Author: Teresa Tyszkiewicz,
Christ’s revelations as received by Sister Faustina between 1929 and the year of her death (1938) included a number of specific directives. Jesus dictated prayers and prescribed ways of honoring His mercy, which He desired to be made known for the spiritual use, consolation, and salvation of many souls.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
The first prayer to be dictated by Jesus and written down by St. Faustina in her Diary goes as follows: “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.” To this, Jesus added His promise: “When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion” (Diary, 186-7).
Accompanying the request that we pray the chaplet of divine mercy was the following moving revelation recorded on September 13, 1935: “In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw an Angel, the executor of divine wrath. He was clothed in a dazzling robe, his face gloriously bright, a cloud beneath his feet. From the cloud, bolts of thunder and flashes of lightning sprang into his hands; and from his hand they went forth, and only then did they strike the earth….I began to implore the Angel to hold off for a few moments, and the world would do penance….As I was praying in this manner, I saw the Angel’s helplessness: he could not carry out the just punishment, which was rightly due for sins. Never before had I prayed with such inner power as I did them” (Diary, 474). “The words with which I entreated God are these: Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us” (Diary, 475)
The following day, Jesus said: “Every time you enter the chapel, recite at once the prayer which I taught you yesterday….This prayer will serve to appease My wrath” (Diary, 476). After this, He set down the precise manner in which the chaplet was to be recited, i.e. the way in which we say it today.
In September of 1936, Jesus conveyed His promise to those who recited this prayer. “Say unceasingly the chaplet that I have taught you. Whoever recites it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy” (Diary, 687). Later He added: “The soul that says this chaplet will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death” (Diary, 754).
A while later, Jesus recommended the chaplet not only to Faustina but also to the sisters of her congregation and their wards. Faustina confided the request to her mother superior, but the latter had reservations about disseminating a prayer that had not yet been approved by the Church authorities. She hoped Fr. Sopoćko would put out a brochure with the chaplet and thus make the prayer better known.
Meanwhile, Jesus insisted: “Oh, what great graces I shall grant to souls who say this chaplet; the very depths of My tender mercy are stirred for the sake of those who say the chaplet. Write down these words, My daughter. Speak to the world about My mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water, which gushed forth for them” (Diary, 848).
During her stay at the sanatorium in Prądniki, Sister Faustina experienced at first hand the effect of the chaplet on dying people: they had conversions, accepted the sacraments, and died in peace, reconciled with God. With this prayer she was even able to reach people removed at great distances but revealed to her in interior visions.
Once, while she was complaining about all the souls who did not know or love Jesus and who were “rushing headlong into the terrible abyss of hell,” Jesus assured her that, “by saying the chaplet you are bringing humankind closer to Me” (Diary, 929).
What a treasure, then, we have in this prayer! How fortunate we are to know it, to be able recite it and to make it known to those who have not yet encountered the gift of God’s love!
The Hour of Mercy
One day, while Faustina was meditating on Jesus’ death on the cross, she heard Him say: “At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world. I will allow you to enter into My mortal sorrow. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My passion” (Diary, 1320).
Later Jesus specified exactly how He wanted us to observe this moment of sacrifice, redemption, and atonement with the Father–this greatest mercy for all people, which took place at the third hour of Good Friday afternoon. “As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it; invoke its omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners; for, at that moment mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour, you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world–mercy triumphed over justice. My daughter, try your best to make the Stations of the Cross at this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Blessed Sacrament, My Heart, which is full of mercy; and should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer wherever you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. I claim veneration for My mercy from every creature, but above all from you, since it is to you that I have given the most profound understanding of this mystery” (Diary, 1572).
As Jesus observes, the chaplet need not be the only way of observing the hour of mercy. The important thing is that we take at least a moment to place ourselves spiritually at the foot of the cross. Praying at the hour of mercy is not just a memorial of an event that took place two thousand years ago; it is also a reminder that Christ’s redemptive act–His reconciliation of mankind with the Father, His atonement for the sins of the world–is constantly being accomplished. It is a reminder that the Divine Mercy, as most profoundly revealed by Christ’s death on the cross, embraces all men of all ages and generations–to the end of the world. At the same time, the clock, which strikes out the hours of our earthly existence until we pass from this world into eternity, is there to remind us that Jesus dies mystically wherever man is and for as long as he exists. On the altars of the world, Jesus is constantly offering Himself to the Father for sinful humanity.
