INDIA: Divine Mercy Devotion Grows Rapidly
April 18, 2007
NEW DELHI (UCAN) -- Catholic groups in India conducted special programs on April 15, feast of the Divine Mercy, a devotion which is spreading in the country.
The devotion began to gain popularity in the 1930s. It is based on the diary Sister Mary Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) kept at her spiritual director's urging. The young Polish nun described visions in which Christ instructed her to tell people to turn to God.
In the visions recorded in the diary, Christ reminds people that God is merciful and forgiving, and that they too must show mercy and forgiveness toward others. He also asks that the Sunday after Easter be dedicated to the Divine Mercy. Pope John Paul II instituted this feast day for the universal Church on April 30, 2000, the day he canonized Saint Faustina.
The devotion calls people to a greater understanding of the boundless love God offers to everyone, especially the greatest sinners. It includes special prayers using ordinary rosary beads. Devotees also invoke God's mercy to heal sickness and overcome problems.
In Hyderabad, southern India, more than 2,000 people celebrated the feast day this year at a Divine Mercy center. His Mercy Endures Forever was the theme of the daylong program that comprised talks on God's mercy, Mass and a healing service.
Divine Word Father James Christuraj, who directs the center, told UCA News the devotion "makes you seek repentance for all, for the whole world."
Opened in 1999 as a venue for intercessory prayers, the center follows Saint Faustina's instructions on how to conduct the devotion and has produced two compact discs to popularize it.
Several parishes in Bombay archdiocese in western India organized Divine Mercy novenas and rosary prayers. The novena prayers, held over nine days, began at 3 p.m., the time traditionally ascribed to Jesus' death on the cross.
Speaking with UCA News on April 16, Auxiliary Bishop Bosco Penha of Bombay confirmed the devotion as spreading rapidly in the archdiocese, which covers Mumbai. The city, India's most populous, formerly was called Bombay.
Archdiocesan spokesperson Father Tony Charanghat said the archdiocese's Holy Name Cathedral conducted a novena from Good Friday leading to the feast. "Other parishes had also been asked to hold the novena," he told UCA News.
When Cardinal Ivan Dias was archbishop of Bombay, he "strongly advocated" praying the Divine Mercy novena, Bishop Penha said. In May, Cardinal Dias was appointed prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
His successor, Archbishop Oswald Gracias of Bombay, urged all parishes through a circular to make people aware, through the liturgy and Mass homilies, of Divine Mercy Sunday and veneration of the Divine Mercy image. The image shows Jesus with rays of light emanating from his heart. "But there was no compulsion," Bishop Penha added.
Claire Fernandes, a Catholic woman, finds the devotion "important to the family, as it is a prayer of mercy for sins that we have committed and will commit in future."
Norma Fernandes, another laywoman, said she has prayed the novena for the past 15 years. "It gives me immense peace and hope for our redemption," she said, adding that the prayers make one acknowledge the "power of forgiveness."
Two other laypeople, Rodney D'Souza and Jyothi D'Sa, see the devotion as related to Lent.
D'Souza further considers the novena to be "one of the few prayers" asking for mercy for Christians as well as people who are not Christians.
D'Sa, a student, said the novena leading to Divine Mercy Sunday "helps us continue through the week of Easter blessings in prayer." It also "keeps students away from other distractions as the afternoons are occupied in prayer."
Parishes in Mangalore diocese, southern India, observed the feast. The Diocesan Communication Centre broadcast on local television channels a documentary on the Divine Mercy. During the program, Bishop Aloysius Paul D'Souza of Mangalore delivered a message on the devotion.