Divine Mercy Sunday: Origin, Meaning, and Plenary Indulgence

Learn about the origin of the Feast of Divine Mercy, its meaning, and learn how to profit from the plenary indulgence on this celebration.

Newsroom (24/04/2022 08:22, Gaudium Press)Every year, on the second Sunday of Easter time, the Church celebrates the Feast of Divine Mercy. The celebration was officially instituted by Pope Saint John Paul II in the year 2000, during the canonization ceremony of Saint Faustina.

The Feast of Divine Mercy and Saint Faustina Kowalska

The Feast of Divine Mercy is based on private revelations made by Our Lord Jesus Christ to Saint Faustina Kowalska, who conveyed the messages about Divine Mercy to the village of the Polish town of Plock in the year 1931.

Our Redeemer said to Saint Faustina: “I take pleasure in souls who have recourse to My mercy. To these souls I grant graces that exceed their requests. I cannot punish even the greatest of sinners if he has recourse to My compassion, but I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy.“[1]

During His revelations to St. Faustina, Our Lord also stressed His second coming, promising to return in glory to judge the world in love, as described in St. Matthew’s Gospel (Chapters 13 and 25).

“Speak to the world of My mercy, let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. This is the sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While it is time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy” (Diary, 848).

Institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy

At the time the Feast of Divine Mercy was instituted, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a decree stating that “throughout the world, the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name of Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christians of the world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and challenges that humanity will experience in the years to come.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, assured that “private revelations often come from and are reflected in popular piety, giving it new impetus and giving rise to new forms. This does not exclude that they also have an influence on the liturgy itself, as is shown, for example, by the feasts of the Body of God and of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

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How to obtain plenary indulgence on the Feast of Divine Mercy

During the Feast of Divine Mercy it is possible to obtain a plenary indulgence. For this the faithful must live this celebration with intense piety. Saint John Paul II established, through a decree, that Divine Mercy Sunday be enriched with the Plenary Indulgence “so that the faithful may receive more widely the gift of the comfort of the Holy Spirit and in this way nourish a growing charity towards God and neighbor and, by obtaining God’s forgiveness themselves, be induced in turn to forgive their brothers and sisters immediately.

The graces of Divine Mercy Sunday

Our merciful Lord has promised to grant the following graces on the day of the Feast of Divine Mercy:

The soul that entrusts itself and receives Holy Communion will obtain total forgiveness of faults and penalties. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Whoever approaches the Source of Life on that day will receive total forgiveness of sins and penalties.”

No soul will find justification until it turns confidently to My mercy. On that day priests must speak to souls about My infinite mercy.”

Jesus also emphasized to Saint Faustina that His Mercy is the last pathof salvation He offers to mankind. “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation, that is, recourse to My Mercy. If they will not adore My Mercy, they will perisn for all eternity.” (Diary 965, 998)

Meaning of the Divine Mercy image

The famous Divine Mercy image was revealed to St. Faustina by Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who asked her to paint it, and then explained the meaning behind every detail, as well as what the faithful can achieve through it.

The image is a symbol of charity, forgiveness, and God’s love, known as the “Fountain of Mercy”. The versions mostly show Jesus raising his right hand in a sign of blessing and pointing with his left hand to the chest from which two rays flow: one red and one white.

“The pale ray signifies the Water that justifies souls; the red ray signifies the Blood that is the life of souls (…) Happy is he who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay old of him.” (Diary, 299).

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The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

Among the set of prayers used as part of the Divine Mercy devotion is the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which is usually prayed at 3pm, using the same beads as the regular rosary, but with a different set of prayers.

It begins by praying the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Creed.

Then, on the ‘Our Father’ beads, one recites: “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, one prays: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Finally, conclude the chaplet by praying three times: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Some of the Many Promises of Divine Mercy

Our Lord also entrusted St. Faustina with the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, delivering several promises. “Through this chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will.”. (Diary 1731)

Whoever prays the Crown of Divine Mercy will receive mercy, especially at the hour of death, and priests will recommend it to sinners as a last hope of salvation. “When they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as a just Judge but as a merciful Savior.”. (Diary 1541)

The Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday

This Sunday’s liturgy features the figure of the “unbelieving apostle,” St. Thomas. At the first appearance of the Risen Jesus to the apostles, St. Thomas was not among them: “Thomas, one of the Twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came” (Jn 20:24). As soon as they found him, the apostles joyfully announced to him the resurrection of the Master. But St. Thomas’ attitude was one of obstinacy and presumption: “Unless I see in his hands the opening of the nails, unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20:25).

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St. Thomas could not imagine that he was giving the Lord of Mercy the opportunity to show him how much he loved him. A week after the first appearance, our Lord acts with Thomas with extreme kindness, coming forward to him and saying, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and put your hand here and put it into my side; and do not be unbelieving, but faithful” (Jn 20:27).

In the face of such great mercy, it remains for the “unbeliever” to proclaim, like a theologian, the humanity and divinity of our Lord: “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28).

Conditions for receiving Divine Mercy

To receive the indulgence for the feast of the Divine Mercy of Jesus:

One must approach the Lord with a contrite and humble heart, repent of sins, trust firmly in the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ,

Venerate the image of the Divine Mercy, and practice the works of mercy.

Along with the basic requirements of a plenary indulgence, having received the sacrament of Confession on that day or seven days before or after and the reception of Communion.

Trust in Divine Mercy

All humanity is invited to benefit from this infinite and inconceivable source of mercy: “So that every soul will praise My goodness.  I desire trust from My creatures.  Encourage souls to place great trust in My fathomless mercy.  Let the weak, sinful would have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins that there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the unmeasurable depths of My mercy.” (Diary 1059)

Let us try to live in the confidence of this mercy and spread this devotion as much as we can. “I desire that priests proclaim this great mercy of Mine toward souls of sinners. Let the sinner not be afraid to approach Me. The flames of my mercy are burning Me – clamoring to be spent; I want to pour them out on these souls.”(diary 50) (EPC)

[1] SÁ, Eliana. Divine Mercy: Message for every day. São Paulo: Editora Canção Nova, 2008, p. 20.
[2] Cf. Dias, João S. Clá. Commentaries on the Gospels. Vol. V. Roma: Editrice Vaticana, 2012, p. 292.

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