On May 5, 2000, only five days after the canonization of Saint Faustina, Saint Pope John Paul II decreed that the Second Sunday of Easter would be known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

In 1931 while the world was in the midst of the Great Depression and there were fresh memories of World War I still alive, in Poland a nun of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalski, was personally visited by Jesus Christ.

In her 600-page “Diary of Saint Maria Faustina” she described an image of the Risen Christ who had appeared to her. His right hand was raised in a blessing and his left was touching his garment above his heart. From his heart shone two rays, one that was red, representing the blood of Christ or the Holy Eucharist, and the other white, symbolizing water or Baptism.

At the bottom were the words requested by Christ, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Jesus desired that his image be painted and venerated throughout the world: “I promise: that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”

The writings of St. Faustina focus on God’s mercy, the call to accept God’s mercy and also to be merciful. She also wrote about the need for conversion and the call to trust in Jesus.

In her diary, she writes that it was Jesus who wished that she would establish a feast day and that this day “would be a refuge and shelter for all souls. I am giving all souls the last hope of salvation, that is, the Feast of My Mercy.”

Pope Benedict XVI moved by the words of St. Faustina wrote that “Mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message: it is the very name of God, the Face with which he revealed himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive love.”

Pope Francis expressed from his window at St. Peter’s Square that “Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the Church; it constitutes her very existence through which the profound truths of the Gospel are made manifest and tangible. Everything is revealed in mercy.”

The celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday is a great opportunity for all of us to reflect on the way God’s mercy has impacted on our lives — leading us to overcome sin and to become more generous disciples of Christ.

Among the practices described in the Diary of Saint Faustina are a novena, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is a series of prayers organized similarly to a rosary; the Hour of Great Mercy which is at 3 p.m., the death of Jesus Christ; and the plenary indulgence granted to those who receive the Eucharist and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation near the date of Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy was given to St. Faustina with this promise: “Encourage souls to pray the chaplet which I have given you. Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from my infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know my infinite mercy.” Pray for God’s mercy and strive to be merciful to others. Happy Feast Day of Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Rev. Gus Puleo is pastor of St. Patrick Church in Norristown and served as an adjunct professor of Spanish at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He is a graduate of Norristown High School and attended Georgetown University, where he received B.A. and B.S. in Spanish and linguistics. He has master’s degrees in Spanish, linguistics and divinity from Middlebury College, Georgetown University and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He holds a Ph.D. in Spanish from the University of Pennsylvania.

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