Two Brief Notes
First, the Divine Mercy Sunday Indulgence, like any indulgence, does not forgive sins. Rather, an indulgence remits the temporal punishment due one’s already forgiven sins. For a basic primer on indulgences, please read our Faith Fact on the subject.
Second, regarding “full forgiveness,” Jesus promised to St. Faustina Kowalska that “the soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion [on Divine Mercy Sunday] shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment” (Sister Faustina M. Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul [Stockbridge, Mass.: Marian Press, 1987], no. 699, p. 286; cf. nos. 300, 1109). Our Lord reminds us that the normative way to receive forgiveness of sins is through the Sacrament of Confession. Following Our Lord’s lead, the Church issued indulgences for Divine Mercy Sunday.
On June 29, 2002, the Apostolic Penitentiary published a decree in which Pope John Paul II “attached a plenary and a partial indulgence to the devout observance of the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday” (L’Osservatore Romano, weekly English edition, August 21, 2002, p. 5). As the decree provides, certain conditions must be met to gain the indulgences:
a plenary indulgence, granted under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer for the intentions of Supreme Pontiff) to the faithful who, on the Second Sunday of Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, in any church or chapel, in a spirit that is completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, take part in the prayers and devotions held in honor of Divine Mercy, or who, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, recite the Our Father and the Creed, adding a devout prayer to the merciful Lord Jesus (e.g., “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you.”)
a partial indulgence, granted to the faithful who, at least with a contrite heart, pray to the merciful Lord Jesus a legitimately approved invocation (Ibid., emphasis original).
As indicated in our Faith Fact on Indulgences, a person need not fulfill all indulgence requirements on Divine Mercy Sunday. In the June 29, 2002 decree, priests are given the duty to inform parishioners of the Indulgence, hear confessions and lead prayers:
Priests who exercise pastoral ministry, especially parish priests, should inform the faithful in the most suitable way of the Church’s salutary provision. They should promptly and generously be willing to hear their confessions. On Divine Mercy Sunday, after celebrating Mass or vespers, or during devotions in honor of Divine Mercy, with the dignity that is in accord with the rite, they should lead the recitation of the prayers that have been given above. . . (Ibid.).
For “those who cannot go to church or the seriously ill,” the Church makes additional provision so that they may gain a plenary indulgence on Divine Mercy Sunday:
In addition, sailors working on the vast expanse of the sea; the countless brothers and sisters, whom the disasters of war, political events, local violence and other such causes have been driven out of their homeland; the sick and those who nurse them, and all who for a just cause cannot leave their home or who carry out an activity for the community which cannot be postponed, may obtain a plenary indulgence on Divine Mercy Sunday, if the totally detesting any sin, as has been said before, and with the intention of fulfilling as soon as possible the three usual conditions, will recite the Our Father and the Creed before a devout image of Our Merciful Lord Jesus and, in addition, pray a devout invocation to the Merciful Lord Jesus (e.g., “Merciful Jesus, I trust in you”).
If it is impossible that people do even this, on the same day they may obtain the Plenary Indulgence if with a spiritual intention they are united with those carrying out the prescribed practice for obtaining the indulgence in the usual way and offer to the Merciful Lord a prayer and the sufferings of their illness and the difficulties of their lives, with the resolution to accomplish as soon as possible the three conditions prescribed to obtain the plenary indulgence (Ibid., emphasis original).
The recitation of the Divine Mercy novena or the Divine Mercy chaplet is not required to receive the aforementioned indulgences. However, Jesus did encourage St. Faustina to recite the novena, beginning on Good Friday (See Sr. Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Marian Press, nos. 1209-30 (pp. 435-44), for the complete novena). He also told St. Faustina to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for nine days, beginning on Good Friday, adding that this in response to this particular novena “I will grant every possible grace to souls” (Ibid., no. 796 [p. 316]).
For more information on this topic, you may want to visit the website of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy at www.marian.org, or call 1-800-462-7426.