The Book That Sparked the Divine Mercy Movement The Diary chronicles God's message given through St. Faustina to the world to turn to His mercy. In it, we are reminded to t... Read more
Photo: Felix Carroll
How much we influence the world doesn't depend on how many meetings we can fly to in a day or how many volunteer hours we can squeeze into a weekend but on how skilled we become at loving and praying. As intercessors, we can choose all.
'I Choose All'
The Unlimited Power of Prayer
A favorite story about St. Therese of Lisieux involves a pile of old dolls. One day young Therese was invited to take her pick of her sisters' discarded playthings. The budding saint's response: "I choose all!"
I know the feeling. Not about dolls, but about life. In my mind is a voice, sometimes wistful with longing, sometimes shrill with greed, always hungering to do more, try more, give more. God's creation brims with so many chances to grow and learn and serve that I long to gobble them all up. Of course, being a creation myself and not divine, I remember quickly and often painfully that my mortal stomach can only hold so much.
I recently experienced my first "Sign Me Up Sunday" at our new parish. During the weeks leading up to the event, our pastor, Monsignor Harris — who my husband swears has more than a little Baptist preacher in him — came into the aisle after the final prayer to remind us that our gifts were on loan from God and we'd better start racking up the interest. "Your church is your family," he said with a firm, parental half-grin tickling the edges of his booming baritone. "Don't skimp on your family." And then, lowering his voice and holding our eyes in his: "Don't skimp on God."
Like a child banging her spoon on the table, that voice in my head demanded that I sign up for every ministry and spiritual renewal activity on the form in my bulletin. I wanted so badly to choose all. And I knew I couldn't.
Recently, I reread the lists of corporal and spiritual works of mercy with the life of St. Faustina in mind. In her 33 years, during which she never left her native country, St. Faustina didn't encounter many people. She often fed the poor at the convent gate, but she probably never visited a prison or helped build housing for the homeless. From reading her Diary, however, I don't get the impression that she was bothered by that, for there was one work of mercy that St. Faustina performed often and thoroughly: "Pray for the living and the dead."
At the foot of Jesus, Faustina was perfected in the art of intercessory prayer. This nun with no more than a third-grade education became a genius at praying and loving. They were her special talents, and she reaped an enormous return for the master who had entrusted them to her.
Once, for example, Faustina had become aware of a certain person's temptation to commit a mortal sin. She begged Jesus to let her suffer for that soul, and He allowed her to feel "the terrible pain of a crown of thorns on [her] head...for quite a long time." As a result, "that person remained in the Lord's grace" (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, 291). We don't know who the person was or how much time or space separated him or her from St. Faustina. Faustina herself might not have known. Perhaps the intercessor and the sinner will meet only in heaven. That person could have been a criminal in a cell on the other side of the world or someone who had not even been born yet. It could have been me. It could have been you. That is power, and all she had to do to get it was ask.
In her small space and in her small time, St. Faustina achieved more effectiveness in prayer than many of us do in all of our activities. Becoming a prayer expert gave her the power to perform all the other works of mercy—comfort the sick, visit the imprisoned, counsel the doubtful, bury the dead—for people she couldn't have reached physically. Just as St. Therese chose all of the dolls because she had more than enough love to go around, St. Faustina prayed for the whole world because her prayer, unlike her body, could be everywhere and touch everyone. So can ours.
How much we influence the world doesn't depend on how many meetings we can fly to in a day or how many volunteer hours we can squeeze into a weekend but on how skilled we become at loving and praying. As intercessors, we can choose all. Through praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy in particular, we can bring down blessings on every ministry, every struggle, and every temptation that every soul will ever experience. We can hold the hands of all of God's children in all places and at all times.
My talents and my days are finite. I have to discern through prayer and through the grace of everyday situations which of the works of mercy I'm called to perform, but I'm always called to prayer. As Therese couldn't stand for any of those abandoned dolls to be uncared for, I hate to leave any of my brothers and sisters without help. And in prayer, unlike other works, I don't have to know my limits. There are none. God's invitation to pray is a table heaped with opportunities to love. There I can feast and feast and always have room for more. Finally, I can choose all.
Marian Tascio is a writer and English teacher who lives in Yonkers, N.Y.