requested in 1931. During the
celebrations of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption of the World,
1935, the image was venerated publicly at the Eastern Gate to the
city of Vilnius (then part of Poland, now in Lithuania). By
permission of the Archbishop the image was blessed and placed in
St. Michael's Church in this same city on April 4th, 1937. In
1943 another artist painted the image for the Sisters of Our Lady
of Mercy based on the previous image and Sister Faustina's
description. This image was placed in their Chapel in Cracow.
Fr. Sopocko told Sr. Faustina to ask Jesus about the meaning of
the rays on the image. Jesus replied, "The two rays denote Blood
and Water. The white ray stands for the Water which makes souls
righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of
souls... These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My
tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the
Cross (ibid, page 139). [Note: the Fathers of the Church saw the
Blood and Water as a symbol of the birth of the Church. Water
represents the cleansing Sacraments of Baptism and Penance. The
Blood - the life-giving Sacrament of the Eucharist.] On more than
one occasion Sr. Faustina saw these rays come from the Sacred
Host. Our Lord was teaching her that He dwells "in the tabernacle
as King of Mercy" (ibid, page 165).
On June 9th, 1935 Our Lord asked Sister Faustina to start a
congregation that would proclaim His Mercy to the world and by
prayer obtain that Mercy for the world. After Sister Faustina's
death Fr. Sopocko began this congregation of sisters in 1941. In
1955 the Bishop officially established the "Congregation of the
Most Holy Lord Jesus Christ, Merciful Redeemer," whose aim was to
spread the Divine Mercy devotion and to assist the Church
On Friday, September 13th, 1935, Our Lord revealed to Sister
Faustina the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Here is how to recite the
Chaplet: Begin by praying one Our Father, one Hail Mary and the
Apostles' Creed. Then on the large beads of the rosary say,
"Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and
Divinity of Your dearly-beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in
atonement for our sins and those of the whole world." On the
small beads say, "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy
on us and on the whole world." Repeat these prayers throughout
all five decades. Then at the conclusion say three times, "Holy
God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on
the whole world" (ibid, pages 207,208).
Referring to this chaplet Our Lord said, "Whoever will recite it
will receive great mercy at the hour of death. . .Even if there
were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet
only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy" (ibid,
page 282). And again, "At the hour of death, I defend as My own
glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or when others say
it for a dying person, the indulgence is the same" (ibid, page
320). Sr. Faustina says about it, "The Lord let me know that
everything can be obtained by means of this prayer" (ibid, page
417). In 1937 Fr. Sopocko published a holy card with the Divine
Mercy Image on the front and this chaplet on the back.
In 1936 Jesus explained to Sr. Faustina the Feast of Mercy in
detail. He said, "I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge
and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On
that day. . . the soul that will go to Confession [this can be
eight days before or after the Feast] and receive Holy Communion
shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. . . It
is My desire that it [the Feast] be solemnly celebrated on the
first Sunday after Easter" (ibid, page 286).
It is interesting to note that the Gospel for the first Sunday
after Easter is taken from St. John, Chapter 20, verses 19
through 31. In this particular passage Our Risen Lord institutes
the Sacrament of Confession when He tells the Apostles that they
have the power to forgive sins.
This same year Jesus asked for the Chaplet of Mercy to be prayed
for nine days, beginning on Good Friday, to prepare for the Feast
of Mercy. The following year, 1937, Jesus dictated specific
intentions to Sister Faustina for each day of this nine day
novena. Jesus wants us to immerse the souls mentioned in these
intentions in the ocean of His mercy by praying the Chaplet of
Mercy which begs His Father, on the strength of His bitter
Passion, to grant graces to them. First Day - "Today, bring to Me
all mankind, especially all sinners, and immerse them in the
ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter
grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me." Second Day -
"Today bring to Me the souls of priests and religious and immerse
them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave Me the
strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them, as through
channels, My mercy flows out upon mankind." Third Day - "Today
bring to Me all devout and faithful souls and immerse them in the
ocean of My mercy. These souls brought Me consolation on the Way
of the Cross. They were that drop of consolation in the midst of
an ocean of bitterness." Fourth Day - "Today bring to Me those
who do not believe in Me and those who do not yet know Me. I was
thinking also of them during My bitter Passion and their future
zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy."
Fifth Day - "Today bring to Me the souls of the separated
bretheren and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My
bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My
Church. As they return to unity with the Church My Wounds heal,
and in this way they alleviate My Passion." Sixth Day - "Today
bring to Me the meek and humble souls and the souls of little
children and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely
resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I
saw them as earthly Angels who would keep vigil at My altars. I
pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. Only the humble soul
is able to receive My grace. I favor humble souls with My
confidence." Seventh Day - "Today bring to Me the souls who
especially venerate and glorify My mercy and immerse them in My
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
particularily defend each one of them at the hour of death."
Eighth Day - "Today bring to Me the souls who are in the prison of
Purgatory and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the
torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these
souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My
justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the
indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on
their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer you
would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay
off their debt to My justice."
Ninth Day - "Today bring to Me souls who have become lukewarm and
immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart
most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the
Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I
cried out: `Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your
will.' For them, the last hope of salvation is to flee to My
mercy" (ibid, pages 435-442). Fr. Sopocko published a little
pamphlet entitled; "Christ King of Mercy," which included this
novena, the chaplet and the Litany to The Divine Mercy (which he
Closely connected with the Feast and Image of Mercy are the "three
ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first - by
deed, the second - by word, the third - by prayer. In these three
degrees is contained the fullness of mercy" (ibid, page 298). Our
Lord said that the Feast and the Image of Mercy are to remind us
of the demands of His mercy for "even the strongest faith is of
no avail without works" (ibid, page 298).
