The Sunday after Easter Sunday each year is designated as Divine Mercy Sunday, an observance of the Church that stems from Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, a poor, Polish sister of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.
On February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared before Sister Kowalska as the King of Divine Mercy, and commanded her to write down everything he wanted his people to know about God’s mercy and love. Her writings were recorded in a 600-page diary which is now sold around the world.
Sister Kowalska, baptized Helena, was one of 10 children, and at age 18 felt called to religious life, a life which was rejected by her parents. However, while attending a party, she saw Jesus, sad and suffering, and soon after moved to Warsaw, Poland, to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.
When Jesus appeared to Saint Kowalska, he asked that she have a picture painted of Him as she saw Him – clothed in white, with red and white rays of light streaming from his heart. The rays represent the blood and water that flowed from the site of Jesus on the cross. Many people, even sisters and superiors in her own convent, did not believe Sister Kowalska. But Jesus told her that He loved her obedience and that His will would be done.
Sister Kowalska was assigned the job of gatekeeper at her convent after contracting tuberculosis. One day, she came to the door and greeted Jesus, who told her that He had come to experience with great joy her tender love and mercy.
Sister Kowalska died in 1938. Her diary was translated into English in 1987. In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Sister Kowalska and designated that Divine Mercy Sunday would be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter. According to Church teachings, those who participate in feast celebrations, go to confession within 20 days of the feast, receive holy Communion on the feast day, pray for the pope’s intentions and extend mercy to others will receive a “plenary indulgence,” a gift of divine mercy from God, removing the effects of confessed, forgiven sins.