Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Divine Mercy, a standard subject in speaking of God in the Christian tradition, has become the focus of special devotional practice among Roman Catholics in the twentieth century. The new devotion is traced to Sister Josefa Menendez (1890–1923), a Spanish woman who in the year 1920 entered the Convent of Les Feuillants, Poitiers, France, a convent of the Order of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. During the four remaining years of her life, she had a number of visions that were dutifully recorded. Among her visions were those of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat (1779–1865), the founder of the order, but by far the most important were of Jesus. These visions built upon the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a major practice of the order. In a series of visions beginning in 1920, Jesus told Josefa that he meant to use her to carry out a plan of enlightening the world concerning the mercy of his heart. She was to become an apostle of his love and mercy.

Menendez lived and died in obscurity, and only in 1838 was an account of her vision published, as Un Appel à l’Amour. The book found an immediate office and within a year had been reprinted several times and translated into a variety of languages, in English as The Way of Divine Mercy.

In the meantime, a similar set of visions had come to a Polish nun, Faustina Kowalska (1905–1939), who in 1925 had joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy convent in Warsaw. Beginning in 1931, she had a repeated vision of Jesus with two rays of light coming from his heart, a pale ray signifying the water of baptism and a red ray the blood of atonement. At one point, Jesus spoke and asked that a picture be painted of what Faustina had seen, with the words, “Jesus, I trust in You.” He promised blessings upon any who venerated this image. He told the young nun that Infinite Mercy was the most mysterious attribute of divinity, more so than either his infinite goodness or love. Through further revelations, numerous details for following the devotion were given to Faustina until her death on October 5, 1939.

After World War II, the devotion put forth by Menedez and Faustina hit a major obstacle. Faustina had recoded her vision in Polish, but being only semiliterate, she wrote phonetically. A hasty translation was sent to Rome in 1958. Based upon the translation, her ideas were declared heretical. In 1964, Karol Wojtyla, the new Archbishop of Krakow, ordered a better translation be made of Faustina’s work. Based on that translation, the Vatican reversed its opinion. The text was later published as Divine Mercy in My Soul. Following Cardinal Wojtyla’s election as Pope John Paul II, he began to manifest. His first official encyclical, Dives Misercordiae (“Rich in Mercy”), indicated his faith in the Divine Mercydevotion. He subsequently oversaw Faustina’s beatification in 1996 and canonization in 2000.


Faustina, Blessed Sister. Handbook of Devotion to the Divine Mercy. Dublin: Divine Mercy, 1994.
Menendez, Josefa. The Way of Divine Love; or, The Message of the Sacred Heart to the World and a Short Biography of His Messenger, Sister Josefa Menendez Coadjutrix, Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1890–1923. Brookings, SD: Our Blessed Lady of Victory Missions, 1981.
Michalenko, Seraphim. The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion: With Selected Prayers from the Diary of Blessed Faustina. Stockbridge, MA: Marian Helpers, 1995.