On Divine Mercy Sunday I began reading Sister Faustina’s Journal. It is an extraordinary document.

I (and her confessor) wondered about the stream of visions she was having.

She also rejoiced in the baptism in a hospital of an unconscious Jewish woman, which the sisters accomplished when the woman’s relatives were away from her deathbed for a while. I doubt that it was valid, and it was definitely not licit.

Faustina’s emphasis on the Divine Mercy is Mere Christianity  — Amazing Grace  –— we always need to hear it. But today the chief spiritual problem in the world (and the Church) is not sinners who despair of God’s mercy, but sinners who do not think what they are doing is sin, even if it involves tearing limb from limb an unborn child.

However, the Church should always be redolent of mercy, and Faustina’s intercessory prayers for the living and the dead (with whom she seemed to be on terms of great intimacy) are a good example to all of us. Suffering is easier to bear if we know that we are in Christ and in Him our suffering can help bring about the redemption of the world.

One incident she recounts struck me, for reasons I will explain. Faustina was in charge of the gate of the convent and there met beggars.

1312 + Jesus came to the main entrance today, under the guise of a poor young man. This young man, emaciated, barefoot and bareheaded, and with his clothes in tatters, was frozen because the day was cold and rainy. He asked for something hot to eat. So I went to the kitchen, but found nothing there for the poor. But, after searching around for some time, I succeeded in finding some soup, which I reheated and into which I crumbled some bread, and I gave it to the poor young man, who ate it. As I was taking the bowl from him, he gave me to know that He was the Lord of heaven and earth. When I saw Him as He was, He vanished from my sight. (55) When I went back in and reflected on what had happened at the gate, I heard these words in my soul: My daughter, the blessings of the poor who bless Me as they leave this gate have reached My ears. And your compassion, within the bounds of obedience, has pleased Me, and this is why I came down from My throne – to taste the fruits of your mercy.

Many decades ago I was visiting my friend Ed Damich in his very modest apartment in Turkey Thicket near Catholic University. The doorbell rang. He answered it, talked briefly, came to get his wallet, went back to the door, and returned with a potholder. I asked what had happened.

Ed was from a Croatian family. He told me that his grandmother and mother had instructed him always to be kind and polite to the poor, because Jesus and Mary wander the earth in the guise of poor persons to test how merciful we are.

When I was working and supporting a family of nine on 35,000 a year, I had to go from my office in the Federal Building in Baltimore to the State Office Buildings. I decided to walk up Howard Street (then largely abandoned) to save bus fare.

I walked past a deserted storefront. In the alcove an older woman and her dog were sitting. She was not begging, but merely petting her dog. I gave her a dollar. I walked away and I swear I felt a hand on my shoulder turning me around  and a voice whispering not enough. I returned to her and gave her a twenty (which hurt). At that very moment a young man walked past and saw what I was doing and said God bless you. What was going on? I still wonder.

Years later, when I was more prosperous, I was in Santa Fe. I got up at dawn and decided to go for a walk. I usually took nothing with me, but that day I briefly left the house and then returned because I thought I thought I should take a twenty. Why? I don’t know. I went for a long walk and as I began crossing the bridge over the Santa Fe River (which actually had a little water in it); a desert rat, a man about 50, came out sopping wet. Obviously, he had just performed his morning ablutions. I walked a few more feet and felt the hand on my shoulder again. OK, I said. I returned and gave him the twenty and told him to get a good breakfast.

I think that without knowing it we encounter angels, and perhaps more than angels. It is a salutary thought and a reminder to be merciful to all whom we encounter.

Leave a Comment