Columnists > The ever-multiplying Divine Mercy painting does little to inspire me

02 June 2016 | by Richard Leonard

The ever-multiplying Divine Mercy painting does little to inspire me


Because the people of the ancient world could feel their heart beat, and see it move, and they knew that when it stopped people died, then they believed that the heart rather than the brain controlled the body. Understandably in this pre-scientific world, the heart was given mystical properties.

Even today we talk about people who have “big, good or full hearts”, are “warm or broken hearted” or are “heartless”. These metaphorical uses of the word point to a presence or an absence of love. The best continuing example of this tradition is St Valentine’s Day, an obscure Roman martyr whose feast day took over a pagan festival of love.

There is another celebration associated with a heart this week: Friday is the feast day known formally as the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. St Margaret Mary Alacoque is credited with popularising the Sacred Heart, but the devotion certainly pre-dates her. It is described as early as the eleventh century and recorded in the visions and writings of many holy men and women thereafter, including Gertrude, Mechtilde, Francis de Sales, Francis Borgia and John Eudes.

Almost always, large-scale public devotions in our Church rise to counter a theological position. When St Margaret Mary had her religious experiences, France was in the grip of the Jansenist heresy. Among many other things, Jansenism placed great emphasis on individual responsibility for sin, and the difficulty of obtaining Christ’s mercy, whose true humanity was played down.


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User Comments (4)

Comment by: Deipnosophista
Posted: 06/06/2016 22:10:53
I too dislike the "former representations of the Sacred Heart", with their distracting plumbing on display.
In the article, "prescribed", I presume – not "proscribed".
Comment by: Kippy
Posted: 06/06/2016 21:06:42
It's good to see that I'm not the only one who is less than overwhelmed by the phenomenon. We now have one of the pictures hanging over the entrance to our confessional room; I don't know if it's just for the Year of Mercy or a permanent fixture.

In our parish, a different group leads the Way of the Cross and provides a soup supper every Friday of Lent. The Way of the Cross tends to take us between 20 and 30 minutes.

Last year, the high school youth group (which is helmed by middle-aged women of a conservative bent) used the occasion to lead us in the entire Divine Mercy Chaplet, complete with pious girls kneeling on both sides of the video screen. It was the first time I'd come across it, and it certainly took us longer than I'd anticipated being there. To say that it's repetitive is an understatement.
Comment by: sprietsma29
Posted: 04/06/2016 00:12:04
That "Divine Mercy" image should be pleasing to effeminate or trans-gender people.

All those private "revelations" which give "promises" or God's favor conditioned on certain prayers or actions, I regard as very suspect.

Even all those "first friday" promises are rather wasted with fat chance of having a priest available when you are dying.
Comment by: Liverpoolssmn
Posted: 03/06/2016 19:35:49
Amen and Amen. I have long felt this, but you have described my ambivalence to this
devotion perfectly.
Thank you.

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