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Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy: A Guide From Genesis To Benedict XVI takes you on a tour of Divine Mercy throughout salvation history, spanning the Old and New Testaments, in the writings of the Church's great theologians, and in the lives and writings of the saints down through the ages. Revised edition.

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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Oct 1, 2008)
Every once in a while someone sends me a question that I file away because I know it is so big and so important that I cannot tackle it right away. Well, a few months ago, a fellow named Ted sent me the following question that I just knew I would have to deal with eventually. After all, this website is an apostolate of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, and the Marians have a special calling, as part of their charism, to spread the message of the merciful love of God. It was only a matter of time, therefore, before one of my readers "put two and two together," as the saying goes, and asked me this question:

Some of my friends are really into Divine Mercy, but others prefer to focus on devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I know there is no conflict between Mary and Divine Mercy; I'm sure she is in favor of it just as much as her Son. But does the connection run deeper than that? I mean, we do call her "Mother of Mercy" for some reason, right? Could you explain that to me?



Well, Ted, I will certainly try. But there is so much to say here precisely because the connection between Mary and Divine Mercy runs so deep that you will have to pardon me if I take about four instalments to say it all!

When you say that we call her "Mother of Mercy," I presume you are referring to the traditional prayer:

Hail Holy Queen,
Mother of Mercy,
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope ...



For centuries, Christians all over the world have cried out to the Blessed Virgin Mary with these words, placing themselves under her tender care as "Mother of Mercy." We hear a clear echo of this cry in the life of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, especially in that beautiful and tender passage in her diary where Mary encourages us all to approach her as a merciful mother:

Once, the confessor told me to pray for his intention, and I began a novena to the Mother of God. This novena consisted in the prayer "Hail, Holy Queen" recited nine times. Toward the end of the novena I saw the Mother of God with the Infant Jesus in her arms. ... I could not stop wondering at His beauty. ... I heard a few of the words that the Mother of God spoke. ... The words were: "I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy, and your Mother" (Diary of St. Faustina,330).



This calls to mind Our Lady's words to St. Brigid of Sweden (Rev. 1.6, c.10): " I am the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of Mercy; I am the joy of the just, and the door through which sinners are brought to God." Mary's words here also remind us of what she said to St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe:

Am I not here, I who am your Mother ? Are you not under my shadow and protection ? Am I not the source of your joy ? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms ? Is there anything else that you need?



Mary is truly our Mother of tender compassion, our "Mother of Mercy." If we look at the life and writings of St. Maria Faustina, we can find at least four ways in which Mary can be truly called the merciful Mother of Christians, and of every soul searching for God.

I.

First of all, Mary is Mother of Mercy because, through her Immaculate Conception, God fashioned her to be the created masterpiece of his mercy in the world.

After all, what is Divine Mercy? It is God's undeserved, unmerited, often even unsought for divine grace — the grace that our compassionate God pours out upon us to help us overcome our miseries and meet our true needs. Theologians call one form of that mercy God's "prevenient" grace, from the Latin prae-venire, which means "to come before." In other words, even before we ask for it, and quite apart from the fact that we do not deserve it, and have not earned it in the least, God graciously takes the initiative and comes to our aid. Prevenient grace is this completely free gift of God's mercy. We see a faint reflection of it in a parent's love for a child. A child is loved by its parents not because the child has "earned" it, or deserved it, or even asked for it in any way. Rather, the parent's love comes right from the start, a completely free gift, just because the child is the parent's own child. That is human mercy "par excellence," and it is a mirror image of the divine.

When you think about it, that is exactly what is on display in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Immaculate Conception is really the supreme manifestation of God's prevenient, unmerited mercy. After all, Mary did not "merit" her Immaculate Conception. Nor could she ask for it. It was something done in her and for her by the Father of Mercy, and solely on the basis of the foreseen merits of His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. As Pope John Paul II wrote in His encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), section 9: "Mary is the one who experienced mercy in an exceptional way — as no one else."

