Special to The Hays Daily News

The Heartland Parishes, a cluster of eight parishes in and around Hays, will celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday with a solemn hour of prayer and benediction at 3 p.m. Sunday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 18th and Vine.

The service will include adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Divine Mercy Chaplet in song, as well as prayers, music and meditation. The Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus will stand as honor guard, and the St. Mary K of C will assist Father Kevin Weber in providing the service.

Following the service, there will be a fellowship reception in the activity center of Holy Family Elementary School.

Devotion for Divine Mercy began in the 1930s when St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun, received special communications with Jesus in which he asked her to have his image painted to spread the message of his mercy.

Under the instructions of a spiritual director, St. Faustina, as she is commonly known, wrote down her revelations with Jesus, which are now contained in her 600-page diary. In these writings, Faustina said people are to call upon Jesus with trust, receive his mercy and let it flow to others.

The Divine Mercy image is a painting of Jesus with two rays emerging from his heart representing the blood and water that flowed from his side as his heart was lanced after he died upon the cross.

One is pale, representing the water that makes souls righteous. The other is red for the blood, which is the life of souls.

Faustina's diary reads: "These two rays issued forth from the very depths of my tender mercy when my agonized heart was opened by a lance on the cross. These rays shield souls from the wrath of my father. Happy is the one who dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him."

Faustina died in 1938 at the age of 33. She was canonized a saint April 30, 2000, in Rome by Pope John Paul II. At that time, the pontiff said that the Sunday after Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, would be an official feast day of the Church.