Consecration to Divine Mercy has a price tag, the surrender of distrust and the embrace of an icon of faith who trusted that the Lord’s promises would be fulfilled.
When I write a post for These Stone Walls, I try not to be too long winded, but I also try to write something with substance. Unlike most writers in the online world, I can only post once per week. So I try to write each post with three or four subheadings and links that would maybe bring you back here for another visit on another day. I recently received a letter from a reader in the U.K. who wrote that she reads every post in one sitting, then comes back to TSW on another day to re-read some sections and to visit some of the links.
On the same day, I received another letter from another reader who wrote that links in a post are sometimes an irritating distraction that sends her into a maze of related links until, she forgets where she started and doesn’t always come back to the post. I recommend the first approach. When reading a TSW post, come back later to visit some of its links. This is important for several reasons. When we link to something someone else has written, that writer can see that readers are coming over from These Stone Walls. Several writers in the Catholic online world have discovered TSW in just that way.
But some links are important for another reason. They can give a context to what I am writing. Last week in these pages, I wrote “Hebrews 13:3: Writing Just This Side of the Gates of Hell.” Some readers were horrified by it – not just by its title, but by its content. It was a graphic glimpse into the world in which we live, the world we have to cope with every day. It conveys a sense of the nature of the place from which I write, but I hope you noticed that its first paragraph has a link to a previous post that gives it context, “Consecration to Divine Mercy.”
EVE OF DARKNESS
When I wrote that post, I was just a few days into Father Michael Gaitley’s masterful Do-It-Yourself Retreat book, 33 Days to Merciful Love. In a way, Father Gaitley writes like I do, but of course, there are no links in a printed text. Instead, he has endnotes, lots of them, and when I first started to read his books I found them distracting. I would stop reading the text and flip to his endnotes to find out what the little numbers were referring to. This latest book by Father Gaitley has 174 pages of text and 224 endnotes.
So now I read the daily passage through – and I find it to be wonderful – then I return later to explore his endnotes filled with references and explanations from his sources. I find in them a treasure trove of material from the Divine Mercy saints whose intervention and presence behind these stone walls is described further on in this post.
On December 31, the day before this 33-day journey began, I read the Introduction to the book. “This is a piece of cake,” I thought. The text is light and engaging in Father Gaitley’s usual style, and even funny in parts. After the nine-page Introduction, I just glanced at the daily reading installments for the next 33 days. I loved the fact that each day’s reading assignment was only three or four pages of text at most.
The very next day, the full weight of the journey before us struck me. In the first day’s reading, Pornchai Moontri and I had already encountered an obstacle that I knew would be a barrier to Divine Mercy Consecration for both of us if we could not get past it. As our 33 days of reading began on January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the world around us began to crumble into chaos. I described how that chaos engulfed the first half of this 33-day journey last week in “Hebrews 13:3: Writing Just This Side of the Gates of Hell.”
Everyone asks me the same question now: “Has it calmed down there?” The answer is yes, but only for the moment. Only until the inevitable next explosion of pent up anxiety and frustration which is always followed by discouragement. As always happens in crisis management mode, a prison system inflicts further draconian penalties upon all prisoners in response to unrest.
In this prison climate inflamed by drugs and violence, family visits are further curtailed, and the vending machines are all being removed from the visiting area so families can no longer share a meal with their loved ones behind bars. That may seem a small thing, but the darkness and discouragement it wrought for fathers in prison are deeply felt as their families visit.
But the chaos around us is not the only barrier to Entrustment to Divine Mercy. It is the chaos within us that I knew would be the greater challenge. I don’t want to give away too much of this journey toward Divine Mercy Consecration. I have invited readers to join us in this journey – which I’ll explain below – and it’s important that you participate and not anticipate.
But I want to describe just one hurdle, and it’s the first one. The readings for Week One begin with a fundamental question “What is trust?” And the section begins at a time and place Pornchai and I can readily relate to, and so will many of you. It begins at the “Eve of darkness.”
The wound of original sin caused a grave breach of trust within humanity in our approach to God. Father Gaitley’s text is a wonderful journey through the fall and redemption of human kind, but trust posed another obstacle for us as well. Some of you will readily be able to relate to this.
Trust has been an inherent and life long obstacle for me because I grew up in a home and family that was ravaged by the effects of alcoholism. These are the chapters of my life that I thought I had just left in the past, but when confronted with the necessity of trust, I was forced to see how very much I had only dragged them through all the succeeding chapters and challenges of life. They are, in this life, a part of the cross of imprisonment I bore and still bear. I know I am not alone in this. It will be a topic for a number of future posts.
