The Divine Mercy is nothing new, it is biblical in nature. "Be merciful even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). Actually Divine Mercy has been around since the Old Testament. It is just the devotion that is relatively new. The devotion to the Divine Mercy began in Poland in 1931. The risen Christ appeared to a poor Polish nun named Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Jesus instructed Faustina to: "Paint an image according to the pattern you see, and sign it Jesus I trust in you". This image was first painted in Vilnius Poland. There have been many renditions of the image but, the image itself is not what is important, rather the graces which flow from it. Jesus told Faustina: "Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace". Jesus promised Faustina: "I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish."
At the request of her spiritual director, St Faustina asked the Lord about the meaning of the rays emanating from Our Lords heart in the image. She heard these words in reply: "The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross... Happy is the one who will dwell in its shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him. By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of My Mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works".
The most comprehensive revelation can be found in entry 699 of Faustina's diary (Divine Mercy in My Soul, Marian Press):
"My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a 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 are opened all the Divine floodgates through which graces flow. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in it's relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My mercy".
The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy comes from a vision Faustina had in 1935, in which an angel had been sent by God to chastise a certain city. Faustina began to pray for mercy, but her prayers were to no avail. Suddenly she saw the Holy Trinity and felt the power of Jesus' grace within her. At the same time she found herself pleading with God for mercy with words she heard interiorly:
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us.
As Faustina continued saying this inspired prayer, the angel became helpless and could not carry out the deserved punishment.
The next day, as she was entering the chapel, Faustina again heard this interior voice instructing her how to recite the prayer that our Lord called "the Chaplet". This time after have mercy on us were added the words and on the whole world. From that time on, Faustina recited this form of the prayer almost constantly, offering it especially for the dying.
In subsequent revelations, the Lord made it clear that the Chaplet was not just for her, but for the whole world. He also attached extraordinary promises to its recitation:
"Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you. Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. When they say the Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. 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 to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy. Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if it is compatible with My will".
The Chaplet is prayed on ordinary rosary beads. It is an intercessory prayer that extends the offering of the Eucharist, so it is especially appropriate after receiving Holy Communion. It can be said at any time, but it is even more appropriate when said during the three o'clock hour, "The Hour of Great Mercy" when Our Lord died on the Cross in reparation for our sins. The Chaplet can also be sung, and is especially uplifting when sang by a group of people.
We encourage everyone to take advantage of the great graces available in the Chaplet. Many parishes are beginning Chaplets in the Western Massachusetts area, and we will strive to keep an updated schedule of all the area Chaplets as they become available.
I would like to thank Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, Vinny Flynn and Robert Stackpole for their handbook on Divine Mercy, from which much of this material has come. The diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska is available through Marian Press and can be purchased at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge Mass.