Affecting the Past—Today! (with St. Faustina)

by Jimmy Akin

in +Religion, Apologetics, Philosophy, Theology

divine-mercy-old-testament-historyisreseach-cc-dipinto_originale_autentico_divina_misericordia_gesucc80_confido_santa_faustina_pittore_eugeniusz_kazimirowski_1934Recently I wrote about the possibility of praying across time.

For example, you might pray for the salvation of a person who has already died.

The theory is that, since God is outside of time, he is aware of your prayer in the eternal now and can intervene at any point in history, including when the person your are praying for was still alive.

Your prayer today—in 2018—could thus be applied to someone as he was dying a century ago, in 1918 (perhaps as a result of the Spanish Flu).

I mentioned that this view has been endorsed by figures such as C.S. Lewis in the Protestant community and, apparently, by Padre Pio in the Catholic community.

I also asked if readers were aware of other Catholic figures who had discussed it, and several wrote back with examples.

Here’s one of them . . .


The Divine Mercy Novena

A reader pointed out that, in the Divine Mercy Novena contained in the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Jesus is reported as saying that the actions of various groups living today have an effect on his experience of the Passion, back in A.D. 33.

These remarks occur on five of the nine days of the novena. On the various days, Jesus asks that specific groups of people be brought before him in prayer.

Here’s what St. Faustina reported him saying:

Second Day

1212 Today bring to me the souls of priests and religious, and immerse them in my unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me the strength to endure my bitter Passion.

Third Day

1214 Today bring to me all devout and faithful souls, and immerse them in the ocean of my mercy. These souls brought me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were that drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness.

Fourth Day

1216 Today bring to me the pagans and those who do not yet know me. I was thinking also of them during my bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted my Heart.

Fifth Day

1218 Today bring to me the souls of heretics and schismatics, and immerse them in the ocean of my mercy. During my bitter Passion they tore at my Body and Heart; that is, my Church. As they return to unity with the Church, my wounds heal, and in this way they alleviate my Passion.

Sixth Day

1220 Today bring to me the meek and humble souls and the souls of little children, and immerse them in my mercy. These souls most closely resemble my Heart. They strengthened me during my bitter agony. I saw them as earthly angels, who would keep vigil at my altars.


A Matter of Perspective

These passages do not show Jesus referring to the perspective he has as God outside of time. They are consistent with him simply having foreknowledge at the time of his Passion.

This is fine for our thesis that present actions can affect the past. In fact, I made the point in my previous post that even if one doesn’t have the eternal perspective that God does, simple foreknowledge is enough to achieve this effect.

If God—or anybody else—knows what someone will ask in the future, he is capable of acting on it now. A future request can thus affect matters that (from the future perspective) are in the past.

In the novena passages, Jesus refers to people living in the future (from an A.D. 33 perspective). This is evident from the fact that St. Faustina was expected to pray (at least) for the people living in her own day.

It is also evident from the fact that in A.D. 33 there were as yet no religious (the invention of religious orders came later), that he refers to those “who do not yet know me,” and that the various heresies and schisms that have affected the Church had not yet arisen.

He also depicts the actions of these people affecting him back in A.D. 33—most notably when he refers to the heretics and schismatics both tearing at his body and heart “during my bitter Passion” and alleviating his passion “as they return to unity with the Church.”

Strikingly, the actions of these people at two different times—(1) when they are in a state of separation and (2) when they are later reconciled—are said to affect Jesus’ Passion in two different ways.


A Word of Caution

It should be pointed out that, although the Church as declared Sister Faustina a saint and incorporated Divine Mercy Sunday into the liturgical calendar, it has not directly ruled on the authenticity of her private revelations.

Also, the Church acknowledges that, even in the case of an authentic private revelation, we must take into account “the possibility that the subject might have added, even unconsciously, purely human elements or some error of the natural order to an authentic supernatural revelation” (CDF, Norms for Discerning Presumed Apparitions or Revelations).

We therefore need to be cautious in how far we press the details of St. Faustina’s reported revelations.

Nevertheless, this represents another instance where the idea of present actions affecting the past has received acknowledgement in the Catholic tradition.

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