John Malvino Alfonso, OCD
he Mother Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday on the Second Sunday of Easter. Pope Saint John Paul II decreed on May 5 2000, that the Second Sunday of Easter, the Octave of Easter, would be known as Divine Mercy Sunday. The feast was established by the Pope after he canonized Saint Faustina, a humble Polish nun to whom Jesus revealed his message of divine mercy.
Saint Faustina, born in 1905, became a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy at age 20. While at the convent, beginning in February 1931, she received several revelations from Jesus, who communicated to her the depth of his mercy and his desire that all be merciful to one another.
The Lord Jesus also shared with her his desire that a feast day be dedicated to Divine Mercy and that it be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. Saint Faustina's diary, in which she details the revelations, includes 14 occasions on which the Lord asks that a feast day be established.
The celebration of Mercy is a celebration and summation of God’s love. The Holy week Triduum, along with the entire Easter season, focuses on various aspects of the paschal mystery. Holy Thursday celebrates the Institution of Priesthood, Institution of the Eucharist and the act of love and service. Good Friday commemorates the passion and death of Jesus on the Cross. The Easter vigil, the pinnacle of the paschal mystery, celebrates the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Redeemer who is our light and salvation which brings us new life by water and salvation.
The celebration of God’s mercy focusses on God’s continuing action of mercy throught salvation history, culminating in His loving plan to have mercy on all. This celebration shows his mercy is active in our lives now. We have forgiveness of sins and new life as children of God. This needs to be celebrated.
Pope Francis announced the Extrordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy which commenced on December 8 2015 and concluded on November 20 2016. Pope Francis, at the beginning of the Year of Mercy presenting an Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Misericordiae Vutlus’ (Face of Mercy) urged all the faithful to be merciful like the Father. While concluding the Year of Mercy, Pope gave another exhortation, ‘Misericordia et Misera’ ( Mercy and Misery). He had cautioned us saying that the year of mercy is closed but the mercy of God continues.He wants every faithful to be merciful.
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy was celebrated in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman with Fr. Socoro Mendes, heading a committee appointed for the same. Archbishop wrote a special Pastoral Letter highlighting the true meaning of mercy and appealed the faithul to be merciful through the acts of Mercy (Corporal and Spiritual). Novena, retreats, recollections and other spiritual exercises were based on the theme ‘mercy’.Divine Mercy Sunday 2016 was celebrated at the diocesan level at the Carmelite Monastery Margao and Carmelite Seminary, Mapusa. Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrão presided over the Eucharistic celebration held at the Carmelite Monastery, Margao. was present on the occasion. Fr. Denis Fernandes, Episcopal Vicar for North, was the chief celebrant at the Eucharistic celebration held at the Carmelite Seminary, Mapusa. Concluding the celebration, Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao, appealed the Carmelite Friars in Goa in the presence of Fr. Charles Serrão, Provincial Superior of the Karnataka Goa Province of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites and Fr. Archibald Gonsalves, Superior of the Carmelite Monastery Margao, to promote Divine Mercy devotion in the Archdiocese. Carmelite Friars, accepted the suggestion to conscientise about the devotion and promote the same in the Archdiocese of Goa. Accordingly a letter signed by the Convenor Fr. Socorro Mendes was sent to all the Parish Priests requesting them to avail the services of the Carmelite Friars to conscentise about the devotion and continue the same in the parishes.
Many families/individuals in Goa do have divine Mercy devotion. But the feast of Divine Mercy was celebrated for the first time at the Carmelite Monastery Margao in the year 1983. It was the initiative of Late Fidelis Bonamis. Fr. Anastacio Gomes, a Carmelite Friar, promoted this devotion through his writings, calls Bonamis as the Pioneer of Mercy Devotion in Goa in his book titled ‘Celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday.’ Where ever since then it has been celebrated with the participation of the faithful from the whole of South Goa at the Carmelite Monastery. Fr. Antonio D’silva, yet another Carmelite friar, a well-known preacher of the Word of God, promoted the mercy of God through his thought-provoking sermons.
Acknowledging the contribution made by the Carmelite friars and also the celebration of the Divine Mercy Sunday for many years, the Archbishop asked the Carmelite and also gave permission (CP/2967/2017) to promote this devotion in the Churches and Chapels of the Archdiocese. Accordingly, a letter was sent by the Carmelites in June 2017 to all the Parish Priests and the resident Chaplains requesting them to contact Carmelite friar Bro. John Malvino Alfonso, co-ordinator of the Promotion of Divine Mercy to express their wish to have this devotion in their parishes/chapels.Accordingly, 112 Divine Mercy Parish/ Chapel groups were formed.
The celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday is an opportunity to reflect on the theme of how God’s mercy can overcome sin and, as the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments states, “a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.” (Decree, Divine Mercy Sunday)
(Writer is a member of the Karnataka-Goa province of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites based at the Carmelite Monastery, Margao)