The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion

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The Message in the Image

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Immediately after the ban on the Divine Mercy devotions was lifted in 1979, Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, began to write about the message and devotions received by Sr. Faustina for the instruction of the clergy and lay-faithful. Here is his article on the Image of Divine Mercy from our Spring 1980 Marian Helpers Bulletin.

By Rev. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC

Through the Servant of God Sr. Faustina Kowalska, of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland, people around the world began hearing again, from about the year 1939, that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is claiming as His due, veneration — that is, affectionate, religious respect — for His mercy. Sister Faustina writes that our Lord made it clear to her that this veneration of His mercy is to be expressed, above all, by complete trust in Him as our Savior. Trust is understood here as that confident conviction that God loves us and deals with us only from the deepest motives of true love and compassion. That trust is based on the fact that Jesus, the God-man, willingly and eagerly offered up His life to take upon Himself the punishment we deserve by sin, that is, by rebellion against our all wise and provident Maker. Sin, basically, is willing our own way to reach the purpose for which God made us in preference to His perfect (and only workable) plan for us. Trust, the first adequate response in the face of Divine Mercy, allows God's glory to be manifested in His beloved creatures. Sister Faustina quotes these words of the Lord to her: "Dearest to Me is the soul that believes in the power of My mercy — that has completely confided in me."

Through these most recent revelations to Sr. Faustina, our Lord appears now to be seeking to make His followers more keenly aware of this, that our trust in Him, based upon the recognition of what He took upon Himself for us, is to be expressed in works of mercy toward one another out of love for Him. Our Lord is emphasizing, in other words, that works of mercy: actions, words, prayer, directed toward our fellow human beings are the way due honor and reverence is given to the Divine Mercy. For, as the Lord is recorded by Sr. Faustina to have said, after St. James, "... even the strongest faith is of no avail without deeds."

It is to bring all of this vividly to the attention of all, (among other reasons), that our Lord commissioned Sr. Faustina to paint a very particular image of Himself, saying, "By means of this Image I will impart many graces to souls; it is to be a reminder of the demands of My Mercy..."

The primary sources of information about the special image representing the Divine Mercy and the spiritual Diary and letters of Sr. Faustina in the first-hand reports of persons who assisted her in having it painted. There is as yet no official English translation of these writings. If the quotation cited from them in these articles appear to be somewhat rough or stiff or incomplete, it is because we prefer in our own and unofficial translation to be as faithful as possible to the simplicity and vividness of Sr. Faustina's actual expressions rather than to polish up her style and risk being inaccurate in transmitting her message. Furthermore, for the sake of authenticity, words that are not in the original manuscript, but which are either implied in the Polish expressions or needed for the clarity of the English translation, are enclosed in brackets. Since the sister knew little of the rules of punctuation, we had to take some liberty in applying them for clarity's sake.

The first written mention of the Image of the Divine Mercy, or of the Merciful Savior, is found in the very first line of a poem composed by Sr. Faustina with which she begins the first page of her Diary. It is not possible for us to reproduce the rhythm and rhyme that are evident in the original Polish text, but the following translation of Sister's thought gives us a fairly good idea of what she understood about this image:

O Eternal Love, You bid me to paint Your holy image
and You unveil for us the inconceivable font of mercy,
You bless the one who will draw near to Your rays,
And the black soul will change into snow.
O Sweet Jesus, here You establish the throne of Your mercy
To comfort and help sinful man; From the open Heart, as from a pure spring,
Flows solace for the soul and for the contrite heart.
Let veneration and praise for this image
Never cease to flow from the soul of man;
From every heart let honor for the Divine Mercy flow
Now and for ages of ages and at every hour.

The actual command of the Lord to paint the image is recorded on page 18 the first of six notebooks that make up Sr. Faustina's Diary. At the top of that page is written: + Year 1931 22 of February, and immediately there follows this passage: "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 in the garment at the breast there were coming forth two large rays, one red, and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was seized 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" (Diary, 47).