We see this reflected in the Bible in the Gospel according to St. Luke, where the angel Gabriel addressed Mary with the words, "Hail, full of grace." The Greek word used here is kecharitomene, which means, "graced one," or in this context, "transformed by grace." God's transforming grace cannot be just some external blessing. It must be the gift of His grace that fills a soul to overflowing. What a tremendous, prevenient, free gift — this grace overflowing in Mary's soul from the very moment of her conception! And this special grace is the reason why the angel Gabriel could go on to say to Mary: "Fear not, Mary, for you have found favor with God." She found divine favor not because of her merits or deserving, but because of God's special grace within her. Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, relying on the work of the French theologian M.D. Philippe, once explained the matter this way:

The mystery of the Immaculate Conception ... is the expression of the first act of the heavenly Father's mercy in Mary's regard — an act of absolute gratuity. This is why we can see in it the Father's mercy in its pure state. The first act is the Father's prevenient mercy for this very tiny child that is to be born.



In fact, we can go further and say that the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was the great divine act of grace that lay at the foundation of God's whole work of salvation through Christ. The Father of Mercy took the initiative with sinful mankind, fashioning Mary's soul from the moment of conception, preserving it from the effects of original sin, making her soul the very masterpiece of His mercy, and it was this unique and extraordinary foundation of grace in Mary's soul that enabled her, years later, to respond to the angel Gabriel's message with total, trustful surrender: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to Thy word." By God's prevenient grace, therefore, she was made the masterpiece of the Father's mercy, and in the fullness of time, this special grace within her enabled her to receive our Savour into the world. In short, the whole world's salvation began with a foundational act of unmerited, unprompted, freely given Divine Mercy: That act of mercy was Mary's Immaculate Conception.

Is it any wonder, then, that our Lord called the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception to be not only the custodians of the U.S. National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass., and the sponsors of the work of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, but also to be the official translators of St. Faustina's Diary into English and Spanish — and indeed, the first agent of the worldwide spread of The Divine Mercy message and devotion? The theological connection between The Divine Mercy and the Immaculate Conception is just too deep and profound for all of this to be an historical accident.

Also, we should not be surprised to find that St. Maria Faustina, the great apostle of Divine Mercy, had a special devotion to our Lady's Immaculate Conception. Although she usually referred to Mary as "the Most Holy Mother," or simply as "Mother of God," another form of address for Mary that Faustina cherished was simply: "The Immaculate Mother." Look at what St. Faustina wrote in Diary entries 1412 and 1413:

It is with great zeal that I have prepared for the celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. I have made an extra effort to keep recollected in spirit, and have meditated on that unique privilege of our Lady. And thus my heart was completely drowned in her, thanking God for having accorded this great privilege to Mary.

I prepared not only by means of the novena said in common by the whole community, but I also made a personal effort to salute her a thousand times each day, saying a thousand "Hail Marys" for nine days in her praise....Although I must admit that such a matter requires a good deal of attention and effort, nothing is too much when it comes to honoring the Immaculate Virgin.



In short, the first reason we can rightfully call Mary our "Mother of Mercy" is that by God's special, prevenient grace, He created her soul to be the masterpiece of His Mercy in the world, and this special gift of grace within her was the foundation of His whole work of mercy in the world through Christ. Everything about Mary was fashioned by Divine Mercy and for the work of Divine Mercy. No other creature, therefore, so completely manifests God's mercy as does Mary Immaculate.

Three more reasons for rejoicing in Mary as "Mother of Mercy" are on the way in the next three instalments of this column. Read part 2 here.

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at questions@thedivinemercy.org.

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sam wright — Oct 1, 2008 - 9:56 EDT

i like this question and answer. i was at a conference a few weeks ago in fresno, california where fr. donald calloway was speaking and i bought his book on Mary and St. Faustina. I have not finishd it yet, but it has a lot on this kind of topic, and i'm really enjoying it.

Marie-Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy — Oct 1, 2008 - 13:26 EDT

Excellent article Robert-really shows why we absolutely include Our Lady in our lives. I say we never can get enough of Our Lady to bring us closer to Jesus.

A servant of Jesus and Mary — Oct 2, 2008 - 22:30 EDT

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy be our comfort be our joy. Take us to your son who is Divine Mercy Himself, Amen.

