Defense of the Divine Mercy Devotion (part 3)

By Kasey Moerbeek, Contributor

While I figured this would be my shortest article on the Divine Mercy, it's going to be my longest as I came across a widely read article attacking the devotion. Again, by a priest, and again, the attacks hold no merit. Whether Father was being dishonest or was simply misinformed, that is between him and God. The first part will deal with what took place at the BBQ mentioned in Part 1. The second will deal with a miscellaneous objection I was told of that took place in an internet forum, and the last will deal with the article written by Msgr. Patrick Perez, published by Tradition in Action.

I will first address the last attack from the BBQ (for the background on this, please review Part 1 in this series, available here), which basically comes down to, "This devotion must be from the devil, why would God want us to think on His passion during Easter week, the time we're to meditate and rejoice in His resurrection?"

Seems to make sense at first, right? Lent is over, let us rejoice. His agony is over, His suffering is over, now is the time of celebration. Yet, these people do not condemning the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday, or any time during Easter Week. Why not? That's what I would like to know. If the Mass is the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross renewed, why is the priest offering It (and we attending) during a time of celebration? Are they really saying that God doesn't want us to pray for mercy for our neighbor, to invoke the Precious Blood of Christ for our neighbor, because it's Easter week?

My husband pointed that out to them, and the response was “of course not, but God wouldn't ask for a devotion like this during Easter week. It's inappropriate.” Yes, the response was that stupid. It's not appropriate to be practically naked either, yet that's how Christ allowed Himself to hang when on the Cross. It's not appropriate for a guilt-free man to die for the offenses of others, but Christ did it anyway.

Why would God ask us to do this? Why would the God who suffered incredible agony for the salvation of all want us to remember this in the time of our rejoicing in our salvation? Why would He not want us to remember our neighbors - who either don't know of Him, or who have rejected Him and are thus in a state of damnation? Why would He not want us to remember what He just went through and beg His mercy for these people? Because His agony is over and He is risen? I've got news for everyone: His agony is not over. Sin is still in the world, and it seems to be getting worse. His agony is over on the calendar, and that is the only place it is over. Is it wrong to celebrate Easter? Absolutely not, but Easter is not a secular holiday in which we get to let loose, forget about responsibilities, and party on, just as a feast day is not justification for gluttony. We still have to be temperate. Easter is a holy day, a Christian holy day, a day reserved for God and what He wants, what He deserves. What does He desire? What does He deserve? He desires that the sinner be converted and live, and after the anguish in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the carrying of the Cross, and piercing of His hands and feet with nails (not to mention the mockery throughout – something we as trads can definitely relate to) for your sins, my sins, and the sins of our neighbors, He deserves these souls.

Don't judge the Divine Mercy devotion wrongly. It's a private devotion, it's not binding on the faithful. Offer your Rosary or a favorite chaplet for the conversion of sinners and mercy for the world, but don't condemn a devotion not worthy of condemnation. I'm going to borrow the words of my own patroness, St. Joan of Arc, and use them in the person of St. Faustina (along with the devotion) “take care not to judge wrongly, lest you place yourself in great danger”. (1) We're not talking about a pious layperson, we are talking about a virgin spouse of God who has been raised to the altar by the Bride of Christ, the voice of God on earth.

The next objection came up in a trad forum. Basically, “I don't feel comfortable with the idea of a layman offering the Body and Blood of Christ to God. That's the job of the priest.”

No, it is the job of the priest to confect the Sacraments. The prayer this person was referring to is “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” The approved prayer of St. Gertrude that is very popular among trads is “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory”. The approved prayer from the Angel at Fatima “I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernaclesof the world […]”. As far as “offering prayers” go, I'm curious about what the difference is here.

Now onto the article by Msgr. Perez, published by Tradition in Action. [2] I will briefly counter what I've already addressed and go into more detail on what I haven't. Quotes from the article will be in bold.

Msgr. Perez seems to imply that because the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Prohibited Books) was abolished in 1966 – thus seeming to approve any writing, no matter how heretical – that her writings are approved with everything else that would have otherwise remained condemned. This is not the case. Her journal was removed from the list in 1965, pushed by the very Cardinal who initially opposed it. [3] Msgr. Perez seems to have no problem with St. Pio – canonized by the same pope who canonized St. Faustina – who was also condemned by the Church for a while. Why supporting pre-Vatican II Saint but not the other? Most traditional Catholics view St. Pio as a reliable source of Catholic doctrine and morality, and yet remain hostile to St. Faustina. “I do not need to say much more about these declarations” referring to the condemnation of her journals. If you want to be dishonest, then no Msgr, you don't need to say anything more. Just like the Protestant doesn't need to say much more about the heresy of “sola fide” because “the Bible says 'you have been saved through faith'” [4]. If it's dishonest for a Protestant to do, it's dishonest for a Catholic to do, priest and layman, traditional and liberal.

