Sister Faustina and Devotion to the Divine Mercy

Author: Rev. Herbert C. de Launay


By Rev. Herbert C. de Launay

In the last few years, many people have taken up a devotion to the Divine Mercy according to the writings of Blessed Faustina. Sister Faustina was a young religious in a convent in Cracow, Poland. She died on October 5, 1938. However, during the period between 1931 and 1938, our Lord appeared to her several times with messages about His great mercy. In obedience to our Lord and to her spiritual director, she put all of this into writing.

After a thorough examination of the matter, on April 15, 1978, the Holy See permitted the devotion to the Divine Mercy according to the writings of Sister Faustina. On April 18, 1993, Sister Faustina was beatified. She is now Blessed Faustina and many are hoping that one day she will be recognized as Saint Faustina.

Blessed Faustina described our Lord's appearance to her in 1931: "In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, 'paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.'"

Our Lord explained this image to her: "The pale 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 depths of My most tender Mercy at that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. ... Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him."

Jesus also spoke of a Feast of the Divine Mercy and confession and Holy Communion on that day. He said: "I want this image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy. On that day, the depths of My Mercy will be open to all. Whoever will go to confession and Holy Communion on that day will receive complete forgiveness of sin and punishment. Mankind will not enjoy peace until it returns to My Mercy."

Jesus also spoke of a Novena to the Divine Mercy, beginning on Good Friday and leading up to the Feast of Divine Mercy, the Sunday after Easter.

How does the Church judge private revelations such as the ones to Blessed Faustina? Jesus said that you can tell a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20 and 12:33-35). One thing we can study is the life of the individual receiving the revelation. We can also study the effects of that message or appearance or devotion in the lives of others.

We also study the message in relation to the teachings of the Church throughout the centuries. In Galatians 1:6-9, Paul emphasized that we must not accept any message that is different from the one we have already received. He said: "Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed!"

However, as John explained in 1 John 2:7-8, God often gives us a new awareness of old truths. God takes the old message and brings it to new life within us.

The theme of mercy is a very frequent one in the Bible. The words mercy and merciful appear over 250 times. Mercy was the theme of Pope John Paul's encyclical in November of 1980.

John 19:34, read on Good Friday, speaks of the blood and water flowing from the pierced side of Jesus. The Preface for the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus says: "From His wounded side flowed blood and water, the fountain of sacramental life in the Church. To His open heart the Savior invites all men, to draw water in joy from the springs of salvation."

Many Church Fathers and mystics have seen the blood and water as symbols of Baptism and the Eucharist. Water can remind us of the waters of Baptism and the tears of repentance in Confession. Our sins are forgiven in Baptism. In the Sacrament of Penance or Confession, we are renewed in the grace of our Baptism. At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us His Blood in the Eucharist.

The image of the Divine Mercy is similar to many images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The message at the bottom of the picture is "Jesus, I trust in Thee." In Acts 3:11- 26, the reading for Easter Thursday, Peter explained that trust in the name of Jesus restored the crippled man to health. He then exhorted the crowd: "Repent, turn to God, that your sins may be wiped away!" Regarding trust, in Luke 1:45 Elizabeth said to Mary: "Blest is she who trusted that the Lord's words to her would be fulfilled."

Let us also look at the idea of the Sunday after Easter being regarded as Mercy Sunday. The gospel reading for that day is John 20:19-31. We are drawn in that gospel to meditate on the pierced side of Jesus. Jesus had mercy on Thomas with all his doubts and fears. Jesus invited Thomas to put his hand into His side, finding there the healing for his doubts.

In His mercy, Jesus also seeks to bring us peace and forgiveness. "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you," Jesus told His apostles. Then Jesus breathed on them and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them." This gospel passage is one of the most important for our understanding of the Sacrament of Penance. It is certainly appropriate to celebrate and receive this Sacrament on this day.

The opening prayer for this Sunday also brings out these themes: "God of mercy, you wash away our sins in water, you give us new birth in the Spirit, and redeem us in the blood of Christ. As we celebrate Christ's resurrection increase our awareness of these blessings, and renew your gift of life within us."

Acts 2:42-47, our first reading this year for the Sunday after Easter, told us the early Church was devoted to "the breaking of bread." This is a New Testament term for the Eucharist or Holy Communion. We see it used also in Luke 24:13-35, our gospel this year for the third Sunday of Easter.

We also see mention of God's mercy in 1 Peter 1:3-9 and in Psalm 118, both of which were used this year on the Sunday after Easter.

Perhaps our Lord, through Sister Faustina, is calling us to a renewed awareness of this old teaching about His great mercy.

Taken from the May 1996 edition of THE ACADIANA CATHOLIC, Lafayette, Louisiana

Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN


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