Sunday, April 15, 2007
I Came Home to Divine Mercy
Divine Mercy is part of my conversion story - a part that wasn't told in that series of posts.
When I was living in the darkness of my sin, working nights, and basically, embracing the total darkness that was my life, a co-worker gave me some books to read while at my post at night: The Left Behind series.
I was seeking God at the time, sensing my separation, sensing his call, but I was at a loss as to what to do. I remember thinking that maybe I should find a priest, make an appointment, and pose my questions to him. But who? What church? Weren't priests too busy to deal with the likes of me? And if I DID find a priest, I was quite certain he would tell me I needed to go to Confession, and I didn't want to and would be at a loss to explain why. I feared being pressured into something I didn't want to do, so I ran from the idea.
And because I had nowhere to go, I went nowhere...or so I thought.
One Christmas, Mom had given my brother and I a CD with the Divine Mercy prayer on it, along with a pamphlet explaining the devotion and how to pray the chaplet. I remember finding the CD and the pamphlet, and I read it over suspiciously, thinking it was too easy. It also said I had to go to Confession...so at first, I tossed it aside. Something told me not to throw it away, though, so I added it to my collection of eclectic things that didn't otherwise have a place in my home and my life.
But as I was reading the "Left Behind" books, I found that I was offended by the outright anti-Catholicism expressed within the pages, including the idea that the Pope became the right-hand man of the Antichrist. I couldn't explain why I was so offended, but it was like someone was attacking my Mother. Attack me all you want...but do NOT mess with my Mother!
I was conflicted, but somehow, these books drew me into an understanding that I had been rejecting God, and I had to make my peace with Him...and that move was mine. I didn't believe in the Rapture, but it did come to me that if God wanted to wipe me off the face of the earth, he would do it. If he wanted to cause the earth to erupt into earthquakes and raining fire, he could do it.
And always, I had the presence of the crucifix on the wall of my livingroom - because it wasn't home without that. Thank you, Mom.
So through all this introspection, I went back to Divine Mercy, not really believing the promises to St. Faustina, but I really wanted to. I needed to believe, and I needed mercy.
But I could not leave the life I was living behind me. I could not, in good conscience, come to Jesus begging for his mercy without a true desire to change. Somehow I understood this, so I put the pamphlet down again.
Then finally, I picked it up, and I found a rosary buried in a box somewhere, and I prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. I apologized to Jesus that I could not go to Confession, but I begged for Mercy just the same.
I think I might have prayed it a few other times, and then put it away again.
I credit Divine Mercy for bringing me home, for it was shortly after these prayers that my struggle to return to Confession began in earnest. I began going to Mass somewhat regularly, almost always receiving communion, but still feeling like an outsider. I always sat in the back of the church, not wanting to approach the Holy of Holies, as though Jesus didn't know I was there!
And he drew me on, even as I ran away...His Mercy continued to endure. I so desired mercy, but I was terrified to approach. I could not trust. My life had beaten all forms of trust out of me, such that I could not even trust God.
Jesus never gave up on me, and he doused me with those rays of Mercy until finally, finally, I came home. In my conversion story I explained some of that experience, the agony and ecstasy of it, but I don't think mere words can possibly convey the reality of this incredible experience of Divine Mercy.
When I bought my townhome, I had bare walls, so I requested art for Christmas and birthday gifts. Specifically religious art. I can't remember if I requested Divine Mercy specifically or whether the Lord put it on her heart, but my Mom gave me a Divine Mercy image which I had blessed on Divine Mercy Sunday a couple years ago. It now hangs on my livingroom wall next to a very realistic crucified Jesus, and I find that I cannot venerate one without the other, for they are one in the same.
I have another picture that combines the Sacred Heart of Jesus (another image I grew up with) and the rays of Divine Mercy. No one can enter my home without seeing these things.
Thanks be to God, the Divine Mercy of Jesus brought me home and to this day envelopes me in all my sinfulness, all my imperfections, and brings me to him with all his Divine Love.
If you are struggling with your faith, if you have been away for a long time, just pray this chaplet...you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
For those interested, my Conversion story can be found here. Warning: many links!