Ask Alice about Catholicism
What’s that picture of Jesus with rays flowing from him?

Although ubiquitous now, the image known as Divine Mercy is a relative newcomer on the Catholic devotional scene. It originated with Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), Poland’s “Apostle of the Divine Mercy.” With only three years of formal education, Maria Faustina was hired as a domestic servant while a teenager. But the “bright lights” she’d seen in prayer from a young age continued during her employment, eventually drawing her toward religious life. Entering the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, Maria Faustina served as cook, gardener, and doorkeeper—jobs reserved for the humblest members of a community. For the next half dozen years she continued to experience visions, prophecies, and “internal stigmata”: a spiritual sharing in Christ’s sufferings with no physical mark.

In 1931 Sister Faustina had a vision unparalleled by those that had gone before: She saw Jesus clothed in white, one hand raised in blessing, the other at his breast. From his body two radiant streams flowed, one red, the other pale. Faustina felt called to recreate this image with the signature “Jesus, I trust in you.” Her spiritual director procured an artist to reproduce what she saw in her vision. Pope John Paul II canonized Faustina in 2000 and established the Second Sunday of the Easter season as Divine Mercy Sunday in accordance with her revelation, heightening the familiarity of this image.

In the gospel for this same Sunday, the Octave (eighth day) of the Easter celebration, Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit to disciples who had so recently deserted their Lord in his darkest hour—a gift brimming with mercy when you think about it. An additional reading for this feast reminds us of “the water and the blood” that flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross. The beams of red and white light radiating in the Divine Mercy image are thought to be reminders of these signs. The white light recalls the water of baptism, which by the mercy of God redeems us from original sin. The red light represents the cup of the Eucharist, Christ’s blood shed for our redemption.

On Divine Mercy Sunday we recall how the compassion of God restores us to life through these sacramental actions. What was once revealed to a humble Polish nun in this benevolent image remains a moving portrait of the ever-present mercy of God, radiating relentlessly from the heart of Christ.

John 19:31-35; John 20:19-31; 1 John 5:6

• How to recite the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy

Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (Marian Press, 2003)
Faustina, Saint for Our Times: A Personal Look at Her Life, Spirituality, and Legacy by George Kosicki, C.S.B. (Marian Press, 2010)
John Paul II: The Great Mercy Pope by George Kosicki, C.S.B. (Marian Press, 2006)

Audio CD
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy in Song [audio CD], the Marian Helpers and others (Marian Press, 2005)

Ask Alice a question.
Alice L. Camille
Alice Camille is a gem among contemporary writers on scripture and Catholic teaching. She has received numerous awards for her books, columns, and exegetical reflections. She received her Master of Divinity degree from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, where she also served as adjunct faculty in ministry formation, preaching and proclamation. Alice is an author, religious educator, and parish retreat leader. Learn more at

Before sending Alice a question, please check below to see if she has already responded to it. Also, please send only questions of general interest. Not all questions can be used. Thank you!
Got a question for Alice?

   Ask her now!

More questions...and responses

Where did Lent come from?

What’s so important about the Council of Trent?

What are the “Precepts of the Church”?

Do Catholics take the biblical creation story literally?

Why can’t a woman be ordained?

Why does the liturgy change?

Is Purgatory still “on the books”?

Why is it important to participate regularly in the Mass?

Why pray the rosary?

Why can people go to Mass on Saturday evening instead of Sunday?

Did King David compose the psalms?

Who were Jesus' “brothers and sisters”?

Is there really a Catholic Index of Forbidden Books?

What are the corporal and spiritual works of mercy?

Is a long or short discernment process better for someone interested in becoming a priest, nun, or brother?

What’s the difference between celibacy and chastity?

Is it “Catholic” to be vegetarian? Do Catholics care about animal suffering?

What does the Bible say about Judgment Day?

Why do Christians believe Jesus is God incarnate?

What is the Triduum?

Who chose the "Seven Deadly Sins"?

"What should I believe about hell?"

Is the Mass a “holy sacrifice” or a “celebration”—or both?

Pulpit, lectern, ambo: What’s the difference?

What was the Reformation?

What is “discernment of spirits”?

Is environmentalism “Catholic” or a political football?

Why do Catholics believe in the Immaculate Conception?

Why are there parishes?

Do Catholics believe in ghosts?

Who was Saint Augustine?

What is "sanctuary"?

What is the Liturgy of the Hours?

How does God “answer” prayers?

What does “salvation history” mean?

Why do Catholics believe in the Assumption of Mary?

Why do priests wear vestments?

Do miracles still happen?

What do deacons do?

How is the Mass “prayer”?

What is Catholic decision-making?

Who wrote the gospels?

What is “original sin”?

How does the Catholic Church view other religions?

The "Five C's" of Confession

What's the difference between chapels, churches, cathedrals, and basilicas?

Where do the Stations of the Cross come from?

What's the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament?

When and where is it appropriate to bow inside Catholic churches?

Can I come back to the church?

Why does the priest talk after the readings at Mass?

What's the difference between catechesis and evangelization?

Didn't Saint Paul write all the letters attributed to him?

Are we supposed to believe in angels and demons in the 21st century?

Who are the saints and why do we pray to them?

Why pray for the dead?

Who are the "Doctors of the Church"?

How were the books of the Bible chosen?

What's the difference between saying "set" prayers and prayers in my own words?

What do Catholics have to believe?

Who were the prophets? Does God still call people to prophecy?

What is the lectionary?

Why do Catholics bless themselves, genuflect, and so on?

Did Jesus establish a church? How did we get from following “the Way” of Jesus to this big institution?

What do we mean by the church’s “magisterium”?

Is there salvation outside the Catholic Church?

What do people in religious life do for fun?

Why is celibacy important to religious life?

Vocation: For all of life, or only "religious life"?

What is contemplation?

Is my vocation from God or just my imagination?

What does the Bible say about discipleship?

How do I know whether be an order priest or a diocesan priest?

What do Catholics believe about scripture and tradition?

"Sin" is such a negative word. Can't we just talk about “failure”?

Should I read the Bible?

How can I be happy?

How can I live a holy life?