The Order of Divine Mercy (postnominal abbreviation O.D.M) is a mendicant Catholic religious order founded by the German twins and Saints Matthias and Catharina von Schwanthaler after they allegedly received a series of visions of Jesus Christ. In these visons, Christ teached the siblings about His infinite mercy. The order was approved by pope Gregory XI in 1314. Membership in the order includes monks and nuns, which are popularly known as Mercedines.
The Order was founded to preach the Gospel and to show God's loving mercy towards all people, especially for sinners. The Order is also responsible for various charitable and missionary works. Our Lady of Sorrows and Saint Symeon of Trier are co-patrons of the Order.
Formation and Aragonese Schism
In 1308, Matthias and Catharina arrived in the Dominican Monastery of Saint Symeon in Koblenz claiming to have received a vision of Christ. They reported the content of their vision to the then Dominican prior Berthold von Fischer. Prior Fischer send them to talk with Archbishop Baldwin von Luxembourg, future pope Gregory XI. During their audience if the Archbishop, the twins told to Baldwin that since small they have been visited by angels in the first day of each month. The angels tell them to help the poor, pray for the conversion of the sinners and to tell no one about these visions. When asked why they are revealing this now, the siblings reveal that since July 1st of the last year who appeared to them was not an angel but Jesus Christ Himself. Christ, they said, was wearing a simple white tunic. They tell that Christ said that the angels prepared them for this moment and started to teach them about His Divine Mercy and love towards all people, especially for sinners. They say that on December 1st Christ appeared and revealed that this will be His last visit. He seemed to be very sad and when Catharina asked why, He said that is because His Church is divided due to the Aragonese Schism. He ordered them to reveal to the archbishop everything that they saw and to pray for the reunification of His Church. They also said that He ordered both to create a new religious order, to spread His Word and Divine Mercy to all human beings. Then, His clothes changed from a simple tunic to that of a king, with a shining crown over His head and right hand in position of blessing. The left hand was positioned in His chest, showing His merciful heart that shone wonderfully. Then Christ disappeared. After listening to them, Baldwin sent the siblings to seek a monk in Koblenz and to ask him to write down all that was revealed to them. These revelations were write in the book "Teachings of the Divine Mercy".
These teachings were analyzed by a ecclesial commission, that come to the conclusion that the Schwanthaler siblings are credible and that the two don't showed any mental disturbs. They could continue to preach about Divine Mercy, but due to Schism there was no legal pope at the moment to approve their religious order. Matthias and Catharina continue to preach in the streets and feed the poor and soon they attracted follows. With the conclusion of the Ecumenical Council of Trier, Archbishop Baldwin was elected as pope Gregory XI and the twins were one of his biggest supporters. They presented their religious rule to the new pontiff. They were helped by Prior Fischer to write the rule and due to the Dominican influence they also use the ruler of Saint Augustine. However the rule was only approved after Gregory arrived in Rome in 1314.
With the death of antipope Callixtus IV in 1314, pope Gregory XI could go to Rome. With him come the Schwanthaler twins. The pope approved their order and two buildings are given to them in Rome. In one Catharina formed her congregation of women and named the building as the Convent of Our Lady of Sorrow. In the other Matthias formed a congregation of men and the building was named as the Monastery of Saint Symeon of Trier. The new order was named The Order of the Divine Mercy with Catharina as prioress and Matthias as prior.
When the Great Famine arrived in 1315, the Mercedines were the first Religious Order to act. With the leadership of Matthias and Catharina, the monks and nuns started to distribute food for the poor of Rome. Their actions inspired Pope Gregory XI to promote a series of charity works using Church resources. Was also during the Famine that the pontiff proclaimed the devotion to the Divine Mercy of Christ to all the Church. The end of the Famine in 1317 was credited to this devotion. Was also in this year that started the construction of the Church of Divine Mercy, the future headquarters of the Order.