Second Sunday of Easter ~ Divine Mercy Sunday
Our Lord said to Saint Faustina;
"Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you ... Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death ... When they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Saviour ... Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy ... I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy ... Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask is compatible with My will."
Helna Kowalska was born on the 25th of August 1905 in the village of Glogowiec near Lódz in Poland. Aged just fourteen and without completing elementary school she went to work. By the time she was fifteen she had made it know to her parents that it was her desire to enter a convent. Accordingly, on the 1st of August 1925 she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and served her postulancy in Warsaw and her novitiate in Cracow. It was there, during her investiture that she was given the name of Sister Mary Faustina. After a two year novitiate, she made her first profession of vows on the 30th of April 1928. As a temporarily professed sister she worked in various houses belonging to the congregation taking her perpetual vows on the 1st of May 1933. However, after only a few weeks of convent life her health began to deteriorate and she began to suffer from consumption. In August 1934 she suffered a violent attack of asthma for the first time. This was, in all likelihood, tuberculosis which progressed to such an extent that in 1936 and again in 1938 she was forced to spend several months in a sanatorium in Pradnik, near Cracow. In 1938 she spent the last five months of her life in the same hospital and passed away on the 5th of October.
The Visions and the writing of the Diary.
In the 1920s St. Faustina began to receive heavenly visions. She visited Purgatory; she saw and spoke to Jesus and Mary several times. At last Jesus revealed to her the work for which she had been created: to spread the devotion to the Mercy of God. On 22nd of February 1931, He appeared to her as King of Divine Mercy, "wearing a white garment. One hand was raised in a sign of blessing; the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment. . .emanated two large rays, one red, the other pale." Jesus asked St. Faustina to have an image painted of Him as she saw Him, but her superiors hesitated. At last, God sent her a new spiritual director, Father Michael Sopocko, who helped her to promulgate devotion to the Mercy of God. It was Fr. Sopocko also who ordered her to write a diary of the graces she received, even though she had a hard time writing and spelling because of her scanty education. The diary was later published under the title Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina.
The Diary of Saint Faustina online. (PDF file)
Let the doubting soul read these considerations on Divine Mercy and become trusting.
Divine Mercy, gushing forth from the bosom of the Father, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, greatest attribute of God, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, incomprehensible mystery, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, fount gushing forth from the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomed by any intellect, human or angelic, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, from which wells forth all life and happiness, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, better than the heavens, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, source of miracles and wonders, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, encompassing the whole universe, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, descending to earth in the Person of the Incarnate Word, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, which flowed out from the open wound of the Heart of Jesus, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, enclosed in the Heart of Jesus for us, and especially for sinners, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in the institution of the Sacred Host, I triust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the founding of Holy Church, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the Sacrament of Holy Barptism, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in our justification through Jesus Christ, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, accompanying us through our whole life, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, embracing us especially at the hour of death, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, endowing us with immortal life, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, accompanying us every moment of our life, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, shielding us from the fire of hell, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the conversion of hardened sinners, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, astonishment for Angels, incomprehensible to Saints, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in all the mysteries of God, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, lifting us out of every mysery, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, source of our happiness and joy, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in calling us forth from nothingness to existence, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, embracing all the works of His hands, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, crown of all of God's handiwork, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in which we are all immersed, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, sweet relief for anguished hearts, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, only hope of despairing souls, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, repose of hearts, peace amidst fear, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, delight and ecstasy of holy souls, I trust in You.
Divine Mercy, inspiring hope against all hope, I trust in You.
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.
(Diary of St. Faustina, 949-950)
23rd April ~ Solemnity of St. George, Martyr, Patron of England.
Born: unknown. Died: unknown ~ traditionally late third or early fourth century
Strange as it may seem, St. George was not actually English. Tradition places him in Palestine in the Middle East in the late third or early fourth century. According to legend the dragon, which terrorised the country, was first appeased by an offering of two sheep. When these grew scarce, a human victim was chosen. The lot fell to the king’s daughter who went to face her fate dressed as a bride. George pierced the dragon with his lance and led it captive with the princess’s girdle as if it were tame. He told the people not to be afraid and that he would rid them of the beast if they believed in Jesus Christ and were baptised. The king and people agreed, George killed the dragon and 15,000 men were baptised. George would take no reward other than a promise from the king to maintain churches, to honour priests and to show compassion to the poor. According to tradition George underwent martyrdom during the persecutions of Diocletian and Maximian. His cult spread to England following the Crusades. During the siege of Antioch and the defeat of the Saracens the morale of the Crusaders is supposed to have been boosted by a vision of St. George and St. Demetrius.
