STEUBENVILLE, OH—When Dr. Valentin Fuster, the American cardiologist representing the postulators of St. Faustina Kowalska’s cause for sainthood, rose to leave the banquet following the canonization on April 30, 2000, Pope John Paul II motioned to him.
“I just wanted to tell you,” the aging pope said to Fuster, “today is the happiest day of my life.”
“Great joy, the deepest joy, comes from fulfilling one’s mission in life, one’s vocation,” said Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, who spoke to an overflow crowd at Franciscan University of Steubenville last month. “And John Paul II, at the beginning of his pontificate, said that promoting the message of Divine Mercy ‘is a special task assigned to me by God.’”
Father Gaitley’s talk, “Mary’s Gift of Mercy: John Paul II and the Second Greatest Story Ever Told,” traced the role of the Divine Mercy message in recent salvation history, a story that Father Gaitley considers second only to that of Sacred Scripture itself.
The story, he said, began on the eve of World War II when Jesus appeared to Sister Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish nun, and revealed his message of Divine Mercy, and the image of pale and crimson rays emanating from his heart.
“Mercy is a particular form of love when it encounters poverty, weakness, brokenness, sin,” Father Gaitley said. “Mercy is love when it meets suffering.”
The message spread through an agonized, broken Europe after World War II, as people took solace from the words, “Jesus, I trust in you.” However, after a bad translation of the message was sent to Rome, the message was banned. As people asked the Church to reconsider, one bishop in Poland listened to their pleas and sent a better translation of the message to Rome, and the Church lifted the ban. Six months later, Father Gaitley explained, that bishop was elected pope, and took the name John Paul II.
After devoting his life to promoting the message of Divine Mercy, Pope John Paul II lay dying on April 2, 2005, the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, the feast that he instated at St. Faustina’s canonization. Archbishop Dziwisz (now Cardinal), the pope’s 40-year personal secretary, felt the unmistakable urge to offer Mass right then. As it was Saturday evening, he prepared for the vigil Mass, which was the Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday, and Pope John Paul II received one droplet of the Precious Blood.
“Less than an hour later … John Paul II went to his eternal reward,” Father Gaitley said. “As Pope Benedict XVI himself puts it, he went to the Lord in the arms of mercy.”
Father Gaitley said that two messages were integral to Pope John Paul II’s papacy: “Be not afraid,” and “Jesus, I trust in You.”
“We’ve got the two sides of the same coin right here,” Father Gaitley said. “‘Be not afraid.’ Why? Because we trust in Jesus, who has revealed himself as infinite love and mercy.”
Father Gaitley, author of the Marian consecration book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, said that it is the Blessed Mother who brings us into Divine Mercy by drawing us to its fount, the pierced side of Christ. He emphasized the devotion of Marian consecration, which gives Mary permission to make one’s life into something beautiful for God.
“Mary’s whole being is to bring us to the mercy of God,” Father Gaitley said. “I believe the triumph of her Immaculate Heart is the triumph of Divine Mercy, because that’s the spark that will prepare the world for the Lord’s final coming.”
This year, the feast of Divine Mercy will be celebrated on Sunday, April 7.
You can see more talks from leading Catholic speakers at FaithAndReason.com