Sister of Our Lady of Mercy on the ‘Simple’ and Vital Message of Divine Mercy Sunday

A sister from St. Faustina’s order discusses the message of Divine Mercy and her community’s work in Washington.

Sister Inga Kvassayova
Sister Inga Kvassayova (photo: Courtesy of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy / Courtesy of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy)

Sisters from St. Faustina Kowalska’s order, the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy based in Krakow, Poland, came to the nation’s capital six years ago to spread the message of Divine Mercy given to her by Christ. Sister Inga Kvassayova, a Slovakian sister with the order, located at the St. John Paul II National Shrine run by the Knights of Columbus, spoke with the Register ahead of Divine Mercy Sunday about why the message of Divine Mercy is so important — and why it is a message particularly for our times.

Tell me about your own vocation story.

I’m originally from Slovakia. Slovakia was communist after the Second World War until 1989. During communism, it was hard to attend church. You were persecuted; you were denied education or a job if you confess that you go to church, that you believe. Many people decided not to or just in secret. In my family, we were not raised in the faith. I was even not baptized, but God has his ways. 

I had my conversion when I was 18. I was baptized; and soon after that I, realized that everything that the world says about God and about the Church is actually a lie. 

I realized that I have found something so beautiful, something that I was looking for my whole life, even not knowing: the approach of forgiveness and love that Jesus teaches us in the Gospels. I just went after it wholeheartedly; and soon after, I just realized that I cannot do anything else in my life, only to belong to this God of mercy and to try to convey this to everybody, to be a witness for others.

When I was discerning my vocation, my aunt from Hungary sent me the diary of St. Faustina out of the blue. Even if I didn’t have any great contact with her, somehow it happened; she sent it to me, and when I read it, it was just mind-blowing for me. I went to visit the sisters in Krakow. I wanted to find out, and I knew: “This is my place.” 


Please tell me about the sisters’ work at the John Paul II Shrine in Washington, D.C.

The sisters were invited by the Knights of Columbus to cooperate with them at the John Paul II National Shrine because, back then, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson had this intuition that the central part of St. John Paul II’s spirituality is actually Divine Mercy. 

When he beatified and canonized St. Faustina and then established Divine Mercy for the whole world, Pope John Paul II actually said that this was the “happiest day” of his life when he established Divine Mercy Sunday. He even called St. Faustina a “gift of God to our time.” He saw that this is very important, that this message will prepare the world for the second coming of Our Lord. 

At the shrine, we have Divine Mercy ministry. Every day, we lead the “hour of mercy” at 3pm. It’s transmitted online, as well, so people can join through YouTube. This is one of the Divine Mercy devotions given to us by the Lord Jesus. This is the moment of his death on the cross, where he asked us to be with him for at least a couple of minutes, to be with him as he’s dying on the cross, and then we usually pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  

The sisters call the faithful to adoration and prayer at 3pm.
The sisters call the faithful to adoration and prayer at 3pm.(Photo: Courtesy of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy)

We have a monthly event for young adults, which we call “Evenings With Merciful Jesus.” It’s always the 22nd day of the month. It’s connected with the revelation of the image of Divine Mercy. It happened Feb. 22, so we took this date, the 22nd, as symbolic.  

We have this ministry of presence at the shrine, so whoever comes can see us, can speak to us. Of course, when groups are coming, from schools or from parishes, we are available to give the Divine Mercy talk. We also travel a lot. We receive invitations from parishes to come and organize for them a Divine Mercy retreat. 


What should people know about the message of Divine Mercy?

The answer is very, very simple. The Divine Mercy message, if I was to put it in one sentence, would be: The Lord Jesus says, “I am love and mercy itself; you can trust me.”

This is the main message. Nothing complicated, nothing difficult, and nothing new, because, really, this message is already present in the Bible. First John says, “God is love”; and the thing is that, so many times, we forget about God’s goodness and mercy. It’s important enough for him to come down to this earth to communicate it to us.  

You can see these traits of mercy of God even in the Old Testament, how he deals with his child Israel, or even bride Israel — how he deals with it when they abandon him, when they go after another God or how Jesus deals in the New Testament with sinners. It’s marvelous: They were not afraid of him. I’m always blown away by this when I read it in the Gospels: that tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners were hanging on his word, following him. They were not afraid because they experienced mercy from him, goodness. Of course, sin is not okay, but he knows how weak we are, and he wants to help us. He does it through goodness, through mercy, through encouragement.  

