Date: April 9, 2021
By: Michelle W.
Divine Mercy Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter) is easily one of my favorite Feast Days throughout the liturgical year; and Saint Faustina (who helped to establish this Feast) happens to be one of my favorite Saints too!
Upon reflecting on why this devotion and Saint became so special to me I was instantly brought back to my high school years when I would attend the Ephphatha House Retreat Centre (now Mt. Carmel Spirituality Centre) near Stoney Plain, AB. It was at this beautiful and quiet place where I was transformed by the gift of St. Faustina’s great message to the world that centred around the mystery of God’s mercy for every human being, even the greatest sinner.
I would arrive with my parents a few days before the Feast of Divine Mercy and settle into our simple cabin nestled between the trees and rolling hills of Parkland County. I did not realize then but looking back I was truly blessed to participate in a still and silent time away from the noise of my young adult life of school, a part time job, and friends. It leads me to remember the time St. Faustina, then named Helena Kowalska, was a teenager in the early 1920’s who attended a dance with her sister and experienced a vision of the suffering Christ. It was at that moment that she knew she could not put off Jesus’ calling to a deeper, more intimate relationship through religious life any longer. In similar ways I was like the young and sensitive Helena, who loved prayer and was diligent with work, but easily distracted by earthly pursuits! Throughout my adolescence and teenage years Jesus gently drew me near and slowly revealed to me His most tender and merciful heart.
The beautiful weekend away was spent preparing for the Feast of Divine Mercy. During this Feast extraordinary graces are given to those who receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Holy Communion on this day. I can recall walking the lakeside pathways from our little cabin to the humble Ephphatha chapel where retreatants would gather at 3:00 pm (typically called the Hour of Mercy) and sing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This was part of the Novena prayers that Jesus requested St. Faustina to recite prior to the feast day, asking her on each of the nine days to dedicate the prayers to a different group of souls He wishes to pour His graces upon. Throughout my time there I was often moved to see the long lines of people from all walks of life stand patiently waiting for their turn in the confessional. How inspiring it was to witness their longing to receive forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation with God. Something I too desired!
Sitting from my pew I would gaze above the tabernacle at a simple stained-glass window and venerate the image of Divine Mercy. This was the very image in which Christ instructed St. Faustina to have paint during a vision in February 1931. The pattern presents Jesus in a white robe bearing the marks of crucifixion on His hands and feet. He explained to her that the pale rays that radiate from his heart represents the Water which makes souls righteous, and the red rays represents the Blood which is the life of souls. In other words, they signify the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist in which the graces of Divine Mercy are obtained. Below the image of Jesus is a signature adorned with the words ‘Jesus, I Trust in You.’
This short and sweet prayer became my personal chorus that I would find myself repeating throughout all the stages and years of my life up until this very day as a wife and mother. It does not mean that I am ever free from worry, weaknesses, and despairing thoughts. However, believing in these very words brings me to a place of humility where I recognize how small I am on my own and where God is eagerly waiting to pour forth His love and mercy upon me. When I repeat these words I suddenly forget about 'me' and turn to face Jesus. How can I not trust Him who gave His very life for me through all He suffered? Can you too completely trust in Him without holding back? He waits moment by moment to grant us immeasurable graces if we approach His heart of mercy with trust.
*To learn more about St. Faustina, The Divine Mercy Devotion, Message, and Feast Day please go to: https://www.thedivinemercy.org/message