One week after the Easter Triduum, Catholics celebrate the feast of Divine Mercy.
Divine Mercy Sunday (April 11) concludes the Octave of Easter, and focuses on Christ’s gift of mercy for the whole world. St. John Paul II said it is “the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity.” It is a gift that God has given out of love for all of us.
Divine Mercy Sunday is a day of prayer when we ask the Lord to renew our trust in His merciful love, so that we might live it more fully in our lives. Our willingness to make sacrifices out of love for Him in return for all that He has suffered for us helps us to understand how His mercy is to be shared with all.
In addition to his revelations to St. Faustina Kowalska, Jesus speaks of the importance of mercy over sacrifice in the Scriptures. In the Gospel of Matthew, He speaks of this (Matthew 9:13 and 12:7), using the same words as in the Old Testament, when God said through the prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6).
Jesus longs for us to move beyond the idea of sacrifice — what we feel obligated to give up — and to increase our knowledge of His love for us. He wants our hearts to be intertwined with other people’s lives so that the idea of sacrifice moves aside and what we are left with is to have the passion to love others as He loves us through our merciful actions.
When the Pharisees criticized Him for befriending sinners, He explained Himself with the words of God: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” When the Pharisees criticized Him for allowing His disciples to harvest grain on the Sabbath, He explained Himself the same way: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” In each situation, with guilty people and with innocent people, He let this desire be known.
“That knowledge of God was key to what Jesus was impressing upon the Pharisees,” said Mary Myers, who coordinates a Divine Mercy celebration each year at Our Lady Parish in Festus. “God’s rules and laws are good, but they don’t make sense if they’re not tempered with love.”
The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:7). We see the wrath of God when we look at the cross and at hell. But wrath isn’t where God’s heart is centered. Instead, we see that God is love. And He wants us to know that love and share it with others through our mercy toward others.
In the parable of the unmerciful servant (see related), the servant asked for love and compassion from his master, which he received; but then he wasn’t willing to extend that same mercy to his fellow servant. “You can follow a recipe, but it doesn’t come to life until you add salt,” said Myers. “God’s love is like the salt that binds everything together and brings it to fulfillment.”
Love is what fulfills God’s message of mercy, Myers said. “We have to do all with love,” she said. “Jesus was our example and did everything with love. How can we do anything without love? It’s not going to be the same message. If we’re compassionate to other people, those people learn gratitude and in turn, they can share their compassion, love and mercy with others.”
>> Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35)
“Then Peter approaching asked Him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”
>> Jesus reveals His message of mercy to St. Faustina
St. Faustina Kowalska wrote down in her diary the messages that she received from Jesus in visions. She wrote that she first saw a vision of Jesus on Feb. 22, 1931. He had rays of mercy streaming from His heart. Christ told her to have an image painted to represent the vision and to write below it, “Jesus, I trust in you!”
“… Others distrust My goodness and have no desire to experience that sweet intimacy in their own hearts, but go in search of Me, off in the distance, and do not find Me. This distrust of My goodness hurts Me very much. If My death has not convinced you of My love, what will? Often a soul wounds Me mortally, and then no one can comfort Me. They use My graces to offend Me. There are souls who despise My graces as well as all the proofs of My love. They do not wish to hear My call, but proceed into the abyss of hell. The loss of these souls plunges Me into deadly sorrow. God though I am, I cannot help such a soul because it scorns Me; having a free will, it can spurn Me or love Me. You, who are the dispenser of My mercy, tell all the world about My goodness, and thus you will comfort My Heart” (Diary of St. Faustina, No. 580).
”My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. 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” (Diary, No. 699).
“I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbor: the first — by deed, the second — by word, the third — by prayer. In these three degrees is contained the fullness of mercy, and it is an unquestionable proof of love for Me. By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy” (Diary, No. 742).
“Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. … Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask” (Diary, No. 1146).
Divine Mercy Celebrations
The feast of Divine Mercy, or Divine Mercy Sunday, is observed on the octave of Easter. This year, the feast will be celebrated April 11.
The feast was promoted by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who kept a diary in the 1930s of Christ’s private revelations, telling her of His message of mercy.
She wrote that she first saw a vision of Jesus on Feb. 22, 1931. He had rays of mercy streaming from His heart.
Christ told her to have an image painted to represent the vision and to write below it, “Jesus, I trust in you!”
St. Faustina died of tuberculosis in 1938 at age 33. St. John Paul II canonized her in 2000 and declared Divine Mercy Sunday a worldwide feast day. Two years later, he granted a plenary indulgence for those who participate in the devotion. St. John Paul II was canonized on the feast of Divine Mercy in 2014.
To receive the graces of the plenary indulgence on Divine Mercy Sunday, along with the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Holy Communion and prayers for the intentions of the pope), the faithful, while in a state of grace and detached from venial sin, are asked to take part in the prayers and devotions the Second Sunday of Easter held in honor of Divine Mercy in any church or chapel, or else they should recite the Our Father and Creed before the Blessed Sacrament adding a devotional prayer to our Lord.
Catholics also are encouraged to pray the novena of Divine Mercy, which begins Good Friday and ends the Saturday before Divine Mercy Sunday; to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet; and to be merciful toward others through words, actions and prayers. (To learn how to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet and novena, visit www.thedivinemercy.org.)
Twenty-four parishes and other communities in the Archdiocese of St. Louis will celebrate the feast on April 11.
Note: Many parishes currently require advance sign ups to attend Mass. Please call the parish in advance to confirm.
