by Robert R. Allard, Director Apostles of Divine Mercy
Dear Fellow Apostles,
After being established in the Catholic Church for almost 12 years, how is Divine Mercy Sunday being celebrated in parishes throughout the world? Are parishes broadcasting the good news of the special plenary indulgence, and are they using Divine Mercy Sunday as a great tool for evangelization, like they should be doing?
For too many years, before the Feast of Mercy was established, parish celebrations usually took place outside of Mass. Many parishes had devotions around 3 pm in the afternoon which included the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and perhaps adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. While this is all good and beneficial, isn’t it time that we start celebrating it correctly and get real serious about helping Jesus save souls?
Unfortunately, too many parish celebrations focus on having afternoon devotions that only devotees attend. Just think about it, how many poor sinners, Easter- only or fallen- away Catholics are going to attend a long prayer service in the afternoon and then attend a Mass afterwards to be able to receive Holy Communion? Have these parishes forgotten the real purpose of this Feast of Mercy is for poor sinners?
Let’s recall Jesus’ words in the diary of St. Faustina (#699): “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. 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 grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet.”
If Jesus told St. Faustina (diary entry #1397) that the loss of each soul plunges Him into mortal sadness, then why aren’t we focusing on those souls who are in danger of perishing? If we are truly Apostles of Divine Mercy, then we need to be getting really serious about helping Jesus to save sinners and to ease the Lord’s sadness. It hurts the Lord Jesus when devotees haven’t even thought about these poor sinners.
So what is your parish doing this year? Are they focusing all of their energy on what we call “parties for devotees” at 3pm in the afternoon or are they focusing on saving poor sinners? Isn’t it time that we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday in such a way that would bring many Easter- only, luke- warm and fallen- away Catholics back to the practice of their faith? Isn’t it time to think about the pain that Jesus suffers?
Many priests have been turned away from these devotional parties because all they usually see are devotees, not poor sinners. Sure, we are all sinners, but Jesus wants those who are in danger of perishing. Devotees usually ask for a number of things on the Feast of Mercy that Jesus never asked for, including Confessions on that day, the recitation of the Chaplet, sometime Masses at 3pm, and sometimes adoration.
We have heard many priests grumble about Divine Mercy Sunday. Many of these complaints are caused by miss- directed devotees asking for things that Jesus never asked us to do on the Feast of Mercy. This is hard for many to swallow, but isn’t it better for us to focus on the things that would help Jesus save poor sinners instead?
Just think about it: priests had already heard the Confessions of devotees just before Easter and now they are demanding for them to hear their Confessions again. Add to that, setting up the church just so that devotees can have their private devotions.
Jesus didn’t tell us to have devotions at 3pm on the Feast of Mercy. Sure, He gave us the Hour of Mercy, the Chaplet, and the Novena, but that is not what Jesus asked us to do for His feast. Sure, we are to recall the Hour of Mercy daily, we are to say the Chaplet often, and Jesus asked for the Novena of Chaplets, starting on Good Friday, ending on Easter Saturday, but He never asked for these on the feast itself.
It is time to focus on saving poor sinners, right now in full force, before it is too late. We can’t wait another minute. How would you like to be one of those poor souls that ends up in hell for eternity, because you weren’t told about the feast? If you did end up in hell, how much would you pay to get out, if you could pay? Then how much time and effort should we spend to prevent souls from ending up there?
As Apostles of Divine Mercy, we shouldn’t worry so much about our own salvation as much as we should be focusing on helping Our Lord to save those that are about to perish. In the diary, Jesus told St. Faustina “Souls who spread the honor of My mercy I shield through their entire life as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but the Merciful Savior.” (Diary # 1075)
Jesus told St. Faustina what to do on the Feast of Mercy, and this should also be our guidelines. Jesus said “Gather all sinners from the entire world and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. I want to give Myself to 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)
Notice, that Jesus said to “go”, and not to stay in. He clearly wants us to go out and to get poor sinners to come to His feast. Jesus wants us to do the very best that we can, and like He said, He will make up for what we lack (Diary #1074). I can attest to the many miracles that have happened in my efforts to help Jesus save souls. We have to give 100% of all of our strength, not 99%, for Jesus to perform the miracles.
