Eighty-five years ago, on Friday, Sept. 13, 1935, “an Angel, the executor of divine wrath,” visited St. Faustina Kowalska in her convent cell. In her diary she described him as having a gloriously bright face, wearing a dazzling robe, and standing on a cloud emitting thunder and lightning bolts.
Seeing this sign, she begged the angel to hold off so “the world would do penance. But,” she wrote, “my plea was a mere nothing in the face of the divine anger. Just then I saw the Most Holy Trinity. The greatness of Its majesty pierced me deeply, and I did not dare to repeat my entreaties. At that very moment I felt in my soul the power of Jesus’ grace, which dwells in my soul.” She pleaded with God with the now-familiar words, “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us.”
The next morning, in the convent chapel, as she prayed those words as directed, she heard in her soul, “This prayer will serve to appease My wrath. You will recite it for nine days, on the beads of the Rosary, in the following manner.” Then the Lord taught Faustina the way he wanted the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to be prayed.
That day happened to be the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14).
Father Michael Gaitley of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, the Marians’ director of evangelization and author of Divine Mercy Explained and The Divine Mercy Image Explained, among other books, explored the date on which Jesus shared the chaplet with the Polish saint.
“With the [feast of the] Triumph of the Cross, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is so powerful because we’re asking for mercy in view of the suffering and passion of Jesus,” he explained to the Register. When we think of the cross and Jesus’ suffering for us, “the blood and water which gushed forth is the foundation of mercy for us.”
The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows on Sept. 15 appropriately follows remembrance of the Holy Cross, for “the sorrow of Mary is not only for the suffering of her Son, but also for the suffering of her children throughout the world,” Father Gaitley said. “When we look at Our Lady of Sorrows, it’s a pointer, pointing to why she is sorrowful, and should motivate us to pray the chaplet for the suffering humanity.”
He believes “the chaplet is very powerful for people today because when it seems things in the world are out of control with so much chaos and confusion, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy gives an assurance that they can do something effective, which is to call Divine Mercy upon our suffering world.”
This 85th anniversary is a timely moment to reflect on how the chaplet helps Catholics grow in their spiritual life.
“The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a wonderful place and foundation for families to grow closer to Christ. In our own family I see the chaplet as a prayer that reminds us of the love of God for the family and that invitation to trust in Jesus,” said Emily Jaminet, who is the co-author with Michele Faehnle of the books Divine Mercy for Moms: Sharing the Lessons of St. Faustina and Our Friend Faustina (learn more online at DivineMercyforMoms.com).
A Family Mainstay
The chaplet is a regular prayer in the Jaminet home, where Emily, husband John and their seven children gather to reflect on the merciful message Jesus entrusted to St. Faustina. Jaminet has found from experience, “The chaplet specifically recited as a family is always welcomed by my children because it’s easy to say; it’s a short prayer; they like the timing on it; and they like the idea that we’re praying for ourselves and the whole world. It calms the anxiety of not only adults but young children. I believe the chaplet is more important now than ever before.”
Age is no barrier, the Jaminets have found. Four-year-old Elizabeth “enjoys listening to the chaplet sung in the evening on audio CD,” her mom said. “She falls asleep listening to the chaplet. It’s very peaceful, very meditative. It makes for a more peaceful environment going to bed.”
And, Jaminet added, 19-year-old son Ben “shared with me that when he was doing a summer landscaping job, he found himself praying the chaplet at 3 o’clock. It meant a lot to him to pray that even when he was working. He chose to pray the chaplet and the Rosary outside of family prayer because he saw the value of this prayer for his own spiritual growth.”
Lewis Brooks has found dynamism in his spiritual life through the chaplet. He remembers being introduced to the chaplet and seeing St. Faustina’s diary but not reading it until he was older.
When he went through a reversion, he told the Register, “Divine Mercy came to the forefront, and the chaplet was a big part of that. My whole adult Catholic formation has come through the Marian Missionaries [founded by Father Gaitley], and a big part of that is entering into the 3 o’clock hour.”
He said the chaplet has “definitely given a new depth” to his spirituality.
“Now, it’s a pivotal part of my day.”
Brooks finds it spiritually powerful “recognizing the chaplet prayer as an extension of the Mass and also being a great opportunity during the 3pm hour to enter into a cry for mercy for the whole world.”
He reflects that at Mass the priest takes the Body and Blood of Jesus and offers that sacrifice back to the Father, saying, “‘Through Him, with Him and in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.’ The chaplet can be seen as an extension of that moment.” And the chaplet’s “For the sake of his sorrowful passion” line is like a cry for mercy for the whole world. “For me, recognizing the 3pm hour and having the connection to the sacrifice of the Mass and praying for the whole world is a great experience of prayer. It’s a powerful cry for our time — for individuals and for the whole world.”
Fruits of Mercy
Brooks recalled how he and his wife, Michelle, prayed the chaplet at his dying uncle’s bedside. His uncle later died during the 3pm hour. “It felt very much like the hand of God’s providence was very much present. I have faith in the power of that prayer and felt like it was a gift to us, a powerful confirmation being used at that time, and powerful experience of God’s love. We were being able to be used as an expression of God’s love.”
Emily Jaminet’s family also knows the merciful effects. “I strongly believe that when we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as a family, especially for someone who is suffering illness, cancer, loss of a job,” Jaminet explained, “we are performing a powerful work of mercy and teaching our children how to respond with compassion and love for others.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.