|What are we to think of the Divine Mercy
Fr. Peter R.
Many people have certainly received graces from the devotion to Divine
Mercy propagated by St. Faustina, and her personal piety was certainly
most exemplary. However, this does not necessarily mean that this
devotion is from God. It is true that Pope John Paul II promoted this
devotion, that it was through his efforts that the prohibition was
lifted on April 15, 1978, and that he even introduced a feast of Divine
Mercy into the Novus Ordo. However, the fact that good and pious people
receive graces and that Sister Faustina was pious do not necessarily
means that it is from heaven. In fact, it was not only not approved
before Vatican II. It was condemned, and this despite the fact that the
prayers themselves of the chaplet of Divine Mercy are orthodox.
Condemned by the
There were two decrees from Rome on this question, both of the time of
Pope John XXIII. The Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office, in a
plenary meeting held on November 19, 1958, made the following decisions:
nature of the revelations made to Sister Faustina is not evident.
No feast of Divine Mercy is to be instituted.
It is forbidden to divulge images and writings that propagate
this devotion under the form received by Sister Faustina.
The second decree of the Holy Office was on March 6, 1959, in which the
following was established:
The diffusion of
images and writings promoting the devotion to Divine Mercy under the
form proposed by the same Sister Faustina was forbidden.
The prudence of the bishops is to judge as to the removal of
the aforesaid images that are already displayed for public honor.
What was it about this devotion that prevented the Holy Office from
acknowledging its divine origin? The decrees do not say, but it seems
that the reason lies in the fact that there is so much emphasis on
God’s mercy as to exclude His justice. Our sins and the gravity of the
offense that they inflict on God is pushed aside as being of little
consequence. That is why the aspect of reparation for sin is omitted or
The true image of God’s mercy is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced
with a lance, crowned with thorns, dripping precious blood. The Sacred
Heart calls for a devotion of reparation, as the popes have always
requested. However, this is not the case with the Divine Mercy
devotion. The image has no heart. It is a Sacred Heart without a heart,
without reparation, without the price of our sins being clearly
evident. It is this that makes the devotion very incomplete and makes
us suspicious of its supernatural origin, regardless of Sister
Faustina’s own good intentions and personal holiness. This absence of
the need for reparation for sins is manifest in the strange promise of
freedom from all the temporal punishment due to sin for those who
observe the 3:00 p.m. Low Sunday devotions. How could such a devotion
be more powerful and better than a plenary indulgence, applying the
extraordinary treasury of the merits of the saints? How could it not
require as a condition that we perform a penitential work of our own?
How could it not require the detachment from even venial sin that is
necessary to obtain a plenary indulgence?
Presumption in the
Writings of Sister Faustina
The published Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalski (Marian Press,
Stockbridge, MA, 2007) also indicates several reasons to seriously
question the supernatural origin of the more than 640 pages of
voluminous and repeated apparitions and messages. The characteristic of
any true mystic who has received supernatural graces is always a
profound humility, sense of unworthiness, awareness and profession of
the gravity of his sins. Yet this humility is strangely lacking in
Sister Faustina’s diary. On October 2, 1936, for example, she states
that the “Lord Jesus” spoke these words to her: “Now I know that it is
not for the graces or gifts that you love me, but because My will is
dearer to you than life. That is why I am uniting Myself with you so
intimately as with no other creature.” (§707, p. 288). This gives every
appearance of being a claim of being more united to Jesus than anybody
else, even the Blessed Virgin Mary, and certainly more than all the
other saints. What pride, to believe such an affirmation, let alone to
assert that it came from heaven!
In April 1938, Sister Faustina read the canonization of St. Andrew
Bobola and was filled with longing and tears that her congregation
might have its own saint. Then she affirms the following: “And the Lord
Jesus said to me, Don’t cry. You are that saint.” (§1650, p. 583).
These are words that most certainly no true saint would affirm, but
rather his sinfulness and unworthiness of his congregation. This
presumption in her writings is not isolated. She praises herself on
several occasions through the words supposedly uttered by Jesus. Listen
to this interior locution, for example: “Beloved pearl of My Heart, I
see your love so pure, purer than that of the angels, and all the more
so because you keep fighting. For your sake I bless the world.” (§1061,
p. 400). On May 23, 1937 she describes a vision of the Holy Trinity,
after which she heard a voice saying: “Tell the Superior General to
count on you as the most faithful daughter in the Order” (§1130, p.
417). It is consequently hardly surprising that Sister Faustina claimed
to be exempt from the Particular and General Judgments. On February 4,
1935, she already claimed to hear this voice in her soul: “From today
on, do not fear God’s judgment, for you will not be judged” (§374, p.
168). Add to this the preposterous affirmation that the host three
times over jumped out of the tabernacle and placed itself in her hands
(§44, p. 23), so that she had to open up the tabernacle herself and
place it back in there, tells the story of a presumption on God’s grace
which goes beyond all reason, let alone as the action of a person
supposedly favored with innumerable and repeated mystical and
It is perhaps not accidental that Pope John Paul II promoted this
devotion, for it is very much in line with his encyclical Dives in Misericordia. In fact, the
Paschal Mystery theology that he taught pushed aside all consideration
of the gravity of sin and the need for penance, for satisfaction to
divine justice, and hence of the Mass as being an expiatory sacrifice,
and likewise the need to gain indulgences and to do works of penance.
Since God is infinitely merciful and does not count our sins, all this
is considered of no consequence. This is not the Catholic spirit. We
must make reparation for our sins and for the sins of the whole world,
as the Sacred Heart repeatedly asked at Paray-Le-Monial. It is the
renewal of our consecration to the Sacred Heart and frequent holy hours
of reparation that is going to bring about the conversion of sinners.
It is in this way that we can cooperate in bringing about His Kingdom
of Merciful Love, because it is the perfect recognition of the infinite
holiness of the Divine Majesty and complete submission to His rightful
demands. Mercy only means something when we understand the price of our