Devotion of Divine Mercy
From God, the Imagination, or the Devil?
by Kasey Moerbeek
This last Pentecost my husband and I were at a BBQ with fellow traditional Catholics and, come to find out, some tended to be more “anti-anything-new” and who viewed holiness as being in direct relation to how against “anything-new” they were. While I hate the accusation toward us trads that we're being “pharisees”, many of us do come across that way. We love to imitate St. Paul when he said “But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (1) but ignore that the same Holy Ghost said through him “And if I should prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (2) We emphasize the importance of reverence at the Sacrifice of the Mass, but gossip about our “ignorant” neighbors. We use our opportunities to pray for the Pope and our bishops as a gossip/condemnation-fest, much like the story of the Pharisee and publican. We may be more pure in doctrine than many bishops, but our pride and lack of true charity makes us, to use the word of God Himself, nothing. On judgment day it will not matter how traditional and faithful we were if we were full of pride and hate for the fathers (Pope and bishops) that God gave us, regardless of their faithfulness.
One view that expressed was an intense hatred and disgust for the Divine Mercy devotions of St. Faustina, even though none of these people had read more than a few select verses from her Diary. They were doing what many anti-Catholic Protestants do: rely on hearsay, ignore the context of the actual source, and guilt by association. This prompted me to write a defense of the devotion against those who claim it is false. Part 1 is going to deal with the objections raised by Fr. Peter Scott, SSPX.
Fr. Scott has a lengthy attack on the Divine Mercy devotion published online. In this attack, he states that the devotions was “condemned by the Holy Office.” (3) Maybe I'm dense, but why does it matter if the Holy Office condemned it when that same Holy Office approved it after investigation? Yes, her Diary was put on the Catholic No-No Reading List, but the reasons have been clarified since: bad translations and doctrinal misunderstandings, both of which have since been corrected and understood. How do we know? Cardinal Ottaviani – a Cardinal instrumental in getting the Diary on the No-No List – encouraged the reversal in 1965 (4). It would be like attacking the devotion to Our Lady of Guadaluple because Bishop Zumarraga was at first skeptical, ignoring the fact that he later endorsed it enthusiastically.
Fr. Scott is of the opinion that the Diary was condemned because of the alleged over-emphasis on “God's mercy as to exclude His justice.” This seems to be the opinion – unfounded, might I add - of those who have not read the Diary (or only parts) and rely on hearsay. Is mercy emphasized? Well, the Diary is about God's mercy, and it's been my understanding that God is not scatter-brained, so yes, the Diary focuses on mercy. This particular argument – mercy with no justice - against her writings reveals that one needs to drop the theology books and pick up a dictionary. Mercy is desired when one wishes to avoid a just punishment. To request mercy from God is to admit that one has messed up badly and that one cannot bear the punishment rightfully due. This message is perfectly in line with the Christ of the Scriptures Who said to those He called hypocrites and vipers:
“Go then and learn what this means, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice.' For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.” (5)
“Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy.” (6) I can hear the argument against this already: then was the time of mercy, now is the time of justice. Really? Have you been cast into Hell yet? As you're reading this now, it would seem that God has given you another day to amend your life and grow in perfection, despite your faults and previous (and, God forbid, current) offenses. That is mercy, not justice.
Father Scott: "The true image of God’s mercy is the Sacred Heart of Jesus[...] The Sacred Heart calls for a devotion of reparation, as the popes have always requested. However, this is not the case with the Divine Mercy devotion."
It seems Father is trying to say that there is only one image of God's mercy, and that image is the Sacred Heart. Is not the Crucifixion an image of God's mercy? The Sacred Heart is a devotional image, not a dogma of the Faith. It is a devotional image to convey the love of Christ for humanity. The Divine Mercy is a devotional image to convey the mercy of Christ for sinners. “The [Divine Mercy] image has no heart” says Fr. Scott. As much as I enjoy (to my shame) being the bearer of the obvious, I feel extra guilty when it's with a priest. The crucifix has no exposed Heart. Images of the Child Jesus do not have His exposed Heart, yet who loves and forgives more easily than a child? Did Christ come as the Sacred Heart when appearing during the miracle of the sun at Fatima? The Sacred Heart is a wonderful devotion that every Catholic should practice, but it is not the be all and end all of Catholic piety.
As for reparation, while (to my recollection anyway) Christ doesn't tell St. Faustina to shout to the world “make acts of reparation”, He does make it very clear that reparation is part of the work of mercy:
“The love and sacrifice of these souls sustain the world in existence.” (7)
“win souls for Me by prayer and sacrifice, and by encouraging them to trust in My mercy.” (8)
Again, Father Scott: "This absence of the need for reparation for sins is manifest in the strange promise of freedom from all the temporal punishment due to sin for those who observe the 3:00 p.m. Low Sunday devotions. How could such a devotion be more powerful and better than a plenary indulgence, applying the extraordinary treasury of the merits of the saints?"
