Rich in mercy

by Mary Lou Seewoester

North Texas Catholic

Mercy is never far away at Our Mother of Mercy Parish. The Divine Mercy image has two places of honor: next to the altar and in the confessional. Father Bartlomiej Jasilek (pictured), pastor, also likes to remind the faithful that God’s mercy is extended through confession. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

When you enter the confessional at Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth, the first thing you see is an enormous painting of Jesus in a white garment with red and white rays emanating outward: the Divine Mercy image.

Father Bart Jasilek, SVD, pastor of Our Mother of Mercy, believes there is a profound connection between Divine Mercy and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“Confession is a beautiful sacrament of healing, and Divine Mercy is the messenger of that forgiveness,” he said. “God’s mercy is present in every sacrament, but especially in the sacrament of forgiveness. That’s what God did for us on the cross. That mercy is just shouting out for you. ‘Come and take it! I have it for free, for you!’”

Fr. Jasilek, a native of Poland, introduced Divine Mercy devotions to his parish in 2016, during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, his first year as pastor there. Since then, parishioners have continued the devotion by praying along with a recording of the Divine Mercy Chaplet before all weekend and weekday Masses while Fr. Jasilek hears confessions. On Fridays, a full day of Adoration concludes with the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Benediction.

“If I was sent here during the Year of Mercy, to a parish named Our Mother of Mercy, and I am from Poland, where St. Faustina was the messenger of Divine Mercy, then it must be God’s will,” he said.

A Rich History
The message and devotion to Jesus as the Divine Mercy is based on the writings of St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun, who in the 1930s began to receive extraordinary revelations from Jesus. Our Lord asked her to record the experiences in a diary, which ended up numbering 600 pages. Her diary sparked a great movement and focus on the abundant mercy of Jesus Christ that continues to this day.

Important to the devotion is the image of the Divine Mercy. St. Faustina first saw the Divine Mercy image in 1931 while praying in her cell at the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy Convent in Plock, Poland.

According to her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, the Lord directed her to “paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I Trust in You’” (Diary, 47-48).

The diary continues: “The pale ray stands for the Water which 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” (Diary, 299).

In 1935, St. Faustina received the words for the Divine Mercy Chaplet when a vision of an angel, sent to chastise a particular city, led her to pray for mercy. At first, her prayers were powerless, but then she found herself interiorly pleading with God in these words: 

“Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us” (Diary, 475).

The following day she received another interior message instructing her to add “and on the whole world” to the end of the prayer (Diary 476).

These became the words of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which can be prayed, sung, or chanted using a rosary.

Divine Mercy in the Pews
Father Jim Gigliotti, TOR, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Fort Worth, also has witnessed the grace of Divine Mercy in the confessional, particularly when people fear they can’t be forgiven.

The Divine Mercy image at the University Catholic Community at the University of Texas at Arlington. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“Jesus says in the Divine Mercy Diary, there is no sin that is so scarlet that if the soul is contrite, they cannot be forgiven,” Fr. Gigliotti said. “He said to St. Faustina, ‘Tell the soul who approaches Me in the Tribunal of Mercy’ — that’s His word for the confessional — ‘that they are to imagine their sins falling like drops of rain and disappearing in an ocean of My mercy.’”

Fr. Gigliotti stressed devotion to Divine Mercy also transforms lapsed Catholics and calms and comforts the sick and dying.

“I saw that when I introduced people to the Divine Mercy devotion, it brought a great deal of healing, relief, and comfort to them,” the pastor explained. “It changed their lives. It changed their perspectives and brought them closer to the Lord. It made them hungry once more and appreciative of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation.”

He recalled that one day while serving at a parish in Florida, he scanned the group of about 100 people at daily Mass and realized about 65 of them had been lapsed Catholics who returned to the Church because of Divine Mercy.

Vince Bonillo, a St. Andrew parishioner, was one such Catholic until he discovered the Divine Mercy Chaplet last fall at a Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) weekend.

“I had stopped praying and going to Mass,” he said.  But then, his wife asked him to attend the CRHP weekend.

“God showed me grace and forgiveness… I learned so much about how great and forgiving God is. It has helped me become a stronger Catholic,” he said.

Kate Sweeney, a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena in Carrollton, discovered Divine Mercy in 2013 while attending to her mother who was in hospice. During a visit from two of her cousins, they invited her to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

“We prayed it multiple times a day, but especially at 3 p.m.,” Sweeney said. When her mother passed away, she was praying the chaplet at her bedside. Though her mother had never mentioned Divine Mercy, Sweeney later found a copy of the Divine Mercy prayers with her mother’s rosary.

Fr. Gigliotti explained why the Divine Mercy Chaplet is a powerful prayer for those who are dying. “Jesus says in the Diary that He Himself goes and presents the soul to the Father through the mercy of the cross. He Himself comes to the soul as they’re dying,” he said.

Shortly after her mother’s death, Sweeney joined a group of St. Catherine parishioners who pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. every Sunday in the parish chapel.

A Wealth of Graces
Fr. Gigliotti said St. Faustina’s diary includes a request for the Church to pray a Divine Mercy Novena from Good Friday to the Sunday after Easter, now known as Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Pope John Paul II made Divine Mercy Sunday part of the official liturgical calendar in 2000 when he canonized St. Faustina.

He said Divine Mercy Sunday includes “a plenary indulgence — complete remission of temporal punishment due to sin.”

According to a 2002 apostolic decree, conditions for the Divine Mercy indulgence include sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and praying for the intentions of the pope, as well as participating in Divine Mercy prayers and devotions.

Fr. Gigliotti has offered the Divine Mercy Novena and Divine Mercy Sunday services in every parish he has served since he was introduced to it in 1978, including during his 20 years as pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington.

Bonnie Irvine, a St. Catherine of Siena parishioner, said she participates in Divine Mercy devotions because “we’re always asking God for something but don’t often ask for His forgiveness. And it’s deeper than just a prayer of petition. We’re not just praying for ourselves. We’re praying for everyone else too.”

“It’s in the words of the prayer,” she said. “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

When you enter the confessional at Our Mother of Mercy Parish in Fort Worth, the first thing you see is an enormous painting of Jesus in a white garment with red and white rays emanating outward: the Divine Mercy image.