Kairos: Volume 21, Issue 05
Ten years ago, only two churches in the Melbourne Archdiocese celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. This year, 47 parishes have confirmed that they will celebrate the feast day in accord with St Faustina’s record of Christ’s revelations to her.
John Canavan, founder of Divine Mercy Publications, has played a big role in the increase of devotion to the Divine Mercy throughout Melbourne. Divine Mercy Publications, in East Camberwell, is a hive of productivity all year round. Since 1991, it has been responsible for the distribution of Divine Mercy literature and merchandise throughout the entire Oceania region. Each week, it employs 12-15 volunteers, two full-time staff and one part-time. Mr Canavan describes the organisation as “an apostolate to let people know about the mercy of God”.
Over the last decade, this message has registered in the hearts of hundreds. Mr Canavan says: “I bought $5000 worth of material in 1991 and since then well over one million pieces of literature have been distributed throughout the Oceania region.” In Melbourne alone, there are more than 3000 people on the Divine Mercy mailing list.
Divine Mercy Sunday is the first Sunday after Easter. It was given this title by Pope John Paul II, following the canonisation of St Faustina on 30 April 2000. In the Church Calendar, the Sunday following Easter has always been the Feast of Mercy, however, the newly designated title, Divine Mercy Sunday, expands the theological significance of the Octave of Easter and deepens its meaning.
In the words of Pope John Paul II: “It unveils the truth that the Paschal Mystery is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of (Divine) Mercy, and that the paschal Christ is the definitive incarnation of Mercy, its living sign … (and) its inexhaustible source.”
Mr Canavan surmises: “The reason the Divine Mercy is growing in Melbourne congregations is because the priests who support it celebrate it precisely as St Faustina said Christ requested. That is, the readings for the second Sunday of Easter should continue to be read and priests should speak about mercy in their homilies. Furthermore, St Faustina said Our Lord asked that the Divine Mercy image be displayed, blessed and venerated; and confession should be available.”
According to St Faustina, Christ promised that on the Feast of Mercy, “the soul that will go to confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment”.
On 13 June 2002 Pope John Paul II established that Divine Mercy Sunday be enriched by a plenary indulgence, to ensure that the faithful would observe this day with intense devotion. However, as Mr Canavan points out, “it is up to the bishops of each diocese, to decide whether they want the feast to be celebrated”. Mr Canavan says the support of the Victorian bishops has been instrumental in the growth of participation among Melbourne parishes. This year, Divine Mercy Sunday will be celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart, along with
five Victorian bishops. “Archbishop Hart is a great promoter of the Divine Mercy and always has been”, says Mr Canavan.
This year, Bishop of Sale Christopher Prowse will be visiting St Michael’s in Traralgon, for adoration and confession, to offer Mass, and to lead the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Benediction at 3pm. This is significant because it will be the first time a bishop has celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday in St Michael’s parish. According to Mr Canavan, people are more inclined to develop an affinity with the Divine Mercy if it is sanctioned by their bishop.
The distribution of Divine Mercy literature has contributed to the increase in devotion throughout Melbourne. Every 12 months, Divine Mercy Publications organises guest speakers from around the globe to come and give talks in Melbourne parishes. They have also facilitated two conferences, one in 1993 and another in 1998, which were held in Australia and New Zealand and were directed towards raising awareness and increasing appreciation for Divine Mercy.
Mr Canavan believes that people have everything to gain by participating in the feast of Divine Mercy. To quote Our Lord’s words to St Faustina: “I desire that the feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”