On the 15 April, 1978, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, signed by the Prefect and the Secretary of the Congregation [emphasis mine]:
"This Sacred Congregation, in view of the many original documents that were unknown in 1959, giving consideration to the profoundly changed circumstances, and taking into account the view of many Polish ordinaries, declares no longer binding the prohibitions contained in the cited 'notification'." [5]

His next argument, if you can call it that, is that the image is "creepy" to him. “I don't like the face, I don't like the gesture, I don't like the posture, I don't like anything.” The face shows emotional pain, depending upon the image you're looking at. The posture is standing up straight (perhaps Msgr. Would prefer Christ slouching or lounging?). Christ is pointing to His heart and His right hand is held up in blessing. “I don't want it around because it is, for lack of a better term, creepy to me when I look at it.” I don't know how to quantify whether an image is objectively "creepy" of whether it causes interior uneasiness. Even if so, is this bad? Protestants say that Catholic crucifixes are "creepy"; is this uneasiness they feel necessarily bad? Uneasiness can be bad, but people also feel interior uneasiness when they're resisting truth. Msgr. provides no comment of value on the rays emanating from Christ's heart, only mentions that the heart isn't exposed (as if this were mandatory for images of Christ). Of the rays shown in the image coming forth from His Heart, Christ Himself says “the pale ray stands for the Water that makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls...These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when my agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.” [6]

The image “preaches that we can expect an unconditional mercy with no price to be paid whatsoever, with no obligations whatsoever. This is not the message of Christ.” What he said is partially right. “Unconditional mercy with no price to be paid whatsoever” is not the message of Christ. That being said, “unconditional mercy with no price to be paid” is not the message of the Divine Mercy, and if he had bothered to read the journal as opposed to relying on hearsay he would have known that. It is “the trad” interpretation of what the Divine Mercy says.

We are disgusted and angered when the “visionaries” of Medjugorje put words in the Blessed Mother's mouth, relaying false messages. Why are we not equally disgusted and angered when priests do the same with messages from Christ to this particular Saint?

If the priest finds the image of the Divine Mercy creepy...I don't know what to say. Those who belong to the schismatic Orthodox religion can't seem to understand that the Sacred Heart image is representative of the love of Christ for sinners, insisting it's our creepy worship of Christ's organ.

It presents an unconditional mercy”. Msgr goes on to say why (after the Crucifix) the Sacred Heart image is more accurate. First, that is a matter of opinion. I personally think the image of the Good Shepherd relays that message better. Second let me offer another way to look at it. Let us first remember that one cannot even ask for mercy unless one is acknowledging guilt, something many who oppose the devotion of the Divine Mercy seem to forget or ignore. The government isn't right in trying to redefine things, neither are Catholics right in doing the same. Next, people do stupid things when they're in love. People make excuses when they shouldn't. Just look at those who love St. John Paul II. They make excuses for the things he did which were not good. A girlfriend makes excuses for a boyfriend who beats her. Some parents make excuses for the bad behavior of their children. The list goes on. Anyway, mercy requires one admit wrongdoing and the deserving of just punishment. Love for the offender is all that is needed, even if it's not reciprocated. Which devotion actually presents unconditional mercy?

The central error of the Divine Mercy is that it promises lots of spiritual rewards with no requirement of penance, no mention of reparation, no mention of any condition.” Please note that the Msgr provides no example to back up this statement. Now, if that were the case, I fail to see the problem. Baptism has an incredible effect, requiring nothing from the receiver except the intention to be baptized. “Is it not lawful for Me to do what I will? Is thy eye evil, because I am good?” [7] Then there's the Brown Scapular. To be safe from Hell, one has to die simply wearing the Brown Scapular, if you believe the Virgin Mary. That was her promise. “Whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire.” (Note, I am not referring to the Sabbatine privilege, which has conditions.) “Is thy eye evil, because I am good?

Msgr now quotes the Diary: “'Now, I know that it is not for the graces or gifts that you love Me, but because My Will is dearer to you than life. That is why I am uniting Myself with you so intimately as with no other creature.'[…] How can we believe that Our Lord has united Himself more intimately with Sr. Faustina than with the Blessed Virgin Mary?” I'm sure Msgr simply misread this. Christ did not say that Faustina has the most intimate relationship with Him than any another other creature. He said “That is why I am uniting Myself with you so intimately as with no other creature.” One, it is obvious that he's comparing her relationship with Him to that of others on the earth at that time. I have an intimate relationship with my husband. I also have one with my children, and with my mother. I was in my mother's womb, does it get more intimate than that. I carry my children inside me for the first 9 ½ months, is my relationship with them therefore more intimate than that with my mother? What about the intimacy shared with my husband, is that bigger than the other two?

St Anthony of the Desert made a statement about not fearing God. He relates, "I do not fear God because I love Him. For love casts out fear." I am not going to conclude that St Anthony of the Desert lacked the Fear of the Lord which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which he would certainly have had if he was in a state of grace.

