Divine Mercy Shaped the Pontificate of the 'Great Mercy Pope'

We celebrate the feast day of St. John Paul II on Oct. 22. In his writings and homilies, St. John Paul II described Divine Mercy as the answer to the world's problems and the message of the third millennium.

The following is an excerpt from The Great Mercy Pope (Marian Press) by Fr. George Kosicki, CSB - a book that describes how the message of Divine Mercy shaped the pontificate of John Paul II.

A Pope's legacy
Among the many legacies of John Paul II, his legacy of Divine Mercy stands out as exceptional. Among the two dozen marvelous legacies of John Paul II which I have read about, only in the legacies of Divine Mercy and in the apostolic letter At the Beginning of the New Millennium (January 6, 2001) where he gives the prayer "contemplate the face of Jesus with Mary" does he specifically say that he is passing them on to the whole world as the message and prayer for the Third Millennium.

At the canonization of St. Faustina, John Paul II said in his homily:

Sister Faustina's canonization has a particular eloquence. By this act I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium. I pass it on to all people, so that they will learn to know even better the true face of God and the true face of their brethren (Homily of Canonization, Divine Mercy Sunday, April 20, 2000).

A year later another expression of John Paul II's legacy of Divine Mercy was given at his Regina Caeli talk, following the Mass of Divine Mercy Sunday (April 22, 2001) honoring the anniversary of the canonization of St. Faustina. Again, he passes on this message of hope to the third millennium:

Filled with joy we present ourselves before the Risen One today and say with faith: "Jesus, I trust in You!" May this confession full of love strengthen everyone on the path of daily life and encourage them to undertake works of mercy for their brothers and sisters. May this be a message of hope for the entire new millennium.

The Pope then challenges us to collaborate with the plan of Divine Mercy for the whole world:

Now, with the recitation of the antiphon Regina Caeli, we ask Mary to enable us to experience the deep joy of the Resurrection and to collaborate with dedication in the universal plan of Divine Mercy (ibid).

At the departure ceremony of his visit to Krakow for the dedication of the Basilica of The Divine Mercy (August 19, 2002), John Paul II again repeated his unique legacy of Divine Mercy to the third millennium:

"God rich in Mercy." These are the words that sum up this visit. We have heard them as a call to the Church and to Poland in the new millennium. I pray that my compatriots will welcome with open hearts this message of mercy and will succeed in carrying it to wherever men and women are in need of the light of hope. ... I repeat before the merciful Jesus; "Jesus, I trust in You! May these heartfelt words bring comfort to future generations in the new millennium. May God who is rich in mercy bless you!

In his last book Memory and Identity, John Paul II ends his chapter on the mystery of mercy with a strong statement on the power of this mystery. He states that the lesson of Divine Mercy is not only for the Polish people, but also for every part of the world where the Church is present:

Here I should like to return to what I said about the experience of the Church in Poland during the period of resistance to communism. It seems to me to have a universal value. I think that the same applies to Sister Faustina and her witness to the mystery of Divine Mercy. The patrimony of her spirituality was of great importance, as we know from experience, for the resistance against the evil and inhuman systems of the time. The lesson to be drawn from all this is important not only for the Poles, but also in every part of the world where the Church is present. This became clear during the beatification and canonization of Sister Faustina. It was as if Christ had wanted to say through her: "Evil does not have the last word!" The Paschal Mystery confirms that good is ultimately victorious, that life conquers death, and that love triumphs over hate (The Mystery of Mercy, in Memory and Identity, John Paul II, p. 55, emphasis added).

Pope John Paul II's Final Message
In his final Divine Mercy Sunday message, read posthumously, John Paul summarized his message of Divine Mercy and passed it on to us as a legacy:

"Jesus, I trust in You! Have Mercy on us and on the whole world! Amen!" (Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3, 2005).

These are the closing and final words of Pope John Paul II written prior to his death, and read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Vatican Secretariat of State, following the Mass for the eternal repose of John Paul II (Vatican City, April 3, 2005, Zenit.org).

This was the final annual Divine Mercy Sunday message begun in 1991, and the summary of John Paul's message of Divine Mercy. These final words capsulized two major points of his life's legacy of Divine Mercy:

1. "Jesus, I Trust in You" was first expressed at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki, Poland, June 7, 1997, where he shared his half-century of involvement with The Divine Mercy message and devotion. In his talk, he said:

I come here to commend the concerns of the Church and of humanity to the merciful Christ. On the threshold of the third millennium I come to entrust to Him once more my Petrine ministry - "Jesus, I trust in You!" (emphasis in the text).

It is significant that he said "once more" I entrust my Petrine ministry to the merciful Christ. This was his way of entrusting himself, to the merciful Christ, like a parallel to his motto of entrustment to Mary: "Totus Tuus."

2. "... have mercy on us and on the whole world." in the same talk (June 7, 1997) he expressed his constant prayer:

I pray unceasingly that God will have "mercy on us and on the whole world." (From the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Diary, 476).

After prayerful reflection on John Paul's final and closing words, I consider that these words "Jesus, I trust in You! Have mercy on us and on the whole world" are John Paul's personal expression of the "Jesus Prayer" so much part of the spirituality of the Eastern Church.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner."

With the added dimension "and on the whole world." I have begun to pray the "Jesus Prayer" with the added phrase "... and on the whole world" and find it a powerful extension of the already powerful prayer. It is also an expression of the beatitude: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt 5:7) quoted by John Paul II in the talk at the International Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Poland and quoted five times as a repeated theme of his encyclical Rich in Mercy (Dives in Misericordia, 1980).

What was he praying?
These final words of John Paul II also confirm a personal experience I had while watching the Pope pray, in preparation for his celebrating Mass. It was the occasion of filming a presentation to the Holy Father for the film Divine Mercy - No Escape. The guests and camera crew were ushered into the private chapel of the Pope at 6:45 a.m. for a 7 a.m. Mass with the Holy Father. Msgr. Stanislaus Dziwisz assigned my place next to the Pope. For the next 15 minutes, I watched him praying, kneeling with his hands holding his head. But I was distracted!

One question stayed in my head: "What is he praying?" The words that kept coming to me were: "Have mercy on us and on the whole world" (November 13, 1986).

Then, it was on reading the text of John Paul II's talk at the International Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Poland (June 7, 1997) that he himself confirmed my sense of what he was praying: "I pray inceasingly, that 'God will have mercy on us and on the whole world' " (From the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Diary, 476).

In conclusion, on Divine Mercy Sunday 2005, the Pope's posthumous message was read:

Jesus, I trust in You! Have mercy on us and on the whole world! (April 3, 2005).

The late Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, is probably best known for his work with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, spreading the message of Divine Mercy.


You might also like...

Saint Maximilian Kolbe is one of the 20th century's most famous saints and influential priests. Why? Father Dan Cambra, MIC, explains.

The Marian apparition 165 years ago reminds us to keep our eyes "constantly" on Our Lady, as we celebrate her feast on Feb. 11.

A sickly child becomes a healthy and robust son of the Holy Catholic Church, and thank God for it!