Evangelising with the image of Divine Mercy

by Marie Barbieri

When I first came to Frankfurt on mission a couple of years ago to spread the idea of evangelisation and Mercy I was very timid in using the image of Divine Mercy which Our Lord asked Sister Faustina to have painted saying "I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature : Jesus, I trust in you !" (Diary § 327) I was told on many occasions that for German sensibilities the image was too primitive, unartistic ….kitsch. People often remarked, "Don’t you have another picture of Jesus to put on your posters ? Something a bit more aesthetic ?" How many others have met the same reaction all over the world ?!

Indeed, I had to learn to adapt to the culture here. I had to learn that I needed to meet people at their point in faith as Jesus Christ would do and help them discover His merciful love with all sorts of approaches - through Scripture reflections, through re-discovering the Sacrament of Reconciliation, through compassionate listening etc, etc.

However as Divine Providence brought me many opportunies to evangelise amongst the poor, homeless people and drug-addicts, I found myself using the image more and more as a way of presenting the merciful face of Jesus as a response to their story of suffering and pain. At the end of every encounter I would bring out an image of the Merciful Jesus from my pocket and ask them if I could explain to them what the image means. The image allowed me to talk to them about Jesus and all he is offering us - his hands to reach out to us and bless us, his eyes to look lovingly at us, his wounded feet which walk towards us to meet us in our need, his pierced heart forever open for us, never rejecting us and the rays of new life and forgiveness flowing from that heart. I discovered that I could improvise a little catechism adapted for every life situation with the use of this simple but blessed image.

As I write now, I have just come back from Rome where I had the joy of being present at the first celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday since the death of Pope John Paul II. After a wonderful Mass celebrated by Archbishop Comastri where he passionately encouraged everyone to be fearless witnesses of Mercy, I was standing outside the Church of Santo Spirito waiting patiently for the planned procession to St Peter’s Square to begin. All of a sudden, an Italian lady tapped me on the shoulder and presented me with the image of Divine Mercy, "Ecco. È per te, da Gesù. Diffondela ! Diffondela !" (Here. It’s for you, from Jesus. Spread it around ! Spread it around !" - words that hit me right in the heart.

Then something even more incredible happened ! We were several hundred people to accompany the image of Divine Mercy (the one which hangs above the altar in the Church of Santo Spirito) in procession to St Peter’s Square. We wanted to arrive in time for the Regina Caeli prayer with Pope Benedikt. It took three strong men to carry the huge painting on the way. I found myself walking alongside the gentleman carrying the frame from the left and as we inched forward in prayerful procession, pressed by the crowd, I had the amazing grace of seeing the reaction of the unexpected public to the Risen Merciful Lord’s solemn entry into the Square. I witnessed a deep silence fall upon every person who stood by watching. People were simply captivated by the sight. I saw people staring up at his merciful face as though in a trance, as though they were really understanding the love of God for the first time. I saw people of all nationalities with tears in their eyes as He walked by, visibly touched by his tender gaze. I saw one young man hold the procession up for several moments as he stood motionless in front of the image. And like many others who had the grace of witnessing this moment, I was moved to tears as I saw the young man gazing upwards, his eyes transfixed on Jesus looking down on him, tears rolling down his face. It was as though Jesus was telling him something.What was said we’ll never know but the young man walked away so happy.

If I had any hesitation about the grace of this image before, I certainly don’t have any now. Thank you, Lord !