Divine Mercy – What is it?


The Sunday after Easter has been declared by Pope John Paul II as “Divine Mercy Sunday.” What a great time to learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy and the special day of Mercy the Church celebrates every year!

The devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus was given to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska in a series of visions she had of our Lord. Sister Faustina was an uneducated Polish nun. She wrote a 600-page diary about her visions at the request of her spiritual director. The message of the visions became very popular by her death in 1938, and devotion to the Divine Mercy began growing throughout the world.

Jesus’ Message of Divine Mercy

Jesus’ message to Saint Faustina was very much in line with what He taught in His earthly ministry.

Ask for Mercy: Jesus reminded Saint Faustina (and through her, all of us) that God is eager to forgive our sins, if we would only we acknowledge them and ask for His forgiveness. Jesus won infinite mercy for us on the Cross. But we need to receive that mercy – and to receive His mercy we need to ask for it.

Be Merciful: In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray “Forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors).” In His story of the unforgiving servant, Jesus makes a strong point that those who do not forgive cannot receive forgiveness. Mercy is love in the midst of suffering. To show mercy is to exercise love. To receive mercy is to receive love. If our hearts are hardened against giving love, how can they be soft enough to receive it?

Completely Trust in Jesus: Saint Faustina had an image made of her vision of Jesus. You’ve probably seen it. It’s a picture of Jesus with red and white rays shining from His heart and the words “Jesus, I trust in you” across the bottom. Trust is the most fundamental element of a relationship. Once we acknowledge our sins and turn to Jesus for forgiveness, we need to trust that He will forgive us – that His mercy is vast enough to keep forgiving us even when we continue sinning in our weakness.  In His love for us, Jesus wanted to strengthen our trust in Him and in His mercy.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet

The devotion that sprang from Jesus’ visions to Saint Faustina is known as the Divine Mercy Chaplet. As devotional prayers go, this is a pretty simple one. But it is profound in its power. This Chaplet actually draws our hearts to all three parts of Jesus’ message to us. It calls us to ask for mercy through the words of the Chaplet. It calls us to bring others to the mercy of Jesus in its intentions. And it is a prayer of trust in Jesus’ mercy.

After an opening prayer, the Chaplet starts with an Our Father, a Hail Mary and the Apostle’s Creed. It uses a regular Rosary. On the “Our Father” beads, we say:

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our lord Jesus Christ. In atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

On the “Hail Mary” beads, we say:

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole lot world.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday is a special day for the Church to recall the great mercy Jesus won for us on the Cross. It’s much broader than a day honoring Saint Faustina, though the Divine Mercy Chaplet plays an important role in the celebration.

Divine Mercy Sunday comes right after the Easter Octave, which ends on Saturday and it extends the Easter celebration. It reminds us again that we are celebrating Jesus’ incredible love for us on the Cross, His conquering sin and death in His glorious Resurrection, and the abundance of grace that flows out to us from His incredible act of salvation.

Fittingly, there is a plenary indulgence associated with praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet in a group or in a church (or in a group in church) on Divine Mercy Sunday. A plenary indulgence wipes away the “temporal punishment” for sin that remains even after we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If we die with no temporal punishment for sin, we will have no need for Purgatory. To get the Plenary Indulgence you need to:

  1. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (within a week of Divine Mercy Sunday)
  2. Receive the Holy Eucharist (going to Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday fulfills this requirement)
  3. Have no affection for sin. This is a very ambiguous requirement for an indulgence (it’s standard for all plenary indulgences). It basically means that you’re far enough along your spiritual path that you no longer struggle with being attracted to sin. If you don’t think you’re that far yet, don’t worry. Make a firm choice that you hate your sin and want to conquer it, then trust in Jesus’ mercy.
  4. Pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (this is usually part of the chaplet – you can dedicate the opening Our Father, Hail Mary and Apostle’s Creed to the Holy Father’s intentions).
  5. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet as a group (even your family) and/or in church with the intention of gaining the indulgence.
  6. Let grace and mercy flow!

Not a New Prayer

While Saint Faustina’s visions of Jesus happened in the 20th Century, the devotion to Divine Mercy isn’t new. We saw how Jesus’ message to Saint Faustina was a continuation of the message He taught during His earthly ministry. Likewise, the devotion itself is a continuation of the Church’s constant understanding of mercy. In fact, the image of the Divine Mercy is very close to the image for the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Both devotions are acknowledgements of Jesus’ love and mercy.

The Divine Mercy is also a very Eucharistic prayer. The Church talks about the special way that Jesus is present in the Holy Eucharist – “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.” So the words of the prayer, “Eternal Father, we offer you the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son our lord Jesus Christ,” are not used in isolation. They represent our participation in Jesus’ eternal self-offering to the Father, as we offer Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity to the Father in atonement for sin.

Get to Know Divine Mercy!

The Year of Mercy is the perfect time to become more familiar with the powerful devotion to the Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Learn how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Even if you missed the Divine Mercy Novena (which started on Good Friday), download a copy and pray through the intentions.

Finally, learn more about Divine Mercy Sunday and the indulgence associated with it.