Pope Francis and Divine Mercy

shutterstock_157605887It is not surprising that mainstream and liberal journalist have taken Pope Francis’ comments in a recent wide-ranging interview and predictably twisted them according to their own hopeful agenda. This should, in fact, never surprise us when it comes to the media today.

Amid the constant headlines, talk shows, editorials, spin and sputtering, Pope Francis’ comments have been misinterpreted and overblown. However, when one takes the time to read and reflect on what Pope Francis actually said, we can see that he in no way contradicts Church teachings when it comes to same sex marriage, abortion, or contraception methods.

In fact, he has said, “the teachings of the Church, for that matter is clear, and I am a son of the Church.” While the interviews have created a back and forth between more liberal and conservative thought – I submit to you instead the close association of Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy and the strong ties therein to the Divine Mercy devotion.

The Divine Mercy devotion, which began spreading throughout the world in the 1930’s, stems from a poor and uneducated Polish nun, Sister Maria Faustina, (1905-1938) from Kraków, Poland.  Sister Faustina was considered to have been a mystic and visionary who recorded visions of Jesus and her conversations with him, which she wrote about in her diary, which has since been widely published.  Blessed John Paul II, then Archbishop of Krakow, steered the devotion to Rome for approval in 1978, becoming Pope a few months later.  On the first Sunday after Easter in the year 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Faustina as the first saint of the new millennium and declared that each Sunday following Easter, henceforth, be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.  The pope commented that it was the happiest day of his life.  As he dedicated the Shrine of Divine Mercy, Blessed John Paul said, “Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind”.  As we know, Pope John Paul died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 2005.

If you’ve been following Pope Francis, you no doubt are aware of his strong emphasis on mercy since becoming pope six months ago –not only in his words, but also in his deeds. I’ve been struck at how closely related his accent on mercy aligns directly with the messages of Divine Mercy given to St. Faustina by Christ himself.  During one of his recent homilies, Pope Francis said, “it is not easy to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must!” This reflects directly on the words of Christ regarding his abyss of mercy which he gave to Faustina saying, “The greater the misery of a soul, the greater its right to my mercy; [urge] all souls to trust in the unfathomable abyss of my mercy, because I want to save them all. On the cross, the fountain of My mercy was wide opened by the lance for all souls – no one have I excluded!” (Notebook III item 1182).  As Pope Francis says God’s mercy is indeed an abyss beyond our understanding and it is God’s unfathomable mercy that Pope Francis is trying to reach souls through.   Pope Francis recently said, “I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else.”  Mercy is, after all, about meeting a person where they are at – wounds and all, just as Christ meets us where we are at.

In a church where weekly Mass attendance is at an all-time low in Western Europe and in America, where only four-in-ten attend weekly Mass, it appears Pope Francis has recognized that a merciful hand must instead be extended if there is any hope of reaching fallen away Catholics and beyond. Does this mean to change our moral teachings on issues such as protecting the unborn or opposing same-sex marriage?  Absolutely not, but it does certainly point out the need for a new approach.

Christ calls all of us to be merciful as his Father in heaven is merciful.  In the Diary of St. Maria Faustina, Christ noted, “Let the greatest sinners place their trust in my mercy.  They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy.” (Notebook III, item 1146). Once when St. Faustina asked Jesus, “Tell me, who is the cause of Your sadness?  And Jesus answered, “Chosen souls who do not have My spirit, who live according to the letter [cf. 2 Cor. 3:6] and have placed the letter above My spirit, above the spirit of loveI have founded my whole law on love, and yet I do not see love, even in religious orders.  This is why sadness fills my heart” (Notebook IV, item 1478).

The Pope knows that when others are drawn close to Christ through love and mercy, it leads to conversion.  This is the “context” Pope Francis is talking about. Once we know God’s saving and merciful love in our lives, then we are more willing and able to grasp the Church’s moral teachings since, as Pope Francis said, “ministers of the Church must, above all, be ministers of mercy.”

The primary focus of the Divine Mercy devotion is the merciful love of God and the desire to let that love and mercy flow through one’s own heart towards those who need it most. For as Christ told Faustina, “Write that I am more generous toward sinners than the just. It was for their sake that I came down from heaven; it was for their sake that my Blood was spilled.  Let them not fear to approach Me; they are in most need of my mercy” (Notebook IV, item 1275). Pope Francis clearly recognizes this and is reaching out those of us who are in need of such mercy, for Christ came for souls such as ours.

Therefore, if you wish to have a greater understanding of Pope Francis, take some time to read the Diary of Saint Faustina. In it, you will find the boundless merciful words of Christ that act as a healing balm for our weary and wounded hearts, minds and souls, that of our family members, and the world.  A greater understanding of the Divine Mercy devotion flows into a greater understanding of Pope Francis who is calling all of us to accompany him on the way of mercy.

By no means does this mean we scale back efforts to protect life from conception to natural death, defend our religious freedoms, or endorse same-sex marriage.  What it does mean is that we recognize, as Pope Francis recently said, that “it is a time of mercy” for as Christ asked St. Faustina to record in her diary in 1934, “Before I come as a Just Judge, I am coming first as the King of Mercy” (Notebook 1, item 83).  Therefore, through the Mercy of God, let us live our own lives with similar merciful hearts so that we too may reach others where they are at.

image: Philip Chidell / Shutterstock.com

Judy Keane

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Judy Keane is a Catholic writer and a communications/marketing executive who resides in Phoenix, Arizona. She holds an MBA in International Business and is currently working on her first book.

