The Divine Mercy is a form of God's compassion, an act of grace based on trust or forgiveness. In Catholicism it refers specifically to a devotion which had its origin in the apparitions of Jesus Christ reported by Faustina Kowalska, in the early 20th century, in Poland.
The term and concept of divine mercy is from the Hebrew word chesed, which in the Bible can be translated as "great mercy", "goodness", "loving-kindness", "steadfast love", "covenant "faithfulness", "favor", "grace" or "love and mercy", and which refers to God's love for the Children of Israel and for all of mankind.
The Hebrew word rah'amim (רחמים) denotes an act of grace based on trust, in a mutual relationship between two people who have obligations to fulfill resulting from their commitments.
In Catholicism, Divine Mercy is a devotion to Jesus Christ associated with the reported apparitions of Jesus to Faustina Kowalska. The venerated image under this Christological title[clarification needed] refers to what Kowalska's diary describes as "God's loving mercy" towards all people, especially for sinners. Kowalska was granted the title "Secretary of Mercy" by the Holy See in the Jubilee Year of 2000. Kowalska reported a number of apparitions during religious ecstasy which she wrote in her 1934–1938 diary, later published as the book Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. The two main themes of the devotion are to trust in Christ's endless goodness, and to show mercy to others acting as a conduit for God's love towards them.
Pope John Paul II, a native of Poland, had great affinity towards this devotion and authorized it in the Liturgical Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. The liturgical Feast of the Divine Mercy is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Worshippers of the Divine Mercy commemorate the Hour of Mercy (3 p.m.), which according to Kowalska's diary is the time of the death of Jesus. (See Mark 15:34–37 [NRSV], "At three o’clock [τῇ ἐνάτῃ ὥρᾳ, lit. "the ninth hour"] Jesus cried out with a loud voice ... 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.") Another very popular form of the devotion is the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy.
The primary focus of the Divine Mercy devotion is the merciful love of God and the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one's own heart towards those in need of it. As he dedicated the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Pope John Paul II referred to this when he said: "Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind".
There are seven main forms of this devotion:
- The Divine Mercy image with the specific inscription Jesus, I trust in You;
- The commemoration of the Feast of the Divine Mercy Sunday
- The recitation of the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy
- The recitation of the Divine Mercy novena
- The designation of the Hour of Mercy at 3:00 a.m. or p.m.
- Spreading mercy by word, deed, or prayer
- The spreading of works of mercy to the whole humanity, in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ to Earth
Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God.
As in the prayers that form the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, there are three main themes to the Divine Mercy devotion: to ask for and obtain the mercy of God, to trust in Christ's abundant mercy, and finally to show mercy to others and act as a conduit for God's mercy towards them.
The first and second elements relate to the signature "Jesus I trust in You" on the Divine Mercy image and Kowalska stated that on 28 April 1935, the day the first Divine Mercy Sunday was celebrated, Jesus told her: "Every soul believing and trusting in My Mercy will obtain it."
The third component is reflected in the statement "Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners" attributed to Jesus in Kowalska's diary (Notebook I, items 186–187). This statement is followed in the diary by a specific short prayer: "O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You." which Kowalska also recommended for the Hour of Divine Mercy. In her diary (Notebook II, item 742) Kowalska wrote that Jesus told her: "I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me." and that he explained that there are three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first-by deed, the second-by word, the third-by prayer.
The Divine Mercy devotion views mercy as the key element in the plan of God for salvation and emphasizes the belief that it was through mercy that God gave his only son for the redemption of mankind, after the fall of Adam. The opening prayer for Divine Mercy Sunday Mass refers to this and begins: "Heavenly Father and God of Mercy, We no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for He is alive and has become the Lord of Life".
In 1959, the Vatican banned the image and devotion to it because of a number of factors. Some Polish bishops questioned Kowalska's claims and were uncomfortable with the image's similarity to the red and white Polish flag. Polish priests were reported to be interpreting the rays as a symbol of the flag. The ban on devotion was lifted on 15 April 1978, due to pressure from future Polish pope Karol Wojtyła, who had great interest on Kowalska. In 1987, American filmmaker Hermann D. Tauchert co-wrote, produced, and directed the film Divine Mercy: No Escape, which depicted the life of Kowalska.
Paint an image according to the pattern you see with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You... I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.
The chaplet is associated with the paintings of the image as in Kowalska's diary. The most widely used is an image painted by Adolf Hyla. Hyla painted the image in thanksgiving for having survived World War II.
In the image, Jesus stands with one hand outstretched in blessing, the other clutching the side wounded by the spear, from which proceed beams of falling light, coloured red and white. An explanation of these colors was given by Kowalska, which she attributed to Jesus in her diary: "The two rays represent blood and water". These colors of the rays refer to the "blood and water'" of the Gospel of John (John 19:34) which are also mentioned in the optional prayer of the Chaplet. The words "Jesus I Trust in Thee" usually accompany the image (Jezu Ufam Tobie in Polish).
