The Reward of My Repentance
By Marian Friedrichs (Oct 17, 2006)
When I was 17, I met the perfect guy. He was cute, he loved to sing, and he went to church. We met on a Catholic retreat weekend for teenagers, and within a week we were dating.
Things got very serious very quickly. In no time, I let him — and myself — talk me into much more physical intimacy than I was comfortable with. He assured me that as long as we didn't actually have intercourse, we weren't sinning, so I smothered my conscience and went along with that. Before I was 18, we were talking marriage.
In spite of me, God used this relationship to bring me to a path that would lead me closer to Him. My boyfriend introduced me to some friends of his who sang at a Catholic church. He had sung with them for years, and soon I was also singing in the group. At the time, the group only sang at Living Rosaries hosted by the church. We opened and closed the evening with song and introduced each mystery with a hymn.
One evening at practice, Linda, our leader, announced that we would learn to sing the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, which quickly became the preface to every Living Rosary. I didn't know the story of St. Faustina, the Polish mystic whose Diary contains God's loving message of Divine Mercy. I didn't know anything about the Divine Mercy message, either, but I knew that singing the Chaplet made my busy mind focus on God like nothing else. Soon the pastor, Fr. Larry, added Eucharistic Benediction and Adoration to the Living Rosaries.
I discovered that when the Monstrance was on the altar during the Chaplet, I could not take my eyes away from the exposed Eucharist. I had received Holy Communion and passed tabernacles countless times, but the fact that Jesus — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — was right there in front of me had never penetrated my mind. Now, the reality seemed too miraculous to be true.
God's gift of the Chaplet was soon followed by an even greater gift: awareness of my deep need for His mercy. For many reasons, after a seven-year relationship and a two-year engagement, I finally realized that I could not marry the man who had brought me into the singing group. The decision left me feeling relieved, guilty, hopeful, and terrified.
The future that had been planned out for seven years was gone, as was the man I had trusted and depended on completely. Even more painful was the gradual realization that our relationship, which we had always told each other and ourselves was perfect, had been sullied by sinfulness and dishonesty. My grief hit a low point the day I finally admitted to myself that not only had I ignored my conscience and committed serious sin with my boyfriend, but I had disrespected Jesus by continuing to receive the Blessed Sacrament without confessing my sin.
A few weeks after I called off my wedding, my father took me to visit the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. While I waited for my turn in the confessional, I read the inscription carved on the door. The words were those of Jesus to St. Faustina: "The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy" (Diary, 723). Other than the Chaplet, those were the first words from the Diary that I had ever read, and the generosity contained in them — like the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist — seemed too miraculous to be true.
Humbled and emboldened by the words I had just read, I sobbed out my confession to the priest, unloading years of denial and guilt and leaving myself empty of everything except trust that God would lead me where He wanted me to be.
The next day, I bought a copy of the Diary. Back home, I began reading it a little bit each day. I added the Chaplet to my daily private prayers and hung a painting of The Divine Mercy image above my bed.
As my use of the Chaplet has increased, my list of intentions has grown beyond forgiveness for myself. I pray parts of it whenever I am alerted to someone's sickness, death, or entrapment by Satan. When I pass a cemetery, a monument, a hospital, an ambulance, or a makeshift highway memorial for a car accident victim; when I read a headline or hear a news report announcing a death or serious sin, I pray to the Father: "For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."
We cannot always know when someone may die, be approaching death, or be tricked by the father of lies into committing a mortal sin. We can, however, offer Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity often to our Eternal Father and trust that this offering — the only worthy one — can save any sinner from hell.
The Diary taught me that to think of anyone as beyond salvation is to doubt the power of Jesus' sacrifice. It also deepened my love for the Blessed Sacrament. When I pass a building that contains a tabernacle, I pray, "Oh my Jesus, I trust in You. Have mercy on me, a sinner." For me, Divine Mercy and the Eucharist are inseparable. They are twin expressions of the same extravagant love.
I wish I could say that not a day goes by when I do not pray the entire Chaplet. I wish I could say that my mind never wanders when I pray it and that I never forget to observe the Hour of Great Mercy at 3 o'clock. I wish I could say that each moment of my life I place perfect trust in God and never fail to perform works of mercy at every opportunity. But I have no boast to make of my own faithfulness, only God's. His Divine Mercy in my life is the reason, the means, and the reward of my repentance, which is a lifelong, minute-by-minute process.
If the Divine Mercy message ever seems too miraculous to be true, we should remember, "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). When blood and water spouted from Christ's wounds on the cross, that power of God gushed forth as a fountain of mercy. And Jesus promised St. Faustina and us that that same blood and water become rays of infinite healing when we open our arms and our hearts at the foot of the cross and proclaim simply, "Jesus, I trust in You."
Marian Tascio is a middle school teacher and a freelance writer who lives in Yonkers, N.Y.