First of all, this statement is either deliberately dishonest or based on poor research. There is no removal of temporal punishment “for those who observe the 3:00 pm Low Sunday devotions” in the Diary. The Church, however, has granted a plenary indulgence for this, so his question “how could such a devotion be more powerful and better than a plenary indulgence” doesn't work as plenary indulgences are granted by the Church. The removal of the temporal punishment due to sin that Father is referring to is granted directly by God. As I recall, the Bridegroom has more authority and power than the Bride. I would like to ask back “how can applying the extraordinary treasury of the merits of the Saints be more efficacious than applying the Blood of God in obedience?” as the devotion of the Divine Mercy says. Trusting in the promise granted by Christ (and endorsed by the Church) is no different than trusting in the promises granted by the Virgin Mary to those who pray the Rosary, or the promises granted by Christ to those who practice the First Fridays devotion.
Father asks “How could it not require as a condition that we perform a penitential work of our own?”
What it requires, Father, is the Sacrament of Penance, and as we Catholics know, one can perform all the penances one likes, but if the Sacrament of Penance is avoided, one's mortification mean nothing. Sacraments over-ride our good works, at least that was my understanding. We ought not play mortification off against penance.
As a follow-up, he also asks “How could it not require the detachment from even venial sin that is necessary to obtain a plenary indulgence?”
Well, why isn't “the detachment from even venial sin” required for Baptism? The answer is from God Himself, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will shew mercy to whom I will shew mercy.” (9) “Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will? Is thy eye evil, because I am good?” (10)
Another accusation, this one against the Saint herself, is that she uses the words of Christ to praise herself. First of all, true humility is admitting what you are, not lying for the sake of appearing holy and humble. If someone compliments me on a meal I cooked which was in fact very good, it would be dishonest (not virtuous) of me to say “No, it's trash, not fit for human consumption.” Second, she often refers to herself as a miserable and weak creature, which I will quote shortly. Thirdly, why is she proud, but other Saints who've said similar things not? “Real Saints don't do that, and Christ doesn't praise sinners because He doesn't want them to become proud” you say? Really? Are you sure about that?
Christ appeared, with His Mother, to St. Gertrude and referred to the Saint as “My elect” (11) and that those who thanked Him for graces He bestowed on her would participate in her merits and obtain their petition if it be for their eternal welfare (12). Or how about His exact words recorded by the Saint herself, “If anyone, being oppressed by sorrow and grief, humbly and sincerely seeks consolation in thy words, he will not be deceived in his desires; for I, the God abiding in thee, urged by the liberality of My love and goodness, desire through thee to bestow much good on many.Whosoever commends himself with full confidence to thy prayers will obtain life eternal by thy mediation. Just as much as anyone hopes to receive from thee, so much will he surely obtain. Besides this, whatever thou shalt promise anyone in My Name, that I shall certainly grant him.” (13)
Or this, “Just as I have now drawn in My breath, so shall I in truth draw to Myself all who incline toward thee with love and devotion for My sake.” (14)
Moses says “Moses was a man exceeding meek above all men that dwelt upon earth” (15).
Our Blessed Mother says “My soul doth magnify the Lord. [...]He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed, (16)
St. John the Divine constantly refers to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus+ loved” throughout his Gospel.
Why are these Saints to be imitated, their writings not condemned as “proud”, but St. Faustina and her writings not? Because she was highly regarded by a Pope with issues is not a valid reason for dismissing her or her writings anymore than the writings of St. Peter are to be dismissed because his behavior required rebuke by his subordinate, St. Paul.
Throughout the Diary, we see plenty examples of her humility. “Going deeper into myself, I could find nothing but great misery.” (17) “I know very well what I am of myself, because for this purpose Jesus has opened the eyes of my soul; I am an abyss of misery, and hence I understand that whatever good there is in my soul consists solely of His holy grace.” (18) “O Jesus, eternal Truth, strengthen my feeble forces; You can do all things, Lord. I know that without You all my efforts are in vain. O Jesus, do not hide from me, for I cannot live without You. Listen to the cry of my soul. Your mercy has not been exhausted, Lord, so have pity on my misery.” (19) “My Jesus, despite Your graces, I see and feel all my misery.” (20) “I saw the postulants, in spirit, beautiful and pleasing to the Lord; and myself, an abyss of misery.” (21) “Without You, I am weakness itself. What am I without Your grace if not an abyss of my own misery? Misery is my possession.” (22) These are just a few examples, her diary is laden with more.
Conclusion: People who dislike the Diary, devotion of the Divine Mercy, and St. Faustina do so not because it actually contains error, but because either 1) it's the “trad” thing to do, or 2) they don't like Bl. John Paul II, and if he liked her, it must be because she and her writings are heretical. Guilt by association. It's just as dishonest for a non-traditional Catholic to say that all who prefer the Tridentine Mass are schismatics based on their experience with Sedevacantists.
Click here for part 2 in this series!
1) Galatians 2:11
2) 1 Corinthians 13:2, italics mine
3) All quotes of Father Scott, unless otherwise noted: http://www.angelusonline.org/index.php?section=articles&subsection=show_article&article_id=2895
5) Matthew 9:13
6) Divine Mercy In My Soul, #1588
7) ibid. #367
8) ibid #1690
9) Romans 9:15
10) Matthew 20:15
11) St. Gertrude the Great: Herald of Divine Love pg. 42
12) ibid. pg 62
13) ibid. pg 24
14) ibid. pg 25
15) Numbers 12:3
16) Luke 1:46-48
17) Divine Mercy in my Soul, #23
18) ibid. #56
19) ibid. #69
20) ibid. #606
21) ibid. #1108
22) ibid. #1630