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By Bryan Thatcher, MD (Oct 27, 2009)
The following testimony is by Dr. Bryan Thatcher, one of the presenters slated for the upcoming Divine Mercy Networking Forum, hosted by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, on Friday, Nov. 13, at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. The networking forum will be held the day before the North American Congress on Mercy, to be held across the street at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Marians invite you to join Dr. Thatcher for these two historic events in Church history.
Sixteen years ago I had many personal problems, and while it was a difficult time, I look back and realize that it was one of the best things that happened to me. I didn't think so at the time, but growth, for most of us, occurs through and after a crisis.
This period of crisis in my life forced me to look at myself and ask questions like, "Am I really happy?"
The answer then was: Of course not.
I felt trapped but didn't know how to get "untrapped."
"Is this what life is all about?" I would ask myself.
I could only cry out, "Lord, show me a better way, because I know something is wrong."
All my educational and financial accomplishments seemed like nothing in the face of my inner hollowness. I knew things needed changing, and I was afraid to get off the moving treadmill of daily existence.
As I began to make major changes in my job, daily routines, and how I coped with the stresses of life, I tried to get closer to God. As time went on, I became more and more at peace. I felt like I was discarding a heavy weight from my shoulders. I began to be more reflective and contemplative. I knew I was in a period of transition, and I knew I needed time to discern what God wanted of me. I also knew that without getting rid of a lot of garbage (which is what I call the heavy weight I had been carrying), I could never discern properly because there was so much that was keeping me from focusing on the mark, from focusing on the finish line.
As I began to get closer to God, a period of illumination occurred. God began to show me in powerful ways that He was hearing me and listening. He let me know that I was a beautiful creature created in His image, and that He loved me for who I was, not who I thought I should be.
I remember one occasion in particular. While trying to discern if God wanted me to spread His Divine Mercy, I felt that I was not capable of doing that because of my sinfulness. So I asked God for a sign. I was really in a quandary, as I did not feel worthy or capable. How could I evangelize, one so broken? I was led to the Diary of St. Faustina, and I opened up the book to entry 464.
Saint Faustina wrote: "During a meditation on humility, an old doubt returned: that a soul as miserable as mine could not carry out the task which the Lord was demanding [of me]. Just as I was analyzing this doubt, the priest who was conducting the retreat interrupted his train of thought and spoke about the very thing that I was having doubts about; namely, that God usually chooses the weakest and simplest souls as tools for His greatest works; that we can see that this is an undeniable truth when we look at the men that He chose to be His apostles; or again, when we look at the history of the Church and see what great works were done by souls that were the least capable of accomplishing them; for it is just in this way that God's works are revealed for what they are, the works of God. When my doubts had completely disappeared, the priest resumed his conference on humility."
Those periods of illumination reminded me of the story of the Prodigal Son, and how the Father was waiting with open arms to welcome the son home. And just before the parable of the Prodigal Son, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the following parable: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing. ... Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Lk 15: 3-7).
Those intermittent periods of feeling the intense presence of God helped me understand that I am somebody; not because of my educational achievements, position on the job, my income or type of car I drove, but because I was created in the image and likeness of God. And I began to realize in a deeper way that God loves ME! And He is a merciful God, ready to forgive! All I had to do was ask! He told St. Faustina that, "The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy" (Diary, 723).
I want to encourage you to keep running the good race, avoiding and battling against discouragement and anxiety. What makes you great is love of God and neighbor, and not anything else. Let love be your guiding light in all you do. Let it be the driving force behind all your thoughts, deeds, and actions. But if you fall — or should I say when you fall — know that The Divine Mercy is always there with open arms, waiting to embrace you and carry your wounded body as the Good Shepherd carried the lost sheep.
Don't ever think that your sins or prior lifestyle are so bad that God could never forgive you. You must:
a) Ask for His mercy;
b) be merciful to others; and
c) completely trust in Him and His mercy.
As you turn your life over to God and trust in His mercy in a deeper way, you will understand in a deeper way what a beautiful person you are, one made in His image and likeness!
Dr. Bryan Thatcher is the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM), an apostolate of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.
Learn more about the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy and the Divine Mercy Networking Forum, to be held in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13-15.