Mother of Mercy, Mother of Sorrows — Aug 5, 2009 - 10:51 EDT

In preparing a (presentation) that is a talk on Mary, Queen of Mercy I came accross David Stackpole's (Must read article) on Mary...our Mother of Mercy. What a delight to read David's insights into Mary and her Son Jesus; uniting them both to Divine Mercy through St Faustina's message from Jesus...found in her Diary, "Divine Mercy in My Soul." David, thank you and the Marian's for mentoring me in Divine Mercy and for continuing to be s source of spiritual education to the whole world. God bless, Jim Miller

Martin — May 18, 2010 - 12:07 EDT

The Bible has sufficient record of Jesus' prayer to the Father as well as prayers by the apostles for the christian churches. None of these prayers mention the need to call on Mary or the saints in heaven to pray for us for mercy and blessing. So why make life complicated? Why not pray to God directly? Is not that what Jesus taught us in The Lord's Prayer?

Deacon Jim — May 19, 2010 - 21:26 EDT

Dear Martin,
You certainly can and should pray to God directly. But the saints are our friends in heaven who are very much alive and hear us when we speak to them. Just as we might ask a friend here on earth to pray for us, so too we can ask our friends in heaven to pray for us. And just as our friends here on earth who love us are happy to pray for us, so too our friends in heaven who love us even more (more perfectly because they are in heaven) are, likewise, happy to pray for us.

NeeNeeK1 — Jul 25, 2010 - 14:47 EDT

FYI--St. Faustina also mentions the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy (449) on August 5.

Steve — Apr 18, 2013 - 3:10 EDT

Here is a beautiful story about Our Lady of Mercy (taken from ‘The Glories of Mary’ by St. Alphonsus Liguori, with Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat):

+ This example is not recorded in any book, but a priest, a companion of mine, related it to me, as having happened to himself. Whilst this priest was hearing confessions in a certain church (for sufficient reasons he did not mention the place where this occurred, although the penitent gave him leave to publish the fact), a youth stood before him, who appeared to wish and not to wish to come to confession. The Father, after looking at him several times, at length called him, and asked him if he wished to make his confession. He answered, yes; but as he required a long time for it, the confessor took him into a retired room. There the penitent began by telling him that he was a foreigner, and of noble birth, but he could not believe that it was possible for God to pardon him after the life he had led. Besides innumerable other sins he had committed of impurity, homicide, etc., he said, that being entirely in despair of salvation, he had set about committing sins, not so much for his own gratification, as to defy God, and manifest the hatred he bore him. He said, that among other things, he had with him a crucifix, which he had beaten out of contempt. He said that just before, on that very morning, he had made a sacrilegious communion, and for what object? That he might put under his feet the consecrated wafer. And that, in fact, he had actually received, and was about to put in execution this horrible intention, but was prevented by the people who observed him. He then consigned to the confess or the consecrated host, wrapped in a paper, and told him that as he was passing by that church he had a great desire to enter. He could not resist this desire, and had entered. That then he felt great remorse of conscience, together with a certain confused and irresolute desire to make his confession. For this reason he had placed himself before the confessional, but while standing there he felt so confused and timid, that he wished to go away, but it seemed as if someone had retained him by force: “Until,” he said, “you, Father, called me; and now I find myself here; I find myself making my confession; but I know not how to do it.” The Father then asked him if he had practised any act of devotion during that time; meaning towards the most holy Mary; for such sudden conversions only come through the powerful hands of the Virgin. “None, Father; what devotion could I offer,” answered the youth, when I believed myself lost?” “But try to remember more carefully,” replied the Father. “Father, nothing.” But accidentally putting his hand to his breast, he remembered that he wore the Scapular of the Seven Dolors of Mary: “Maria addolorata.” “Ah, my son,” said the confessor to him, “do you not see that our blessed Lady has bestowed this grace upon you? And know,” he added, “that this church is a church of our blessed Lady.” Hearing this, the youth was moved to contrition, and began to weep. He confessed his sins, and his compunction increased to such a degree that, bursting into tears, he fell, overcome with grief, as it seemed, at the feet of the Father, who, having restored him by a cordial, finally finished hearing his confession, and absolved him with the greatest consolation, as he was entirely contrite and resolved to amend his life. The Father sent him back to his own country after having obtained from him full liberty to preach and publish everywhere the great mercy exercised by Mary towards him.

