Mercy for Japan
Thousands have been killed or are missing. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Basic necessities are scarce.
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception have joined voices from around the world in urging people to come to the aid of Japan, which was devastated by a massive earthquake and a tsunami on Friday, March 11. Aftershocks continue. And now Japan is trying to contain a potential nuclear disaster at its damaged energy facilities.
"This is a massive tragedy, and it continues to unfold day by day and hour by hour," said Fr. Joseph, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers, in Stockbridge, Mass. "We ask you to pray — particularly to pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy — for the souls of those who have died and for all those who suffer, and we ask you to contribute whatever financial assistance you can to these relief efforts."
The Marians have set up a means by which people can send financial support to the people of Japan. One-hundred percent of all donations will be sent to Catholic Relief Services, the international relief agency based in Baltimore, Md. Catholic Relief Services is working with Caritas International and others to find pathways to bring aid to the many thousands stricken by the earthquake and tsunami.
Caritas Japan has indicated that for now it will not be involved in immediate relief work, a huge operation run by the Japanese Army, but will focus on long-term recovery. In a statement, Caritas Japan noted that the damage is not only physical but also psychological. "We will accompany people who lost their beloved, who lost everything and may stay at temporary shelter, and who have no one to rely on," the statement said.
Spiritual Care of the Sick and Dying in Tragedies
In light of the tragedy in Japan, how are we to respond, spiritually?
The following was prepared this week by an expert in spiritual care, Marie Romagnano, RN, the founder of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marians:
It is horrifying to watch the video images of the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that has caused so much destruction in Japan. What is even more painful is to know that the tsunami and earthquake together instantly killed thousands of people and severely injured even more with little or no warning. As a burn and trauma nurse, I am quite aware of the magnitude of the physical and emotional trauma of the victims as a result of the devastating injuries. I am also aware of the difficulties for the rescue teams to reach the injured and dying due to the debris field and hazardous conditions. In the meantime, victims are suffering or dying often under rubble due to injuries received.
As I reflect on the fact that my own son just missed the Feb. 22 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he stayed after his return from Antarctica, I realize how fragile life is and how quickly it passes by. As a mother I am very grateful that he was not there exposed to harm or even death.
The desire of every healthcare professional is to help physically everyone who suffers injury and is in need of medical care. When we are not able to help physically because of distance or other factors we are not useless — we can still offer assistance to our injured brothers and sisters. Our spiritual assistance may not help them physically, but it can bring them spiritual comfort and consolation in the midst of their pain, anxiety and fear. It may even alleviate some of their physical pain. I have witnessed in my experience as a nurse the power of intercessory prayer. I have seen how an acute emotional distress and even physical pain is reduced by God's consoling grace. I have also seen how the awareness of His caring presence brings consolation and even peace to the injured and the dying in the midst of a overwhelming disaster. Our prayer is not without effect. Our confident prayer united with Our Lord's suffering and death is powerful and efficacious. It brings about the desired grace and spiritual assistance. It, above all, prepares the injured and dying person for a union with God in time and in eternity. Especially powerful is the prayer that Jesus recommends to us through St. Faustina, Chaplet of The Divine Mercy.
Being aware of my inability to do anything physically for the victims in Japan I immediately sought to bring them spiritual relief and fulfill Jesus' request, as recorded by St. Faustina in her Diary:
"Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer (1777)."
"At the hour of their death, I defend as My own glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or, when others say it for a dying person; the pardon is the same (811)."
"Oh, what great graces I will grant to souls who say this chaplet; the very depths of My tender mercy are stirred for the sake of those who say the chaplet (848)."
These promises of the Lord Jesus regarding the efficacious power of the Divine Mercy Chaplet inspire my heart to pray for those in every tragedy, be they near or far away. Through our prayer we offer divine grace of spiritual healing. We apply the healing and redemptive power of Our Savior's Precious Blood and Water, poured out upon us from His pierced Heart, to the wounds of our injured brothers and sisters at the moment of their greatest need. For, as St. Peter reminds us, "it is by His wounds we are healed" (1 Pet 2:24). This healing may come about here on earth, or in eternity when we are fully restored with bodily integrity. But our care is always rewarded "Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did for Me" (Mt 25:40).
The Divine Mercy Chaplet was given by Jesus to be especially prayed on behalf of the dying or those who may not otherwise be assisted as it truly becomes their "last hope of salvation." But the Chaplet can be prayed for any other intention. We need to pray The Chaplet for the protection from the consequences of radiation due to the nuclear reactors' meltdown and explosions. We need to pray for those who expose themselves to high levels of radiation and endanger their own lives in order to protect others.
God's Powerful Final Grace of Mercy
When death comes suddenly and without warning and those who perish have no opportunity to redress the wrongs, to seek forgiveness or even express their sorrow for their sinful ways, God's mercy is still comes to their rescue. St. Faustina offers us a glimpse of hope.
"I often attend upon the dying, and through entreaties obtain for them trust in God's mercy, and I implore God for an abundance of divine grace, which is always victorious. God's mercy sometimes touches the sinner at the last moment in a wondrous and mysterious way. Outwardly, it seems as if everything were lost, but it is not so. The soul, illumined by a ray of God's powerful final grace, turns to God in the last moment with such a power of love that, in an instant, it receives from God forgiveness of sin and punishment, while outwardly it shows no sign either of repentance or of contrition, because souls [at that stage] no longer react to external things. Oh, how beyond comprehension is God's mercy! Although a person is at the point of death, the merciful God gives the soul that interior vivid moment, so that if the soul is willing, it has the possibility of returning to God"(1698).
God's mercy is infinite and incomprehensible as St. Faustina assures us. Out of His great love — merciful love for every human person, He gives us the last chance for true contrition and salvation when ordinary means of reconciliation, human and sacramental are not available. We place all those in such a moment of their life before the merciful Heart of Christ. We confidently pray for them and entrust their souls to the Lord and His mercy.
"O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus, as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You" (187).