Joseph Pronechen is a staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, Catholic Exchange, and Marian Helper. His religious features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday means we look to Jesus who identified himself to St. Faustina Kowalska as “The Divine Mercy,” and he gave us what he called his “signature” under his image — “Jesus, I Trust in You.”
We also have the perfect model of Divine Mercy to follow in the Mother of Mercy, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
For St. Faustina, “Mary was not only her tender spiritual Mother, but also the true model of trustful surrender to Divine Mercy,” states an article at TheDivineMercy.org prepared by several Divine Mercy experts at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
“Basically the key is the fiat, which is Mary’s ‘Yes,’” explained Father Chris Alar, of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, the director of the Association of Marian Helpers at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy. He is the author of Understanding Divine Mercy(Marian Press), writer and producer of Divine Mercy 101 and Explaining the Faith DVD series, as well as a host and guest on EWTN.
“People don’t understand Mary is the active part of salvation history. Mary is living proof that God’s will was that we also participate in salvation history. Mary gave Christ his human nature — he already had his divine nature. So the only way redemption can play out is that Mary said ‘Yes.’ She trusted in that mercy of God and surrendered because it was Divine Mercy that sent the Son.”
“Mary didn’t put herself first,” Father Alar added. Instead, Mary “is a woman who trusted and surrendered to God’s Divine Mercy and trusted that God is going to take care of her. By trusting, she was able to surrender to that most important moment of God’s Divine Mercy, the Incarnation.”
Susan Tassone, the bestselling author of six books on St. Faustina and Divine Mercy, including Praying With Jesus and Faustina During Lent and in Times of Suffering (Sophia Institute Press), points out how, in her diary, St. Faustina noted the role of Mary as the Mother of Mercy, writing, “Through Her, as through a pure crystal, Your mercy was passed on to us. Through Her man became pleasing to God; Through Her, streams of grace flowed down upon us” (diary, 1746).
Go to Mary
Naturally, as the mother of Jesus who is the Divine Mercy, among Mary’s many titles she is called “Mother of mercy: our Lady of mercy, or Mother of divine mercy,” as St. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy).
St. Faustina heard this title from our Blessed Mother herself. In one vision the saint saw Mary holding the Infant Jesus and her own confessor kneeling at her feet and speaking with the Blessed Mother. Faustina heard a few of Our Lady’s words, but not everything. As Faustina wrote, “The words were: I am not only the Queen of Heaven, but also the Mother of Mercy and your Mother” (diary, 330).
Mary’s example is so needed in our culture, according to Emily Jaminet, mother of seven, author of Divine Mercy for Moms (Ave Maria Press) and Secrets of the Sacred Heart, co-host of the Inspired by Faith Podcast (EmilyJaminet.com) and director of the Sacred Heart Enthronement Network.
In a culture that holds up secular role models and movie stars as icons, the faithful are blessed to have the greatest of all examples present with us in “the Blessed Virgin Mary, who shows us what it means to live out a trustful surrender to Divine Mercy,” Jaminet explained to the Register. “Her faithfulness, even in the midst of such pain and suffering, is a powerful example of how we are called to grow in holiness.”
Mary’s surrendering in trust to Divine Mercy also remained prominent during Jesus’ passion and death on the cross. “The Blessed Mother had faith and knew that this intense moment of suffering had infinite value for our salvation,” Jaminet said. “She trusted Jesus her Son and God the Father. I am sure she reflected on the words of Simeon given to her at the Presentation, ‘and a sword shall pierce your heart.’”
St. John Paul II also saw the connection of Mary to Divine Mercy at that time of suffering preceding the Resurrection. In Dives in Misericordia he examined how, “in an exceptional way, she made possible with the sacrifice of her heart her own sharing in revealing God’s mercy. This sacrifice is intimately linked with the cross of her Son, at the foot of which she was to stand on Calvary. Her sacrifice is a unique sharing in the revelation of mercy, that is, a sharing in the absolute fidelity of God to His own love, to the covenant that He willed from eternity and that He entered into in time with man, with the people, with humanity; it is a sharing in that revelation that was definitively fulfilled through the cross.”
“No one has received into his heart, as much as Mary did,” the Polish pontiff continued, “that mystery, that truly divine dimension of the redemption effected on Calvary by means of the death of the Son, together with the sacrifice of her maternal heart, together with her definitive ‘fiat.’”
“Mary, then, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy,” John Paul II concluded. “She knows its price; she knows how great it is.”
Tassone is of similar mind. “Our Lady shared the sacrifice of her heart in revealing God’s mercy,” she said. “Mary had a part in the events of the Passion,” from being there when Jesus was judged, watching him carrying his cross through the streets to Calvary, then standing there beneath the cross at her son’s death as he was crucified before her eyes.
“Mary shared in the salvific mission of her Son,” Tassone added. “She was called in a special way to bring people the love which Jesus came to reveal to us. She was fully active in His work of saving souls.”
Because Mary trustfully surrendered, she had a role in everything from the Incarnation to the Resurrection.
In his encyclical, John Paul II made this association very clear: “These words of the Church at Easter re-echo in the fullness of their prophetic content the words that Mary uttered during her visit to Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah: ‘His mercy is … from generation to generation.’ At the very moment of the Incarnation, these words open up a new perspective of salvation history.”
He also reflected on the continuous new generations of the People of God “marked with the Sign of the Cross and of the Resurrection and ‘sealed’ with the sign of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, the absolute revelation of the mercy that Mary proclaimed on the threshold of her kinswoman’s house: ‘His mercy is … from generation to generation.’”
As Pope Francis said March 24 of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, “Her hands, her eyes, her behavior are a living ‘catechism,’ always indicating the hinge, she always points out the center: Jesus.”
He continued: “This is the role Mary fulfilled throughout her entire earthly life and which she forever retains: to be the humble handmaid of the Lord.”
In our lives, we are all called upon to surrender in trust to Divine Mercy. Mary’s constant example of trustful surrender to Divine Mercy was doing God’s will.
Jaminet finds in this example edification for the faithful. “Mary’s faithfulness to living out the will of God, and living in the will of God, is a powerful example for us as we journey in our faith.”
Tassone points out that in the diary (40), Faustina had this to say: “I have experienced an increasing devotion to the Mother of God. She has taught me how to love God interiorly and also how to carry out His holy will in all things.”
“Stay close to the Blessed Mother to fulfill the will of God,” Tassone advises. Jaminet adds another practice. “Mary also shows us the path towards forgiveness,” she explained. “She not only forgave those who hurt Jesus, but even the friends of Jesus who betrayed him, who were too weak to be with him. The Blessed Mother shows us that if we do not choose to forgive, we miss the opportunity to receive the mercy of God, Divine Mercy.”
Of course, trust is a must, as our Blessed Mother showed in all situations. St. Faustina had much to say about this response.
In one, a prayerful reflection in her diary, she wrote, “We must not doubt for even a moment but have trust in the power of God’s mercy” (1748). Over eight centuries earlier, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who promoted Marian devotion far and wide, recognized this attribute in Mary and inspired others as he prayed, “We praise your virginity and honor your humility; but it is your mercy that draws us closer to you, poor sinners that we are, and we embrace it with greater love. … Your most powerful and most merciful love is full of compassion for us and gains for us the help we need. Let my thirsty soul run to this source; let our poverty run to this excess of mercy with all haste.”