Butler has the following account: "St. George is honoured in the Catholic Church as one of the most illustrious martyrs of Christ. The Greeks have long distinguished him by the title of The Great Martyr, and keep his festival a holiday of obligation. There stood formerly in Constantinople five or six churches dedicated in his honour, the oldest of which was always said to have been built by Constantine the Great, who seems to have been the founder of the church of St. George, which stood over his tomb in Palestine. Both these churches were certainly built under the first Christian emperors. In the middle of the sixth age, the Emperor Justinian erected a new church in honour of this saint at Bizanes, in Lesser Armenia: the Emperor Mauritius founded one in Constainople. It is related in the life of St. Theodorus of Siceon that he served God a long while in a chapel which bore the name of St. George, had a particular devotion to this glorious martyr, and strongly recommended the same to Mauritius when he foretold him the empire. One of the churches of St. George in Constantinople, called Magnes, with a monastery adjoining, gave to the Hellespontthe name of the Arm of St. George. To this day is St. George honoured as principal patron, or titular saimt, by several Eastern nations, particularly the Georgians. The Byzantine historians relate several battles to have been gained, and other miracles wrought, through his intercession. From frequent pilgrimages to his church and tomb in Palestine, performed by those who visited the Holy Land, his veneration was much propagated over the West. St. Gregory of Tours mentions him as highly celebrated in France in the sixth century. St. Gregory the Great ordered an old church of St. George, which had fallen into decay, to be repaired. His office is found in the sacramentary of that pope and many others. St. Clotildis, wife of Clovis, the first Christian king of France, erected altars to his name: and the church of Chelles, built by her, was originally dedicated to his honour. The intercession of this saint was implored especially in battles and by warriors, as appears by several instances in the Byzantine history, and he is said to have been himself a great soldier. He is, at this day, the tutear saint of the republic of Genoa; and was chosen by our ancestors in the same quality by our first Norman kings. The great national council, held at Oxford in 1222, commanded his feast to be kept a holiday of the lesser rank throughout all England. Under his name and ensign was instituted by our victorious king, Edward III, in 1330, the most noble Order of knighthood in Europe, consisting of twenty-five knights besides the soverign. Its establishment is dated fifty years before the knights of St. Michael were instituted in France by Louis XI; eighty years before the Order of the Golden Fleece, established by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgandy; and one humdred and seventy years before the Order of St. Andrew was set up in Scotland by James V. The emperor Frederic IV institutes, in 1470, an Order of knights in honour of St. George; and an honourable military Order in Venice bears his name.
The extraordinary devotion of all Christendom to this saint in an authentic proof how glorious his triumph and name have always been in the church. All his acts relate that he suffered under Diocletian at Nicomedia. Joseph Assemani shows, from the unanimous consent of all churches, that he was crowned on the 23rd of April. According to the account given by Metaphrastes, he was born in Cappadocia, of noble Christian parents. After the death of his father he went with his mother into Palestine, she being a native of that country, and having there a considerable estate, which fell to her son George. He was strong and robust in body, and having embraced the profession of a soldier, was made a tribune, or colonel, in the army. By his courage and conduct he was soon preferred to higherstations by the Emperor Diocletian. When that prince waged war against the Christian relegion, St. George laid aside the marks of his dignity, threw up his commission and posts, and complained to the emperor himself of his severities and bloody edicts. He was immediately cast into prison, and tried, first by promises, and afterwards put to the question and tortured with great cruelty; but nothing could shake his constancy. The next day he was led through the streets and beheaded. Some think him to be the same illustrious young man who tore down the edicts when they were first fixed up at Nicomedia, as Lactanius relates in his book, On the Death of the Persecutors, and Eusebius in his history. The reason why St. George has been regarded as the patron of military men is partly on the score of his profession, and partly upon the credit of a relation on his appearing to the Christian army in the holy war,before the battle of Antioch. The success of this battle proving fortunate to the Christians, under Godfrey of Bouillon, made the name of St. George more famous in Europe and disposed the military men more particularly to his intercession.This devotion was confirmed,as it is said, of an apparitionof St. George to our king, Richard I, in his expedition against the Saracens; which vision bering declared to the troops, was to give them a great encouragement, anf they soon defeated the enemy. St. George is usually painted on horseback and tilting at a dragon under his feet; but this represntation is no more than an emblematic figure, purporting that by his faith and Christian fortitude he conquered the devil, called the dragon of the Apocalypse.
