My Heart rejoices in this feast.Jesus. Diary, 998.
There are 23 apparitions of Faustina regarding this feast. From this we can deduce the importance of this Feast which is also linked to some promises that Jesus himself made. We find the first apparition concerning this feast immediately after and connected to the appearance of Plock on 22 February 1931, here are the words of the Savior:
“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.”Jesus. Diary, 49.
Request which will then be further confirmed:
“I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy.”Jesus. Diary, 299.
The greatness and importance of this feast is also evident from the apparition received on Sunday in Albis on April 28, 1935 in which the image of the Merciful Jesus was publicly exposed for the first time:
Toward the end of the service, when the priest took the Blessed Sacrament to bless the people, I saw the Lord Jesus as He is represented in the image. The Lord gave His blessing, and the rays extended over the whole world. Suddenly, I saw an impenetrable brightness in the form of a crystal dwelling place, woven together from waves of brilliance unapproachable to both creatures and spirits. Three doors led to this resplendence. At that moment, Jesus, as He is represented in the image, entered this resplendence through the second door to the Unity within. It is a triple United, which is incomprehensible – which is infinity. I head a voice, This 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. I was overjoyed at the immense goodness and greatness of my God.Diary, 420.
It is a feast, the Lord will say, which must be
a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinnersJesus. Diary, 699.
In 1937 Jesus called the feast of Mercy “the last table of salvation” (Diary 965) given to humanity so that it does not perish.
The promises concern the total remission of sins and penalties and the donation of countless other graces. We find them in the Diary in three passages:
“… whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment.”Jesus. Diary, 300.
“… 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 will go to Confession and receive 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.”Jesus. Diary, 699.
“I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy.”Jesus. Diary, 1109.
For the day of the feast, Jesus makes requests to Santa Faustina and indirectly to each of us:
- Preparation through the novena to Divine Mercy: In December 1936 Faustina received this commitment to recite a novena that would begin on Good Friday by saying to her “during this novena I will bestow grace of all kinds on souls” (Diary 796). Commitment also confirmed on Good Friday 1937 (Diary 1059). The novena is found in the Diary, numbers 1209 – 1229.
- Public worship of the Sacred Image: with the exhibition, to public veneration (Diary 88) and the solemn blessing of the Image (Diary 49; 341; 742).
- The commitment to intercede on that day for needy souls: “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).
- A special request for priests to speak of Divine Mercy on that day: “ask of my faithful servant that, on this day, he tell the whole world of My great mercy” (Diary 300); “On that day, priests are to tell everyone about My great and unfathomable mercy” (Diary 570).
The meaning of the Feast
The meaning of this feast is connected with the paschal mystery. “The mystery of redemption is inseparably linked to the mystery of merciful love” (Saint Faustina and divine mercy, Father Andrzej Witko); for this reason, the Feast of Divine Mercy is adequately thought of as the crowning glory of the Easter Octave. Now redemption, as Father Sopoćko has noted, pours out on the Church through the sacraments of baptism and penance. The sacrament of baptism is expressed by the fact that on Sunday in Albis, that is “white”, the newly baptized went to church wearing the white robe received the Easter vigil to remember and renew the baptismal purity. The grace of total remission of guilt and punishment is in fact a second and a new baptism.
This renewal is conferred by the Confession whose institution is read precisely in the Gospel of Sunday in Albis which, in turn, is represented by the Image of Merciful Jesus.
The history of the institution of the Feast
From the beginning, the one who moved to approve the feast was Blessed Sopoćko who, however, immediately ran into great difficulties. The first was due to the fact that there was no custom to institute a solemnity for a single attribute of God. Why Mercy and not rather wisdom or justice or omnipotence? It is interesting to note that St. Thomas Aquinas already wrote that Mercy is the greatest attribute of God (Summa II-II, q 30, a 4). Others objected to the choice of the second Sunday of Easter since this day could not have admitted other celebrations. Others saw this cult as a repetition of that of the Sacred Heart. Still others saw in this cult a form of Polish nationalism also due to the colors of the rays present in the Image.
However, according to Sopoćko, this party was already established by Pius IX with a decree of May 8, 1855 “while adding plenary indulgence. Furthermore, this feast had been celebrated for some centuries as a patronal solemnity in the church of Divine Mercy in Krakow.” We also find it in the Diary, when Faustina says to Jesus that this feast already exists He replies: “and who knows anything about this feast? No one! Even those who should be proclaiming My mercy and teaching people about it often do not know about it themselves. That is why I want the image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it” (Diary 341).
Sopoćko himself, on Faustina’s request to go to the Holy Father, replied that it was not appropriate and that it was necessary instead to “prepare the ground in advance”. He himself worked to this end with the publication of the book Milosierdzie Boze in 1936 and with articles such as “the idea of Divine Mercy in the liturgy” (in the liturgical magazine Mysterium Christi). In July 1937 Sopoćko presented the request for the institution of the feast during a Mariological Congress in Vilnius but the archbishop disagreed because this request was for him contrary to the order for the introduction of new cults of the Holy See. Subsequently Sopoćko also presented the request to the nuncio Francesco Cortesi. Meanwhile in 1938 Faustina dies and Sopoćko continued to work encouraged also by the last letters of the Saint. Immediately after the death of the saint, on 26 November he delivered to the bishops of the Polish Episcopal conference a work that explained the arguments in favor for the institution of this feast using strictly theological motivations without references to Faustina’s private revelations. In 1939 he even went to Rome but without success. In the meantime, devotion was expanding more and more. Other works concerning the feast were also published, such as “for the feast of the Most Merciful Savior” (1947). For the first time on April 16, 1944, the Feast of Mercy was solemnly celebrated in Krakow-Lagiewniki. In 1946 the Polish bishops presented a request for approval of the feast to the holy see and in 1951 archbishop Baziak granted 7 years of plenary indulgence to those who had visited the convent of Lagiewniki during the feast. This first flowering of the cult, however, was abruptly stopped with a decree of the Holy Office of 19 November 1958 in which the possibility of establishing such a party was excluded. Shortly after March 6, 1959, a notification from the Holy Office prohibited the disclosure of the cult to Divine mercy according to Faustina’s revelations. The revocation of 1978 had to be waited for to try to restore the cult. From 1985 the second Sunday of Easter was linked in Krakow to the cult of Divine Mercy. In 1993 the Polish bishops made a request to John Paul II for the institution of the feast which received a decree of 23 January 1995 in which the holy see granted the celebration in Poland. The crowning took place in 2000, with the canonization of Faustina on the second Sunday after Easter, on April 30, 2000 with the announcement of St. John Paul II that from that moment on that day would be the Sunday of Divine Mercy (decree signed on May 5 by the Congregation for Divine Worship).
It is interesting to note that this Solemnity is the only one together with that of the Sacred Heart whose birth was solicited by private revelations. The Church wanted to institutionalize this feast in the universal Liturgy because in reality we realized that the private message received from the Polish Saint does nothing but refer to the essential Message of our Christian faith, that is Divine Mercy.