The Divine Mercy Mission of Saints Faustina and Pope John Paul II

The Divine Mercy Mission of Sts. Faustina and Pope JPII

The lives and missions of Sts. Faustina and Pope John Paul II are intertwined and connected in so many mystical ways. These culminated in his death on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina was the secretary and apostle of Divine Mercy; Pope John Paul II brought her mission to light and was instrumental in establishing the Church wide practice of the devotion and the Feast of Divine Mercy called for by Jesus. His involvement began well before his papacy, however.

St. Faustina had many visions and conversations with Jesus who appeared to her throughout the 1930's in her convents in what was then Poland. She recorded these in great detail in her diary, now published as Divine Mercy in My Soul. While most of her fellow sisters did not know of her experiences until well after her death, the Divine Mercy devotions that Jesus had her record were practiced in her congregation and were spread to other places as well by soldiers of World War II and by priests who encountered the devotion.

It was during WWII, while Karol Wojtyla secretly attended seminary in Krakow, and worked near Faustina's convent where she was buried, that he was told of the devotions, and began to make visits to her grave. Over the years that followed, he frequently visited the convent, as a priest, and through his elevations up to Cardinal.

In 1959, the Vatican issued a Notification based on an inaccurate translation of the Diary which prohibited the spread of the devotion and the Diary. The local archbishop allowed the sisters of the convent where Faustina was buried to continue the devotion privately, however.

During the Second Vatican Council, then Archbishop Wojtyla brought his people's desire to see Faustina's cause for sainthood to Cardinal Ottaviani, who directed him to begin the task of gathering sworn testimony while those who knew her were still living. With the material gathered, the Vatican was given enough information to lift the ban on her writings and devotions. Soon afterwards, Wojtyla was elected Pope. Having worked actively on furthering the cause for the beatification of Faustina, Pope John Paul II was immersed in the ocean of God's Divine Mercy. He wrote an encyclical called Rich in Mercy, and later stated that the message of Divine Mercy was one that was specifically assigned to him. His papacy was one which shone with examples of mercy, such as when he went to offer pardon to the man who had shot him.

Mercy Sunday, the Octave Day of Easter (or the Sunday following Easter) has always centered upon the mercy of God. While Jesus exhorted the Church, through His 'secretary' Faustina, to establish a feast, He was calling for a special emphasis on a day that was already focused upon God's mercy. The practice of devotion dedicated to that feast was carried out by the faithful before Pope John Paul II proclaimed that the day be named "Divine Mercy Sunday" and celebrated in the universal Church. On that same day, April 30, 2000, he canonized Saint Faustina Kowalska, the first saint of the millennium. Her feast is celebrated on October 3.

Five years later, after receiving Holy Communion at the Vigil Mass of Divine Mercy Sunday celebrated at his bedside, Pope John Paul II died. This is immensely significant, as Jesus promised unfathomable graces for the soul who receives Him worthily in the Eucharist on Divine Mercy Sunday. The following day, his previously written message for the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday was read. John Paul II wrote, "How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!" and then he closed with the response of the faithful to Our Lord's Divine Mercy: "Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. Amen."

Pope John Paul II was canonized in April 2014, and his feast is now to be celebrated on October 22.

Nancy Arey

October 21, 2014
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