Though many dishonour the profession of arms by a licentiousness of manners, yet, to show us that perfect sanctity is attainable in all states, we find the names of more soldiers recorded in the Martyrologies than almost any other profession. Every true discople of Christ must be a martyr in the disposition of his heart, as he must be ready to lose all, and to suffer snything, rather than tooffend God. Every good Christian is also a martyr, by the parience and courage with which he bears all trials. There is no virtue more necessary, nor of which the exercise ought to be more frquent, than patience. In this mortal life we have continually something to suffer from disappiontments in affairs, from the severity of the seasons, from the injustices, caprice, peevishness, jealousy, or antipathy of others; and from ourselves, in pains either of mind or body. even our own weeknesses and faults are to us subjects of patience. And as we continually have burdens, both of our own and others, to bear, it is only in patience that we are to possess our souls. This affords comfortin all our sufferings and maintains our souls in unshaken tranquility and peace. This is true greatness of ind and the virtue of heroic souls. But,alas! every accident ruffles and disturbs us; and we are insupportable event to ourselves.What comfort should we find, what peace should we enjoy, what treeasures of virtue should we heap up, what an harvest of merits should we reap, if we had learned the true spirit of Christian patience! This is the martyrdom and the crown of every faithful disciple of Christ."
Almighty and ever living God, the heart of St. George bore witness to the risen Lord. Grant that through his intercession that same power of love we may be led with him in triumph to share in the fullness of the resurrection.
25h April ~ Feast of St. Mark, Evangelist.
Born: unknown. Died: c. 74.
Mark is usually identified with John Mark, whose mother’s house in Jerusalem was a meeting place for the Apostles and by some commentators as the young man dressed in the linen cloth, who flees when Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was later the companion of St. Peter and St. Paul. He accompanied Paul and Barnabas (his cousin) on the first missionary journey but turned back at Perga (Pamphylia). A falling out with St. Paul resulted in Mark and Barnabas preaching in Cyprus (Acts 13 and 15). Later, when St. Paul was in prison in Rome, Mark, who is described as the cousin of Barnabas, is known to have been with him (Colossians 4: 10). In the First Letter of St. Peter (5: 13), Mark is referred to as " . . . my son, Mark" and according to tradition Mark’s Gospel represents the teaching and memoirs of St. Peter, whose interpreter Clement of Alexandria and Papias say he was. It is believed that the Gospel was written in Italy, possibly in Rome itself. Eusebius records Mark as the first Bishop of Alexandria although neither Clement of Alexandria, nor Origen mention this. Mark is traditionally supposed to have met is death in the eighth year of the reign of the Emperor Nero. In the ninth century his relics were brought to Venice, whose patron saint he is.
Butler has the following account of his martyrdom: "On his return to Alexandria, the heathens called him a magician on account of his miracles, and resolved upon his death. God, however, concealed him long from them. At last, on the pagan feast of the idol Serapis, some that were employed to discover the holy man found him offering to God the prayer of oblation, or the Mass. Overjoyed to find hin in their power, they seized him, tied his feet with cords and dragged him about the streets, crying that the ox must be led to Bucoles, a place near the sea, full of rocks and precipices, where probably oxen were fed. This happened on Sunday, the 24th of April, in the year of Christ 68, of Nero the fourteenth, about three years after the death of SS. Peter and Paul. The saint was thus dragged the whole day, staining the stones with his blood and leaving the ground strewn with pieces of his flesh; all the while he ceased not to praise and thank God for his sufferings. At night he was thrown into prison, in which God comforted him with two visions, which Bede has mentioned in his true Martyrology. The next day the infidels dragged him, as before, till he happily expired on the 25th of April, on which day the Oriental and Western churches keep his festival."
Almighty and ever living God, you raised St. Mark, your Evangelist, and gave him the grace to preach your Gospel. Grant, we pray, that we may profit from his teaching and so faithfully follow in the footsteps of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
28th April ~ Optional memorial of St. Louis Grignion de Montfort, Priest.