A note in the critical edition of the manuscript at this point offers an explanation concerning the origin of the image that our Lord requested. It states that Sr. Faustina tried to fulfill His wish, but that she was not in the position to do it herself, because she did not know how to paint. However, she did not give up, but looked for help among the Sisters of her community and, when that failed, among her confessors. After a few years the superiors sent her to the Congregation's house in Vilno. There Fr. Michael Sopocko, who had become Sister's spiritual director, did something about the matter. Eager to know what such an image would look like, he asked an artist whom he knew, Eugene Kazimierowski, to paint an image according to Sr. Faustina's directions.

And so it was that the first image of Jesus as the Divine Mercy was completed in June, 1934. It was hung in a corridor of the Bernadine sisters' convent near St. Michael's church in Vilno, where Fr. Sopocko was rector. The image was described in this way: The background is plain; Christ is shown as walking; His head is surrounded by a narrow halo; His eyes are slightly cast down — as though He were looking on us from above; the right hand is raised in blessing; the left-hand appears to be drawing open the garment slightly in the area of the heart, which, however, is not visible; from that area on the breast to bright rays are depicted coming forth — a pale one (that is, as though clear,) on the beholder's right, and a red one to the beholder's left; the light of the race appears to shine through the hands and the garment.

With her description of the vision in her Diary, Sr. Faustina records these words as having been spoken to her by our Lord: "I desire that this image be venerated first in Your chapel and [then] all over the world." This desire of our Lord seems already to have been fulfilled. This image was and is still being venerated in the chapels of the convents of Sr. Faustina's religious congregation, while copies of this image, and of another version of it painted by Professor Adolph Hyla, have been spread by the hundreds of thousands all over the globe.

The passage from the Diary referred to above further quotes our Lord is saying: "I promise, that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise, already here on earth victory over enemies, but especially at the hour of death. I myself will defender [that soul] as My glory."

While recording her first vision sister Faustina recounts, "When I told my confessor about this, I received this reply: that this concerns Your soul. He said to me: paint God's image in Your soul. When I left the confessional I heard again such words: My image is in Your soul. I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, that it be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy..."

Three paragraphs later Sr. Faustina writes, "When I told Mother Superior about this, that God is demanding this of me, Mother Superior answered me that Jesus should let it be recognized more clearly through some sign." And she continues, "When I was begging the Lord Jesus for some sign as evidence, that You are really my God and my Lord and that from You come these demands, I heard this interior voice: I will give the superiors to recognize this by the grace which I will bestow by means of this image."

From Sr. Faustina's words it can be seen that she was very careful about the source of her inspirations. It is also important to realize that, although she could not easily dismiss these inspirations, knowing deep within her that they were really from God, she submitted them, nonetheless, to spiritual authorities for discernment. Also, whereas we might think it is a wonderful thing to have visions and have God ask us to do something special for Him, Sr. Faustina lets us see that these experiences created many problems for her. She relates one of them immediately after the passage about a confirming sign that her superior asked for: "When I wanted to remove myself from these interior inspirations, God said to me, that on the Day of Judgment, He is going to require a great number of souls from me." The official notes in the manuscript explain these words as meaning that, if Sr. Faustina were to fail to carry out the Lord's request, she would be held responsible for the many souls who would thus be unable to learn of the unfathomable mercy of God. Sr. Faustina gradually learned to understand God's way with souls, and she wrote about this very clearly further on in her Diary. She provides us with the valuable lesson that what matters is that we be faithful to the mission that God assigns to us as our part in the fulfillment of His loving plan for the salvation of the world.

The image Jesus asked for, therefore, is to be a powerful means by which souls might learn of this — the deepest of all mysteries hidden in His person; and thus they will be encouraged to "take advantage" of that mercy which no one will ever be able to fathom, in which the Lord Himself declared through Sr. Faustina to be God's greatest attribute, that is to say, it is His greatest distinctive quality in His relationship to those whom He created in love. It is no wonder, then, that the Lord insisted, "Tell Your confessor that this image is to be placed in church, and not behind the cloister of that convent. Through this image I will grant many graces for souls, and so let every soul have access to it... I claim veneration for my mercy to the solemn observance of this Feast [of mercy] and through the honor paid to this image, which is painted. By means of this image I will impart many graces to souls; it is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith will be of no avail without deeds."

