Canonizations of John XXIII & John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday

Today, Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I know a few people who will be sitting in St. Peter’s square and celebrating the Mass, and although I can’t be there in person (oh, how I wish!), I plan to join them in prayer.

The day chosen for today’s canonizations has quite a bit of significance. Divine Mercy Sunday was officially instituted as such by Blessed (now Saint!) John Paul II in 2000, at the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, whose personal revelations from Jesus called us all to focus on His Divine Mercy. Five years later, John Paul died shortly after celebrating the vigil Mass of – you guessed it – Divine Mercy Sunday. (This holds a special significance for me, as I was studying in Rome at the time and was able to view his body as well as attend his funeral with around four million other people.) And now, his canonization will take place on the same day in this liturgical year.

Divine Mercy Sunday is a continuation of our Easter celebrations. Jesus died and rose from the dead for us, through God’s mercy for every single one of His people. Even the image of the Divine Mercy shows the merciful heart of Christ radiating out toward us, showing us how God’s forgiveness flowed out of Jesus Christ, like the blood and water seen by the Gospel writer John at the crucifixion. On this Octave Sunday of Easter, we are each called to show our thankfulness for the mercy God has shown us.

Jesus gave us, through St. Faustina, a calling to be merciful as God our Father is merciful. He asked us to practice mercy towards our neighbors by action (completing spiritual and corporal works of mercy), by word, and by prayer. Some of the most simple and powerful prayers I have ever encountered are contained within the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is said using short, repetitive prayers on normal rosary beads. It is even more meaningful when repeated over the course of nine days, as a Novena to the Divine Mercy. If you’ve never tried it, look it up and give it a chance. You could also join our Divine Mercy Cenacle group here at St. Peter’s, which carries out Jesus’ call to pray for and act out mercy for yourself and others.

As we celebrate the canonizations of two great men, as well as the joy that God has given us by sharing eternal life with us through his death and resurrection, I would like to leave you with the (optional) closing prayer to the Divine Mercy chaplet. Please pray it with me today in union with other St. Peter’s parishioners and Catholics around the world.

“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us, and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments, we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence, submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.”

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