The original Divine Mercy image was painted by Eugene Kazimierowski in Vilnius, Lithuania, under Kowalska's direction. However, according to her diary, she cried upon seeing that the finished picture was not as beautiful as the vision she had received, but Jesus comforted her saying, "Not in the beauty of the colour, nor of the brush is the greatness of this image, but in My grace". The picture was widely used during the early years of the devotion, and is still in circulation within the movement, but the Hyla image remains one of the most reproduced renderings. After the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday was granted to the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II on 30 April 2000 new versions of the image have emerged from a new generation of Catholic artists.
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In her diary Kowalska wrote that Jesus specified 3:00 p.m. each day as the hour at which mercy was best received, and asked her to pray the Chaplet of Mercy and venerate the Divine Mercy image at that hour. On 10 October 1937, in her diary (Notebook V, item 1320) Kowalska attributed the following statement to Jesus:
As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it, invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners, for at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul.
In an entry in her diary, Kowalska stated that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins and punishments.
Churches and shrines
A number of Marian churches and shrines have been dedicated to Divine Mercy. One of the most important is the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, when also the Divine Mercy image was exhibited for the first time. The original picture of Divine Mercy is in Vilnius.
The worldwide center of the devotion is Divine Mercy Sanctuary (Kraków), commonly known as Łagiewniki. This is where Kowalska is interred, and it houses the most popular version of the Divine Mercy image (by Adolf Hyła).
The Divine Mercy Sanctuary (Płock) is where Kowalska is said to have had the first vision of the Divine Mercy image. The Divine Mercy Sanctuary (Białystok) has the remains of Michał Sopoćko, the spiritual director of Kowalska and the Apostle of Divine Mercy. Głogowiec, Łęczyca County as well as nearby Świnice Warckie (central Poland) are the places of birth and childhood as well as baptism and first communion of Kowalska.
The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Marilao, Bulacan is the major church dedicated to Divine Mercy in the Philippines. The Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador City, Philippines, has a 50-foot (15-meter) statue of Merciful Jesus.
The main sanctuary of Divine Mercy is Kraków-Łagiewniki.
The Shrine of Divine Mercy, Vilnius with original picture of Divine Mercy
Orders and institutions
A number of Christian orders and institutions are devoted to the Divine Mercy. The John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy is managed by the Congregation of Marian Fathers, which takes an active role in promoting the Divine Mercy message.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, to which Kowalska belonged, and the Congregation of Sisters of Merciful Jesus, established by Michał Sopoćko on the request of Christ reported by her, have also very important role in spreading the devotion.
Two new religious communities – the Sisters of Jesus’ Merciful Passion and the Littlest Sons of the Sweetest Heart of Mary – are being raised up in Michigan through the Servants of Jesus of The Divine Mercy, a lay association of the faithful led by Archbishop Allen Vigneron.
- Harris, R. Laird; Archer, Jr., Gleason L.; Waltke, Bruce K. "hesed". Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 1. p. 307.
[Although] The word ‘lovingkindness’…is archaic, [it is] not far from the fullness of meaning of the word [chesed or hesed].
- Greenberg, Yudit Kornberg. Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions. 1. p. 268.
The Hebrew hesed (plural hasadim) is usually translated as "grace" or "loving-kindness", but sometimes also as "mercy" or "love".
- Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, USA, 1985, p. 222
- Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, USA, 1985, p. 223
- Vatican.Va: July 8, 2004 Catholic-Jewish Joint Declaration
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- (The Diaries of Saint Faustina Kowalska: Diary 965, 1160, 1605, 1693)
- Saints of the Jubilee by Tim Drake 2002 ISBN 978-1-4033-1009-5 pages 85–95
- Butler's lives of the saints: the third millennium by Paul Burns, Alban Butler 2001 ISBN 978-0-86012-383-5 page 252
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- A Divine Mercy Resource by Richard Torretto 2010 ISBN 1-4502-3236-1 pages 58–59
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- [Development of the Worship of Divine Mercy in Poland and Abroad, Bishop Pawel Socha, Peregrinis Cracoviensis 11, 2001]
- "30th Anniversary of 'Divine Mercy: No Escape'". The Divine Mercy. 19 December 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
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- EWTN on the Hour of Mercy
- Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary on Divine Mercy Indulgences, 29 June 2002, at the Vatican web site Archived 19 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- EWTN on the Divine Mercy Novena
- National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. Retrieved on 30 March 2016.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 August 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 April 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 April 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Asian Apostolic Congress on Mercy
- Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul by Faustina Kowalska 2003 ISBN 1-59614-110-7 (online version)
- Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate by David Came 2009 ISBN 978-1-59614-203-9
- Explaining the Faith Series: Understanding Divine Mercy by Fr. Chris Alar, MIC 2021 ISBN 978-1-59614-539-9
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Divine Mercy.|
- Polish Divine Mercy Shrines
- The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy (multilingual)
- The Chapel of Saint Faustina on-line transmissions (multilingual)
- Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy (multilingual)
- Devotional organizations