Photo: Felix Carroll
Let Dr. Stackpole point you in the right direction with his "how to" guide toward growing in trust in the merciful love of God.
Trust! ... OK, but How?
Dr. Robert Stackpole Answers Your Questions On Divine Mercy
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Dec 5, 2007)
Recently, I received an important — and poignant — question from Mr. Randall Milburn from my home country of Canada. He puts his question so well that I will quote his entire letter here:
I have been reading St. Faustina's Diary and using parts of the message for consolation and inspiration.
The messages are almost too good to be true, and I have a couple of questions. In Notebook VI, 1682, our Lord says to St. Faustina, "If souls would put themselves completely in My care, I Myself would undertake the task of sanctifying them, I would lavish even greater graces on them." My question is: "How do I put myself in His care?"
And then further in 1784, He says, "How very much I desire the salvation of souls! My dear secretary, write that I want to pour out My divine life into human souls and sanctify them, if only they are willing to accept My grace. The greatest sinners would achieve great sanctity, if only they would trust in My mercy... The very inner depths of My being are filled to overflowing with mercy, and it is being poured out upon all I have created. My delight is to act in a human soul and to fill it with My mercy and justify it." These messages have touched me deeply and brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion. But I am still struggling with "how" to "trust" and accept His graces. Exactly what do I need to do? I just can't imagine anything better than surrendering fully to our Lord and developing that trust in Him and His graces. I have been praying the Chaplet for many years and I am asking Him to give me the grace to surrender completely to Him, increase my trust and accept His grace. Other than praying the Chaplet and asking him, I just don't know what to do.
Well, Mr. Milburn, the question you are asking is vitally important to our spiritual growth, so I am glad that you brought it to my attention for this column. To begin with, we need to be sure we know the meaning of the word "trust" in St. Faustina's Diary. If you, or any of our readers are unclear about that important word, please read a previous column of mine entitled "What Does Trust Mean?"
Second, Mr. Milburn, I think you are already doing the first and most important thing: If we want to have more trust in Jesus Christ, the first thing we need to do is ask Him. And keep asking. We need to keep asking every day, not because He is deaf and did not hear us very well the first few hundred times that we asked Him, but because repeated petition in prayer is just a way of keeping our intentions alive and our hearts open to all the graces that he wants to give us in response to our prayers. Trust is, after all, a grace of the Holy Spirit, and remember what Jesus said in the gospels:
And I tell you: ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? (Lk 11: 9-13)
Now, you already said in your letter that you have been asking Him for many years for more trust, and the implication of your letter, Mr. Milburn, is that you still have not seen very much growth in trust in your heart. I know (from my own personal experience) that this can feel quite frustrating at times and can lead us to wonder: "What am I doing wrong? How can I really grow in trust, since all my asking seems to bear so little fruit?"
Saint Francis De Sales tells us in his classic work Introduction to the Devout Life that we must be patient with the pace of God's working in our hearts, and not try to go faster than grace. A farmer must sometimes prepare the soil for many seasons before the soil is ready to receive a new and better crop. In the same way, we do not know all the secret work of preparation that our Lord is doing in the depths of our hearts to prepare us for the next spiritual "growing season". But if we are asking Him daily for more and deeper trust, be assured that He will prepare us for that gift, and He will bestow it, suddenly or gradually, when He knows the time is just right. In short, be sure to trust Him to grant you the trust you are asking of Him!
Third, nothing helps us grow in trust more than constant meditation on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the greatest example of trustful surrender to our Lord in the whole of our Catholic faith. Remember her act of total surrender to God's plan at the Annunciation: "Behold, the Handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word" (Lk 1:38). Pope John Paul II taught that her silent vigil at the foot of the cross of her Son was the greatest "kenosis" of faith (self-surrender and self-emptying) in all of history. Try reading the collected Wednesday Audience Addresses on the Life of Mary, by Pope John Paul II, now published in English under the title Theotokos.
To put it another way, sanctity is infectious: We catch it, like a disease (only in this case, a healing one!) from keeping our minds and hearts close to the saints. The closer our proximity to them, the more likely it is that we will catch all the virtues from them — trust included!
Finally, here is a challenge. If we really want to trust in Jesus Christ, we must not sit around wondering whether or not we "feel" trusting or are growing in trust in the inner recesses of our hearts. Rather, we must act as if we had that trust, and soon we will have it! In other words: pretend! Look at how children learn to play their favorite sports: They imitate, over and over again, the characteristic actions and attitudes of their favorite sports stars. Through years of imitation and "pretending," they gradually learn to play the sport; what started out as artifice becomes second-nature to them. That's what "practice" really means.
The Lord will certainly give you the grace and courage to practice the virtue of trust even before you have it. In other words, to live with trust and do more deeds that imply reasonable trust in Him. And the more you practice the virtue of trust, with God's help, the stronger that virtue will become in you.
So, give a bit more to charitable causes this year than you think you can afford. Commit yourself to accepting ALL the doctrines of the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ on earth (even the ones you do not really understand yet, or find hard to accept). Pray for the conversion of some of the most hopeless cases who you know. Reach out to the poor, the lonely, and the forgotten, even though your efforts may seem like a "drop in the bucket" compared to what is needed. In other words, asking God's help, do what any person who had more trust in Jesus Christ would do if he/she were in your shoes. Pretty soon, YOU will be that person in your shoes who has more trust in the Lord!
He will make sure of that, because He will never be outdone in generosity.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. Got a question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.