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Jesus is the true light, sent from the Father, so that we might have spiritual enlightenment. He has come "to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Lk 1:79).
Two Women, One God, One Message of Mercy
When I agreed to sing at the annual breakfast for Magnificat, a lay association for Catholic women, I didn't think I'd end up standing at my chair and clapping while a long line of those Catholic women held hands and danced to the Chava Nagila. But the speaker that morning was Annette Barber, a convert from Judaism whose first words when she took the podium were, "I can't talk without the Chava Nagila!" The stereo came out, her hands went up, and the hushed hotel ballroom shuddered to life.
"This is a wedding," Annette shouted, urging us to our feet. "We need to celebrate a little bit."
The music stopped, and we were barely able to sit down before Annette was behind the microphone again, her right hand raised to heaven and her voice soaked in rapture. "I was born to be a part of this holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church," she proclaimed, "and my Heavenly Father knew it."
If this was a wedding, Annette was about to tell us the courtship tale. While she spoke, the rays of the Divine Mercy image reached out to us from beside the podium. I listened to her and couldn't help thinking of St. Faustina.
Jesus, driven by the intensely focused love that is the only reason for anything He does, had offered Annette and Faustina His heart and pursued them until they were safely in His arms. There, He had taught them about His mercy, a lesson they could not keep to themselves.
Annette's words spilled out of her, swelling with too much excitement to be contained. "This is incredible: God's mercy on a miserable person like me. He saved me to proclaim His mercy to you." Saint Faustina's words are quieter, trembling with joy in the hiding place of her Diary until we open the pages and listen. "May the greatness of Your mercy be admired and glorified, O God," she writes. "... I am to write about You, O Incomprehensible in mercy towards my poor soul" (Diary, 1).
Annette grew up in an orthodox Jewish home with a grandfather who took her to the synagogue every morning and taught her that "The Savior is coming on the clouds of heaven." Little Annette turned her face dutifully up to the sky and searched. In Faustina's childhood, God called her to look toward heaven, too. At the age of seven, she first heard "the definite call of God" but "was not always obedient to ... grace" (Diary, 1). When Faustina got older, she tried to answer His call, but her parents wouldn't let her enter a convent. Faustina writes, "I turned myself over to the vain things of life, paying no attention to the call of grace, although my soul found no satisfaction in any of those things" (Diary, 1).
Annette, who in her youth had been keenly aware of her own sinfulness, ignored an inner prompting to find peace in the cathedral around the corner from her house. Above the doors was inscribed the verse, "Come to Me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). She noticed that those doors, unlike any others in her neighborhood, were always unlocked. Still, Annette never went in.
Neither woman was content, of course. Saint Faustina experienced "deep torments" until Jesus appeared to her at a dance and asked, "How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting Me off?" (Diary, 9). That night, "grace won out in [her] soul" and Faustina finally committed herself to entering the convent (Diary, 8, 10).
As an adult, Annette ignored her obligations to her husband and children, "[her] vanity growing and growing" until she became depressed. One night she lay in bed planning to drown herself, and a strong wind come through the window. "When that wind hit me, I was enraptured," she said. "[There] was so much love and so much power." Suddenly afraid she was dying, Annette called for her husband. She heard a voice in her soul ask, "So you don't want to die?" Annette thought she was going crazy but answered, "No, I don't want to die." The next day, she heard the same voice promise her, "I will make you a perfect wife and mother."
Annette read the New Testament and was intrigued enough by Jesus' teachings to finally say to God, "Is this Your Son?" "Daughter," she heard, "I've been trying to tell you. This is My beloved Son. Hear ye Him." Since that day, Annette's entire family has become Christian, and her husband, a lapsed Catholic, returned to the Church.
Different as we are from each other, God knows what we all need: His mercy. One woman in this love story is a saint in heaven while the other continues to struggle toward perfection on earth. Both, however, were so filled with the grace of the God who never gave up on them that they had to share His mercy with us.
May His works in the lives of those He loves bring the answer to St. Faustina's prayer: "Be adored, O Most Holy Trinity, now and for all time" (Diary, 5). Amen.
Marian Tascio is a writer and English teacher who lives in Yonkers, N.Y.