Comfort the Sick
Some of the members of the Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus are (clockwise from the front) Fran Campbell, Diane Melerski, Pat Weinreich, Kathy Wabick, Barbara Vullo, and Terry Coughlin.
Jesus said to St. Faustina: "... I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it" (Diary of St. Faustina, 742). The following is the fifth part of our seven-part Lenten series on the corporal deeds of mercy and how we can — and should — incorporate them into our lives.
I was ... ill and you cared for Me.
— Matthew 25:35-36
Mother Teresa once remarked that the greatest poverty was not hunger and homelessness. Rather, the greatest poverty is "being unwanted, unloved and uncared for."
We can help remedy this kind of poverty by making room in our weekly schedules to visit the sick, the homebound, and those in nursing homes — whether they are family, friends, or complete strangers.
"The socially isolated elderly are usually not far away," notes Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. "Simply volunteer with the Meals-on-Wheels program and you will find them. Ask your parish priest to direct you toward those who need visiting in the parish. Most of all, do not forget that some of them may even be members of your own family, relatives too much overlooked and too often forgotten.
"Visiting the housebound elderly and the chronically and terminally ill is no easy task," Dr. Stackpole says. "Trying to do it on a regular basis can take us right out of our comfort zones because it confronts us with real human lives for which, in earthly terms, there seems to be so little hope. Such people often live in squalor and with the constant stench of sickness or the wince of chronic pain. But our mere presence, as someone willing to be a friend and a listening ear, can mean much more to them than we can imagine, and along the way they will be giving a precious gift to us as well: the gift of growth in the virtue of compassion."
Felix Carroll sends this report on a group of Divine Mercy devotees that has the right idea:
They call themselves Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus. They see lives transformed through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and that's why they do what they do.
They are from the Diocese of Buffalo, N.Y. They pray for the sick and the dying and teach parishes throughout their diocese to do the same — because the needs are great and the Chaplet is powerful.
They Prayed. They Asked No Questions.
There was the man a few years ago dying of liver cancer. He had all but abandoned his Catholic faith, or any faith for that matter. His wife asked the Disciples of Divine Mercy to come to his bedside and pray. Just be there, be a praying presence, but don't "push" Catholicism on him — those were the instructions.
"We went," said Kathy Wabick, a founding member of the prayer group. "We prayed the Chaplet, and we left. We asked no questions."
One year later, the day after Christmas, she received a phone call from the man's wife who said her husband had three or four hours to live and that his dying wish was that the Disciples of Divine Mercy come.
When they arrived, the man was comatose. His wife said he had given specific instructions that they kneel around his bed and pray the Chaplet one last time.
"When we were done," said Kathy, "his wife told us what had happened that year since we had prayed the Chaplet for him the first time. Not only had he come back to the Catholic faith, but he went to daily Mass, daily Rosary, daily Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, and he was teaching people the Chaplet, including people at his work. And on his tombstone, he had the Image of The Divine Mercy."
A healing took place through the Chaplet, and it wasn't a healing from cancer. It was a spiritual healing.
'We're Just Vessels'
Through the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a prayer our Lord gave to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s during a series of revelations, we are called to appeal for the outpouring of Divine Mercy on the basis of the Passion of Christ, the chief sign of His love for us (hence the refrain: "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world" from Diary, 475).
When prayed with trust in the merciful love of God, the fruits are incredible, as millions worldwide can attest. The members of Disciples of Divine Mercy know without a doubt, miracles happen through the praying of the Chaplet, and not only spiritual miracles.
"There was another time when we were called to a man who was comatose," said Terry Coughlin, another founding member of the Disciples. "We got there and the family said 'We're going to go for a coffee, but you go ahead and pray,' so we prayed the Chaplet at his bedside in the intensive care unit, and then we left."
"We were no sooner out of the elevator when he came out of his coma," Kathy says. "By the time the family came back from coffee he was awake. They called us thanking us for the prayers.
"Of course, it's not us, it's not because of us," Kathy hastens to add. "This is God's mercy. We're just vessels. We're just tools in His hands. The miracle came from God. My hope is that the miracle was that that family came back to whatever their faith was."
When Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus formed 11 years ago, the workload quickly became daunting. They were serving the needs of the sick and dying throughout the Diocese of Buffalo, a geographic area that spans more than 130 miles from end to end.
"We just couldn't get to all the people," said Terry.
So that's when they expanded the mission of their ministry to train parish groups throughout the diocese to serve their own parishioners. "We could reach more people that way," Kathy said.
They've trained Divine Mercy groups in three parishes so far. That includes St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Williamsville, N.Y., which now has 40 to 50 people in its ministry, some of whom are homebound and pray from home and some who pray at the bedsides.
From their years of experience, Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus are able to pass on to parishes tips on "what works and what doesn't work." These tips include:• Don't send too many people to an individual's bedside since it can be too overwhelming for the patients. Kathy says her group goes in twos;
• when a prayer request is made, make sure to inquire whether the sick or dying patient has been anointed "because we don't want this to take the place of the sacrament," says Kathy;
• if making a visit to the bedside, make sure the patient or family has given permission for the visit;
• when you arrive at the bedside, be sure to explain the Chaplet and the promises associated with it;
• ask the patient or family if they would like the prayers to be prayed silently or out loud; and
• even if the patient is comatose, be sure to lean down to their ear and speak to them and explain in a gentle voice that he or she is being prayed for. "We say, 'You are going to hear us praying, and St. Faustina is interceding in a very powerful way,'" Kathy says.
A Mercy Ministry is Revealed
The Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus started as a result of a plea by Kathy's mother on her deathbed in 1998.
"I prayed the Chaplet at her bedside, and she came out of her coma," Kathy says. "She opened her eyes and talked for three hours. She spoke of the visions she had when she was in a coma. She had visions of heaven. She said, 'Make sure you write all this down,' and we did, and then she died.
"So afterwards we said, 'What are we going to do with all these visions? What is the purpose of this?'"
A priest she knew said, "Let's pray about this. God has a plan. Let's pray and see what He reveals in time," Kathy recalls.
"What He revealed was how our prayer group was going to take this prayer to the sick and dying," says Kathy. "That was the purpose of her visions. From that discernment came our group.
"Our hope," she said, "is that every parish in the diocese has this ministry."
And from the founding of the group came a desire of the members to delve deeper into the message of The Divine Mercy. They're studying the Faustinum formation through the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, St. Faustina's order.
The group also makes annual pilgrimages to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass. Kathy spent four days in Stockbridge working on the Divine Mercy Intercessory Prayerline, which is administered by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge. She has since initiated a prayerline in Buffalo administered by Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus.
Out of their love for Jesus Christ, the Disciples of Divine Mercy spread the message of mercy to those most in need.
Says Terry, "It's such a wonderful feeling knowing you are giving this to someone who needs it — through Christ."