Fear

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“I do not fear anything in the world, but fear only lest I make Jesus sad.”

— Diary, 610

This week’s spiritual exercise focuses on fear. Thomas à Kempis wrote, “Why, then, do you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win a kingdom? ... [F]ollow Jesus, and you shall enter eternal life.” Let us take a look at fear in our lives and how young Helen [St. Faustina] faced and confronted her fears, and to whom she turned for help.

Even the apostles were afraid at times. But, after Pentecost, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they let go of their fears and trusted God more fully. We, too, can pray to the Holy Spirit for courage and guidance.

Helen was only about 19 years old when she boarded the train for Warsaw. It was the morning after Jesus suddenly showed up at the dance. Helen sought Jesus’ help in the Cathedral of St. Stanislaus Kostka. Prostrate on the floor before the Blessed Sacrament, Helen clearly heard Jesus tell her, “Go at once to Warsaw; you will enter a convent there” (Diary, 10). She made up her mind to follow Him.

When she stepped down the stairs to the platform, Helen felt a terrifying pang of fear pierce her heart. As she observed the passengers leaving the train to head in various directions, this teen on the run realized she had nowhere to go and knew no one in Warsaw, a city of a million people. She became paralyzed with fear, but quickly reached out in earnest prayer to the mother who would understand her dilemma. “Mary, lead me, guide me” (Diary, 11) was her simple, fervent plea.

Immediately, the answer rose from her innermost being. “I heard these words within me telling me to leave the town and go to a certain nearby village where I would find a safe lodging for the night. I did so and found, in fact, that everything was just as the Mother of God told me” (Diary, 11). Helen would stay overnight in a village near the capital.

From fear to trust

As Jesus had instructed, Helen returned to Warsaw the following morning and entered the first church she came upon. It was St. James Church at Grojecka Street in Ochota, a suburb of Warsaw. Helen began to pray. Where could she find a convent? Masses were being celebrated at St. James Church, one after the other. At one Mass, Helen heard the words, “Go to that priest ... and tell him everything; he will tell you what to do next” (Diary, 12). Before Helen received any private revelations about Divine Mercy and trust, she trusted Jesus in that big strange city. After Mass, Helen met Fr. James Dabrowski in the sacristy and explained the stirrings of her soul and her encounter with Jesus.

Though he was taken aback initially, he had some consoling words for Helen. Years later, Helen wrote, “[He] told me to have strong confidence that God would provide for my future” (Diary, 13). Father James told Helen, “For the time being ... I shall send you to a pious lady ... with whom you will stay until you enter the convent” (Diary, 13). Helen was welcomed with kindness by Aldona Lipszyc. Throughout Helen’s stay at the Lipszyc home, she knocked on many convent doors in search of a congregation. Helen was turned away from one convent after another. We can only imagine her disappointment, striving to follow Jesus and facing constant rejection. As Helen explained in her Diary, “Sorrow gripped my heart.” She cried out to Jesus, “Help me; don’t leave me alone” (Diary, 13).

The door opened

The very next door that Helen knocked upon opened to her. It was the door of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Its chief aim was to imitate Christ in His mercy, and its apostolic work was to help all, but especially to achieve the rehabilitation of wayward women and girls in need of moral conversion.

At first, Helen did not make a good impression. The sisters thought she was “no one special.” She still lacked a trousseau. However, Mother Michael, the superior of the house in Warsaw, asked to see her. She peered in on Helen, the door slightly ajar. At first glance, the Mother Superior felt she would turn Helen away. “No, she’s not for us!” But she had thought it would be more charitable to at least speak to the candidate first, and then send her away politely. The two met in the parlor, where Mother Michael asked a few questions.

She then instructed Helen to go see the Lord of the house in the chapel and ask Him if He accepted her there.

“With great joy,” Helen later wrote in her Diary, “I went to the chapel and asked Jesus: ‘Lord of this house, do You accept me? This is how one of these sisters told me to put the question to You.’” Helen received her answer immediately. “I do accept; you are in My Heart” (Diary, 14). Immense joy entered Helen’s heart upon learning of Jesus’ acceptance. Helen reported to Mother Michael, who told Helen that she accepted her, too! Nevertheless, Helen would be required to live in the world for about a year longer in order to earn enough money for the dowry, an initial sum needed to cover her wardrobe and other basic costs. She stayed with Aldona Lipszyc and continued to work as a domestic servant.

Mother Michael would later say, “The candidate made a better impression at close quarters ... I became eager to accept her. The main difficulty was her poverty.”

Something to ponder

We discussed Helen’s decision to head to Warsaw to seek a convent, following Jesus’ words and the call that had prodded her heart since she was only 7 years old. It took great courage for a girl of Helen’s age and background to travel to a destination she knew nothing about. She trusted Jesus, who gave her courage. When Helen feared what lay ahead and didn’t know where to turn, she looked to her Mother in Heaven. Helen courageously and with great determination continued knocking on convent doors until one opened.

This week, take time to ponder areas of your life where you are struggling or fearful. Can you offer those struggles and fears to our Lord? Is it possible to share them with a spiritual director or holy priest in Confession? Can you ask the Holy Spirit and Mary, the Mother of Mercy, for help and guidance?

A Merciful Action

Is there someone you know who is struggling or fearful? Perhaps they are fearful due to serious illness or financial troubles. Could you lend a hand in some way? Can you be of comfort to them to help alleviate their fears? Take time to pray and ponder who you can help this week (a relative, neighbor, friend, co-worker).

A PRAYER OF MERCY FOR THIS WEEK

(To be prayed each day this week.)

Dear Merciful Jesus, You once told St. Faustina,

“Why are you afraid to do My will? Will I not help

you as I have done thus far?” (Diary, 489).

Please guide me to turn to You

and never act out of fear.

Mother Mary, please guide and protect me.

Saint Faustina, please pray for me.

Jesus, I trust in You!

Amen.

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here:

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