|Pictured: Doe-eyed mystic.|
But aesthetic problems aside, the implications of the Divine Mercy Sunday devotion are somewhat troubling. If taken literally, the devotional practice is said to grant graces much greater than that of a plenary indulgence, graces greater than all the Sacraments except for Baptism, at the rank of a second Baptism. Gone is the usual indulgence requirement of complete detachment from sin; now we're in the dispensation of the New Pentecost, I suppose.
Still, what do I know? I cannot say I understand how P. John Paul's 1993 canonization of Sr. Kowalska and the creation of her Divine Mercy feast in 2000 deals with the apparently severe problems of her character and theology, so much as it sweeps them under the rug. The endless chattering of JP2 2.0 about "mercy" is the logical endgame of mercy without penance.
One of the tragedies of the spiritual life used to be the soiling of one's baptismal garments. Rare was even the saint who never soiled that primordial purity with mortal sin. The stains of sin were difficult to wash out, and the loving desire for self-purification was a great drive for those wishing to please God and his Mother. Now this has been replaced with a yearly return to baptismal purity with little effort on the sinner's part, like Hera at Kanathos. But maybe this is what we require in these dark times? Maybe the Catholic faithful are so far lost in ignorance and apathy that God is reaching down into the depths to pull us up into his good graces. Maybe we have been trained so long to hate penance and perfection that Christ is outpouring his mercy in such a way that he is willing even for that to be abused by preachers, so long as it is received.
There is also a liturgical tragedy, for the old celebration of the Octave Day of Easter in its various forms (Low Sunday, White Sunday, Quasimodo Sunday, Pascha Clausum, etc.) has been lost. Like so many other octaves on the Roman kalendar, the Octave of Easter has been manipulated, though at least not eliminated. I cannot help but think that Karol Wojtyła was inspired by national loyalty rather than careful reasoning when he promoted Faustina's cultus and devotions to universal status.
Still, what do I know? On Low Sunday this year I thankfully heard a sermon that spoke of Jesus and Easter, with only a passing mention of the Divine Mercy stuff. Maybe one day I will dip into Sr. Kowalska's diary and present commentary on a few choice passages, but until then I have more interesting books to read.
Jesus' secretary "in this life and the next," pray for us!