Why St. Therese?

Father Michael Gaitley's new Marian Press title, 33 Days to Merciful Love: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy, was released on Feb. 11. The response has been enormous. We spoke with Fr. Michael about the book - his favorite to date:

This is a consecration to Divine Mercy, which focuses on St. Therese. Most people associate Divine Mercy with St. Faustina. Why Therese?

Therese is the saint of Merciful Love. Faustina is the saint of Divine Mercy. But "Merciful Love" and "Divine Mercy" are really the same thing. So the two saints are closely related. More specifically, Therese pioneered the modern movement that is bringing Catholic spirituality back to a focus on God's mercy, and she passed the baton of that effort to Faustina. In fact, Therese once appeared to her Polish friend in a dream and encouraged her to trust in Jesus (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 150). During that same dream, Faustina asked her, "shall I be a saint as you are ... ?" Therese responded, "Yes."

Therese and Faustina are more "like" each other than most people realize. They're both totally dedicated to God's great mercy.

What is your own relationship with Therese? How did she enter the picture in your life?

Therese first entered my life in high school, right around the time I had to decide which college I would attend. The choice came down to two: a secular university in California or a Catholic college whose students take their faith very seriously. While I wanted the secular school, God seemed to want the Catholic school - but it would take a miracle for me to choose what He wanted. Thankfully, the Lord worked such a miracle through the intercession of St. Therese. Let's just say she sent me several of her famous roses, which convinced me to go to the Catholic college despite my initial dislike for it. (It ended up being one of the best decisions I've ever made.)

But God worked an even bigger miracle in my life through St. Therese. By her writings and the doctrine of her "Little Way," I became convinced of Jesus' tender love for me - weak, broken sinner that I am. Now, that may sound cliché, but it's the truth. I'd had serious difficulty believing that God could really love me. Therese was the first one to break through and convince me of God's goodness and Merciful Love, and it's her Little Way that carries me still.

Many have made the consecration to Jesus through Mary using your book 33 Days to Morning Glory. How is this Divine Mercy consecration related to Marian consecration?

A consecration to Divine Mercy is really the next step after making a Marian consecration. I say that because the essence of Marian consecration is to allow Mary to bring us to the pierced side of Jesus, which is the Fountain of Mercy. So, a book like 33 Days to Morning Glory allows Mary to bring us to that fountain. 33 Days to Merciful Love, on the other hand, is about drinking from that fountain. And while we can get to the Fountain of Mercy without making a Marian consecration, such a consecration enables us to drink from it so much more deeply and easily. That's why I'd say that while you can certainly benefit from reading 33 Days to Merciful Love without having consecrated yourself to Jesus through Mary, you might want to try making a Marian consecration first.

You've said that this is your favorite book you've written. Why is that?

Well, let me put it this way. It's like I've been told the most amazing secret about God's Merciful Love by St. Therese herself, the greatest saint of modern times. It's a secret that even those who are most devoted to her often don't fully appreciate or even know much about, a secret that has saved my life and priestly vocation, a secret the drew me out from temptations of discouragement and even despair, a secret that has granted me great joy and happiness, a secret that, more or less, I've had to keep to myself for more than a decade because I didn't quite feel ready or capable of fully communicating it. Well, with this book, I've felt ready, and by the grace of God, I believe I've been able to fully share what's been in my heart of hearts for so long. More than in any of my other books, I've been able to give a reason for the hope that is within me. As we read in 1 Peter, we are to "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope (3:15).

To order 33 Days to Merciful Love, visit ShopMercy.org or call 1-800-462-7426.

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