Highway To Heaven? The Divine Mercy Devotion
Last Sunday was, well, Dominica in albis. You might have noticed in the past that I don't like this Divine Mercy thing much.
I accept the fact that the first translations might have been particularly bad. I accept the fact that St Faustina Kowalska was a saintly nun. But being saintly does not make one infallible, and even saintly people may be wrong. In the same way as the canonisation of Bernadette does not oblige anyone to believe in the Lourdes apparitions, I as a Catholic am not obliged in the least to believe in the Divine Mercy ones.
Much has been written on the subject. What makes me instinctively and immediately sceptical is this idea of fast and easy paradise. Apparently, the followers of the apparition believe that it is very easy to go to paradise on the express lane; not only ourselves, which would be wrong enough, but even people who have a lot to be purged from in purgatory. Come on, this can't be right.
For centuries we have been warned of a long and painful permanence in Purgatory. Countless generations of very holy men and women have prayed and done penance for decades on end in the hope of shortening theirs and their beloved ones' stay there. I pray for my loved ones – and can't imagine any serious Catholic who did not do it in ages past – decades after their death. This is how it has always been.
Why this should be changed is beyond me. God can't change, so it cannot be that Our Lord suddenly decides to appear to a Polish nun and to say to her: “you know what? Let's do it differently now! Big Paradise Sale! Until life lasts!”
Browse on the Internet and you will read the most outlandish conclusions from the alleged revelations: “straight ticket to heaven”, “floodgates of mercy are open”, 1000 souls released from purgatory for a short prayer, and the like. Please.
The practical implications are devastating. It is impossible to believe in such a fast lane to heaven without losing a good portion of the fear of the Lord of our forefathers; when this happens, it becomes very difficult to reconcile an extremely easy paradise with the terrible reality of the danger of hell. If Paradise is so easy hell can't be a real danger, either.
If we look at the past centuries, we can clearly see that in the ages in which faith was strongest purgatory was feared the most, and the great season of theological reflections on purgatory came exactly because of the great importance it had in pious people's lives.
I also wonder why an omniscient God would not only change His rules, but He would also do so in an age of widespread licence, rampant heathenism, and endemic loss of faith. Who in his right mind can think that this wholesale elimination of punishment actually does anything for Catholicism? When has the child, upon being told that pretty much whatever he does he will meet only an extremely mild punishment, been encouraged to be a better child? Those who think this way are far more likely raise thieves, sluts, and drug addicts.
Beware of those who tell you the way is so easy. We are supposed to work on our salvation with fear and trembling, and I can't see how there can be any fear, much less trembling, when the Big Paradise Sale is ongoing.
Also note a general trend: that the more faithless the time become, the more we are surrounded by talk of mercy. Visit any V II parish for a while and tell me whether there is no underlying atmosphere of something for nothing, of result without effort, of salvation without sacrifice. In the end, it all boils down to the same concept: relax, unless you are Stalin there isn't much to worry about.
I for myself will follow a simple rule: if it would have seemed “off” to my grand-grandmas, it is “off” to me.
And so Catholic.