By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Nov 23, 2015)
The question I want to answer this week is one that came to me almost by accident (that is, by Divine Providence) in a chance remark that someone made to me the other day. I was chatting on the phone with a friend in the Divine Mercy movement, and he said to me: "I can't wait until Thanksgiving. Saint Faustina gave thanks for a lot of things, but I guess she never had a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, with turkey and all the trimmings!"
Of course, in one sense my friend was right: Thanksgiving dinner is a distinctively American tradition, rooted in on our own history as a nation, and since Faustina never lived outside of Poland, that particular holiday would not have been part of her heritage.
And yet, my friend's comment left me wondering the following: If St. Faustina were to celebrate Thanksgiving with us today, what things would she be especially thankful for?
It's not hard to guess. Just take out your copy of Fr. George W. Kosicki's Thematic Concordance to the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. (Every disciple of Divine Mercy should have one. It was previously published under the title Study Guide.) With the Concordance in hand, look up the things she was most thankful for in her own lifetime.
For example, in Diary entry 1819, she gives thanks simply for being a child of God. "Today I live, glorifying the Holy Trinity," she writes. "I thank God that He has deigned to adopt us as His children, through grace."
Like any child who knows she is loved by her parents and constantly showered with blessings and protected from grievous harm, St. Faustina delights in God's constant loving care for her. She writes:
Lord, first let me pour out my heart at Your feet in a fragrant anointing of gratitude for the many blessings which you lavish upon me; even if I wanted to, I could not count them. I only recall that there has never been a moment in my life in which I have not experienced Your protection and goodness. (Diary, 1489)
Faustina thanked our Lord for the many opportunities He gave to her to do good to others, even by her simple service as the portress at the door of the convent:
Oh, how happy I am that my superiors have given me such a task! I understand that mercy is manifold; one can do good always and everywhere and at all times. An ardent love of God sees all around itself constant opportunities to share itself through deed, word, and prayer. (Diary, 1313)
Above all, she thanked the Lord for redeeming the world, and enabling us to share in the fruits of redemption through the Eucharist:
During Mass, I thanked the Lord Jesus for having deigned to redeem us and for having given us the greatest of all gifts: namely, His love in Holy Communion, that is, His very own Self. At that moment, I was drawn into the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity, and I was immersed in the love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These moments are hard to describe. (Diary, 1670).
Perhaps most surprising of all, St. Faustina even gave thanks to the Lord for the many crosses she suffered, even when she did not understand why He permitted them to happen to her or how they might play a part in His merciful plan for her life. I am filled with awe and wonder when I read Diary entry 343, and all the sufferings she gave thanks for, with complete trust in Jesus (whereas I usually grumble, or even get discouraged, when I have to suffer such things!):
Jesus, I thank you for little daily crosses, for opposition to my endeavors, for the hardships of communal life, for the misinterpretation of my intentions, for humiliations at the hands of others, for the harsh way in which we are treated, for false suspicions, for poor health and loss of strength, for self-denial, for dying to myself, for lack of recognition in everything, for the upsetting of all my plans....
I thank you, Jesus, who first drank the cup of bitterness before You gave it to me, in a much milder form.... I want to drink the cup to its last drop, and not seek to know the reason why.... In You, O Lord, is all good, all is a gift of Your paternal Heart. I do not prefer consolations over bitterness or bitterness over consolations, but thank You, O Jesus, for everything!
And finally, of course, St. Faustina gave thanks to our Lord for the spread of devotion to His Divine Mercy, which is rescuing so many souls from sin and despair:
Then I entered into an intimate conversation with the Lord, thanking Him for having condescended to grant me the grace of seeing how the veneration of His unfathomable mercy is spreading. I immersed myself in a profound prayer of thanksgiving. Oh, how great is God's generosity! Blessed be the Lord, who is faithful in His promises! (Diary, 1300)
If you want to spend this Thanksgiving close to the heart of St. Faustina, here is one way to do it. In the morning, when you awaken on Thanksgiving Day, open her Diary and start your day by reading her great canticle of praise to our Creator in entry 1750. Here, she writes of all the glories and blessings He has given to us in nature: "Be adored, O our Creator and Lord. O universe, humbly glorify your God ..." Then, in the evening, perhaps for your grace over that piping hot turkey and stuffing, read her great canticle of thanksgiving in entry 1286 for all God's supernatural graces, especially those poured out upon us through the sacraments, a canticle that ends with these words:
Thank You, O Holy Trinity, for the vastness of the graces
Which You have lavished upon me unceasingly through life.
My gratitude will intensify as the eternal dawn rises,
When, for the first time, I sing to Your glory.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.