Msgr also attacks the Saint for the praise of Christ towards her that she records (“Beloved pearl of My Heart” as an example). If this is cause for concern, he better do a write up against St. Gertrude the Great, Moses, St. John the Divine, and the Blessed Mother herself. I have already addressed this here.  Approximately 2/3 of the way into the article you will find numerous examples of St. Gertrude the Great as well as the others having written rather flattering things about themselves. St. Faustina records the praise, as have the others, but she also records her personal criticisms, which are also recorded in the article.

Msgr critiques how Christ says He will bless the world because of her, yet there was World War II, her own country not being spared. I would expect this from a “health and wealth” preacher, not a Roman Catholic priest. Christ didn't say He would spare her country or the world from war, disease, or anything. He said He would bless the world. Things could have been worse. The Jews at the time of Christ were not expecting a crucified Messiah, even the Apostles were confused. Was not St. Joan of Arc expecting a literal rescue from prison because of the message of her Voices? Yet Christ's death saves us, and the fire sent St. Joan to Heaven. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” [8]

He goes on to quote the Diary “'I see your love so pure; purer than that of the angels, and all the more so because you keep fighting.' [...] First of all, except for the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are not free from original sin and, therefore, we are not capable of a love purer than the angels.“

Actually, a human nature is capable, unless Msgr wants to argue that the angels are more pure than the Blessed Mother. The Virgin Mary was pure because of her preservation from Original Sin (and remaining out of sin throughout her life). St. Faustina was made pure in Baptism, as we all are. Charity proceeds from Grace as a principle. Grace is a participation in the divine life and does not have to be proportionate to our natures. When we are forgiven our mortal and venial sins, we are once again pure in the sight of God. Christ died for us, not the angels. Christ offers forgiveness to us, not the angels. Christ took on human nature, not angelic. Angels serve us, not we them. [9] “Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.” [10] One last thought on purity of heart: Christ taught us how to love, and that love involves, at the least, the willingness to suffer. The angels cannot suffer, and with that the degree of their love can never surpass the potential love of a repentant sinner. Angels have only a single act of love and thus their grace and purity are equal with their nature, but a human is capable of many acts of love and as such the grace of a human can increase indefinitely for example our Blessed Mother who is proof of this.

Christ tells Faustina to not fear judgment, that she will not be judged. Msgr has a problem with this. "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven." Luke 6:37 His problem is with the message of Christ, not St. Faustina. Is this verse abused? Absolutely. Is it untrue because of the abuse? No. Christ our Lord did use the language on earth to be told that a person would does not judge will not be judged, so I don't find it far fetched that he could say it again to St Faustina. I have read in more than one ascetical/mystical book that a soul by a special grace can know if they are going to be saved (the Fatima Children, St Catherine of Sienna come to mind). In fact Canon 16 of the Council of Trent states the following: "If any one shall say, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infalliblecertainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end, unless that he have learnt this by a special revelation; let him be anathema." The Church has affirmed that a soul could have it revealed that through special revelation that they would be among the elect.

Msgr then attempts to claim that the Divine Mercy promotes Communion in the hand. I have already addressed this here under Objection 4.

That was the last argument of Msgr Perez against the Divine Mercy devotion. I will end this defense by a little commentary on some of his closing statements:

“In short, the whole Divine Mercy devotion does not represent a Catholic spirit [...] the prayers of the Divine Mercy devotions, they are perfectly orthodox. There is nothing heretical or presumptuous in these prayers.” So the devotion, which consists of prayers, is not in line with Catholic teaching, but the prayers are? This makes little sense.

"But just remember the reason why it has been condemned and why we do not recognize Divine Mercy Sunday is because of its past […]." Do you also not recognize July 22 as the feast of St (or is she a Saint?) Mary Magdalene because of her past? Or St. Pio? To partially quote Msgr “But just remember ” that the same Church removed the condemnation based on information they did not have when the condemnation was made.

Our Lord does not contradict His Church by word or by gesture.” “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” [11] The Church has not only lifted the ban and given approval, but has vigorously promoted this devotion to the benefit of souls and it has been accepted throughout the world by the faithful. It is my hope that one day the Msgr. Perez and all those of his persuasion will come to see that through attacks on this devotion they are in fact attacking the Church in her institutions, liturgy, mystical body and are injuring themselves. My Jesus Mercy.

NOTES
 
[1] http://www.stjoan-center.com/quotable/
[2]http://www.traditioninaction.org/HotTopics/f072_DivMercy.htm
[3] http://thedivinemercy.org/message/history/timeline.php
[4] Ephesians 2:8
[5] http://www.doctrinafidei.va/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19780415_kowalska_en.html
[6] Divine Mercy Diary, 299
[7] Matthew 20:15
[8] Isaias 55:8
[9]1 Corinthians 6:3
[10] Psalm 50:9
[11] Matthew 7:2
[12] Matthew 12:37 we are exaltd above the angels (see the dialogue, 126: How they have debased the flesh that was exalted above all the choirs of angels through the union of my divinity with your humanity)