By Cian Molloy - 20 April, 2020
Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh was one of many clergy facilitating access to the Divine Mercy indulgence yesterday, when he led a Holy Hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament that was broadcast on the internet from St Patrick’s Cathedral.
A plenary indulgence could be earned yesterday, Divine Mercy Sunday, by making an Act of Perfect Contrition and an Act of Spiritual Communion. Notably, yesterday marked the 20th year that the feast day has been celebrated by the Church.
Instituted by St Pope John Paul II, Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter Sunday. The feast is centred on the doctrine of the Church that the mercy of God is without bounds, and the veneration of an image of the ‘Divine Mercy of Jesus’, which was devised by the Polish visionary Sr Faustina Kowalska. Pope John Paul II canonised Sr Faustina on the first Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000.
During yesterday’s service from Armagh, the archbishop sang Psalm 144 “I will give you glory, O God my king; I will bless your name for ever”.
In his reflection, Archbishop Martin said “The name of God is Mercy”, before leading a prayer of grace for those seeking an Act of Perfect Contrition. He then used St Alphonsus Ligouri’s 18th-century prayer to guide those seeking an Act of Spiritual Communion.
Both of these acts are long-established practices that allow the faithful to enjoy the grace of God at a time when they cannot be physically in the presence of a priest.
An Act of Contrition is described as ‘perfect’ if it is motivated by a love of God, whereas an imperfect Act of Contrition is motivated by fear of Hell.
When you are physically present in the confession box, an imperfect Act of Contrition is sufficient to receive the pardon of our sins. But when we cannot get to confession, making a perfect Act of Contrition is sufficient to have our sins forgiven.
Archbishop Martin reminded viewers that a perfect Act of Contrition must also include a desire to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation from a priest as soon as practical, ie when social distancing rules are lifted.
Quoting Pope John XXIII, who said that the Church, the Bride of Christ, preferred to use the weapons of mercy rather than the weapons of rigour, Archbishop Martin said he believed that society is at a Kairos, or turning point. He described this time as “a Kairos of mercy, a time of opportunity”.
St Alphonsus Ligouri’s prayer for an Act of Spiritual Communion is as follows:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.