Steve — Apr 18, 2013 - 3:14 EDT

... And two more beautiful stories from St. Alphonsus (I hope this is not considered spam). They are truly beautiful and consoling words.

+++ When St. Francis Borgia was in Rome, an ecclesiastic came to speak with him; but the saint being much occupied, sent Father Acosta to him. The ecclesiastic said to him: “Father, I am a priest and a preacher, but I live in sin, and distrust the divine mercy. After preaching a sermon one day against the obstinate, who afterwards despair of pardon, a person came to me to make his confession, who narrated to me all my sins, and at length told me that he despaired of the divine mercy. In order to do my duty, I told him that he must change his life, and trust in God; then that penitent rose to his feet and reproached me, saying: And you, who preach thus to others, why do you not amend, and why do you distrust ? Know, said he, that I am an angel come to your aid; amend and you will be pardoned. And when he had said this he disappeared. I abstained for several days from my sinful practices, but when temptation came I again returned to my sins. On another day, as I was celebrating Mass, Jesus Christ sensibly spoke to me from the host, and said: Why dost thou thus maltreat me, when I treat thee so well? After this I resolved to amend, but at the next temptation fell again into sin. A few hours ago, a youth came to me in my apartment, and drew from under his mantle a chalice, and from this a consecrated host, saying: Do you know this Lord whom I hold in my hand? Do you remember how many favours he has done you? Now behold the punishment of your ingratitude, and saying this he drew a sword to kill me. I then cried: For the love of Mary do not kill me, for I will indeed amend. And then he said: This was the only thing that could save you: make a good use of this grace, for this is the last mercy for you. When he had said this he left me, and I came immediately here, praying you to receive me among you.” Father Acosta consoled him, and the priest, by the advice also of St. Francis, entered another order of strict observance, where he persevered in holiness till his death.

+++ A certain nobleman who was despairing of his eternal salvation on account of his sins, was encouraged by a religious to have recourse to the most holy Virgin, by visiting her sacred image which was in a certain church. The nobleman went to the church, and on seeing the figure of Mary he felt himself, as it were, invited by her to cast himself at her feet and trust. He hastens to do so, kisses her feet, and Mary, from the statue, extended her hand for him to kiss, and on it he saw these words written: “I will deliver thee from them that afflict thee.” As if she had said to him: My son, do not despair, for 1 will deliver thee from thy sins, and from the fears that oppress thee. It is related that on reading these sweet words, that sinner felt such sorrow for his sins, and conceived such a love for God, and for his sweet mother that he died there at the feet of Mary. Oh, how many obstinate sinners does this magnet of hearts draw daily to God, as she herself said to St. Bridget: “As the magnet attracts to itself iron, thus I draw to myself the most obdurate hearts, that I may reconcile them to God.”

Cassandra Eames — Sep 7, 2013 - 2:10 EDT

I believe mother mary and Jesus christ walk as man in this world with thier spirits with us all just trying to save the world and there people,i think we should follow the bibles main story to not sin and not be tempted and deffinatly to pray and mean what yoou say and change your bad ways and take up good things and not bad habbits that kill us like dinking smoking, sugar artificial food, god gave us all we need and that is plantation, and we should not want possesions for that cannot last forgive only the holy spirit lasts forever and we should help spread the word of god without shame because mother mary has a greater plan and place for us in heaven where there is eternal life,without pain or suffering,true magic and miracles.

Jim Martinez — Nov 20, 2013 - 23:00 EST

Why is Our Blessed Mother called the Mother of Mercy? I believe I read it in a booklet for the Luminous Mysteries Jesus' earthly ministry is the "Ministry of Mercy" and she is the Mother of that mercy. This occurred to me during my morning rosary.


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