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  • marie hayes

    thanks for your kind and wise words. this was so much more clear about our Holy Father.

  • Mike D

    Beautiful article!! Thank you for writing it. I think you are right on target! Keep following that road in your heart. It leads right to Jesus! God Bless

  • JP

    Right on..Thanks Judy!

  • Bob

    This coming Divine Mercy Sunday should prove to be very fruitful if we all make known the special plenary indulgence that is available on that day. The Octave Day of Easter, the Feast of Mercy has the potential to get everyone for the Coming of Christ. We must encourage everyone to go to Confession to prepare for this great feast.

  • Bob

    This coming Divine Mercy Sunday should prove to be very fruitful if we all make known the special plenary indulgence that is available on that day. The Octave Day of Easter, the Feast of Mercy has the potential to get everyone ready for the Coming of Christ. We must encourage everyone to go to Confession to prepare for this great feast.

  • Courage2speak

    I pray Pope Francis teaches us what he means and believes, rather than having other people explain what he really meant to say. It reminds me of how Obama had a wealth of people explaining what he “really meant” also. Let the men speak for themselves. They may be saying what they really believe or want you to believe. Some people don’t want to believe they would actually say such things. May God have mercy an all of Obama’s 57 states.
    Jesus Christ says to the sinner in the Bible, “Go and sin no more.” Don’t think it merciful to accept sin. Love the sinner, but heaven won’t be heaven if sin is accepted in.
    John 8:11 “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

  • mally el

    What a moving scene that must have been. People of all kinds with stones of all shapes and sizes in their hands, and ready to throw them at a very frightened woman, an adulterous. Jesus was also there and he saved this woman and yes, he did not condemn her but, with compassion, said: “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
    However, one part of this scene does not get the same attention it deserves. Jesus looked at the stone-carrying mob who had come to condemn this woman for her sin and made them come to grips with the fact that they, too, were sinners. Jesus did not come to condemn but to save, and that should be our mission as his disciples – each in his or her own way.
    This does not mean that there is no condemnation. The spiritual laws have been given to us and if we deliberately ignore or reject them then we condemn ourselves.

  • tj.nelson

    This is excellent – I have picked up on the correlation many times myself. I hope to link to your article soon. I think this is to understand exactly what the Pope is doing and saying. Thanks for articulating it so well.

  • rain tan

    A marxist in a dress…If the pastor does not follow the master then do not follow the pastor

  • mally el

    If? However, when a humble follower of the Lord is on the right path then we should accompany him. This Pope is a wonderful example of how a true believer in the Lord should live – have faith in Jesus, pray often, accept marriage and family as the centre of civilisation of society, reach out to the poor, the disadvantaged and the ostracised.

  • rain tan

    and if I do this and do not believe in the blood of Christ I will still ascend in to heaven? Your pope has spit on the cross

  • pbecke

    It is surely not difficult to see how, from early times, the upper echelons of the Church’s hierarchy assuming the worldly status, pomps and paraphernalia of this World’s princelings, contrary to the Christian’s baptismal vows, might have been prefigured by the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head.

    Nor difficult to conceive that Francis’ invocation of the Divine Mercy to imbue a Church for the Poor and of the Poor, both the economically poor and the poor in spirit, was not prefigured by St Peter’s choice, moved by humility, to be crucified upside down.

    ‘But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’ (Matt 19:30 & also Matt 20:16 & also Mark 10:31).

    ‘Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised …

  • Sonia

    God help us. Pope Francis and all the world will need all of God’s Divine Mercy to overcome the actual misleading statements of Pope Francis, which are scandalous and perilous to souls, without any media spin being applied. How on earth could anyone justify the various disturbing comments he has made in several interviews. Anyone who has experienced the illumination of conscience cannot sit by silently while he says many wrongful things which mislead about sin and the serious consequences of sin for the soul of the sinner. The pain and anguish that are experienced from this grace leave one permanently changed, and unable to sit quietly by while he speaks misleadingly on subjects that affect the salvation of souls. God help us all.

  • rosebud

    “Once we “KNOW” God’s saving & merciful love in our lives, then we are more willing & able to grasp the Church’s moral teachings…” Brilliant Sister ! I think it was Pope Pious X that said; “People sin more from lack of will than from lack of understanding.” This alludes to one of my favorite scriptures; “…this is the covenant I will make… I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts…” Jer 31: 33. I don’t think anyone will disagree that the “New Covenant ” spoken of here is what St. Faustina, Our Holy Father & you are trying to highlight. It thrills me to the core, that I can get so much encouragement & expectant Hope when my Heart unites with others who “Get it “.

  • chaco

    I confess; I’ve had it pretty easy as far as the “Creature Comfort Perks” of this world go. Perhaps it’s just my lower nature trying to rationalize being seduced by worldly attatchments, but I’ve found a scripture that seems to allow for some appreciation of so-called economic advantages; Prov. 30:8-9; “…give me neither poverty nor riches…” It indicates to me that I should strive for some assurance of sustenance but be wary of equating it with True fulfillment, as Jesus warns in Mt. 6: 24.

  • pbecke

    That makes perfect sense to me. Indeed, it seems from the Gospels that God is more tolerant of personal riches than that. Otherwise, what would become of Joesph of Arimathea, and other rich people who are not total idolators of money, but give of themselves and of their wealth to those in need, prompted by supernatural grace, compassion?

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