In this time of crisis and pandemic, the Divine Mercy illumines our way and dispels the darkness of fear
By Bishop Richard F. Stika
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (John 14:1).
Though you are reading this column in May, I am penning it weeks earlier due to the longer lead-time required for the The East Tennessee Catholic Magazine. As I write, it is Holy Week, a time “ordered to the commemoration of Christ’s Passion.” And given the dire forecast at this time of COVID-19’s continued spread, it would seem as if Good Friday has been extended and Easter postponed indefinitely. But fear, suffering, and death do not have the final word; Divine Mercy does. “Jesus, I trust in you.”
In these days when the entire world has been turned upside down and our own lives darkened with fears of what the future might bring, I am mindful of the beautiful words from the Second Vatican Council:
Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us.
One way to help deepen the mystery of Christ in our lives and to bring His love and mercy to others in a greater way is to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy every day. This prayer is so simple, yet so incredibly powerful. Twenty years ago, on April 30, 2000, St. John Paul II canonized the first saint of the Third Millennium — Sister Mary Faustina Kowalska. Knowing the great importance of the message that Jesus chose her to be the herald as an “apostle of mercy for our times,” St. John Paul II asked,
“What will the years ahead bring us? What will man’s future on earth be like? We are not given to know. However … there will unfortunately be no lack of painful experiences. But the light of Divine Mercy, which the Lord in a way wished to return to the world through Sister Faustina’s charism, will illumine the way for the men and women of the third millennium.”
St. Faustina died in 1938 at the young age of 33, and with the publication of her Diary of St. Faustina in 1978, the message Jesus taught her to remind the world of the depths of God’s merciful love quickly spread. Next to the rosary, no other devotion is more loved and more needed today.
What is so unique and special about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy? Most importantly, it is a priestly prayer that echoes the “Great Doxology” that concludes the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. It is that most sacred moment when the priest, lifting up the paten and chalice with Christ’s sacrificial offering to the Father, to which Jesus has joined our offering, prays,
“Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, O God, Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever!”
When we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, with its two main prayers (using the five decades of beads on the rosary), we, in a sense, extend the sacred action of the Doxology beyond the Mass and into our day and week:
“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” (prayed on the “Our Father” bead).
“For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world” (repeated 10 times on the “Hail Mary” beads).
Just as our participation in Mass calls for the exercise of our “baptismal” priesthood, which enables us to participate in the sacred Liturgy as members of Christ’s Mystical Body, so, too, we further exercise our “common” priesthood when we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
When we pray the chaplet, we unite ourselves to all the Masses celebrated throughout the world and bring the fruit of Christ’s sacrificial offering — Divine Mercy — into our day and week, for our good, for the blessing and benefit of the Church and the souls in purgatory, and for the whole world. This is why the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is so powerful. This is how we live our Mass beyond its Sunday celebration.
And as powerful as this prayer is, it is especially so for the dying, for the Heavenly Father told St. Faustina that,
“When this chaplet is said by the beside of a dying person … unfathomable mercy envelops the soul, and the very depths of My tender mercy are moved for the sake of the sorrowful Passion of My Son” (Diary, 811).
Additionally, Jesus tells St. Faustina that when the following prayer, which forms part of the chaplet’s introduction, is prayed “with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner,” He will bless them with the grace of conversion:
“O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in you” (Diary, 186-187).
The chaplet also encourages us to receive God’s mercy into our own heart in a deeper way so we can in turn better extend His love and mercy to others in our corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Finally, Jesus promised St. Faustina, that “The souls that say this chaplet will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death.”
What greater antidote do we have in these times of fear than Divine Mercy? How I hope you will daily pray this most powerful Chaplet of Divine Mercy and exercise in a far greater way your baptismal priesthood. For “through Christ and in Christ,” we have the definitive answer to the “riddles of sorrow and death” and their cure. For Christ took upon Himself the corona of death (Latin for crown), symbolized in the thorns and thistles He was crowned with, and brought them to the cross, where they were transformed into an everlasting crown of Divine Mercy and life anew for us who trust in His merciful love. “Jesus, I trust in you.”