The "Divine Mercy Chaplet for the Sick and the Dyi... Read more
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Love in the Time of Ebola
Remember the way it used to be when a new disease was on the horizon?
It was awful — but faith found a way.
The sociologist Rodney Stark has written about the rise of Christianity in a number of books. One of the factors he's pointed to again and again throughout is the difference that Christian charity made in the lives both of the Christians and those whom they tended, brethren in Christ and not.
You see, it was normal in the early days of Christianity and before for people to flee their cities, leaving sick family, friends, and neighbors behind in a desperate attempt to outrun the disease. But many of the Christians didn't flee. They stayed and tended the sick, even at the cost of their own health, even at the cost of their own lives. They stayed — and so did the faith.
Others took note of the love that Christians had, both for each other and for those whom, by all worldly calculations, the Christians had no reason to love. People saw, and stayed, and became Christians in turn.
From these roots, both the churches and the hospitals arose across the Christian lands.
We see their descendants today in the doctors and nurses gone on mission to Western Africa to help fight ebola, to tend to the sick and the dying, even though the job doesn't pay that well, even though they themselves may get sick, may die. We see this heritage of Christian care for the sick and dying in people like Texas nurse Nina Pham and Dr. Kent Brantly, serving those most in need of care.
We are all called to take part in that mission, whether through becoming healthcare professionals ourselves, tending to the sick and dying in our own families and communities, or through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for those who do and for their patients. Jesus told St. Faustina:
Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties [that is, insistent prayers], obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer. You know the whole abyss of My mercy, so draw upon it for yourself and especially for poor sinners. Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul." (Diary of St. Faustina, 1777)
We can help the ebola patients and the doctors and nurses, even though we may never set foot in a hazmat suit or an isolation unit. How? Prayer reaches across any distances, bringing grace, consolation, assistance, and sometimes even physical healing, according to the providence of God and our own progress along the path of holiness. Saint Faustina said:
It sometimes happens that the dying person is in the second or third building away, yet for the spirit, space does not exist. It sometimes happens that I know about a death occurring several hundred kilometers away. This has happened several times with regard to my family and relatives and also sisters in religion, and even souls whom I have not known during their lifetime (Diary, 835).
What prayers should we offer? Whatever we can offer, whether that be an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be, or the Rosary, or even just talking to God — but our Lord has given special promises about the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Jesus said, "My daughter, encourage souls to say the chaplet which I have given to you. It pleases Me to grant everything they ask of Me by saying the chaplet. ... Write that when they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the merciful Savior" (Diary, 1541).
The Chaplet is a powerful help for those who are dying, but it can also restore life and health, as attested to by prayer groups like the Disciples of Divine Mercy in the Holy Face of Jesus out of Buffalo, New York and the 24 Hour Chaplet organization, as well as pilgrims to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy like Jim and Rose Shiflett and Dona M. Kocylowski. Praying the Chaplet while venerating the Divine Mercy image at 3 p.m., the Hour of Great Mercy, for the sick and the dying, as well as all who love and care for them, is a great way to trust in the promises and power of Jesus, delighting His Heart and helping unleash God's providential, merciful action in the world.
So trust in the promises of Jesus. Turn the power of the Divine Mercy message and devotion loose in response to the present illness harming our world. Pray for mercy for the healthcare professionals responding to this crisis, for all those infected or exposed, for those who have died as a result, and for the whole world.