The Role of the Divine Mercy Devotion in the Future of the Catholic Church by Fr. John Harris
Tired of being a Catholic
An elderly lady came to me recently and said she was “tired of being a Catholic”. She was tired of fighting with her children and grandchildren for not attending Sunday Mass or not practicing their religion. She was also fed up with everything that was going on inside the Church. She said, “Everyone seems to be fighting over something”. She said she hated putting on the television and watching the news because there was always something on against the Catholic Church and at this stage in her life, she didn’t know who or what to believe.
As the conversation went on, it became clear that she was a sound spiritual woman for whom God was very real. She attended Holy Mass daily and regularly prayed holy hours. Her Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet were fixed points in her daily prayers. One thing was certain. She was not tired of praying or attending the sacraments. Her faith in God was still very strong.
Not the Only One
As I listened to her, she made an awful lot of sense. I am sure she is not alone in feeling this way. It is hard to remain faithful and practicing your religion when all around you there seems to be so much anger, confusion and division.
Revolt against the Catholic Church
Pope Benedict XVI seems to be in agreement with this woman. On Holy Thursday 2012 he spoke about the priests who are advocating for open revolt within the Church. During his homily, he spoke about the moment of the institution of the priesthood by Jesus on the first Holy Thursday. Then the Holy Father said, “Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church?
We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Catholic Church and that they are convinced that the slow pace of the institution has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date.
But is disobedience the way to affect these changes? Do we sense here our timeless bond with Christ, which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Catholic Church in accordance with one’s own personal preferences, ideas or social trends?”
God Speaks to Us
As if to confirm this point to me, I was recently watching the Papal Nuncio celebrate Holy Mass on RTE. In his homily, he also voiced his concern. He said, “We too, as Catholics, in our own day, have to resist the dis-unifying forces that are around us. It is not by chance that the original Greek word in the Gospels for the Evil One is “diabolos” which quite literally means “the one who separates and divides”. It is he who wants to separate us from Christ and separate us from our brothers and sisters in Christ.” So what are we to do? How are we to remain faithful to Christ and His Church?
The Revelation of the Divine Mercy Devotion
Then I began to think about St. Faustina and the timing of her visions. The revelation of the Devotion to Divine Mercy was made to St. Faustina during the period between the two great World Wars. It was as if Our Blessed Lord was preparing us for even worse atrocities to come. Never before in the history of mankind have so many people been so systematically killed by armies and governments. It was a world without the inspiration of God’s love and mercy. It was as if the Lord was telling the world, through the Catholic Church, that the only hope for mankind is to turn with trust to His loving mercy.
Love Always Triumphs over Evil
In the face of modern conflicts, hatreds, divisions and cruelty, the human family must turn once again with trust to Christ and have faith in the ultimate triumph of His loving mercy. The only answer to man’s inhumanity to man is God’s loving forgiveness and healing. When faced with evil, we are asked to turn to Christ and trust in Him. This is true for all crises in our lives, however big or small they may be.
In all situations of uncertainty and anguish, the message of the Divine Mercy Devotion is to turn with trust to Jesus and to pray for mercy for the whole world. St. Faustina reminds us that it is only the mercy of Jesus and by trusting in Him that there can be any hope for renewal, peace and unity.
In the Face of Fear, We Must Trust in Jesus
This is also true for the situation which this elderly lady finds herself and also many of us in the Church find ourselves today. In the face of such disunity and division, we must not take our eyes from Christ. This is not to bury our heads in the sand and pretend all the terrible things that took place didn’t happen or to deny that people do, at times, have legitimate concerns and disagreements. But, what is important to have the wisdom to know that when we take our eyes off Jesus, we are going in the wrong direction.
And the Whole World
Prayerful recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet lifts our hearts to God and asks, through the merits of Christ’s passion and death, that our broken world may come to know His peace and love. We should pray to Jesus, who formed the Church from the blood and water which gushed forth from His opened side, to bring true healing and renewed zeal to His Catholic Church.
The International Eucharistic Congress
The motto of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin made this same point. It was, “The Eucharist: Communion with Christ and with one another”. Our unity in the Catholic Church is not built upon everyone getting along, but on the fact that we are united with Jesus. We look to Jesus to keep us all together. When we stop seeking this union through prayer and the sacraments, we end up in the sad place we are today.
My Advice to the Elderly Woman
At the end of our conversation, I advised the elderly lady that there were two things necessary for her. The first is that she must continue on her path to true holiness. The only true way the Church is renewed is by the holiness of its members, which means people giving themselves to Jesus in total trust. Secondly, when listening to the various opinions on the radio or television, I advised her to ask Heaven this question: Which of these opinions will help me in my search for true holiness? The more of us that live the Divine Mercy Devotion message to trust in Jesus the more the Church will be purified and renewed.
Divine Mercy Devotion and the Future of the Catholic Church
It is not an accident that the Divine Mercy Devotion has come to prominence within the Catholic Church during what is probably the most difficult period of the Churches history. When we read the Diary of St. Faustina and learn about her life and the various aspects of the devotion, it brings us back to union with God again. But more importantly, when we receive deeply personal graces and blessings and experience the power of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in a way that is genuinely special to us, it confirms that this devotion is authentic and that God genuinely wants us to have a trusting and lasting faith in this devotion.
The more people who experience the power of the Divine Mercy Devotion, the stronger the devotion becomes, and the more loving peoples hearts grow again. Even though, like the elderly lady, our faith is challenged at the moment, God has not left us alone. He has given us a devotion which has no equivalent in the history of the Catholic Church. The Devotion to Divine Mercy will cleanse the Church and renew the faithful in the love and appreciation of God’s love for every single person.