Stay Awake and Keep Watch

The excitement mounted as Easter unfolded and we prepared ourselves with the Divine Mercy Novena for Divine Mercy Sunday, the fruits of Easter.

As most are aware, the novena starts on Good Friday and continues each day as it leads us to Divine Mercy Sunday. At our parish, St. Ann's in Tennessee, we have a public novena, and each day during the week people gather at 6:30 p.m. to say the day's intentions and to pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy.

On the fourth day of the novena, something spectacular happened.

But first, allow me to recall a passage in the Diary of St. Faustina - one in which she explains one of her encounters with our Lord. The superior of her convent had given her the task of gatekeeper, since the work Faustina had been doing in the garden was becoming too difficult for her due to her illness. This new duty gave St. Faustina the chance to practice mercy to others, since she was now in contact with the poor people of the city and those who came to beg at the convent door.

She would listen to the tales of their miseries with kindness, and she would use tact in giving them what they needed so that they would not be embarrassed. Once, Jesus Himself came to the door as a poor young man and asked for food. Saint Faustina gave him some soup and bread. After he ate it, Jesus revealed Himself to her and told her that He had come down from His heavenly throne to "taste the fruits of [her] mercy" (Diary, 1312).

Back to St. Ann's: It was about 6:35 p.m. Just about everyone had gathered in the church to start the Novena to The Divine Mercy. I, too, was about to go inside to begin. On this day we were blessed with our deacon who was able to come with his family and sing the chaplet for us, not knowing that God had more planned for him.

I was standing outside our chapel waiting for latecomers and started to turn to go into the church to pray. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a person approaching the bottom of the stairs leading to the chapel. He had a tear in his eye and was obviously distressed. I had a church full of people waiting to pray, but I realized that I had a person on our doorstep in need the very mercy that we were going to be praying for.

I talked with the man and found out that he had gotten off the bus and his wife was supposed to pick him up but didn't show. We talked for a few minutes. He was not in a life-threatening situation. He said that he would wait on the steps until we finished our prayer. I told him that we would help him as soon as we were done.

I went into the church, and we prayed. Afterwards, I told our deacon about our visitor, and he said he would talk to him. Our visitor was still there, and our deacon discovered that he lived more than 100 miles away and came to town for work on the riverboat down on the Mississippi. Somehow he had found his way to the eastern side of the town, and at the moment we were starting our novena, he had found himself on our doorstep. With such impeccable timing, I felt it was a visit from the Lord.

Our deacon arranged for our visitor to get dinner at a rib house and to wait for someone he contacted to come pick him up. John, one of the members of our prayer group, was there and gave him a ride to the rib house. If his ride had not showed, people were notified about whom he was and that we would provide for a motel room so he had a place to stay.

Saint Faustina once wrote: "Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks. Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor" (Diary, 163).

As our visitor was leaving, he turned to me and said thanks. Later that evening, our deacon had to go down and put him in a room. Then, John checked on him the next day, found out that his ride never showed and gave him a ride back home.

As a people of mercy, each of us did what we were supposed to do to show this man mercy. Obviously, as our drama unfolded, our Lord was giving us the opportunity to be merciful and to recognize our Lord in all people.

We learn that we always need to stay awake and be alert because you never know when our Lord will need you to be a vessel and dispenser of His graces and mercy. For He may come in the disguise of the poor.

Saint Faustina wrote: "Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me ... O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for you can do all things (Diary, 163).

Jay Hastings, of Bartlett, Tenn., is the founder of a growing group of Divine Mercy devotees who ensure 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 600 people from across the United States, as well as from Mexico, Canada, Australia, the Philippines, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Belize, India, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.who are assigned an hour each day in which to pray. 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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