In 1931, a young Polish nun began seeing visions that would touch the life of Pope John Paul II and, perhaps, offer a glimpse of the end of all things. Sr. Faustina Kowalska reported seeing a merciful Jesus, with beams of red and white light shining from his heart.

faustinaPolish Sister St. Faustina Kowalska is depicted with an image of Jesus Christ the Divine Mercy. (CNS file photo/Nancy Wiechec)In her diary, the cloistered mystic described a 1935 vision in which she was told to write this prayer as protection from divine judgment: “Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole word; for the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

The pope was a champion of Faustina’s ‘Divine Mercy” devotions and, during a 1997 pilgrimage to her tomb, he stated: “The message of divine mercy has always been near and dear to me.” In a sense, he said, it “forms the image of this pontificate.” On April 30, 2000, John Paul II canonized her as St. Faustina.

The image of St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy is near to the heart of Judy Hankel, a member of St. William Parish, Waukesha. She serves as the facilitator of a Divine Mercy Cenacle at St. Aloysius Parish, West Allis.

“We are Eucharistic Apostles of Divine Mercy, a group started by Dr. Bryan Thatcher as an offshoot of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception,” said the 64-year-old.

The group recently read, “Divine Mercy in My Soul,” the diary of St. Faustina, and learned that St. Faustina was asked to pray for her country, including the Litany of the Saints. They read of the graces poured down upon those who recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet for any intention.

Through prayer, Hankel was inspired to develop the Eucharistic Divine Mercy Holy Hour as a means to pray for the United States.

“Right now, we really need to pray for the United States,” explained Hankel. “Our religious freedoms are being taken away. When I would say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which I usually say at the 3 p.m. hour, as I was saying the words, ‘Have mercy on us and on the whole world,’ my thoughts would be, ‘Have mercy on U.S.’ In other words, the United States and the whole world.”

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Some of the prayers in the Eucharistic Divine Mercy Holy Hour include the rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Litany of the Saints, the Prayer to St. Michael, and a prayer for Mary’s intercession. According to Hankel, the Holy Hour is meant to be prayed during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

“In the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, she warned us about sins of the flesh, which include homosexuality, adultery, fornication, pornography and other sins, which are so prevalent today,” she said.

Developing the Eucharistic Divine Mystery Holy Hour evolved over four months as Hankel typed them and gave them to her daughter, Cathy, a graphic designer. She set the program into pamphlet form.

“I prayed that it would be used all over the country in all 50 states, but I didn’t know how to distribute the Holy Hour across the country,” said Hankel. “One day, on the Feast of Our Lady, I was inspired to begin calling other Divine Mercy Cenacle leaders in the U.S to see if they could get it into their own parishes so people all over the country would pray before the election. … Many people were excited about it and emailed or called me to let me know that the Holy Hours were being scheduled.”

Without Hankel’s knowledge, some individuals contacted Thatcher, complimenting him on Hankel’s efforts. He then contacted the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and asked that it be included on their website.

According to Felix Carroll, editor of the website, the downloadable Holy Hour is popular.

“Obviously with an election coming, everyone is hoping to get points across from all sides of it,” said Carroll.

After the Eucharistic Divine Mercy Holy Hour became available on the Marians of the Immaculate Conception website, Hankel was overwhelmed with phone calls and emails. A fellow parishioner came forward to help with the demand. 

“Some parishes are holding it for all members and neighboring parishes, prayer groups are doing it and some people are doing it privately during adoration,” she said of the Holy Hour’s popularity.

On Sept. 12, Auxiliary Bishop Donald J. Hying led the Eucharistic Divine Mercy Holy Hour at Mary Queen of Heaven Parish, West Allis, and was pleased with the more than 200 who attended.

“It was received well,” he said. “The Holy Hour is a manifestation of the Divine Mercy devotion, in which our focus is on the mercy of God poured out through us and through the death and resurrection of Christ. With everything going on in the world and with all the challenges of peace and justice and mercy, people have come together in prayer to invoke God’s mercy on our country and the world. It is a great thing.”

Prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a privilege, according to Hankel.

“I think a good prayer life is very important in developing our relationship with God,” she said. “I put God first in my life. I schedule prayer and adoration like I do an appointment. I make an appointment with the Lord.”