It behooves us, then, to pause in spirit at least for a moment and meditate with humble gratitude on the fact that Jesus died for each of us that we might not die forever in darkness. By His death, Christ opened up the river of love and grace that flows to us from the Blessed Trinity at the moment of our baptism. Every Christian would do well to observe the custom of honoring the summit of Divine Mercy as revealed to us by Christ in His death on the cross at three o’clock in the afternoon. It was not only of St. Faustina that Jesus asked for this moment’s pause. He asks it of each and every one of us.
Feast of Mercy
When Jesus instructed Faustina, in February of 1931, to have His image painted, He also expressed His wish that the Sunday after Easter be observed as the Feast of the Divine Mercy. “I desire that there be a Feast of Mercy. I want this image, which you will paint with a brush, to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy” (Diary, 49).
This feast is yet another source of grace and God’s love for His people; and yet it is still little known and undervalued. Jesus said to Faustina: “Gather all sinners from the entire world and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. I want to give Myself to souls; I yearn for souls, My daughter. On the day of My feast, the Feast of Mercy, you will go through the whole world and bring fainting souls to the spring of My mercy. I shall heal and strengthen them” (Diary, 206). “The Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of My tender mercies. Every soul believing and trusting in My mercy will obtain it” (Diary, 420).
Jesus’ greatest promises are associated with the Feast of Mercy. “On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that goes to Confession and receives Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet” (Diary, 699). Jesus affirmed the possibility of obtaining a plenary indulgence on this day in yet another vision in 1937.
Although devotion to the Divine Mercy through the divine mercy image and the chaplet has struck deep roots in Christian spirituality in our time, the Feast of Mercy remains insufficiently known. Jesus’ request calls for more fervent effort in making it known to those who have not heard of it. This is a task not only for pastors, but for all devotees of the Divine Mercy. “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion,” Jesus laments. “I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is, the Feast of My Mercy. If they do not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity. Secretary of My mercy, write, tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near at hand” (Diary, 965). “The Feast of My Mercy has issued forth from My very depths for the consolation of the whole world” (Diary, 1517).
The good and faithful servant who knows the will of his Lord
Father Michal Sopoćko learned from his spiritual charge that it was to him that Jesus had entrusted the task of spreading the message of Divine Mercy throughout the Church and the world. Faustina warned her spiritual director that a great deal of work and effort as well as numerous failures awaited him; yet he was not to grow weary or become discouraged in this mission. After seeing Faustina for the last time, shortly before her death, Fr. Sopoćko noted in his journal: “I must not tire in spreading devotion to the Divine Mercy; in particular, I must strive to establish the feast day on the first Sunday after Easter. I can never say I have done enough. Though difficulties should pile up, though it should seem to me that God Himself does not desire it, I may never tire in the attempt. Though I should lack physical and moral strength, I may never grow weary; for, the depths of Divine Mercy are inexhaustible and an entire lifetime could not render it sufficient glory.”
This is what he did to the end of his life. During WWII he wrote a tract on the Divine Mercy and had 500 copies clandestinely printed and circulated among the faithful. Upon moving to Białystok, he vigorously promoted this devotion among his fellow theologians and pastors. But it was an uphill battle all the way. Sister Faustina died unknown and in silence within the cloister walls. Her Diary (as yet a manuscript) was known only to her sister nuns. The circulated pamphlets containing the prayers and image of the King of Mercy gained little recognition among the clergy. Why take seriously what comes from the visions of an obscure nun! At the same time, theologians took issue with the texts of the prayers and the very idea of forming a cult around one of God’s attributes–namely, His Mercy.
