Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - Since the Church is currently in the midst of the Jubilee Year of Mercy as decreed by our Holy Father, celebrations for the Feast of Divine Mercy on the Octave of Easter – April 3 – will be especially meaningful. These include special devotions outside of Mass, typically at or spanning 3 p.m., the “hour of mercy.”
In the Diocese of Lincoln, there will be two opportunities to observe Divine Mercy Sunday, as well as a weekend retreat.
Bishop James Conley will lead one Sunday gathering at St. Cecilia Parish in Hastings, and Emeritus Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz will lead another at St. Thomas Aquinas in Lincoln. Both events will begin at 2:30 p.m. with Eucharistic Adoration, followed by the Divine Mercy Chaplet at the hour of Christ’s mercy, 3 p.m.
Father Christopher Kubat will lead a silent retreat focused on Divine Mercy beginning Friday, April 1 at Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat House in Waverly.
During the 1930s, the Lord revealed his desire for the worldwide Church to celebrate His Divine Mercy to an unassuming Polish nun, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. In her diary, she recorded 14 revelations about this desired feast, including its timing on the second Sunday of Easter. In Church liturgy, this day had always been focused on thanking God for His mercy.
Saint Faustina’s diaries were initially poorly translated and generally misunderstood. It was only after her death that the Feast of Divine Mercy became a reality. Pope Saint John Paul II, also a native of Poland, saw to it, declaring the feast in 2000 and also changing the name of the second Sunday of Easter officially to Divine Mercy Sunday.
The Feast of Divine Mercy, he taught, is the means by which the Church accepts “the whole message” of Christ’s Redemption. On Good Friday, we remember His suffering, death and burial. On Easter, we celebrate His glorious resurrection. On Divine Mercy Sunday, we trust that “His mercy endures forever” as His saving grace is offered to each of us in a very personal way.
The image of the Divine Mercy is the Lord’s gift to the Church. Jesus asked St. Faustina to have it made to represent the Risen Christ bringing mercy to the world. He told her to have the image painted with two rays of light shining out of His Sacred Heart and illuminating the world. “The two rays represent blood and water,” Jesus told her (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska: Divine Mercy in My Soul, 299).
During Saint Faustina’s canonization, Pope Saint John Paul II explained the meaning of these two rays of light.
“We immediately think of the testimony given by the Evangelist John, who, when a soldier on Calvary pierced Christ’s side with his spear, sees blood and water flowing from it,” he said. “Moreover, if the blood recalls the sacrifice of the cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water... represents not only Baptism but also the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is an integral part of this devotion. Saint Faustina was the first to receive the chaplet. She was praying for God’s mercy after seeing a vision of an angel chastising a certain city, but she felt her prayers were powerless. Suddenly, a second vision came to her, this one of the Holy Trinity. Saint Faustina felt the power of Jesus’ saving grace within her, and the words of the chaplet came to her.
She persisted in this prayer as her vision returned to the first image, where she saw God’s mercy visited on the city. The next day as she entered the chapel of her convent to pray, she again heard the words of the chaplet and an interior voice instructing her how to pray. For the rest of her life, Saint Faustina recited this prayer almost constantly.
In another encounter with the Lord, He told her that the Chaplet of Divine Mercy was for the whole world. He said, “Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death” (Diary, 687), among other promises (see 'About the Chaplet').
Anyone may attend either of the Divine Mercy Sunday devotions in Hastings and Lincoln April 3. A visit to the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln to pass through the Holy Door would also be an appropriate activity.
Those who want to focus on the Lord’s mercy in a very particular way are invited to attend the Divine Mercy retreat led by Father Christopher Kubat.
“In this Year of Mercy, I’m going to talk about God’s mercy, which is an extension of His love,” Father Kubat said. “It’s an opportunity to grow closer to God in His love and mercy.”
He warned that even the most faithful Christian can fall into the temptation of taking God’s mercy for granted.
“It’s also easy to forget that God is calling each of us to become great saints,” he added. “Unfortunately, many people feel that they are not capable of achieving holiness.”
Father Kubat recalled hearing confessions at a prison recently. As he spoke absolution and tears flowed, he reassured the penitent.
“Despite his many crimes, God is calling him to be a holy man. As he calls all of us to be holy,” he said.
To register for the Divine Mercy retreat, visit www.GoodCounselRetreat.com or call (402) 786-2705. To see a schedule of all the diocesan activities related to the Jubilee Year of mercy, visit www.LincolnDiocese.org/mercy.