Photo: Felix Carroll
At EADM headquarters, Pauline tracks the spreading of Divine Mercy around the world through prayer cenacles.
Her World, in His Hands
Her name is Pauline Di Pietro. She could be mistaken for easygoing, but that wouldn't be a sufficient description.
So how else to describe her attitude amidst the unexpected turns her life?
For instance, as a young woman she wanted to be a nun. That didn't happen. Her father got wind of it. He made sure he got her involved in square dancing in hopes that she would meet a young man who would charm her and change her mind.
"So I played his game," she says with a laugh. She met a guy named George. The two became square-dancing partners. After the second meeting, she sat George down and told him, "George, I don't mind being your partner for square dancing, but I have no desire to be married. I am seeking a religious life."
When she was done with her speech, George looked at her and said, "Well that's very good because I want to become a priest."
What are the chances?
So they were just dancing partners, then. Agreed. Dancing partners who would follow the Lord's lead.
For five years, both of them tried continuously — and failed continuously — to be accepted into various religious communities. George finally said to her, "Do you think God wants us to be married?"
Pauline thought about it for a moment. "Let's pray about it." So they each prayed about it for six more months, after which George said, "What do you say?"
They've been married 40 years ago last April.
The condition Pauline placed upon their marriage has remained in place ever since, and that is this: "God will always be my first love."
So who is Pauline Di Pietro? Chances are, if you call the headquarters for Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM) in Riverview, Fla., she's the one who will answer the phone. Pauline — a charter member of the very first Divine Mercy prayer cenacle in 1995, from which sprang forth EADM — is the one who keeps track of the many hundreds of cenacles around the world that have formed through EADM's help and guidance.
When she puts her head down on the pillow each night, she says, "Thank You, Lord, for the opportunities of the day. I hope I directed whoever called to pursue whatever Your will is for them."
So, back to that condition that she placed upon her marriage: It explains how she's handled the unexpected turns in her life. It's not that she's easygoing. It's that she loves God, and that love sustains her, carries her, and radiates from her.
She trusts God without equivocation despite — and especially amidst — much heartbreak.
"The Catholic faith tells us that the shortest route to heaven is by the way of the cross," Pauline says. "Storms in our lives are really a blessing if we allow them to get closer to God. We must pray and try to live in His will."
That's what she's always done, ever since she was a little girl in a family that endured accidents and suicides. That's what she did when two of her children miscarried just before they came to term. That's what she did a few years ago when she learned she had thyroid cancer.
And that's what she did 10 years ago when she learned her son Jim had been killed. He was 26. He was walking home from a pool hall when a speeding car driven by a drunk driver hit him from behind and sped off.
When Pauline took the job with EADM, she took it with a condition (a different condition): That she be permitted to remain in the shadows, "out of the spotlight." But, as it turned out, the condition that forms the basis of her marriage superceded the condition she set upon her work with EADM when, during a recent visit to Florida, I asked Pauline if she would talk about her son's death and what that means to her.
She agreed, knowing her witness can help others who struggle in their walk.
Jim's adult life had not been easy. At 19 he had married a girl he met in the service. He was divorced three years later. He found another girl and fathered a son, which he didn't know about until some time after the child was born. By this time, Jim was involved with alcohol and suffered from depression.
But in the days before his death, Pauline and he shared some special moments. For the first time in his adult life, Jim opened up to her about spiritual matters. He was searching for hope and searching for meaning. She recalls him saying, "Mom, you have always walked the talk of your Catholic faith and shown God's love for me and for others."
Pauline quotes St. Faustina, who wrote in her Diary:
All grace flows from mercy, and the last hour abounds with mercy for us. Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person's sins were as dark as night, God's mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God's merciful grace, and then God will do the rest (1507).
"George and I believe that the door of Jimmy's heart was open to receive His mercy, " says Pauline, "and perhaps if Jim had not been taken from this earth, he would have fallen into a deeper darkness. Things would have been much worse for him. We trust in God's mercy and believe that Jim, in his last breath, chose to turn to the Lord and beg for mercy and forgiveness for all of his sins."
Incidentally, Jim's death occurred at 3 a.m., "Divine Mercy time," Pauline points out.
She learned about his death while she was on pilgrimage in Portugal. She got on the next available flight for home. She boarded the flight wishing to only be left alone, but as the Lord would have it, a young man sat in the seat beside her, a man who could have passed for her own son.
"I told him that I was going back home, that it wasn't a very good flight for me and that if he wouldn't mind, I may not be talking," Pauline recalls.
But he kept talking, and so did she. She told him about her son's death. The young man tried to comfort her. He asked her about her son — first, what his name was. An amazing exchange then took place.
"Jim," she said.
"That's my name," the young man said.
He asked her what Jim's age was.
"Twenty six," said Pauline.
"That's my age," said the young man. "Did he have a middle name?"
"John," said Pauline.
"My middle name is John, too," he said.
Pauline was floored, but not surprised. God was arranging things.
"Do you mind if I always keep him in my prayers?" the young man asked.
"Of course," Pauline said.
Then, the young man finally asked Pauline how she could endure such a tragedy.
She responded, "When you walk with the Lord, He gives you the graces to accept such things, though you know your heart is breaking. Apparently, the Lord needed Jimmy for heaven work."
For the first time since she heard the news of Jim's death, Pauline felt at peace. She's been at peace ever since. Because she knows: God is carrying her.
Back at EADM headquarters, the phone is ringing. Before she answers it, she offers this advice: "In whatever trial you are undergoing or will soon face," says Pauline, "I encourage you to keep your eyes on the Lord, and let the words, 'Jesus, I trust in You' be your motto."
Then, she picks up the receiver. "Good morning. Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy. How may I help you?"