Born: 1673. Died: 1716. Canonised 1947.
Louis Grignion de Montfort was born in 1673 at Montfort in Brittany. Educated by the Jesuits at Rennes, in 1693 he went to Paris to start his studies for the priesthood and was ordained in 1700. He decided to devote himself to the spiritual care of the poor and the sick in a society where an immense gulf existed between the top and the bottom of society. He encountered opposition which resulted in him being banned from preaching in the diocese of Poitiers. However, armed with papal authority which made him a ‘missionary apostolic’ he spent the rest of his life preaching popular missions chiefly in Poitiers and Brittany. He composed verses and hymns, some of which are still sung today. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the reconciliation of numerous Calvinists at La Rochelle. In 1712 he founded the Company of Mary, an association of missionary priests who shared his ideals which, since its foundation has spread to other countries including the English-speaking world and is still active in the field of education. His principal writing is ‘True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin’. He died in 1716 and was canonised in 1947 by Pope Pius XII.
Almighty and ever living God, through your will your directed the footsteps of your saint and priest Louis along the way of salvation and love of your Son Jesus Christ, in the company of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grant that we, through his example and by meditation on the mysteries of your love, may strive tirelessly for the building up of your Church.
28th April ~ Optional memorial of St. Peter Chanel, Priest, Martyr.
Born: 1803. Died: 1841. Canonised 1954.
Peter Chanel was born in 1803 of peasant stock near Cras in France. He was chosen as a pupil by his parish priest, Abbé Trompier for his unusual intelligence and piety. After attending the local seminary, he was ordained to the priesthood and in 1831 he joined the Marist missionary organisation recently founded by Jean Colin at Lyons. Following a five year spell teaching at the seminary at Belly, in 1836 he was sent to preach the Catholic faith to the islands of the southern Pacific. With one companion, in 1837, he went to the Islands of Futuna. They were warmly welcomed by the people whose confidence they gained by their ministry to the sick. They learnt the local language and began to baptise the native islanders. However, in 1841, when the chief’s son asked to be baptised, this so incensed his father that he sent a group of warriors with orders to kill. One of them clubbed Peter to the ground and the others cut up his body with knives and axes. This, however, did not stop the movement that he had begun and within a year the whole island had become Christian. He was canonised in 1954 by Pope Pius XII.
Almighty and ever living God, who, for the spreading of your Church and of knowledge of your Son, crowned your saint Peter Chanel as the first martyr of your Church in Oceania, grant that, we may so celebrate the mysteries of Christ's Death and Resurrection, and so bear witness to the newness of life.
29th April ~ Feast of St, Catherine of Siena, Virgin, Doctor of the Church, Patron of Europe.
Born: 1347 [1333?]. Died:1380. Canonised: 1461.
The youngest of the twenty or so children of Giacomo Benincasa, a Sienese dyer from an early age Catherine was devoted to a life of prayer and penance. She steadfastly refused to consider marriage and became a Dominican tertiary. Following years of solitude and preparation she began ministering to the sick and, with a group of followers, which included Dominicans, Augustinians and an English Austin Friar, William Flete, she made frequent journeys with a call to reform and repentance through a renewal of total love for God. Catherine tried to express her ideals in her "Dialogue" and in her letters which she dictated - she never learnt how to write. In the last five years of her life she became increasingly involved in church politics and made attempts to make peace between Florence and the papacy, then based in Avignon. Later she added her voice to the many that urged Pope Gregory XI (1370 - 1378) to return to Rome from Avignon and so curb excessive French influence on the Curia. This he did in 1376 and met Catherine on the road at Genoa. In 1378, following the death of Pope Gregory XI there occurred the Great Schism. Urban VI was elected Pope in Rome and a rival set up in Avignon. Catherine sent frequent letters to Urban urging him to moderate his harshness and also to various European rulers and cardinals urging them to recognise Urban as the genuine pope. She died in 1380 and was canonized in 1461. She became Siena's principal saint and a figure of international importance through her work in bringing the papacy back to Rome.
Almighty and ever living God, you set your saint, Catherine of Siena aflame in her contemplation of your Son's Passion and in the service of your Church; grant that through her intercession, we, your people, participating in the mystery of Christ, may one day exult in the revelation of his glory.