Divine Mercy Sunday is a Roman Catholic solemnity celebrated on the Sunday after Easter, the Octave of Easter. It is originally based on the Catholic devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus, and is associated with special promises from Jesus and indulgences issued by the Church.
This feast of Divine Mercy, as recorded in the diary of Saint Faustina, receives from Jesus himself the biggest promises of Grace related to the Devotion of Divine Mercy. In specific Jesus states that the soul that goes to Sacramental Confession (the confession may take place some days before), and receives Holy Eucharistic Communion on that day, shall obtain the total forgiveness of all sins and punishment. Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church grants a plenary indulgence (observing the usual rules) with the recitation of some simple prayers.
Devotion to the Divine Mercy
Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun reported visions and visitations from Jesus and conversations with Him. He asked her to paint the vision of his Merciful Divinity being poured from his sacred heart and specifically asked for a feast of Divine Mercy to be established on the first Sunday after Easter so mankind would take refuge in Him:
“I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it.” (Jesus’ words, Diary 341)
“Sunday, April 28, 1935. Low Sunday; that is, the Feast of The Divine Mercy, the conclusion of the Jubilee of Redemption. When we went to take part in the celebrations, my heart leapt with joy that the two solemnities were so closely united.” (Faustina’s words, Diary 420)
“This Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of my tender mercies. Every soul believing and trusting in My mercy will obtain it.” (Jesus’ words, Diary 420)
“Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it.” (Diary 742)
In several entries in her diary, Faustina recorded promises of Grace and Mercy associated to the Feast of Divine Mercy on Mercy Sunday. Jesus Stated:
“The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain the complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.”(Diary 699)
“I want to grant a complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My Mercy.”(Diary 1109)
On March 23, 1937, Faustina wrote in her diary (Notebook III, item 1044) that she had a vision that the feast of Divine Mercy would be celebrated in her local chapel, and would be attended by large crowds, and that the same celebration would be held in Rome attended by the Pope. She wrote: “The crowd was so enormous that the eye could not take it all in. Everyone was participating in the celebrations.“
Divine Mercy Sunday is also the day after the culmination of the novena of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Faustina wrote Jesus instructed her that the Feast of Mercy (the Sunday after Easter) be preceded by a Divine Mercy Novena which would begin on Good Friday.
The first Mass during which the Divine Mercy image was displayed was on April 28, 1935, the first Sunday after Easter (the Feast of Divine Mercy) and was attended by Sr. Faustina. (Diary of St. Faustina, item 420). April 28, 1935 was also the celebration of the end of the Jubilee of the Redemption by Pope Pius XI. Father Michael Sopocko (Faustina’s confessor) celebrated the Mass that Sunday and obtained permission to place the image within the Gate of Dawn church in Vilnius during the Mass.
The devotion was actively promoted by Pope John Paul II who, On 30 April 2000, canonized Faustina Kowalska, and officially designated the Sunday after Easter as the Sunday of the Divine Mercy (Dominica II Paschae seu de divina misericordia) in the General Roman Calendar. A year after establishing Divine Mercy Sunday, on April 22, 2001 Pope John Paul II re-emphasized its message in the resurrection context of Easter:
Jesus said to Sr Faustina one day: “Humanity will never find peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy”. Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity.
The devotion to Divine Mercy Sunday grew rapidly after its designation by Pope John Paul II and is now widely celebrated by Catholics. The Divine Mercy image is often carried in processions on Divine Mercy Sunday, and is placed in a location in the church so that it can be venerated by those who attended the Mass.
The liturgical celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday reflects the devotional elements of Divine Mercy – the first prayer of that Mass beginning with:
“Heavenly Father and God of Mercy, We no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for He is alive and has become the Lord of Life”.
This opening prayer refers to Divine Mercy as the key element in the plan of God for salvation and emphasizes the belief that it was through mercy that God gave his only son for the redemption of mankind, after the fall of Adam.
John Paul II, who died in April 2005 on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, was himself beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1, 2011, by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.
In June 2002 John Paul II granted indulgences to Catholics who recite specific prayers on that day, which were then formally decreed by the Apostolic Penitentiary. The priests are also ordered in that day to lead the prayers in honor of Divine Mercy, inform the parishioners about the Divine Mercy, and hear confessions.
This Plenary Indulgence is obtained by observing the usual dispositions that are on place for the granting of this grace through the Intercession of the Catholic Church, that is: Sacramental Confession (the confession may take place some days before), Holy Eucharistic Communion, to pray for the intentions of the pope (an Our Father and Hail Mary is minimum requirement), when the faithful detached from any sin, even venial, either:
- In any church or chapel take part in the prayers and devotions in honor of the Divine Mercy.
- In the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, say an Our Father and Creed.
In both cases adding a devout prayer to the Merciful Lord (i.e. Merciful Jesus, I Trust in you)
Additionally, to the faithful who, for a justified reason beyond control, cannot go to a church or chapel, only with the recitation of one Our Father and Creed before a devout image of Jesus, adding “Merciful Jesus, I Trust in you”, they will obtain the plenary indulgence that day with the condition of fulfilling the usual sacramental requirements later.
And even if the above is impossible to do, the Indulgence is granted if with spiritual intention they unite themselves to the ones carrying on the prescribed practices with the intention of fulfilling the requirements as soon as it is possible.