Father Sopoćko eventually secured the favor of the Polish Primate, Cardinal August Hlond. But the latter’s untimely death slowed the process. Nevertheless, at Fr. Sopoćko’s initiative, Hlond’s successor, Primate Stefan Wyszyński took the matter to the Apostolic See, requesting that it approve the devotion and the Divine Mercy Feast. The many voices and petitions of the faithful originating from Poland and elsewhere served as a strong argument in favor of the devotion. In 1957 Primate Wyszyński personally submitted the requisite documents to the Congregation of the Holy Office in Rome and came away convinced the matter would take a favorable turn.
Father Sopoćko never tired in his efforts to win the Polish episcopate over to the devotion of Divine Mercy, the King of Mercy image, and the proposed feast-day. He dealt directly with reactions to Sister Faustina’s Diary, copies of which had been sent to the bishops. Whenever reservations concerning the cult, the texts of the prayers, etc. arose, he was quick to intervene and explain; after all, he could see the devotion to Divine Mercy spreading at the grass-roots level. He could see how dear this devotion was to people burdened by the war and the communist regime. He saw the graces it was bringing to the people and the glory it rendered to God.
Before God’s schemes can enjoy success, they must pass through the way of the cross. This is what happened to the devotion to Divine Mercy. On March 6, 1959, the Congregation of the Holy Office issued a Notification calling for a halt on all further dissemination of images and published materials dealing with the devotion to Divine Mercy as relayed by Sister Faustina. Prior to this, Primate Wyszyński had received a letter from the Congregation instructing him to remove the images of the King of Mercy, to desist from introducing the Feast of Divine Mercy, and to order Fr. Sopoćko to stop spreading these revelations and devotions.
It seemed that causa finita–the case were closed. Fr. Sopoćko humbly accepted the verdict of the Apostolic See and halted his actions; yet he never ceased to believe that truth would prevail in the end. He could see the sincere sorrow of those to whom the devotion to the Divine Mercy had given faith; those in whom the devotion had aroused hope, kindled love of God, and fostered mercy toward their neighbor.
These people were greatly heartened when, on October 21, 1965, Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Kraków launched a fact-finding commission to advance the cause for the beatification of Sister Faustina Kowalska. In the process, many additional documents were submitted and many matters and misunderstandings cleared up in Fr. Sopoćko’s favor. Two years later the diocesan inquiry came to a solemn close and the records were duly sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, where the formal cause for beatification began.
In addition to promoting the cause of the Servant of God–his spiritual charge and penitent whom he considered a saint even in her lifetime–Father Michal Sopoćko devoted himself to his teaching duties at the seminary in Białystok and later to pastoral and charity work. Jesus’ wish to have the Feast of Divine Mercy established never left his heart, but this now lay exclusively in the hands of the Church authorities. Meanwhile, the devotion to Divine Mercy, the Jesus, I Trust in You images, the chaplet of divine mercy, continued to spread at the grass-roots level, reaching other countries and continents, and everywhere bearing great spiritual fruits.
Fr. Sopoćko, who was now ailing, never ceased to preach the greatness of God’s mercy, but it always seemed to him that he had not brought his work to completion. From the human point of view, one might well have thought so. Faustina, upon dying, had relayed the message to him. He, on the other hand, had no one to relay it to. He died in Białystok on February 15, 1975.
The seed had to die. But the fruits would spill forth as out of a ripe ear of corn: the retraction of the Notification on June 15, 1978; the election to the papacy, on October 16 of the same year, of Karol Wojtyla–a great devotee of the Divine Mercy and Sister Faustina; his encyclical Dives in misericordia in 1980; the beatification of Sister Faustina in 1993; her canonization in 2000; Father Michal Sopoćko, named Servant of God in 1993, beatified on September 28, 2008.
“The whole of the twentieth century,” observed John Paul II in his book Memory and Identity, “was marked by the special action of God, who is a Father “rich in mercy.” This mercy was revealed with particular power so as to become a solace for the people of God at a time of a great struggle between good and evil, of which we are witnesses. Blessed Michal also speaks to us to console and strengthen us: ‘The will of God will come about in all its fullness and no worldly power or spirit of darkness will succeed in crossing God’s plans” (Letter to Faustina, 1936).
The above article was published with permission from "Love One Another!" - May 2016