The Image? The Graces? Confession?
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Mar 30, 2013)
I have received so many questions in the run-up to Divine Mercy Sunday April 7, that I hardly know where to begin. Some people received individual answers from me, but some questions came from several readers at once (great minds think alike!), so that I thought it would be best to share brief answers to those with everyone.
A lady named Donna Marie wrote:
I need to know in what document of Blessed John Paul II tells us that the Image is to be venerated on Divine Mercy Sunday. I need the direct quote so I can share it with a priest. The Diary quote doesn't mean much to a lot of people so I can't use those quotes to have a discussion.
Well, Donna Marie, the Pope never mandated that the Image should be venerated on Divine Mercy Sunday, but as your priest surely knows, the Holy See almost never mandates extra-liturgical devotions of any kind, or even much in the way of liturgical rubrics (save for such basics as kneeling or bowing at the consecration of the Host); in the Catholic Tradition these kinds of things are usually set by the local bishops and local bishops conferences and/or the customs of the priests and people. For example, the Roman Missal nowhere mandates that the Stations of the Cross must be done on Good Friday, but it is a widespread custom indeed!
However, the Holy Father, Blessed Pope John Paul II, set the example himself for us by publicly venerating the Image of The Divine Mercy numerous times on Divine Mercy Sunday. I believe it is fair to say that he did so publicly at least every Mercy Sunday from 1995 onward, when he established a center for the Divine Mercy devotion at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Sassia, just a few hundred yards from St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and blessed an Image for use in that sanctuary on that day. He also repeatedly praised the Image as an aid to devotion for all the faithful. For example, at 1995, after praying in front of the Image above the tomb of St. Faustina, he stated in his holily: "Anyone can come here, look at this Image of the Merciful Jesus, His Heart radiating grace, and hear in the depths of his own soul what [St.] Faustina heard: 'Fear nothing; I am always with you' [Diary, 586]. And if this person responds with a sincere heart, 'Jesus, I trust in You,' he will find comfort in all his anxieties and fears."
In short, to use the Image for prayer and devotion, and to venerate the Image on Divine Mercy Sunday itself, quite apart from being a request of Jesus Himself to St. Faustina (see Diary, 341), is simply a good thing to do, because it amplifies the beautifully expressed meaning of the Octave Day of Easter: the merciful love of Jesus for us, expressed above all through His death and resurrection, and our need to trust in Him — in other words, the very heart of the Gospel message itself!
A woman named Susan sent in the following question, which is also quite a common one:
Some people ask me if it is necessary to attend the services at church to receive all the graces or can they just say all the prayers at home and still receive the graces.
You are able to receive the plenary indulgence for acts of devotion to the Divine Mercy on Divine Mercy Sunday, as established by Blessed Pope John Paul II, from your own home if you are confined there by illness or some other impediment, but the extraordinary grace of Divine Mercy Sunday promised by our Lord to St. Faustina can only be received through receiving Holy Communion, in a state of grace, with trust in the Divine Mercy, on Mercy Sunday. Nevertheless, if you are unable to receive that communion due to illness or confinement of some kind, you can still make a "spiritual communion" at that time, with the proper dispositions, and our Lord will surely pour into your heart all the graces of Holy Communion that you need. He will not be outdone in generosity, nor let any barriers of time, space, or illness stand in the way of the outpouring of His merciful love! Saint Faustina once said that in her desire to be united with the Lord in the Eucharist, no geographical obstacles can ever completely get in the way: "I adore You without cease night and day ... even though I be physically distant, my heart is always with You" (entry 80).
Finally, a gentleman named Eric wrote:
I have read the Diary and see the great promise of our Lord to those who would receive Communion and go to confession on Divine Mercy Sunday. I have heard that one may go to confession plus or minus a few days of the feast and it still counts. The problem is that I cannot find that anywhere in the Diary. Can you tell me if one absolutely has to go to confession on Divine Mercy Sunday to receive our Lord's promises or if the Diary states otherwise?
No, one certainly does not have to go to confession on the Feast Day itself. The confession is meant to be a preparation for receiving Holy Communion on the Feast Day, in a state of grace, with trust in Divine Mercy, so as long as one does not fall into mortal sin between that confession and Mercy Sunday itself, the confession can be days or even a week or more in advance of the Feast. Saint Faustina herself made her confession on the Saturday before the Feast day (see Diary, 1072).
For more information about Divine Mercy Sunday, visit our new Divine Mercy Sunday website.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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