I found this essay on PrayTell and a reference there to an interesting bit of testimony from Pope Benedict on his predecessor. Here’s the quote:
From the very beginning, John Paul II was deeply touched by the message of Faustina Kowalska, a nun from Kraków, who emphasized Divine Mercy as an essential center of the Christian faith. She had hoped for the establishment of such a feast day. After consultation, the Pope chose the Second Sunday of Easter. However, before the final decision was made, he asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to express its view on the appropriateness of this date. We responded negatively because such an ancient, traditional and meaningful date like the Sunday “in Albis” concluding the Octave of Easter should not be burdened with modern ideas. It was certainly not easy for the Holy Father to accept our reply. Yet, he did so with great humility and accepted our negative response a second time. Finally, he formulated a proposal that left the Second Sunday of Easter in its historical form but included Divine Mercy in its original message.
There’s a lot on which to comment on in this excerpt:
- The depth of the consultation between the pope and his trusted lieutenant. And more, the level of trust this demonstrates.
- Certainly, the humility of John Paul II is remarkable.
- As for the Second Sunday of Easter getting a subtitle, I admit feeling a bit of bother on this when it first came out. But since, I’ve felt a good degree of peace and even some warm regard for the Divine Mercy observance. Parishioners in two of my last three communities have invited my collaboration and taken my small suggestions with enthusiasm: better programs, my best singers, and my throwing staff support their way.
- Personally, I’m grateful for the urge to explore mercy in my own life. It might not have happened if it weren’t for the observance and my reading of Pope Francis and St John Paul. “Is this merciful?” is a good question to ask of oneself.
- I have less regard for the attached novena. On one level it makes sense to bracket nine days between the betrayal of Peter and Judas and the Passion and the eye-opening experience of Thomas, plus the forgiveness of Peter. On the whole, there are many sacramental observances we do not celebrate during Triduum and the Octave of Easter. The Church rightly urges a focus on the Paschal Mystery.
- All that said, I can think of only a very few qualities–maybe just hope–that is more needed in the Church and the world today than mercy. The Church has given horrid witness to the quality. I think there’s a theoretical embrace of mercy. The CDF during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II was famous, even celebrated, for a lack of mercy when it came to people who crossed them–bishops, theologians, and the occasional ordinary Catholic priest, woman religious, or lay person. In that light, maybe the pushback from Cardinal Ratzinger (with which I would agree) isn’t so surprising.
- If a more merciful Church can be uncovered in the decades ahead, I’d say that Divine Mercy Sunday is a fitting exchange.