Even though public Masses continue to be cancelled, Divine Mercy Sunday can still be celebrated in the home, and its plenary indulgence still received.
The Second Sunday of Easter, or Divine Mercy Sunday, falls on April 19 in 2020. The day focusses the Church’s attention to the pardon won by Christ and the forgiveness of sins from his open heart, the source of mercy. “The paschal mystery,” writes Pope John Paul II, “is the culmination of this revealing and effecting of mercy, which is able to justify man, to restore justice in the sense of that salvific order which God willed from the beginning in man, and through man, in the world” (Encyclical Letter Dives in misericordia, n. 7).
To express more fully to the world and to help the faithful receive more fruitfully God’s mercy, the Church offers special practices on this day that direct our attention to the merciful heart of Jesus. In addition to the celebration of Mass, the faithful, while in a church or chapel, are encouraged to “take part in the prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy, or, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g., ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you!’).” In addition to these practices, the faithful, free from attachment to sin, are to receive sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion, and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father. (See full text of the decree, here.)
But even this year, when public Masses are cancelled and Wisconsin citizens are to stay at home as much as possible, Divine Mercy devotions can still take place in the home and the plenary indulgence still be received. As the Vatican’s 2002 decree explains: “the sick and those who nurse them, and all who for a just cause cannot leave their homes or who carry out an activity for the community which cannot be postponed, may obtain a plenary indulgence on Divine Mercy Sunday, if totally detesting any sin…, and with the intention of fulfilling as soon as possible the three usual conditions [sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff], will recite the Our Father and the Creed before a devout image of Our Merciful Lord Jesus and, in addition, pray a devout invocation to the Merciful Lord Jesus (e.g., ‘Merciful Jesus, I trust in you’).”
May the Opening Prayer for the Second Sunday of Easter recall God’s mercy throughout the day and the entire Easter Season: “God of everlasting mercy, who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast kindle the faith of the people you have made your own, increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed, that all may grasp and rightly understand in what font they have been washed, by whose Spirit they have been reborn, by whose Blood they have been redeemed. Amen.”
By Christopher Carstens
Published in the April 2020 issue of Catholic Life