Love for the Poor, 'Fruits of Mercy'

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

“Today I imprudently asked two poor children if they really had nothing to eat at home. The children, without answering me, walked away from the gate. I understood how difficult it was for them to speak about their poverty, so I went after them in a hurry and brought them back, giving them as much as I had permission for.” — Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1297 

In this week’s spiritual exercise, we will discuss our responsibility to love and care for the poor. Specifically, we look at St. Faustina’s role as a gatekeeper, and about her humbly and obediently going about her assigned tasks skillfully and generously, as well as serving the poor with compassion, which pleased Jesus. We will also learn about Sr. Faustina’s amazing encounter with a poor beggar. Let’s dig in! 

Sister Faustina continued to grow in the knowledge of God’s great mercy. She wrote in her Diary, “The mercy of the Lord is praised by the holy souls in heaven who have themselves experienced that in finite mercy” (753). Sister Faustina had the merciful heart of a true servant. She never wished to send any needy person away empty-handed. She served the poor with a great passion, much like St. Teresa of Calcutta. Both of these religious sisters sought to serve Jesus in the stranger. Mother Teresa would call the stranger “Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.” 

At times, Sr. Faustina was given the task of the gate-keeper. She, like other holy doorkeepers — such as St. Padre Pio, Blessed Solanus Casey, St. Juan Macias, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and St. Andre Bessette — had endless opportunities to show Christ’s love to beggars and visitors alike. A humble and somewhat lowly task can turn into a holy encounter in each instance of opening the door or gate. But that all depends upon who is opening the door! If only the visitor could know the amazing blessings that await them when a saint is guarding the gate! The visitor might receive far more than a piece of bread, a dish of rice, or a bowl of soup. Being greeted at the door by a saint in the making indeed nourishes the heart and soul, and not merely the stomach! 

Sister Faustina was sometimes chided by another sister for being too gentle with the beggars at the gate. Yet Sr. Faustina did her best to treat everyone with compassion. She even took measures not to embarrass the people if they came back for additional handouts. In fact, Sr. Faustina wrote, “When the same poor people come to the gate a second time, I treat them with greater gentleness, and I do not let them see that I know that they have been here before; [I do this] in order not to embarrass them. And then they speak to me freely about their troubles and needs.”

Sister Faustina continued, “Although Sister N. tells me that is not the way to deal with beggars, and slams the door in their faces, when she is not there, I treat them as my Master would. Sometimes more is given when giving nothing, than when giving much in a rude manner” (Diary, 1282). Surely, it was very hard for Sr. Faustina not to be able to freely impart all of the gentleness she wished to give when this other sister was nearby. She must have also felt relief when that sister was not standing over her as she ministered to the poor beggars. 

Sister Faustina possessed many gifts. One was in reading souls whenever our Lord wanted her to have specific knowledge of someone so that she could better help them. This mystic was not only concerned with meeting the corporal needs of the beggars; she wanted so much to also help their souls. One time, Sr. Faustina wrote, “Often the Lord gives me interior knowledge concerning the persons I meet at the gate. One pitiable soul wanted to tell me a bit about herself. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I made her understand, in a delicate way, the miserable condition of her soul. She went away with a better disposition” (Diary, 1283). 

So we discover that Sr. Faustina’s gatekeeping was not just a mere job, but rather an actual ministry of serving souls, similar to the good works of a spiritual director. By receiving from Jesus a special knowledge of some souls she met at the gate, she could serve them even more perfectly. 

An Extraordinary Visit 
One gloomy day, the bell at the gate rang. Sister Faustina looked out through sheets of rain to see a shivering young man persistently ringing the bell. The rain poured down with a vengeance, soaking the man to the skin. As soon as Sr. Faustina answered the gate, the fellow asked for something to eat. Sister Faustina ran to the kitchen and couldn’t find anything to offer. She was determined to help that young, unfortunate man. There had to be something in the kitchen. Finally, she found it — some wholesome soup; the perfect remedy to combat the icy rain while providing nourishment. She heated it up straightaway. Sister Faustina then added some pieces of bread on top to help fill his hungry belly and rushed the hot mug of soup to the poor beggar waiting in the rain. The stranger accepted the charitable meal from the sister’s hands and consumed it right there by the gate. He seemed to enjoy it despite the inclement weather. Sister Faustina took the empty mug from the man’s cold wet hands, and to her great surprise, discovered that the poor man was actually Jesus Christ Himself! He then immediately vanished from her sight. Sister Faustina later reflected upon the encounter. She heard an interior voice: “My daughter, the blessings of the poor who bless Me as they leave this gate have reached My ears. And your compassion, within the bounds of obedience, has pleased Me, and this is why I came down from My throne — to taste the fruits of your mercy” (Diary, 1312). Can we even imagine this? 

Something to Ponder
Take a moment to ponder the true story told above. Jesus actually came down from His throne in Heaven to experience the fruits of Sr. Faustina’s mercy and tell her that He was pleased with her loving mercy towards the poor! Imagine if Jesus suddenly showed up in disguise at your door. Would He find you wholeheartedly giving with Christ’s love? Think about how you might be sort of a “gatekeeper” in your own life. How welcoming can and ought you be? Also, ponder your vocation and role. Think about how you could possibly be a gatekeeper, ushering souls to Heaven because of your example and charity. Ponder St. Faustina’s statement, “Sometimes more is given when giving nothing, than when giving much in a rude manner” (Diary, 1282). Could there be times in your busy days when you might act a bit hasty or even a tad rude towards someone? If so, how will you change that? 


A Merciful Action
Mother Teresa often preached that the poverty of the West far outweighed the poverty of the poor she served in Calcutta. She said the Western world is starved for love! She also said we shouldn’t only give from our surplus, but to love “until it hurts.” The petite saint said, “The same way Jesus allows himself to be broken and given to us as food, we, too must divide and share with those in our homes because love starts at home. From there, charity extends to our neighbors who are right next door, then to those who live on the same street, and from there to those in the city where we live.”  Mother Teresa’s instructions are both simple and challenging. Is there someone in your life who needs a lift? Someone who has been struggling or depressed? Can you come up with a plan to show mercy and kindness towards them? You can certainly pray for them. Possibly you can reach out and let them know that you are keeping them in your prayers. It may take a bit of effort to push beyond your comfort zone, but that is where God works. Sometimes, just knowing that someone cares enough to pray for you can totally transform your attitude and outlook. Prayers work miracles! Merciful actions please our Lord and help our neighbor. Try your best to give until it hurts. Stretch yourself in merciful love. 


A Prayer of Mercy for This Week
(To be prayed each day this week.) 
Dear Merciful Jesus, You were pleased with St. 
Faustina’s compassion and mercy for the poor. Please open my eyes to the poor around me, and grant me courage to reach out to help others. Mother Mary, help 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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Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash.

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