Songs of Praise to the Merciful Creator!

A couple of weeks ago I received a truly unique e-mail from one of our readers. It was not really a question, but a story: a remarkable story that opens up a topic we have not really explored in this column before.

A lady named Maureen wrote to me:

I have several companion pets, among whom is an African Grey parrot named Bandit. Every weekday for the last two months, I have tuned in to EWTN for the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which is sung. All the animals can either hear or see the Chaplet being sung/prayed. Even though the birds can make a racket, they always quiet down for the half hour of the Chaplet. This past week, on Tuesday, I was tuned in as usual, when halfway through the second decade Bandit began to sing with me. He sang the tune perfectly. He continued to sing the rest of the Chaplet with me, and when it was over he asked me, "Bandit good bird?"

With tears in my eyes, I said, "Oh yes, Bandit, you are a good bird." Every night when I put them to bed I ask God to bless them, and in turn He has blessed me with this wonderful manifestation of His Divine Mercy. [Bandit]may never sing it with me again, but I will never forget the time that he did.

Thanks, Maureen. It's wonderful when our Lord gives us an occasional glimpse of what He promised to the world through the prophetic words of St. Paul to the Romans: "The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (8:21).

That "glorious liberty" St. Paul was writing about was the freedom from the tyranny of sin and death that enables us to praise and thank the Lord for all His blessings. Usually, it's our job - as the creatures He made in a special way in His own image - to give voice to God on behalf of all His creatures, thanking Him for His loving care for all creation. But sometimes the creatures of the animal kingdom seem to join in! Just ask St. Francis and St. Anthony!

Saint Paul's prophetic words imply that this is just a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom, in which the whole of a renewed creation will somehow join with us in a great eternal hymn of praise.

In her Diary, St. Faustina seemed to anticipate this eternal hymn when she wrote entry 1750, a canticle of praise and adoration of the Creator on behalf of every creature, and every living thing:

Be adored, O our Creator and Lord.
O universe humbly glorify your God;
Thank your Creator to the best of your powers
And praise God's incomprehensible mercy.

Come, O earth, in all your fine greenery;
Come, you too, O fathomless sea.
Let your gratitude become a loving song
And sing the greatness of God's mercy.

Come, beautiful, radiant sun.
Come, bright dawn which precedes it.
Join in one hymn, and let your clear voices
Sing in one accord God's great mercy.

Come hills and valleys, sighing woods and thickets,
Come lovely flowers of morningtide;
Let your unique scent
Adore and glorify God's mercy.

Come all you lovely things of earth,
Which man does not cease to wonder at.
Come, adore God in your harmony,
Glorifying God's inconceivable mercy.

Come, indelible beauty of all the earth,
And with great humility adore your creator,
For all things are locked in His mercy.
With one mighty voice all things cry out;
How great is the mercy of God.

But above all these beauties,
A more pleasing praise to God
Is a soul innocent and filled with childlike trust,
Which, through grace, is closely bound to Him.

After reading this poem, you might well ask: What does St. Faustina mean when she asks all of nature to sing a "hymn" of praise to God's greatness? How can nature - the forests, the seas, the stars, and so on - all by itself, do that?

Saint Faustina's answer seems to be that each and every created thing, just by being what God made it to be and fulfilling its own nature, reflects the glory of God. As she said in her canticle: "Come, adore God in your harmony, glorifying God's inconceivable mercy." God is "glorified" - in other words, His infinite perfections are reflected in finite creatures - whenever His creation reflects His great wisdom that ordered all things in a harmonious design.

However, there is another deeper meaning to this canticle. For St. Faustina puts the emphasis here not primarily on how all creatures reflect God's infinite wisdom or infinite beauty, but on how they all reflect God's mercy. The last line of each stanza of her poem returns us again and again to this theme. Again, one might well ask: "How can this be true? How can the flowers and the meadows, the fields and the forests, the sun and the moon and the stars all reflect and glorify the mercy of God?" In fact, St. Faustina does not say that all these things can glorify God's mercy some day in the future, when God's Kingdom comes in its fullness (as St. Paul prophesied), but that all creatures right now reflect the merciful love of God, crying out together "how great is the mercy of God."

To understand this, we have to remind ourselves just what the "mercy" of God really means. This was a topic that we discussed a few weeks ago in this column, but let's review the matter here now. Mercy is, quite simply, compassionate love: the kind of love that seeks to meet the needs and overcome the miseries of others. Divine Mercy is therefore the form that God's love for us takes when He seeks to meet our needs and overcome our brokenness. Whatever the name of our misery may be - sin, guilt, suffering, death - the merciful Heart of Jesus is always ready to pour out His compassionate love for us, to help in time of need.

Now, what is the most basic need that any of God's creatures ever have? Clearly, it is to overcome the dread possibility of not existing at all! Nothingness. Non-existence. In other words, "to be" is the first and most fundamental need that we have. Without that, we creatures are literally nothing. And so, when God brings the whole world into existence and holds all things in being at every moment, this is an expression of His merciful love: His mercy overcoming the potential nothingness, the possible non-existence of all things.

Did you ever think about that? You and I did not have to be: every creature exists not by necessity, but by divine choice! We are all chosen to be, and to take part in His plan. In other words, God literally loves all things into being at every moment! And this is an act of His great mercy, because otherwise things would not be and could not be, not even for a second!

P.S. Next week we look at a related theme: "Saint Faustina and the New Age Movement."

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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