The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.
The devotional practices associated with this feast came to be because Sr. Faustina Kowalska (now a canonized saint), said she had been personally visited by Jesus in visions. In most Catholic churches, you will find a representation of Jesus as Sr. Faustina envisioned him; our risen Lord, with rays coming from his heart, one red (representing blood) and the other “pale” (symbolizing water), with the words “Jesus, I trust in you” at the bottom. On Divine Mercy Sunday, you may have the opportunity to pray the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, or to experience the Hour of Great Mercy, a time of prayer traditionally celebrated at 3 p.m. A plenary indulgence is granted to those who receive the Eucharist, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father and celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation on or within a short time of Divine Mercy Sunday. To receive the indulgence for this feast, one must also take part in specific prayers to honor Jesus as Divine Mercy.
There are many documented and church-approved visions of Jesus appearing to people after his Ascension into heaven. In addition to the Divine Mercy, look for other images or statues in your church of holy people who encountered Jesus in visions. The most familiar might be the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the late 1600’s, the French saint (Sr.) Marguerite Marie Alacoque had numerous visions of Jesus and his Sacred Heart. This led her to founding devotion to the Sacred Heart. The Feast of the Sacred Heart is now officially celebrated 19 days after Pentecost.
St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, had an apparition of Jesus just before he was stoned to death.
We are all familiar with the story of Saul who was knocked to the ground by an apparition of Jesus and went on to become St. Paul, one of our greatest missionaries.
St. Francis of Assisi received an apparition of Jesus in which he told Francis to rebuild the church in Assisi for God’s glory. This caused Francis to found the Franciscan order.
St. Catherine of Siena was only 19 when she reported her first vision of Jesus, and St. Theresa of Avila had visions of Jesus for almost two years.
More recently in the mid-19th century, St. John Vianney, a French priest and the patron saint of priests, was blessed with countless visions of Jesus.
St. Padre Pio lived within the lifetime of many of us older adults. Padre Pio was a priest who not only received visions of Jesus, but also was signed with the stigmata, the wounds of Jesus, on his hands and feet. He died in 1968.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you” (14:20). While our experience of “seeing” Jesus may not be as profound as many saints, nonetheless, we are challenged to be visionaries of Jesus as we look upon one another gathered together as the body of Christ.
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.