Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dead Air Church: The Feast of Divine Mercy

Left: Traditional holy card of Jesus and St Faustina, revealing the Divine Mercy devotion.

In Catholic tradition, today is the Feast of Divine Mercy. If you ask for forgiveness today, they HAVE to give it to you, no matter who you are or what you have done. Serial killers, fascist dictators, everyone. A cynic might say, you could accumulate horrible sins all year, then wait for the Sunday following Easter to confess, and thereby get a pass. (Not me, of course. I'd never say something like that.)

This is one of those "people's holidays"--which often feature Benediction, sacred litanies, the works. I've been to Divine Mercy masses many times, and used to say the chaplet regularly.

Some years ago, I frequented a chat room of hardcore trad-Catholics, several of whom turned out to be groupies of Mel Gibson's wacky dad. In this chat room, I first learned there have been sporadically-flaring controversies about St Faustina's diary and her account of events. Apparently, her diary contained what might be heresy or at least, some embarrassing nuttiness. (I have never read her diary, which is written in a simple-schoolgirl fashion that didn't hold my interest.)

What the traddies hated, in particular, was how St Faustina got bumped to the head of the saint-making list. Obviously, the homegirl mystic from Glogowiec, Poland, was a favorite of a certain other person from Poland, who made sure to canonize her in 2000. Hey, be true to your school, and all that! John Paul II was nothing if not fiercely loyal to Poland. This rankled the chat-room Gibsonoids to no end.

Looking up "St. Faustina" in the Catholic Encyclopedia, unbelievably, there is no entry for her, or separately for the Feast of Divine Mercy. Hmm. Since the death of her benefactor, has Polish-homegirl-with-weird-ideas been put on the back burner? (Reverend Wright, call your office!)

In a list of Feast days, I don't see the Divine Mercy listed.

The Catholic Church's great strength has always been to incorporate the people's folk piety (often called pagan) into the traditions of the church (often called co-optation and appropriation). Liberals hate this openly-imperialistic tendency, while conservatives hate that such pious folk devotions are often heretical, bizarre, magical-thinking and off-the-wall. Meanwhile, every such devotion and saint has its true believers, who are all over the lot economically, religiously (in style of worship), socially and even nationally. The tension between these forces is one of the most fascinating aspects of historic Catholicism. It is especially fascinating to witness such tension and consequent revisionism in my own lifetime, as I see that St Faustina, like Our Lady of Fatima, was exceedingly useful for the Cold War, but not as popular after the demise of the USSR.

In these famous incidents and individuals, we see a certain political populism joined with religious hope, as the people of Poland prayed for freedom.

St Faustina, pray for us.


And for Dead Air Church, we feature another famous plea for mercy, today.

Marvin Gaye - Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)


Sugarmag said...

Hey Now! I stumbled upon your blog recently and have enjoyed it-I can relate with much of what you write because I am feminist Dead Head Obama supporter, too, although I am younger than you (34) and so I am pretty sure you have been to a whole lot more shows than me. I laughed at this last post because I am also Catholic. You are a woman after my own heart. Oh, I lived in the South for awhile, too but I am not from there. I lived in Knoxville for a couple of years, although as any Southerner will tell, you, Knoxville is not the South ;-). Now I am back in Champaign, Illinois where I belong.

La Lubu said...

Daisy, if anyone's going to get me to go back to Mass, it'll probably be you! Great post!

Purtek said...

I love the nuances in your take on the social/political aspects of Catholicism, and the ways that has played out historically. I don't know anything about your religious/spiritual background, but you seem to be able to take a distanced, reasonably warm angle on the topic that I really appreciate. My family is Polish-Catholic (in Canada for generations, but in a weird, very Polish-loyal context) and I have some specific personal family baggage with that, and with JPII, that gets in the way of me being able to get at this kind of positive (or even just descriptive, narrative) information. So thanks for that.