In 1993 I saw the Lord Jesus amidst great pain and suffering and He pleaded for Me to help Him. Three years later, I understood why He was pleading. Parishes are not paying attention to the enormous potential of Divine Mercy Sunday. They do not realize the great potential for evangelizing poor sinners that are about to perish. They do not believe that Jesus is alive and is still in great pain and agony.
So what should we do? What should the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday look like? To find these answers, we should look in two places: the diary of St. Faustina and the decrees establishing Divine Mercy Sunday and the plenary indulgence.
We already have a good idea what Jesus requested through St. Faustina for the Feast of Mercy: going out and bringing sinners to the feast; telling everyone about His mercy and the promise of the total forgiveness of all sins and punishment; and solemnly blessing and venerating the Image of Divine Mercy; and acts of mercy.
The Church gives us guidelines in the decree establishing Divine Mercy Sunday by telling us to use the same readings for that Sunday, that are already in place, and to call it “Divine Mercy Sunday”. The decree for the Plenary Indulgence for Divine Mercy Sunday gives us more instruction: the last paragraph in the indulgence is entitled, “Duty of priests: inform parishioners, hear confessions, lead prayers”.
These instructions were given by the Vatican to all of the bishops in August of 2002. In the US, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) went even further and published these instructions in the February 2003 BCL Newsletter.
In summary the decree requires that parish priests “should inform the faithful in the most suitable way of the Church’s plenary indulgence. They should promptly and generously be willing to hear their confessions. On Divine Mercy Sunday, after celebrating all of the Masses they should lead the prayers for the indulgences.”
So here we have the guidelines: Priests should tell everybody about the indulgence, they should be generous in hearing Confessions, and they should lead the prayers for the indulgences after all of the Masses on Divine Mercy Sunday and the vigil. Add to that the solemn blessing and veneration of the image. Venerating the image actually helps the priest to portray what is in the Gospel and other readings that day.
Guidelines for Priests and Bishops
First and foremost, we must realize that this feast is a refuge for sinners and not a “party for devotees”. Up until the establishment of this feast in the universal Catholic Church, parishes in many parts of the world would have separate Masses as to not “interfere” with the flow of regular Sunday Masses.
Today, there is a great need for educating our priests and bishops in how to correctly plan for a very fruitful and beneficial celebration of this feast of mercy. This feast should, in fact, be celebrated at each and every Mass.
The Vatican has laid out all the details in the decree for the special plenary indulgence that was issued specifically just for Divine Mercy Sunday. A lot of emphasis was placed on the last paragraph entitled “Duties of Priests” and it includes the following requirements which can be found at www.MercySunday.com:
A: Informing Parishioners in the most suitable method of the plenary indulgence.
B: Hearing Confessions: Priests should be prompt and generous in hearing confessions.
C: Leading Prayers for the indulgences after celebrating Mass and other liturgies.
D: Encourage the Faithful to do Works of Mercy as often as they possibly can.
Let’s look at what these duties involve:
A: Informing all the faithful about the plenary indulgence in the most suitable manner. This duty, no doubt, points to the proclamation of it, particularly on Easter, when our churches are full to overflowing with souls who have not confessed yet. What could be a more appropriate time? They are the ones who can most benefit.
Suggestion: Use the Bulletin Insert and the Confession Guide in all Easter Bulletins. It can be found at: www.MercySunday.com .
Consider these words for the Easter Homily: *“If you haven’t had a chance to make your yearly confession, don’t miss out on this great opportunity, because next Sunday is our new feast called Divine Mercy Sunday, and what our Church is offering next Sunday, is called a plenary indulgence, and what this means, in very simple terms, is that, if we will go to Confession, and then receive Jesus in Holy Communion on next Sunday, we can obtain the complete forgiveness of all sins and all of the due punishment”.