On another occasion Sister records these words of our Lord to her: "I am offering people a vessel with which they can keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the inscription: 'Jesus, I trust in You.'"

It is important for us to reflect upon another thing concerning this image, as well as every other sacred image. When Sr. Faustina saw the first fruit of her efforts to fulfill our Lord's wishes, she wept, and in prayer she complained to the Savior that this image did not reflect His beauty. At that, she writes, she heard these words: "Not in the beauty of the paint nor of the brush is the sublimity of this image, but in My grace." The Lord is saying here that the quality of this image to inspire awe or wonder and a responsive trust in His mercy does not depend upon the artist talent or the materials he uses, but upon His divine action through grace.

Please help the Marians share the image that can change the world: the Divine Mercy Image. Make your donation at marian.org/GivingTuesday

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Jim Amato - Nov 29, 2017

Many graces are indeed granted through prayer before the Image of a Divine Mercy when one approaches the Image with trust as Jesus promises. The Image is a significant component within the Prescription is the Medicine of Divine Mercy. Let me explain:
I want the reader to understand that these are my thoughts provided to me after much prayer and what I consider Spiritual guidance:
The prescription for the Medicine of Divine Mercy exists within the scope of God's living example of unceasing mercy. It consists of three components. The first component is the Image of Divine Mercy itself. It is my belief that Jesus makes Himself available to us in this Powerful, Catholic icon meant for members of all faiths as an example of His Mercy
and love. In short, the Rays of the Image are more than brush strokes in a painting. They're Rays of grace directly from Jesus,
providing graces to us based upon faith and trust in His mercy with the Image being the vessel of that grace. Jesus tells us over and over that the "greater the trust, the greater the mercy." He also tells us that that His desire to grant these graces are a burning passion of His. Are these rays figments of our imagination?
Absolutely not!! The Rays are IN REAL TIME, meaning they are always there, 24/7, actually radiating our bodies every time we're before the Image. When we're in prayer before it, the Rays radiate, penetrate and saturate our bodies to provide spiritual, physical, and emotional healing to those who approach the fount of His Mercy. We know these Rays of mercy are real because St. Faustina has described how they look as well as the events that took place as she witnessed them. Others have seen them as well and these have been documented. Fr.
Michael Gaitley's own father witnessed these Rays penetrating his own body. I have not, but I have felt them penetrate my body. No other proof is needed for me other than what Jesus has revealed. The second component is the Eucharist itself. We know this is the true body and blood, soul and Divinity of Jesus. We also know that when we consume the Eucharist, Jesus unites His body and blood to ours so that we're united in holiness. How very crucial it is to understand this...Jesus IS JOINING HIS PERFECTION TO OUR IMPERFECTIONS making all things new.
Thus, healings have and continue to happen. This is why I pray, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word that my body and soul will be healed." It is critical to understand this...Jesus unites Himself to us. The third component is the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Mother. Our most powerful intercessor and Mother, she carries our needs to Jesus and never leaves His or our side. For me, she is most powerful under the title of our Lady of the Miraculous medal though I implore her help under all titles. Many titles, one Mother. She is the Mediatrix of all graces bestowed upon her by Jesus and she serves as the Mother of Mercy. There is more I can post on this topic, but this is the general prescription we need to heal our hearts, Minds, bodies, and souls. On the Mercy of Jesus and our Mother, I stake my soul. I've seen much and have been given much. This is why I pass this on to you. Okay, so let me guess...you're worried Jesus won't hear your prayer...He doesn't understand...You're worried to surrender and entrust because He may not give you what YOU want...You just can't muster the faith to let go and let God because you're frozen by your fears...Jesus let you down before...you want to believe, but you just can’t.
Well, did I cover all excuses????? Now, look at the Image...go ahead...look at it!!!! Do you see His feet? Do you see one foot in front of the other? He understands your fear and lack of trust, so He's humbling himself to come to you. Open your heart. He did. It was opened by a lance to give you the mercy you need. He's stepping to you. The only thing that stands in the way of His mercy is YOU! Trust because He won't let you down!