"My daughter, do whatever is within your power to spread devotion to My mercy. I will make up for what you lack. Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to My merciful Heart and I will fill it with peace."
— Our Lord to St. Faustina (Diary of St. Faustina, 1074)
By Amy Fahey
A year ago this month, our family — my husband, our three daughters, our toddler son, and I — set out early from our Hollis, N.H., home for a two-day journey en route to Michigan. Early on, we discovered that our daughter Mary had forgotten the brown scapular given to her recently by my husband. A priest friend of ours was to enroll her in the scapular devotion during our Michigan visit. Mary was clearly disappointed, and we wondered where, in a predominantly non-Catholic region of Michigan, we were going to find another scapular for her.
Less than two hours later, while at an interstate rest stop, my husband came across a brochure for the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass. A quick glance at the map revealed that we would soon be passing near the Shrine. Not only did they have a gift shop, they also had a shrine to St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer sufferers. My father has prostate cancer, and I strongly desired to pray for his healing through St. Peregrine's intercession.
The Shrine was beautiful, exceeding our every expectation, and it truly blessed our day to offer prayers for a safe journey, and for physical healing, at the feet of the Image of The Divine Mercy. We left with prayer cards, brochures, and the desired brown scapular, and as my husband and son Willie strolled ahead of us to the car, a priest drove by, slowed his vehicle, and leaned out to give them a blessing.
Several hours later we found our vehicle careening off of the New York Thruway. The car spun around, headed down an embankment, rolled over and landed on its side, spraying gravel and glass everywhere inside the battered vehicle.
Immediately after the accident occurred, I unbuckled, pushed my way up and out of my seat, yanked my right middle finger out of something (presumably some mangled part of the car frame) that was pinning it down, and began taking stock of my husband and children. My husband, though clearly battered and in shock, did not appear to be seriously injured, praise God. Helena, Mary, and Catriona were moving about and screaming, the older two both cut and bleeding. But I could neither see nor hear my toddler son, who had been seated immediately behind me in his car seat, but was now buried under a pile of books, food, clothing, and glass. In those few seconds from the time I began pulling through the rubble to the moment I uncovered him, I participated in the anguish for which every mother must steel herself, and of which Our Blessed Mother provides the holy example.
In comparison to Our Lady, my suffering was but an instant. Unspeakably great was my consolation when I was reunited with a baby who, though crying and clearly disoriented, was securely buckled in his car seat. Indeed, he managed to survive the accident without a single scratch, bump or bruise. Praise the Lord of Mercy, who suffered the most brutal agony, and His Blessed Mother, who pondered the mystery of all suffering in her pierced heart.
When I recounted the details of the crash to several friends and family members, they remarked on how terrifying the ordeal must have been for us, and how much fear we must have experienced. And in those few agonizing seconds when I could not see my son, I did experience the most acute anxiety of my life. Yet what I most remember feeling during and immediately after the accident was an overwhelming stillness of heart. Jesus, I trust in You! My husband and daughters have reminded me that in those horrific seconds while the accident was occurring, I kept volubly repeating, "It's okay. It's okay. It's okay." This inner calm greatly assisted me in attending to my children, attempting to reassure my husband, and even accepting the help of others who came upon the scene offering us aid.
During the ride to the hospital, while my husband and children sat about the edges of the ambulance on benches, I lay immobilized on a stretcher with a head injury, staring up at a series of white lights. I frequently heard Willie plaintively call, "Mama, Mama," but I could not move my head to look at him or stretch out my arms to comfort him. It was precisely in those moments of utter helplessness that I experienced the greatest assurance: The gaze of Christ was enveloping all of us in His tender mercy, and His Blessed Mother was cradling us in our hour of need.
I recall now that when we were at the Shrine bookshop, I was leafing through a biography of St. Gianna Molla. As I read her husband Pietro's account of the suffering St. Gianna experienced in the days before her death, and of the further tragedy of their young daughter Mariolina's death just two years later, I was struck by Pietro's holy acceptance of the great trials our Lord had chosen for him and his family. I remember wondering at the time if I would have the faith to accept such profound suffering with such overwhelming sanctity.
In His infinite wisdom and mercy, God did not choose for us to experience the loss of a child, a spouse, a mother or a father that day. There was pain, mental anguish, confusion, and helplessness, certainly — but not death and ultimate judgment. Everyone — from those who witnessed the crash, to the attending police officer, paramedics, ER nurses, and doctors — expressed amazement that our injuries were not more severe. Given the seriousness of the accident, we can only conclude that it is nothing short of a miracle that we survived with only minor injuries. Indeed, as I discovered a few days later when reviewing the accident report, the recorded time of the accident was precisely 3 p.m., the Hour of Great Mercy. Jesus, I trust in You!
Later that evening, when we arrived bandaged, exhausted, and disoriented at a nearby hotel, my husband pulled from his pocket a small triptych, an icon he had recently brought back from Rome for Willie, who loves to open its little wooden doors and kiss the Blessed Mother and her Divine Infant hidden inside. I had packed it in Willie's diaper bag before the trip, and my husband told me it was the first thing he spied lying in the grass near the van. That evening we lacked clean clothes, precious stuffed animals, and even my daughter's glasses, but salvaged from the wreckage was this visible reminder of the God who became a Little Child, grew up sheltered in His mother's loving embrace, and shed His Precious Blood for our sake.
In her Diary, St. Faustina recounts our Lord's words to her regarding the two rays of light that flow from His Heart in the Image of The Divine Mercy: "The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him" (Diary, 299)
My husband and I will forever praise the Lord of Mercies for showering us with His love and protection during the Hour of Great Mercy on that June afternoon. As for our daughter Mary, she and her sisters have already confided on more than one occasion how glad they are that she had forgotten her scapular.