And trust is a major obstacle for Pornchai-Max as well. There are elements in his life and journey that have been uncovered in just the last year – during the Year of Mercy. I am not yet at liberty to write of all that has taken place except to say that it is a phenomenal story now being investigated by others. When it fully comes into the light, it will be a story of immense importance for the mission of Divine Mercy.
It is also a story that brought me to my knees in thanksgiving for grace that gives meaning to suffering. It’s a spiritual place in which I never thought I could be. For now, I can only reveal one nagging truth. Had I never carried the cross of broken trust throughout much of my life, then I would not have been the person Pornchai needed to breach the great wall against trust and hope that life had constructed around him. This amazing story shatters all the illusions we presume about suffering and its purpose in the light of faith.
A SUMMONS FROM THE SAINTS OF DIVINE MERCY
For now, I can only add that growing in trust has been an Armageddon-like battle for both of us. You can read why if you pay a later visit to “St Maximilian Kolbe: A Knight at My Own Armegeddon.” It’s an account of the work of the first of four Divine Mercy saints who breached our prison walls without even waiting for an invitation.
My world collided with Saint Maximilian’s just before Pornchai’s world collided with mine. This collision took place ten years ago, and our respective issues with trust were like an abyss that lay before us. We had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the grace of Divine Mercy as it beckoned us from the other side of that abyss. I’ll never forget the first thing Pornchai ever said to me when we landed in the same cell ten years ago. “Is this you?” he asked, pointing to the image of Saint Maximilian Kolbe I had just placed above the mirror in our cell.
No, it was not me. I never felt so helpless and unprepared in my life. Pornchai reached out to me in trust and hope, and I had nothing with which to reach back. Then Saint Maximilian Kolbe came somehow upon the wind of our inner turmoil and built a bridge of hope across the great chasm of trust.
He pointed us to Mary, and we came to find ourselves – in spite of ourselves – standing with her at the foot of the Cross. “Stay here!” was a message I received one night in a dream. Just those two words spoken by a woman in the distance. “Stay here!” I once, in a time of great discouragement, had an encounter with her at the far end of her sorrows. I wrote of it in an older post on These Stone Walls entitled, “Mirror of Justice, Mother of God, Mystical Rose, Our Lady of Sorrows.” Now, when she says, “Stay here!” I’m not about to move an inch!
Early on in 33 Days to Merciful Love, Father Gaitley reveals something very important about trust that I had never before considered. It’s the only part of this wondrous journey that I will reveal to you in advance. It’s a scene from the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth from the Gospel According to Saint Luke. It’s a proclamation of Elizabeth (Luke 1:45) that stands at the heart of Mary’s own trust:
“Blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Then, as though bringing back down to earth the reader whose faith and trust, like mine and Pornchai’s, are weighed down by the trials of this life, Father Gaitley quotes from another great Divine Mercy Saint, Pope John Paul II, and his magisterial encyclical, Redemptoris Mater:
“Standing at the foot of the Cross, Mary is the witness, humanly speaking, of the complete negation of these words. On the wood of the Cross her son hangs in agony as
one condemned. ‘He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows… He was despised and we esteemed him not’ (Isaiah 53:3-5). How great, how heroic then is the obedience of Mary… And how powerful too is the action of grace in her soul; how all pervading is the influence of the Holy Spirit and of His light and power!” (33 Days p. 37).
In the years leading up to Divine Mercy Consecration, other Divine Mercy saints entered into our lives as though responding to a divine summons with a cascade of grace. I wrote of the influence of Saint Maria Faustina in my Marian Helper article, “The Doors That Have Unlocked.” And most recently on These Stone Walls I wrote of the work of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in “Consecration to Divine Mercy.”
I have strongly suggested, for those who have not yet done so, that TSW readers complete the 33 Days to Morning Glory Do-It-Yourself Retreat culminating in Marian consecration. It is the first of two inner life-changing steps in a spiritual journey, the second being Consecration to Divine Mercy using 33 Days to Merciful Love. I suggested that readers obtain the book, read the “light and fluffy” Introduction, and then be ready to begin their 33-day journey on March 20, the Feast of Saint Joseph, which will culminate in your Consecration on Divine Mercy Sunday.
Pornchai Maximilian Moontri and I answer the invitation extended to us by our fellow Marian Missionary of Divine Mercy, Eric Mahl. Having completed our 33-Day journey, we enter into Consecration to Divine Mercy on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the day after this post appears on These Stone Walls.
We do this amid the hope-filled darkness of what sometimes feels to us like an eternal Advent. We have come to believe in trust that the promises of the Lord will be fulfilled. We do this at the hardest of times and in the hardest of places, but we continue this journey in the company of Divine Mercy saints under the mantle of one whose soul magnifies the Lord.