During the year of 1937 Jesus first made mention of the "Hour of
Great Mercy." He asked Sr. Faustina to immerse herself at three
o'clock into His Passion and implore mercy for sinners. He
promised that "in this hour I will refuse nothing to the soul
that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion" (ibid, page
474). Again, in 1938, Jesus reminded Sr. Faustina of the Hour of
Mercy. He asked her to make the Stations of the Cross if possible
during this hour or if possible to make a visit to the Most
Blessed Sacrament or, if she was unable to do either of these, to
pray wherever she happened to be even if only for a brief moment.
Our Lord called Sr. Faustina His Secretary and Apostle of Mercy.
Her mission included the heroic practice of the mercy about which
she wrote. Many times she shared in Our Lord's Passion including,
at times, suffering the stigmata invisibly. Sr. Faustina was very
much the object of satan's hatred. One day he told her, "a
thousand souls do me less harm than you do when you speak of the
great mercy of the Almighty One. The greatest sinners regain
confidence and return to God and I lose everything" (ibid, page
On August 24th, 1938, Sr. Faustina's tubercular condition became
serious. She had been in and out of the hospital with this
illness for the past two years. On October 5th Sr. Faustina told
another sister that Jesus would come for her on that very day. At
10:45 PM she raised her eyes to Heaven and went to her Eternal
Reward. She was buried in the convent cemetery in Cracow, the
convent which became the center for the Divine Mercy devotion in
Poland. Sister Faustina was beatified by Pope John Paul II on
Divine Mercy Sunday, April 18, 1993.
Sr. Faustina had foretold World War II which came upon Poland not
long after her death. The persecutions of this war forced many
Polish people out of Poland, and they brought this devotion with
them. Fr. Joseph Jarzebowski, a priest of the Congregation of
Marians of the Immaculate Conception, fled to Lithuania after the
fall of Poland in 1939. There Fr. Joseph met two priests who were
former students of Fr. Sopocko. They told him about the devotion.
When Soviet armies moved into Lithuania Fr. Joseph began praying
to the Divine Mercy for protection. He went to Vilnius where he
met Fr. Sopocko who gave him a manuscript on Divine Mercy. Fr.
Joseph promised that if he arrived safely to the United States he
would promote the devotion there. After arriving in May, 1941 Fr.
Joseph kept his promise. Through his instrumentality the Marian
Fathers established the Mercy of God Apostolate. The Marian
Fathers were and are the principal means of this devotion
spreading all over the world. By 1950 they were printing Divine
Mercy prayer cards in 60 different languages and dialects.
Everything seemed to be going so well. But Sr. Faustina had
foreseen in a vision that this work of Mercy would seem entirely
finished and would lay dormant for a time. Then God would act to
revive it. This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter. In 1959 the
Sacred Congregation of The Holy Office prohibited the spreading
of the devotion of Divine Mercy as revealed to Sr. Faustina,
based on an inaccurate translation of Sr. Faustina's Diary.
Images were removed from churches and priests stopped preaching
about it. Still Fr. Sopocko and the Marian Fathers were allowed
to write about the Mercy of God but they were restricted to using
only a Scriptural and Theological foundation. The Archbishop of
Cracow, however, allowed the Divine Mercy devotions to continue
at Our Lady of Mercy convent.
Fr. Sopocko wrote many books about Divine Mercy. Unfortunately he
did not live to see its revival. He died at the age of eighty-
five in 1975. Three years later in 1978 The Sacred Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, now having in its possession many
original documents on the devotion which were unknown to it
before, lifted the prohibitions of 1959. This new decision came
about through the informative intervention of the Archbishop of
Cracow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla - who is now Pope John Paul II.
This Holy Father's second encyclical was entitled "Dives in
Misericordia" which refers to God Who is "Rich in Mercy."
In 1980 the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine
Worship approved a Votive Mass of The Mercy of God for use in
The Divine Mercy is open to everyone. Jesus told Sr. Faustina that
"The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My
mercy" (ibid, page 292). He also told Sr. Faustina where to find
this Mercy saying, "Tell souls where they are to look for solace,
that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy" [the Sacrament of
Reconciliation] (ibid, pages 511, 512). Finally we have to
benefit from God's mercy now! We should not wait! Jesus said that
His mercy "is a sign for the end times [now!]; after it will come
the day of justice. While there is still time, let them [mankind]
have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the
Blood and Water which gushed forth for them!" (ibid, page 333).
Let us immerse ourselves in the Divine Mercy now!
For a free Mercy Packet from the Marian Fathers call 1-800-462-
7426 (Canadian readers can call 1-800-344-2836) or write to:
The Marian Fathers
Stockbridge, MA 01263
(The quotations from the writings of Saints Ambrose, Benedict,
Pope Gregory I and Frances de Sales are excerpts from "The Book
of Catholic Quotations," selected & edited by John Chapin.
Copyright 1956 by Farrar, Straus and Cudahy. The quotations from
the writings of St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom, St.
Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Margaret Mary,
Fr. Sopocko and Dom Marmion, O.S.B. are taken from "The Mercy of
God in His Works" by Fr. Michael Sopocko, S.T.D. Both this book
and "Divine Mercy in my Soul: The Diary of Sister M. Faustina
Kowalska" are available through the Marian Helpers Center,
Stockbridge, MA 01263. The quotations from the writings of St.
Catherine of Siena are from "The Dialogue of Saint Catherine of
Siena" translated by Algar Thorold and published by TAN Books and
Publishers, Inc. All are quoted with permission.)
Brother John Raymond is the co-founder of The Monks of Adoration.
His bi-monthly column "Prayer" is carried in The Catholic Twin
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