Sunday, April 11, 2010

Indulge in some Divine Mercy

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast I look forward to every year.  It is a fairly recent addition to the Church calendar, and is still unfamiliar to many. 

I first came across the Divine Mercy image (one version, at left) years ago while waiting in line for Confession in a new parish.  I studied the painting, thinking to myself, "Now THAT is a painting of Jesus that I could hang in my living room!"  I liked the kind, serene expression on His face, and I was fascinated by the two rays of light emanating from His heart.  I thought perhaps it was a new version of the Sacred Heart devotion.

It would be another two years before I discovered the devotion associated with the painting.  During the homily that day, Father K stated that we were celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday.  (Huh?)  I was a cradle Catholic and attended Catholic school until college.  I had never heard of such a feast.  I sat up straighter, eager to hear more.  Fr. K continued his explanation, mentioning St. Faustina (who?) and that there was a plenary indulgence (what?) associated with the feast.  He explained that a plenary indulgence takes away all sin as well as all the punishment due to sin.  (Really!)  Since the detailed explanation of plenary indulgences is a rather technical, I'll let the folks at EWTN in the link above explain it to you. 

Since one of the requirements for a plenary indulgence is to go to Confession, I hung around after Mass, hoping for a chance to ask Fr. K to hear mine.  In fact, after that homily, I expected everyone to line up and beg him to open the Confessional immediately. Who could turn down such an opportunity?  The congregation, apparently unmoved by the homily, went on their way; and I lost the courage to ask Fr. K for an off-hours Confession.  I guess I would have to wait for next year for that plenary indulgence... I went home and marked my calendar for Divine Mercy Sunday the following year. 

In the interim, I bought a book on St. Faustina and learned more about the Divine Mercy devotion.  I started praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which uses the Rosary beads to mark the prayers imploring Jesus to convert sinners.  I taught my children the simple "Three O'Clock Prayer" that is especially powerful when prayed between the hours of 3:00 and 4:00 pm, the "Hour of Divine Mercy".

I also learned that year that I need not wait until the next Divine Mercy Sunday to gain a plenary indulgence.  A friend gave me a copy of a wonderful little book called The Pieta Prayer Book.  It includes a variety of beautiful prayers whose devout recitation can give plenary or partial indulgences.

You can gain indulgences by praying the Rosary.  Learn more at the website for the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.  While you're there, perhaps you'll be inspired to join this organization, which traces its roots to St. Dominic, the "Rosary Saint".

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