He comes to St. Faustina to convey this message — which we already know from the Bible, because we forget about that — and he says that Divine Mercy, recourse to his mercy, is our last chance, because then, at the end, he will come as Just Judge; but before that, he wants us to receive him as merciful Savior.  


What is it like to convey this message to young people?

We [sometimes] think we don’t need anybody and anything — that we can manage everything. That’s how we are exteriorly; that’s how we look, but then when you’re alone in your room, and you have enough courage to look into your heart and see what is there, you will see misery. You will see discouragement. You will see fear; and if you touch upon this topic, everybody can relate to it. 

When you present a way out of it or some kind of help, and the realization that it’s okay and God loves you even in that state, even if you are a sinner, even if you’re afraid or miserable, this touches hearts. Everybody needs forgiveness. Everybody needs support. Everybody needs to hear that he is loved. 

This is the greatest sickness of our time: that we don’t believe we are worthy and loved. Exteriorly, everything is “perfect”; and we are so professional, and we are so courageous — but inside in our hearts, it’s different. 

When you find a way to touch upon this in their hearts, and you present them the Divine Mercy message, this message of hope, and you just communicate to them that God still loves you, even if you’re like this, they receive it. 

It’s very interesting that Jesus does not come with this message in the 17th century or the 15th century. He comes today because this is what we need today. He knows it; he’s God. He knows everything. St. John Paul II felt it very deeply, that this message is for our time; and he even said that I pass on this message to the third millennium because he saw this is so important. 

St. Faustina, when Jesus came to her in the vision, he asked her to write everything that he says to her about mercy in the diary; and he said that his mercy is the greatest attribute of God. It’s not because his justice is lesser or his omnipotence is lesser, no; it’s because we people, his children, we experience this attribute of mercy the most. Not justice, not something else, but mercy, because this is what we need; sinners, we need mercy. We cannot be cured in any other way. 


What should people know about Divine Mercy Sunday?

That’s a very special day. For me, this is a superabundant invention of mercy this day because Jesus says that this day the floodgates of his graces are available; any and every grace that you can imagine is available for people, if only they trust in his goodness. 

There is one particular special grace available on this day, which is complete forgiveness of sins and punishment, which is more than just a plenary indulgence. It’s one of the graces of baptism; so this means that you can start anew. There are just very, very simple conditions for that; and that is to receive Holy Communion. It means that you went to confession before, and you are in a state of grace; but you don’t have to go to confession that particular day. It can be before; so you receive Holy Communion, and then he just asks that you would trust in his goodness and mercy and would have this attitude of mercy toward others.  

You don’t have to do the Divine Mercy novena in order to receive the grace. The only condition is to receive Holy Communion on that day and have trust in God’s mercy and an attitude of mercy toward others. The novena was given as a preparation so that you would be better disposed to receive the graces, but that’s not a condition. 


How is the message of Divine Mercy connected to the sacraments?

This is something that is never missing when we go and speak about mercy: the sacraments. If you look at the Divine Mercy image, those two big rays coming from his heart, the red one and the pale one, those are the blood and water which flowed from his heart when it was pierced on the cross; but, also, those are symbols, and you can find it in the diary — those are symbols of sacraments. 

The red one, which is blood, is the sacrament of Eucharist. Jesus speaks a lot about the Eucharist in the diary of St. Faustina. What stays with me all the time is that he complains to her that we treat him as a “dead object,” that we don’t realize who is coming to our hearts in Holy Communion: That’s the living God who wants to be with us so close; unite himself with us. We [often] don’t believe it’s a living Person, it’s God, and he encourages us very much to receive him because he is the One who brings the light, encouragement, the grace we need — love, everything. This is our greatest gift, Holy Communion.  

He speaks about the pale rain, which is the water which purifies, the sacrament of baptism and the sacrament of reconciliation. He speaks a lot about the sacrament of reconciliation because we have many problems with that; we are afraid to go. We’re afraid to confess because we have to admit that we were not perfect.  

What is our first reaction when we sin? We want to hide. We want to run away. He says, “No, come to me; run to me, not away from me, but run to me, because I’m the only One who can understand you, the only One who can help you, cleanse you, forgive you, restore you in full. For me, your sin is not an obstacle. The only obstacle for me is when you don’t come, when you don’t believe, when you don’t trust in my goodness and mercy.”  

He says: “Don’t mind the priest in the confessional. It’s me behind the priest who is waiting for you with my mercy, with my forgiveness and with all the graces you need to battle the temptation and the difficulties of life.”