(Sort of book related, since the book meme is going around…)
So I’m trying to figure out what’s up with the whole Divine Mercy thing. It usually takes forever for private revelations to become part of official theology, so something that was revealed to someone and then adapted in the same century is kind of odd. (Not that it probably hasn’t happened before, but most of the private revelations tend to take longer than 50 years to become more mainstream, such as Fatima, although reception is mixed. You have those who dote on every word the seers revealed, and you have those who think it probably happened, but don’t give it much thought.) Is there something more to the Divine Mercy thing besides the Sunday after Easter and cheesy art?
(N.B. I’m not discounting visionaries and other mystical revelations. I do believe they happen, and I believe that there are still people who have these kinds of experiences. I’m leery when private revelations get pushed so hard on the rest of us.)
So Divine Mercy chaplet. Have to admit, the prayers in it are kind of nifty. Mercy hour at 3…sure, I do the Divine Office when able, so I appreciate the value of regular prayer.
To give it a fair shot, I got St. Faustina’s book, Divine Mercy in my Soul. All 600+ pages of it. I’m not unfamiliar with mystical writings, and she’s very much coming out of that idiom. OK. nothing strange there. It’s her spiritual journal, after all, and wasn’t probably intended for publication when it was written. Plus she didn’t receive much education, so we can forgive some stylistic and grammatical glitches. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m only on page 50 or so.
She’s got some passages that are gorgeous. And then there are some that make me wonder about the whole Divine Mercy devotion. For instance, Jesus comes off as a manipulative bully of a boyfriend. He (according to her) tells her that he won’t put up with her, when she was discerning a vocation. Although it didn’t sound like much of a discernment to me. She talks about how she would’ve been happier in a less apostolic environment, but after speaking with her confessor (and after an encounter with Christ), she completely subsumes her will.
OK, now that really tweaked my inner Benedictine. Sure, obedience is something all orders stress (and vow.) But that kind of blind submission above and beyond one’s own misery isn’t a good thing. For instance, there’s ample opportunity to leave in the Rule of St. Benedict. One abbot said that if someone’s miserable, they don’t want them sticking around, either. There are times in which one must just grin and bear it, but, at least how it was explained to me, one’s postulancy isn’t the time or place, if the particular order is a bad fit.
Maybe I’m being unfair, and things were radically different in the 1920′s, but reading between the lines, I don’t think it was an overly happy situation. I get the impression from comments other nuns made towards her that she wasn’t liked. (And that her need for prayer and her sicknesses were seen as ways for her to avoid work.) Maybe instead of seeing the cultural baggage of women being put in place, there’s something else I’m missing?
Here’s a person who, at least in the first 50 pages of the notebooks, had a dismal life, died of tuberculosis early, and amid all of it managed to have these empowering, ecstatic experiences. When I was researching Balinese balians (kind of a shaman), it was mentioned that the trance/ecstasy experience tends to be colored by one’s culture. So maybe her vision of Christ was also a reflection of the culture she came out of. Would a person living now have the same experiences? What about a person, who was from a different culture, where women were valued and not seen merely as possessions? Or so I keep telling myself. Because if the bully Jesus is the message the Church wants us to hear from this, the rest of the 600 pages are going to be rough.