This hope is augmented on Divine Mercy Sunday. Celebrated on April 12 this year, the Second Sunday of Easter is when the Church proclaims “the One who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ.”
This Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis will officially proclaim a “Jubilee Year of Mercy,” an extraordinary holy year to begin on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
“I am convinced that the whole Church will find in this jubilee the joy needed to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God,” Pope Francis said on March 13, “with which all of us are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.”
The feast day also marks the 10th anniversary of the death of St. John Paul II, the fourth anniversary of his beatification and the first anniversary of his canonization.
St. John Paul II spread the message and devotion of Divine Mercy, given by Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska. He knew the message was essential for human hearts.
“Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter’s See in Rome, I considered this message my special task,” he said in 1981, upon his visit to the Shrine of Merciful Love in Collevalenza, Italy. “Providence has assigned it to me in the present situation of man, the Church and the world.”
The “Great Mercy Pope,” when visiting St. Faustina’s tomb in Lagiewniki, Poland, in 1997, also said: “There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy.”
When John Paul II returned to Krakow-Lagiewniki in 2002 to dedicate the Divine Mercy Shrine there, he solemnly entrusted the world to Divine Mercy, “that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through St. Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope.”
John Paul’s love of Divine Mercy was particularly evident when he presided over the beatification of Sister Faustina, the “Apostle of Divine Mercy,” on Divine Mercy Sunday in 1993 and her canonization as the first saint in the new millennium on Divine Mercy Sunday 2000. That same day, he also proclaimed “Divine Mercy Sunday” as a special title for the Octave Sunday of Easter for the universal Church.
One Pastor’s Response
On TheDivineMercy.org, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception explain, “Divine Mercy Sunday is the Octave Day of Easter, a day that celebrates the merciful love of God shining through the whole Easter Triduum and the whole Easter mystery.”
Father Michael Freihofer, the pastor of five parishes in the Denver Archdiocese, emphasizes this devotion.
“We stress that Easter is celebrated for eight days, because eight represents re-creation. Jesus has given all of us a chance at re-creation if we will let him enter into our hearts through faith,” he said. “This is a gift of grace offered to all. We tell the people that we wrap up the eight days with Divine Mercy Sunday.”
He emphasizes the indulgence the Church offers to the faithful that day: Grace is given through worthily seeking reconciliation and receiving the Eucharist in conjunction with Divine Mercy Sunday.
“We really talk about the possibility of letting Jesus not only cleanse us of our sins, but also remove any purgatory time if we meet the conditions of the Divine Mercy novena, which we begin as a Church on Good Friday.”
The results speak for themselves. “We actually get more people going to the sacrament of reconciliation on Divine Mercy Sunday than before Easter,” he said. “People want the plenary indulgence.”
Father Freihofer begins preparations for Divine Mercy Sunday in Lent, encouraging people to join the Divine Mercy “team” to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day during Lent. They are also encouraged to send a Divine Mercy postcard to the people for whom they pray the chaplet.
“Some people send out 40 postcards,” the pastor reported. “They pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for someone different every day. One year, we had over 400 pledge to pray it every day.” That is many more people than parishioners, as some of his parishes are near ski resorts and often have visitors.
He is pleased that many people continue to pray the chaplet long after Eastertime: “Now, it has become a part of their routine. They pray it every day.”
One of those is Bernie McGinn, a parishioner at St. Ann Church in Grand Lake, Colo., who signed up during Lent several years ago. He remembered how Father Freihofer asked everyone “to pray one for all of our parishioners and visitors in Grand County and for our parishioners in Jackson County,” he said.
“My prayer life has grown with it,” McGinn said. He prays the chaplet daily and attributes his growth in this and other prayers to “Father Freihofer, who convinced me over the years you have to keep praying. You start small and continue to grow in your prayer life.”
McGinn now prays a minimum of three Divine Mercy chaplets daily. “You realize it’s pretty easy to do and doesn’t take you away from your job,” he said.
The devotion to Divine Mercy has resulted in his being “definitely at peace more.”
For his part, Father Freihofer is committed to making sure that McGinn’s fellow faithful are just as enthused about the devotion throughout the year.
“During every Sunday in Lent, Good Friday, Divine Mercy Sunday and All Souls’ Day, we have no closing hymn,” explained Father Freihofer. “We go right into the Divine Mercy Chaplet after the final blessing and St. Michael Prayer. People know they are free to leave after the final blessing, but about 80% stay after to pray.”
But the devotion isn’t limited to Sundays.
