The Final Battle: A Journey into Death

This is the story of Charlie Joseph Ilsley, a man of prayer, a suffering soul, and a Eucharistic Apostle of The Divine Mercy cenacle member.

He was baptized a Catholic and has been active in the Church all of his life to one degree or another. During his early years, he was dedicated to the Mother of Jesus in the Rosary. After retirement, Charlie became the coordinator for a prayer group in Memphis, Tenn., and led the group for five years. He was also instrumental in starting Eucharistic Adoration in the parish, coordinating it for four years. These and other works in the church - in addition to taking care of his sick wife - kept Charlie pretty busy.

But in 2002, his life took a new turn he wasn't expecting.

Because of a Eucharistic experience I had, I asked Charlie to join in helping to "repair the Body of Christ." Allow me to explain: One day, during Holy Communion, when I received the Host, it broke in half on my tongue. That had never happened to me before. In my heart, I heard the words "Help Me repair the Body of Christ." Identifying the phrase with the broken Host, I was deeply moved.

I soon received the inspiration to get people to pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy for every hour of the day and, thus "to help repair the Body of Christ" spiritually and through our individual acts of mercy.

Charlie said he would help. Thus, our 24-Hour Chaplet of Divine Mercy prayer group was born. We would ensure that the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy be prayed every hour of the day. And we would pray for three things: the promotion of the Divine Mercy message and devotion; the sick and dying; and people who are about to commit mortal sin.

Charlie started to tell people about it, and soon there were 20 people joining us. Today, there are more than 1,100 people from 31 countries!

Charlie was familiar with the chaplet, but he was not familiar with the Diary of St. Faustina and the message of Divine Mercy. I encouraged him to read the Diary, telling him his life would never be the same again.

He bought the Diary . He couldn't put it down. He was so impressed with the message of mercy - the message given to St. Faustina directly from Jesus. At this late period of his life, Charlie found love and devotion such as he hadn't felt before. He became an avid promoter of Divine Mercy.

He has received many graces as a result. "What a wonderful peace and love that it gives you in your heart when this occurs," Charlie said.

Charlie also joined a local Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM) prayer cenacle. "We meet twice a month, and through it and our prayer group we grow in closer intimacy with our Lord," he said. "The same feeling of love and devotion fills me when we meet at these meetings, only it is intensified. The Holy Spirit is there leading and guiding us."

At 86 years of age, he said, "Thank you Jesus, for a person of my age to enjoy and obtain the graces and love that comes through the Divine Mercy devotion."

The lesson here is that we should all be open to God's movement in our lives, no matter our age.

Jesus said to St. Faustina, "The prayer of a humble and loving soul disarms the anger of My Father and draws down an ocean of blessings (Diary, 320). He also said, "Although My greatness is beyond understanding, I commune only with those who are little. I demand of you a childlike spirit" (Diary, 332).

As a result of Charlie's humility and childlike spirit and commitment to The Divine Mercy, Charlie and his wife Edna have been instrumental in helping to promote the spread of God's loving message of mercy to the sick, the dying, the homebound, and those in most need of God's mercy. God has blessed us with numerous healings, conversions, and answered prayers because of the collective prayers of our prayer group. As a suffering soul, Charlie would unite his daily sufferings with our Lord's sufferings for the sake of his family and friends and all sinners and poor souls in most need of God's mercy.

As witnessed in our prayer group, his countless hours of prayer and sufferings, through the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, helped many souls obtain the trust they needed in their final hours, just as our Lord told St Faustina.

"Pray as much as you can for the dying," Christ told St. Faustina. "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. You know the whole abyss of My mercy, so draw upon it for yourself and especially for poor sinners. Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul (Diary, 1777).

He and his wife Edna would work tirelessly to send Divine Mercy information to those with no e-mail and little access to information on Divine Mercy.

Charlie's health declined. With the help of his wife and family, he embraced the crosses in his life and continued to pray and offer up his sufferings for others. As cancer was soon taking over his body, he identified the intimacy he had with St. Faustina in her sufferings. Charlie's health severely declined on Holy Thursday. We continued to bring him Holy Communion for strength and pray the chaplet for him with our 1st-class relic of St. Faustina.

Even until his death, Charlie was fully aware of the value of his sufferings united with our Lord's and continued to pray for others as he lived out his virtuous life. He died during our Divine Mercy Novena. Actually he died the morning after the seventh day of the Novena - a day devoted to those who venerate and glorify our Lord's mercy.

Of that day, St. Faustina writes:

... Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God: Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen. (Diary, 1225)

Charlie, conscious of the value of the cross, did as St. Paul says in 2 Timothy: " I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith."

We pray that Charlie now lives forever in the glory Christ promised to those He loves.

Jay Hastings, of Bartlett, Tenn., is the founder of a growing group of Divine Mercy devotees who ensures that the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is being prayed every hour of the day. The 24-hour Chaplet members now consist of more than 1,000 people from across the United States, Mexico, Belize (Central America), Costa Rica, Canada, Philippines, Bolivia, India, Iraq, Australia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Tanzania (Africa), New Zealand, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Panama, Uganda, Haiti, Aruba, Burma, Singapore, Columbia, Botswana Africa, Zambia Africa, Malaysia, South Africa, Holland and Germany, who pick an hour each day in which to pray a chaplet. They pray for three things: the promotion of the Divine Mercy devotion; the sick and dying in the hour that you pray; and people about to commit mortal sin. To join the 24-Hour Chaplet, contact Jay via e-mail, or via phone, 901-438-7772.

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