We also can’t forget all the other Catholics that do not even attend Sunday Mass at all. These souls also need to hear the Good News of the special Plenary Indulgence. We could place articles in all the local newspapers, use every form of media including radio and TV spots telling everyone about the opportunity to obtain the complete forgiveness of all sins and punishment. Don’t let anyone get away without hearing about the great gift that the Church offers on Divine Mercy Sunday.
B: Hearing Confessions in a prompt and generous manner. Many people will want to take advantage of the total forgiveness of sins and punishment and will be asking our priests to hear their confessions. Be ready for an onslaught of people who have been away from Confession for decades. Many priests will be uplifted with this experience and will want to hear many more of these confessions.
Suggestion: Schedule extra time and extra priests for confessions and advertise them verbally, in the bulletin, and in the media. Encourage those who have already gone to Confession to make room for others to go. The Church is now allowing up to twenty days, before or after, to go to Confession to obtain this very special plenary indulgence.
C: Leading the Prayers after all Masses and the other liturgical ceremonies on that day. The Church wants everybody to be able to receive the grace of the plenary indulgence and has instructed priests to lead the prayers.
Suggestion: On Divine Mercy Sunday after all the Masses, lead the recitation of prayers for the indulgence which are: the Our Father, Apostles Creed, and a prayer for the Pope, (perhaps a Hail Mary). Add an invocation such as “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You”.
D: Encourage the Faithful to practice works of Mercy and Charity as often as they can, following the example of, and obeying the commandments of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Suggestion: Encourage the faithful to go out and to seek that which was lost and to bring them to this Feast of Mercy. What better act of mercy could there be than to help their fellow man to gain eternal life?
Follow these 8 simple steps:
1. Prepare a Homily for Easter Sunday using the suggested words (A*) in this leaflet.
2. Copy and Print the Bulletin Insert and the Confession Guide from the web at the www.MercySunday.com website. Put them into all of the Easter bulletins.
3. Remind those that have already gone to Confession (within 20 days) to Make Room for others that haven’t confessed yet.
4. Schedule Extra Time for Confessions with all available priests, on the Saturday before Divine Mercy Sunday, if possible.
5. Place Articles in all local Newspapers telling everyone about the forgiveness of all sins and punishment that is now available. Include the times for Confession. Involve other parishes if they are in the same area.
6. Obtain an Image of Divine Mercy if the parish does not have one, to help with the liturgy on Divine Mercy Sunday, and as a permanent installation in the church.
7. Prepare a Homily for Mercy Sunday to focus on the forgiveness of sins and tell everyone again about the special plenary indulgence. Remind everyone of the need for a sacramental Confession of all grave sin before receiving Holy Communion. Include the Act of Contrition, at some point before receiving, for those who have forgotten it.
8. On Divine Mercy Sunday after all the Masses, Lead the Prayers for the plenary indulgence, which include: the Our Father, Apostles Creed, and a prayer for the Pope.
First of all, we must recognize the need to get all Catholics back to the practice of their faith. We have a grand opportunity and a duty, on Easter Sunday, to catechize all of the Easter-only Catholics, and invite them, back into participation in the sacramental life of the Church. We must not, and can not, let these souls continue to receive Communion in the state of mortal sin, it is a sacrilege.
Canon Law #768, 769, 777.1, and 773 clearly state the responsibilities of our priests. It is imperative that we use this great opportunity to instruct these souls with a basic catechesis on why they should confess their serious sins before receiving the Eucharistic Lord.
We should also reach out to those inactive Catholics in our local areas who no longer attend Mass at all. We can do this through every method possible, including TV, radio, and the newspapers. We also need to reach out and share the good news of the Gospel to all those who live within our territory, who are non-believers, as we are called to do, as evangelists, as it is stated in Canon #771.2.
If we will but humbly turn to the Church and follow her direction, no doubt, we will help to save many sinners. Our Lord Jesus reminded us of the need to leave the 99, to get the 1 that was lost, and how much all of Heaven rejoices, when just one of those sinners repents and returns (Luke 15: 4-7).
Apostles of Divine Mercy
801 S.E. Forgal Street, Port St. Lucie
Florida, United States 34983-2737
Call toll-free 1-888-732-0722