After each daily Mass, Monday through Friday, there is an hour of adoration. Each Holy Hour includes the chaplet. And parishioners and visitors alike have constant reminders about Divine Mercy: Nearly every weekly bulletin for the year features “Gems of Wisdom From the Diary of St. Faustina.”
“They are usually pretty close to what the Gospel is that Sunday,” said an appreciative McGinn. He is among those who have grown in devotion by reading some of St. Faustina’s Diary every week and then gathering to hear Father Freihofer talk about it.
It seems “God has sent me to a resort area to promote Divine Mercy,” Father Freihofer said.
All of this devotion leads up to Divine Mercy weekend celebrations at two of his parishes — Our Lady of the Snow and St. Peter — emphasizing Sts. John Paul II and Faustina.
“We have stressed that St. John Paul II canonized St. Faustina,” the priest said.
To bring this home to the faithful, all of the priest’s churches have an image of Divine Mercy. And Father Freihofer obtained a first-class relic of St. Faustina from Poland. In addition, the daily Mass chapel at Our Lady of Snow in Granby, Colo., is named The Chapel of Divine Mercy.
This Catholic community has heeded the call and wishes of Jesus, who told St. Faustina, “My daughter, tell the whole world about my inconceivable mercy” (Diary, 699).
She did, especially through St. John Paul II’s monumental efforts and leadership.
When he died, John Paul II left one final message, read on Divine Mercy Sunday 2005: “How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!
“Lord, who revealed the Father’s love by your death and resurrection, we believe in you and confidently repeat to you today: ‘Jesus, I trust in you, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world.’”
Joseph Pronechen is the
Register’s staff writer.
‘Pope John Paul II Day’
The Canadian Parliament designated the date of April 2 each year as “Pope John Paul II Day.” The bill recognizes St. John Paul II as a champion of human dignity and freedom. April 2 is the date of the late pope’s death, and 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of his passing. — Vatican Radio
Divine Mercy ‘Walking Pilgrimage and Mass’
Walk in the footsteps of St. Faustina and Divine Mercy this Divine Mercy Sunday, as EWTN brings viewers on an exceptional trip to the heart of the Divine Mercy message: Watch the Divine Mercy celebration from Vilnius, Lithuania.
EWTN will air a 30-minute documentary video, followed by Mass, to be aired live.
“This project was the idea of Father Vaidas Vaišvilas, the rector of the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Vilnius,” explained Daniel DiSilva, the video’s editor, who has traveled annually to Vilnius the past seven years as a musician.
“The shrine was my favorite place in the whole country,” DiSilva said.
With a 90-minute airing time on Divine Mercy Sunday given by EWTN, he said Vilnius Archbishop Gintaras Grušas suggested the inclusion of a film prior to Mass.
DiSilva described it as a “walking pilgrimage,” with Archbishop Grušas taking viewers from the chancery to the Monastery of the Mother of Divine Mercy, where St. Faustina resided and where she received the messages from Jesus about Divine Mercy. Highlights include her bedroom and places where the apparitions took place.
The tour continues by showing the archbishop walking to the shrine where he will celebrate the live Mass.
A Lithuanian crew filmed the video, and the national TV station will aid the broadcast of the Mass at the shrine.
Archbishop Grušas explained how the video pilgrimage to St. Faustina’s convent will help viewers better understand her and the Divine Mercy message.
“One of the things with our faith is: It is incarnational,” he said. “Jesus deals with us at a certain place and time. He was born and died in the Holy Land, and he appeared to St. Faustina in a certain place and time, in Vilnius. She lived here for three years, and this is where the apparitions took place. The convent and the room she stayed in is here — and the original picture she had painted and she personally directed. This is the only picture of Divine Mercy she saw upon its completion.”
The painting has hung in the Shrine of Divine Mercy since 2005. “It gives a sense of where she lived and where the apparitions took place, and it gives us a better understanding,” the archbishop added.
“The room where St. Faustina lived is a special place, and there is a brief stop at the apartment where the painter, Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, painted the original painting. It is now in the chapel for the Sisters of the Merciful Jesus, who are the sisters Blessed Father Michael Sopocko [St. Faustina’s confessor] founded, according to the request in St. Faustina’s Diary.”
“They have a hospice next door for works of mercy as well,” he added.
“It is divine Providence that the sisters have the convent here in Vilnius, on the same site where the original painting was painted.”
— Joseph Pronechen
The Divine Mercy celebration from Vilnius, Lithuania, begins at 10:30am Eastern Time on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 12, followed by the airing of the Mass from Vilnius. See EWTN.com.