"Divine Mercy was a very profound, deep motivation for Leo," says Elaine Zitzman, shown above with her brother.
A page from Leo Macht's journal that records all the images of The Divine Mercy he gave away between 1987 and 2007.
Even as his body increasingly weakened from muscular dystrophy, his mind and heart were ever strengthened by the message of The Divine Mercy. So much so that Leo N. Macht became the Johnny Appleseed of sorts for the Divine Mercy movement, a mercy philanthropist whom, by the time he died on Aug. 2, 2007 at the age of 77, had given away to friends and perfect strangers more than 3,000 images of The Divine Mercy.
"I think sometimes Divine Providence sets you up to do something," explained Leo's sister, Elaine Zitzman of Minnetonka, Minn. "I just think he was selected to do this."
Leo's legacy doesn't end there. In his will, he left aside money for the spread of Divine Mercy. The Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Stockbridge, Mass., are recipients of some of that money.
"With deep gratitude, we accept this generous gift," said Fr. Joseph, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers. "We will use it in ways that further Leo Macht's dreams of helping to make Christ's message of mercy known throughout the world."
The funds will be used for the following:
• Buying and installing a nearly life-size stained-glass image of The Divine Mercy as the centerpiece for the Marians' new Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine (MOMOS);
• providing Divine Mercy materials free of charge to prison ministries; and
• mailing to all parishes throughout the United States a Divine Mercy image and other Divine Mercy materials.
Elaine is particularly pleased the stain-glass image will have such a prominent place. The new outdoor shrine is where Holy Mass is celebrated each Divine Mercy Sunday, a Mass attended by between 12,000 and 20,000 people and broadcast worldwide on EWTN.
"This, to me, would be a wonderful way to carry on his dream," Elaine said. "It's just such a nice honor for him. It's like a prayer answered."
Deeply Moved by Mercy Message
At some point in the late 1980s, Elaine had read an article about the message of Divine Mercy and the revelations of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938). She passed the article onto her brother Leo. Something about the message — Christ's promise that His mercy is greater than our sins, that we are to call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others — deeply touched Leo, his sister said.
According to a log book Leo kept, he gave away an image of The Divine Mercy for the first time in October 1987, to his goddaughter in Hibbing, Minn. Upon his death, he had given away 3,006 images to people all across the country. In addition to the images, Leo would also give the recipients printed materials on the Divine Mercy message and devotion, including the Diary of St. Faustina.
The image of The Divine Mercy is based upon a revelation St. Faustina received in 1931. She saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left hand was touching His garment in the area of the Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. She gazed intently at the Lord in silence, her soul filled with awe, but also with great joy. Jesus said to her:
Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory. (Diary, 47- 48).
Leo took these promises to heart.
"He would order big shipments," his sister said. "Whenever he saw a family, particularly with children, he would give them an image. My husband and I and Leo would take trips together, and Leo would have a box of the Divine Mercy materials with him, and he'd give them away every time he saw someone he felt could use one.
"Anytime he knew someone who was going into the hospital, he would say, 'Give them one of those pictures,'" said Elaine. " He would want them to have one of the images in their room, particularly if they were dying."
In "welcome wagon" fashion, Leo also gave them away to newcomers to his hometown of Lucan, Minn.
'God Was Working'
Elaine recalled how one time, she, Leo and her husband Lyle visited EWTN's headquarters in Alabama. A religious brother had given them a tour of the monastery.
"When we were all finished, we offered him a tip," Elaine said. "He said he couldn't accept it. So my brother said, 'Oh, well, we've got this last picture along.' And the brother looked at it said, 'Oh, I have been wanting something from Sr. Faustina to know if I should become a priest or not!'
"Many times things came up like that," Elaine said, "and it was quite revealing to us that this was important, that God was working."
Comforted by Mercy
Leo, the bookkeeper for the Macht family millwork company, was known throughout Lucan for his good heart. If the town park needed new trees, he would provide them. If his parish church had a fundraiser, he'd make a generous donation.
"He was a great brother and a great guy," Elaine said.
In addition to his work spreading Divine Mercy, Leo designed more than 70 wooden roadside shrines to Our Lady that he had installed throughout Minnesota.
In his last years, the muscular dystrophy Leo battled throughout his adult life had left him unable even to lift his arms. When Elaine and Lyle planned a trip to St. Faustina's homeland of Poland, they had to go without Leo. But they made sure they brought him back something special.
"When we were at the chapel at the sisters' convent outside of Krakow where St. Faustina lived, we had her relic passed to us at one point," Elaine said. "I had a piece of cotton that I was able to put on the relic, and then I dipped the cotton into the holy water and brought it back to Leo."
In Leo's final days, Elaine recalls how she and Lyle placed an image of The Divine Mercy beside his bed. Nothing brought him more comfort than that image, she said.
"It was great how the light would come in through the window," Elaine said. "The outside light would shine in and hit directly onto his Divine Mercy picture. He really thought that was neat."