CARMELITE MONASTERY, 9150 Clayton Road in Ladue; 2:30 p.m. confessions and communal adoration; 3 p.m. Divine Mercy chaplet; 3:20 p.m. Tridentine Latin Mass celebrated by Father Stephen Schumacher.
CATHEDRAL BASILICA OF SAINT LOUIS, 4431 Lindell Blvd. at Newstead Avenue; Mass at noon celebrated by Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, followed by eucharistic adoration, confessions from 1-3 p.m., Divine Mercy image in the Sanctuary and 3 p.m. Divine Mercy chaplet, ending with Benediction.
HOLY INFANT, 627 Dennison Drive in Ballwin; 2 p.m. Rosary, followed by chaplet of Divine Mercy; Mass at 3 p.m.
INCARNATE WORD, 13416 Olive Blvd. in Chesterfield; 12:15 p.m. Mass, 1:30-3 p.m. exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions, veneration of Divine Mercy image, Divine Mercy litany and chaplet, ending with Benediction.
OUR LADY QUEEN OF PEACE, 4696 Notre Dame Lane in House Springs; blessing of Divine Mercy image during weekend Masses (5 p.m. Saturday and 8 and 10 a.m. Sunday); following all Masses, there will be a Divine Mercy chaplet and prayers for the plenary indulgence, Divine Mercy litany and veneration of the image and first-class relic of St. Faustina.
SACRED HEART, 555 Bailey Road in Crystal City; following 11 a.m. Mass, there will be an hour of Divine Mercy with the Apostolate for Family Consecration Divine Mercy video and a talk, Rosary and Divine Mercy chaplet; confessions will be available.
ST. FERDINAND, 1765 Charbonier Road in Florissant; confessions 1:30 p.m., exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, chaplet of Divine Mercy, Benediction, and veneration of the Divine Mercy Image; Mass celebrated at 3 p.m. by Father Anthony Gerber.
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES ORATORY, 2653 Ohio Ave. in south St. Louis; 10:30 a.m. Mass, followed by Divine Mercy chaplet. Confessions will be heard all morning.
ST. JAMES, 1107 Summit Drive in Catawissa; 10 a.m. Mass, followed by confessions and eucharistic adoration from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. and concluding with Benediction.
ST. JOHN PAUL II, 4980 Heege Road in Affton; Holy Hour begins at 1:30 p.m.; confessions, Rosary, private meditation and Divine Mercy chaplet, followed by Mass at 3 p.m.
ST. JOSEPH, 6020 Old Antonia Road in Imperial; confessions from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; 2:45 p.m. exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; 3 p.m. Divine Mercy chaplet, followed by the Rosary; Benediction at 4:15 p.m. and Mass at 4:30 p.m.
Divine Mercy Sunday
celebrations without Mass
ASSUMPTION, 603 Miller St. in New Haven; 2 p.m. exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions and Rosary; 3 p.m. Divine Mercy chaplet, ending with Benediction.
GOOD SHEPHERD, 703 N. Third St. in Hillsboro; 2 p.m. eucharistic adoration, with Scripture reading and brief homily, confessions, Divine Mercy chaplet and litany at 3 p.m., and concluding with Benediction.
MARY MOTHER OF THE CHURCH, 5901 Kerth Road in south St. Louis County; Divine Mercy chaplet will be prayed after all weekend Masses (4:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday). Sign up for Masses is required at marymother.org.
QUEEN OF ALL SAINTS, 6603 Christopher Drive in Oakville; 2 p.m. Holy Hour, including eucharistic adoration, confessions, veneration of Divine Mercy image, and ending with Benediction.
ST. DAVID, 2334 Tenbrook Road in Arnold; confessions offered from 1:30-2 p.m., followed by a Holy Hour from 2-3 p.m.
ST. FRANCIS BORGIA, 115 Cedar St. in Washington; 2 p.m. exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, confessions, Rosary, Divine Mercy chaplet, closing with Benediction.
ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI, 4556 Telegraph Road in Oakville; 3 p.m. eucharistic adoration, confessions, Divine Mercy chaplet, ending with Benediction.
STE. GENEVIEVE, 49 DuBourg Place in Ste. Genevieve; 3-4 p.m. exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Divine Mercy chaplet and Benediction; confessions will be available.
ST. GERARD MAJELLA, 1969 Dougherty Ferry Road in Kirkwood; 2:30-4 p.m. eucharistic adoration, with singing of Divine Mercy chaplet, Divine Mercy litany and ending with Benediction, divine praises and a closing hymn; confessions begin at 2:30 p.m. until all are heard. A viewing and veneration of first-class relics of St. Faustina and St. Gerard will be available from 2-2:25 p.m. and after the closing hymn.
ST. MARGARET MARY ALACOQUE, 4900 Ringer Road in Oakville; 2:30-3:30 p.m. Holy Hour led by Father Samuel Inameti, including exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Divine Mercy devotions, confessions, and ending with Benediction.
ST. MATTHIAS, 796 Buckley Road in Lemay; 2 p.m. confession and communal adoration; 3 p.m. Divine Mercy chaplet; 3:20 p.m. Mass celebrated by Father John Hansen, SMP.
ST. PAUL, 15 Forest Knoll in Fenton; 1 p.m. eucharistic adoration, including recitation of Divine Mercy chaplet and prayer service from 3-4 p.m., and ending with Benediction at 4 p.m.
ST. VINCENT DE PAUL, 1000 Rosati Court in Perryville; 3 p.m. exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Divine Mercy chaplet and viewing of Divine Mercy image.