In Faustina, Saint for Our Times, Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, gives us an insightful look into St. Maria Faustina Kowalska's life, spirituality, and mission.
Peter Elliot with his youngest son, Matthew, at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaloyong, Philippines.
My Rise from a Hard Fall
By Peter Elliot (Jan 13, 2012)
In 1985, while working in construction, I fell about two stories and landed on blacktop. Broken bones protruded from my elbow. My legs and feet were angled in ways that legs and feet aren't supposed to be angled.
I remember waking the next day in the hospital. I was in great pain. I had casts on my right arm and leg. Eighteen days later I was allowed to go home with a wheelchair. Because the pain did not subside, the surgeon decided to operate. The operation didn't alleviate the pain, nor did two subsequent operations. For the next several years I went about my life with a swollen, painful foot. Each day the inside of the custom boot I required became soaked by the fluids that seeped through the taut skin of my foot. After a while my skin began popping under the stress of the swelling. I suffered through work each day and then went home to lie on my couch with my swollen, painful foot raised up.
One day in 2004 I left for work in the morning. I bought materials for the job but, before I arrived at the jobsite, I began to feel so sick I decided I'd better go home instead. I told my wife I thought I had the flu but would be fine by the next day. When the next day came, I felt worse. My foot was even more swollen than usual. At the emergency ward they diagnosed me to have cellulitis and began a twice-daily regimen of intravenous antibiotics. When I came the next day my condition had become so severe that the doctor admitted me to hospital. I remained there for 10 days. All the skin peeled off of my foot, and my toenails fell out. Although the skin and toenails grew back and the infection subsided, the swelling and pain remained.
From that point on, although I tried, I was unable to return to work. The pain kept increasing, and about 16 months later the infection returned. Again, I was put on out-patient intravenous antibiotics treatment, but on the second day, as I waited for the nurse, my eyes rolled backwards and I passed out. I woke up the next day. My wife told me that during the night I had awoken, lifted my head to look at my feet, and asked, "Where is the angel?" and then drifted off again.
Later that day, I was wheeled up to a room shared with three other men. I had an intravenous drip of saline solution, antibiotics and, every three hours, morphine to dull the pain. That night the nurse was late with my morphine and the pain became intolerable. As I lay there in agony, I saw the bronze-colored, leathery face of Satan with his glowing orange eyes focused on me. He said, "Follow me and you will have no more pain!"
"No!" I replied, "I will not follow you!"
"Come on," he said, "follow me; you will have no more pain."
"No!" I replied, "I will not follow you!"
"Come on," he said, "follow me; you will have no more pain for the rest of your life." (I think it is significant that he asked three times)
"I will never follow you!" I insisted..
On the stand beside me was a rosary that one of the parishioners from my church had brought when she visited that day. I wrapped it about my hand. I held the cross against my heart and said, "Satan, get thee behind me! Satan, get thee behind me! Satan, get thee behind me!"
I could see the Evil One getting very angry. His eyes glowed brighter and grew larger as I repeated this. As his eyes got bigger I could look right through them and see Jesus on His Cross coming towards me with Mary kneeling on one side and a man kneeling on the other side. As Jesus got closer, Satan's face broke up into many demons that flew about. Angels then came out from behind the arms of the cross and chased the demons away. Bright rays, whiter than white, began to emanate from Jesus and enfold me. My pain was still there but it no longer bothered me; I was completely at ease. The only way I can describe it is the peace of Christ. Jesus stayed with me this way until the nurse came with my morphine injection.
The next night was similar. My pain got worse. I had another vision in which I was taken to a great orgy where people were partaking of all manner of excess. They called to me, "Come on and join us! You can have whatever you want."
I replied, "No, no, I don't want that!"
They continued to beckoned me, "Join us, you can have whatever you want; fancy cars, big houses, anything; and you will have no more pain for the rest of your life!"
Again I declined, "No! That is not what I want!"
They sweetened the offer, "Join us! Bring your family and your friends; all of you can have whatever you want. None of you will suffer for the rest of your lives."
"I won't join you!" I cried as again I took my rosary and wrapped it around my hand. Pressing the Cross in my palm against my heart, I said, "Jesus, I trust in you! Jesus, I trust in you! Jesus, I trust in you!"
Jesus then descended into the midst of the crowd; again white rays were emanating from His Heart to envelope me. This time there were a few others with me in the rays and Jesus was begging more to join us. The people around us were unaware of Jesus' presence and just continued in whatever they were doing. Then a dark cloud came down above us. When the cloud was about ceiling-height the outer edges began turning into fingers and curling down above individual partiers. As a finger tip approached a person's head, it turned into a demon and would torment that person with whatever excess he or she was partaking of. Then flames came up from below and consumed the person.
The people at the center did not notice any of this. Though they had all they desired, their actions seemed mechanical and void of pleasure. They saw neither Jesus nor the sadness they caused Him by not accepting His invitation. They were oblivious to the cloud that was descending on them, oblivious to demons and oblivious to the flames. I stayed there; peaceful, in the glow of Christ's rays; and observed the fruitless acts of those around me until, again, my nurse came with my morphine.
The next day I asked the three others in my room if they had been to the party. They were confused and asked, "What party?" As I described it they attempted to convince me that it had not happened; that I must have been dreaming or hallucinating. My wife came and she too tried to persuade me that I had imagined it.
Although I was in severe pain I still needed my exercise and was therefore asked to walk around the corridors with the aid of a wire cage to support most of my weight. While I was walking, at about three in the afternoon, Jesus again appeared to me; He stood before me, stretched out His right hand, placed it on my shoulder and said, "You are my brother." As He did so I was given to know, without Him actually saying it, that I would be healed when the time was right.
It was again 10 days before the infection cleared up and I was sent home, my foot still swollen and painful. This time I was comforted by the knowledge that my foot would eventually be healed. I saw many more doctors and was eventually diagnosed with a severe case of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). The main symptoms are swelling, abnormal hair and nail growth, discolouration of the skin, temperature change, and excruciating pain. I saw all the top doctors in the field, and they concluded that my condition could not be cured.
I needed crutches to walk and had a scooter for times I needed to go more than half a block. I even had an electric chair installed to take me up the stairs at our home. At night I had to build a tent with a laundry basket to keep the covers from touching my foot.
I was unable to play with my sons or carry on a coherent conversation with anyone; all I could do was rest and wait. My constant prayer was, "Dear Lord, I don't understand Your plan; dear Lord, I don't particularly like Your plan; but dear Lord, I accept Your plan."
When the pain became nearly unbearable I comforted myself with the thought that it probably didn't hurt as much as being nailed to a cross. I also thought of my best friend, Glenn. He had died from cancer. My prayer for him, knowing my tolerance for pain was much higher than his, had been "Dear God, if You must take him now, please at least let me bear his pain." How could I complain when this could well be the very pain I had asked for?
During the next three years the CRPS spread from my right leg to my left and then to both hands. In December 2008 I was hospitalized. On the first Friday of December I asked to go home. The doctor said I was too sick and would not allow it. The next day I demanded to go home. I told the doctor that I already missed my family and would also miss Mass if I was not allowed home. The doctor told me that she felt I would need to stay for at least another couple of weeks and asked what would happen if I got worse while at home. I told her that my wife was wiser than me and would make me return. Reluctantly, the doctor signed for my release.
Upon returning home that afternoon, I went straight to bed. I ate nothing but my medications and drank only water. On Sunday we went to Mass. I returned and I lay on my reclining chair, eating only medicine and clear broth and drinking only black tea. On Monday my wife got me settled in my recliner and took our sons to school. There she met another mom, Linda, who asked if we planned to attend the mission talk by Fr. Lucien Larre that was planned for the next four evenings at our church. My wife explained that I was far too sick to even leave the house. Linda told my wife that she had CDs of Fr. Larre's talk and would lend them to us, but that another parent had borrowed them so we would have to wait until the CDs were returned.
My wife left for home and Linda went into our sons' school. The first person Linda saw upon entering the school was the lady who had borrowed the CDs. Within 40 minutes of my wife's conversation with Linda, the CDs were delivered to my door!
I loaded the CDs into the player and set my machine for continuous play. I spent the day listening to the mission talk over and over as I drifted in and out of sleep. At 6 p.m. I stood up and informed my wife that it was time to get ready for church. She said I was far too sick and we shouldn't go. I insisted, "No! We have to go!" She eventually gave in saying, "Okay, we'll go but on one condition: If you can't sit through the entire Mass you're not coming home; I'm taking you to the hospital."
I hadn't been able to sit through Mass for some time. Often I would have to head out to the foyer as the homily began. The pain usually subsided enough for me to return by the start of the Liturgy of the Eucharist but often not until it was time to process up to receive Christ's Body.
This still didn't deter me; I accepted my wife's ultimatum. I struggled into the church with the aid of my crutches and knelt down to pray. I always prepare for Mass by reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet. This time, as I prayed the chaplet, I felt wheels turning in my ankle and knew that I was being healed. I began to cry. My wife, thinking that my pain caused the tears, asked, "Are you alright?"
"Yes," I replied, "these are tears of joy!"
My wife thought that I had become delusional. "No," I tried to comfort her, "I can walk!"
Then she knew I had become delusional! She continued to watch me as Mass progressed, certain that we would have to leave for the hospital before long. Within the five minutes of reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the swelling had gone down in my ankle and the pain had subsided.
When it came time to receive Communion, I left my crutches in the pew and processed up without the limp I had had since 1985. Before receiving Christ I said, "Thank you, Jesus! Amen."
After Mass I went out to the foyer and ran once around, just because I knew I could. I returned and sat beside my wife to listen to the two-hour mission talk by Fr. Larre. When the talk ended, I went out to the foyer again and began running and dancing and jumping about. I felt like Scrooge on Christmas Day — the Alistair Sim version! Other parishioners who knew me and my condition were also amazed and excited and celebrated with me. Poor Fr. Larre was wondering what kind of parish this was, people making such a ruckus while he was hearing confessions.
Returning home that night, I went to bed and began to suffer terribly. I went back to the great party I had been to in 2005. I did not understand why I was there; I had already made my choice. Soon I began receiving messages as to what the party was and was told that I was being enlightened because God had shown me great favour in healing me and that I had a special mission in life. The mission described to me gave me a very prominent place in the history of Salvation. I dare not repeat the blasphemy that I began to accept!
The next day I called my friend, Fr. Vince, to tell him of my revelation. With great concern, he cautioned me that what I was telling him was against Catholic Doctrine. I thought to myself, "You are not the one who was healed and you are not the one to whom this was revealed!"
Full of false pride and unable to accept Fr. Vince's advice, I went to our Pastor, Fr. Tran, to tell him of my discovery but he too cautioned me about the inadvisability of following this course. My pride still won the contest and I sought the advice of my friend Ralph to confirm my message. Again my efforts were dashed by the warning that what I was telling Ralph was in no way consistent with the Churches teachings. Undeterred, I went to see Fr. Larre to request that he put me in touch with the Archbishop as I wasn't getting anywhere with the priests. The pride I was suffering under was so great that I even believed that I must talk to the Pope himself to tell him what he must do. Fr. Larre, in a most gracious way, dismissed my idea that I could see the Archbishop about my message and then suggested that I return home and consider the matter carefully.
My ideas had been refuted by four men who I considered to be honest, wise and friends. I went home, still believing that I was right and that they were blind. I could not accept, however, that these men would misguide me. Unable to reconcile the message I had received the previous night with the responses I had received from my friends, I turned to God. I prayed for the grace to understand, meditated on my situation and began to read the bible in the section pertinent to the revelation I felt I had received. All of a sudden the light came on, I recognized the Devil's twisted tongue, the torment left me and I felt at ease. The Bible fell from my hands and opened to Sirach 51; which spoke of the proud man, tricked by the words of the Devil, unable to be saved by men but rescued from eternal death by God. I finally understood what I had seen and this passage was confirmation of that.
The partiers were attempting to gratify themselves physically through all manners of excess but they remained unsatisfied. These people had died, yet in their ignorance, they strove to gain the pleasures they had known during life; they did not realize that they now existed as spirits, unable to feel, hear, see, smell or taste.
There were two doors to the great room in which they languished. Upon one was a sign which read, "Follow the path beyond this door and you will experience all the pain and suffering that your actions have caused others to bear, you will be cleansed of your sins and meet your Saviour who wishes to purify you and take you to His Father." The sign on the other door read, "There is no pain and suffering in The Father's house. Stay true to your ways and follow this path and you will again find pleasure."
Those who crossed the first threshold encountered immense distress and began howling as they entered the path beyond to begin their atonement to all those they had harmed throughout their lives. They suffered each step of the way as they struggled on in the red glow of the healing rays of the blood of Christ. They emerged at the end of this arduous path into a bright light, unscarred by their ordeal. There they were made pure, robed in glowing white gowns and lifted up to Heaven.
Those entering the other door emitted sounds of delight over their sensual excesses. As they progressed the path became a tunnel. The crowd became denser and the luxuries more scarce, soon people began having to compete, striking each other and battling for that which they sought. Many tried to retreat but were forced on by the throngs. They at last emerged into a great cavern, scarred and bloated by their ordeal. There were no more pleasures, just an anxious crowd being pushed further and further into the cave until they were forced over a great precipice into a raging pit of fire.
Those who chose the difficult path, accepting responsibility for their transgressions, met the Divine Mercy of God and were lifted up to the everlasting Peace of Christ which He purchased through His life of suffering and through His blood spilt on the cross. Those who stayed true to their own stubborn ways met the justice of God and descended to an eternity of torment.
I understand, now, that the miracle of my healing is for others. There were many people at Fr. Larre's mission talk who were doubting; many who were seeking. When they saw this great miracle they were able to believe. When I relate my story to people their faith is renewed and strengthened. My miracle was receiving the pain in the first place. That pain brought me so much closer to God. It broke me down to the point that I had to admit to myself that I could do nothing without His help. This is the case for all of us; but living in this society, we are taught to rely on ourselves. How foolish! We are but poor, insignificant creatures on our own; united with God, we are magnificent reflections of His image. On our own we can only do busy work; when we let the Lord work through us we become glorious beacons of His Love and Mercy for all men. What we do on our own compared to what God does through us is less than what a gnat does compared to what a man does. What we do is weak and flawed; What God does is glorious and perfect.
In May, 2010, I visited my friend Glenn's sister. She told me that when she talked to Glenn's doctor he told her that Glenn was the only patient he had ever had; in fact the only one he had ever heard of; with his type of cancer that had not needed any pain medication; not even a Tylenol! I believe now that the pain I received truly was the pain that was due Glenn and that, because of my pure act of true friendship in accepting Glenns pain, God was able to act through me to show others His great power.
Every moment, I thank God for taking the pain and swelling away; I must be the one leper who thanked Jesus for his cure; not one of the nine who just ran off. I thank Him, praise Him and ask Him to give me the grace to do His Will at all times. I thank Him even more for giving the pain to me! During one of my 3 a.m. meditations He gave me the following prayer:
My dearest Lord, I ask that You grant me the honour of allowing me to be Your servant. Make me, like St Francis, an instrument of Your peace.
Take my feet and lead them where You need me to be. Take my hands and guide them to do the work that You need to have done. Take my voice and let it ever praise and glorify Your name and thank You for all Your graces and mercies. Inspire it, dear Lord, to speak the words that You need to have said.
Take all my thoughts and my will and replace them with Your own, that I might never offend You again. Take all my senses and let them know only the beauty and goodness of Your creation. Take my mind and fill it with wisdom, that I might understand the needs You have of me and the needs of my fellow man. Take my heart and fill it with a true and unending love for You and for my neighbour. Take my soul, dear Lord, and fill it with an unshakeable faith in You and in Your holy Church.
I have no merits, dear Lord, to justify this request; but You are the same God who sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer rejection, betrayal, humiliation, torture and death so that I might be saved. I beg You, therefore, through that same Divine Mercy, to grant that I may be true fruit of Your vine, so that all who approach me may receive the seed of wisdom in their mind, the seed of love in their heart and the seed of faith in their soul and that they might also receive the nourishment that comes from the very roots of Your holy Church, so that those seeds might flourish and mature fully.
Knowing my own nature, Lord, I ask also that You allow Your mother, Mary, to watch over me and gently chastise me and lead me back to the true path each time I stray.
I ask this in the name of Your Son, my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Divine Mercy himself; who always has been, is and always will be so good to me.
Now, if I neglect my prayers or think anything improper, I receive the grace of feeling a little bit of the pain I once had. At these times I remember that my life and everyone's life belongs to God, and I offer mine back to Him. I offer up the pain to join with the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, for the salvation of souls, to be part of the treasury of His Church; He then takes it.
I have accepted God's call and now spend my time spreading the message of His love and mercy. I have joined with Daren Hancott, Eric Chow, Herb Yang, and Jaime Crisostomo to form the Love and Mercy Benevolent Society (LaMBS), a non profit society whose goal is to build a Divine Mercy Mission where there will be a chapel, a Stations of the Cross walk, four Rosary walks and a hall where seminars and retreats may be held. Through charitable acts, God's message of love and mercy will be spread. We are working with members of the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy (EADM), the Knights of Columbus, Couples for Christ, the Catholic Women's League, the Legion of Mary and other lay people.
Peter Elliott of Coquitlam, B.C. Canada, is a Catholic convert. He and his wife, Vilma, have two boys, Mark and Matthew.