In Year of Mercy, Catholics bring divine mercy home

As the Church observes Divine Mercy Sunday on April 3, promoters of the message of Divine Mercy are encouraging Catholic families to bring the familiar image of Divine Mercy into their homes.

In a Divine Mercy family pilgrimage, parish families sign up to “host” an image of the Divine Mercy in their homes for a week or more, while praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy daily and practicing works of mercy. After the image moves on to another home, the goal is for the family to acquire and enthrone its own image and make devotion to the Divine Mercy a lifelong practice.

“When you hang that picture of Jesus in your home, you’re claiming him as your king,” said Joan Maroney of San Antonio. “It’s the source of many graces.”

Maroney and her husband, Dave, are founders of the Mother of Mercy Messengers, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, which promotes the devotion. The pair has traveled to 750 parishes and schools worldwide to promote the devotion.

Sharon Zukauckas and her husband, Gerald, lead a Divine Mercy apostolate in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, where Gerald serves as a deacon at Atlanta’s Cathedral of Christ the King. The pair coordinates a weekly Divine Mercy program at the cathedral as well as monthly mornings and days of reflection based on the Divine Mercy. They also are frequently called on to give talks about the devotion.

“We’re known as ambassadors of Divine Mercy,” Sharon Zukauckas said.

“As Pope Francis has said, we live in a broken, wounded world,” she added. “Having the Divine Mercy image in our home, and practicing the accompanying devotion, has helped my own family with challenges in our lives and has helped us to reach out to others who are hurting.”

History of the devotion

The Divine Mercy devotion is based on the writings of St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-38), a Polish nun and mystic who wrote a 700-page diary to record her conversations with Christ about God’s mercy over the last four years of her life.

“IMAGE"
D. Maroney

Elements of the devotion include the familiar Divine Mercy image, featuring Christ with red and white rays coming from his heart, which, in 1931, he requested St. Faustina to have painted. The feast of Divine Mercy, also requested by Christ, is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter and is preceded by the Divine Mercy Novena, which begins on Good Friday, and the praying of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for different intentions. In 2002, Pope St. John Paul II granted a Divine Mercy Sunday indulgence.

The goal of the pilgrimage program, Joan Maroney explained, is to enthrone an image of the Divine Mercy in the home so that it remains a permanent presence. In the years since the Maroneys have enthroned an image in their home, they have seen many blessings for themselves. It has also given the couple an opportunity to evangelize, she said.

“IMAGE"
J. Maroney

“People come over to our house and see the beautiful image of Christ, and it opens up a dialogue,” said Joan Maroney, who gave the example of a plumber working in their home who asked about it. It led to a discussion, and the Maroneys gave him his own image of the Divine Mercy and an explanatory CD.

When their children and grandchildren visit, the family prays before the image. “It is a sign that our home is a Christian home, and that we follow the Lord,” she said.

The Maroneys have discovered that while some Catholics are quite familiar with the message and are devoted to it, others have limited knowledge.

“People often don’t know that the chaplet is an effective prayer to say during a storm, or at the bedside of a sick or dying person,” Joan Maroney said.

Divine Mercy shrine

Father Michael Ishida of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception agrees that the pilgrimage program is an effective tool in getting the image of Divine Mercy into homes. His community promotes the Divine Mercy devotion, and he helps staff the community’s National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Along with welcoming the image, Father Ishida also recommends that families educate themselves on the history of the devotion.

He suggests a book by his confrere, Father Michael Gaitley, who lives with him at the shrine. The book is titled “Divine Mercy Explained: Keys to the Message and Devotion.”

“Divine Mercy reminds us that we are in need of a savior, and that God has reached out to us, not as a God of justice but a God of divine mercy. He’s extending an invitation for us to come back to him,” said Father Ishida, who welcomes visitors to the Divine Mercy shrine, which offers regular Masses, confessions and devotions. About a dozen of the community’s 40 priests and 35 men in formation reside there.

“It’s a holy place,” he said, “and can offer a mini-retreat to visitors.”

Francis’ focus on mercy

Sharon Zukauckas noted that recent popes have been strong promoters of the Divine Mercy devotion. While attending a conference in Rome nearly three years ago, shortly after Pope Francis’ election to the papacy, she had the opportunity to attend a Wednesday afternoon audience with the pontiff. He distributed to the faithful thousands of packets containing rosaries and information on the Divine Mercy devotion, “prescribing the prayers as spiritual medicine for the heart and soul,” she said.

When the pope announced the Year of Mercy, Sharon Zukauckas said she and her husband were “ecstatic.”

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity to invite more people to embrace the Divine Mercy devotion,” she said.

“Pope Francis’ pontificate has been all about mercy. He’s invited us to gaze on the image of Divine Mercy and take advantage of the forgiveness God offers to us,” she added.

Father Ishida believes Divine Mercy ties into the Year of Mercy because both remind us that “we have a merciful God who reaches out to us with his mercy. Christ has stepped into our darkness with a hand extended in blessing, inviting us all to respond.”

Jim Graves writes from California.

Divine Mercy Chaplet
Optional opening prayers: