Mary and Her Role in God's Merciful Plan

Some questions about Mary and her role in God' plan of merciful love have arrived in my e-mail box in recent weeks. A woman named Paula wrote to me:

At a parish mission some years ago, a priest adamantly assured the congregation that if we entrust the salvation of a soul to the Blessed Mother, she will be sure to follow through on that. So I have been praying for the salvation of my daughter's soul - can I really be assured of her salvation even though I may not see it in my lifetime or others may not see it in her lifetime?

Well, Paula, praying for your daughter's salvation and entrusting her soul into Mary's care are obviously good and beneficial things to do. They open the floodgates to all the graces that our Merciful Savior longs to pour out upon souls for their salvation. However, nothing we can ever do for another person can absolutely guarantee their salvation. We can provide for them every spiritual help - and obtain for them Mary's special help - but even she cannot and would not compel a soul to repent, trust in Jesus, be sanctified and saved.

To compel someone to be saved would be to violate one of the fundamental principles of love, for authentic love always respects the rightful freedom of others. So I cannot give you ironclad guarantees of your daughter's salvation. I can only assure you that you have every reason to hope for it, and offer you the peace of mind of knowing that you are doing all that you can possibly do to help her.

Saint Faustina was full of childlike trust in Mary. She often called her simply "my Mother" or "Mother of God." Mary once said to her: "My daughter, at God's command I am to be in a special and exclusive way your Mother; but I desire that you too, in a special way, be my child" (Diary, 1414). One time St. Faustina went to the Shrine of our Lady in Czestochowa, and entrusted all her cares and concerns to her:

The Mother of God told me many things. I entrusted my perpetual vows to her. I felt that I was her child and she was my mother. She did not refuse any of my requests (Diary, 79).

Sister Faustina's intimate relationship with Mary can be ours as well. We can entrust all our cares and worries to her tender, maternal intercession on our behalf, and find - even if all our requests are not granted - that she has obtained for us instead what we each need most on our journey to heaven.

A reader named Frank sent in this inquiry about Mary:

I do not understand this passage in the Diary (1261). It "seems" to say that Jesus is angry with us and only Mary can keep His anger from us. I know this cannot be the case. Can you help me understand this passage so Jesus doesn't look like the "bad guy."

The passage Frank is referring to here, 1261, reads as follows:

I saw the Lord Jesus, like a king in great majesty, looking down upon our earth with great severity; but because of His mother's intercession He prolonged the time of His mercy.

I am afraid that is not the only passage in the Diary where St. Faustina expresses herself in this way. For example, in entry 686 she writes: "God wants to inflict terrible punishment on us, but He cannot because the Mother of God is shielding us."

Now, one thing we need to remember is that St. Faustina's Diary is not infallible Holy Scripture. It is not disrespectful to admit that here and there (and especially in entry 686, above!), she may not have expressed herself well - and she would have been the first to admit that! In entry 6, for example, she confesses to our Lord: "You see how difficult it is for me to write, how unable I am to put down clearly what I experience in my soul. O God, can a pen write down things that for which many a time there are no words?"

One of the most difficult things for any of us to fathom, even the saints, is how God can be the Lord of wrath and justice, and the Lord of love and mercy, all at the same time. Yet, this is a truth that He has revealed to us through Scripture and the tradition of His Church. I have addressed this subject in several other instalments of this Q&A column, so rather than repeat what I said there, I will just refer you to the instalment entitled "Which is He: A God of Wrath or of Mercy?" as well as to the instalments on Hell and Purgatory.

However, there is one last thing we can add here. Saint Faustina's words, just like those of any author, can only be fully understood when read in context (in this case, in the light of her Diary as a whole). Generally speaking, when Faustina asks for the intercession of the saints, she asks them to help her open the door to the One who already "stands at the door and knocks," so to speak (Rev 3:20).

In other words, Faustina knew that our prayers do not persuade our Savior to come to our aid (as if infinite love needed to be persuaded to help us!). Rather, our intercessions, and those of the saints, permit Him to come to our aid, for He will not enter fully into our lives unless we give Him our consent. He will not "kick the door down," so to speak, but with divine courtesy He humbly knocks, and awaits our consent, our trustful surrender. Jesus says to her in entry 1588: "I do not want to punish aching mankind, but to heal it, pressing it to My merciful Heart." Our trustful prayer, and that of the communion of saints on our behalf, is what enables Him to do just that!

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. Got a question? E-mail him at [email protected].

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