Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, Skemp

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Saved by Mercy

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By Bob French

Father Gene Nickol, 70, serving the Archdiocese of Baltimore, knows every day is a gift. He credits this to Divine Mercy — the devotion, he says, that saved his life.

Saturday, Aug. 6, 1994, Fr. Nickol had just finished celebrating his morning Mass. Returning to the rectory, he noticed that his elderly receptionist, whom he nicknamed "Boots," was not at her desk. He finally found her in the basement, where he got a big shock — she was being held at knifepoint by a male intruder.

The man had come in a few minutes earlier asking to see a priest, and then requested a glass of water. When Boots went to the kitchen to get it for him, he followed her, grabbed a knife he found there, and held it to her throat. He then ordered her to the basement.

Father Nickol confronted the intruder, who asked for money. He handed the intruder his wallet, who took out the cash, then handed the wallet back. Father Nickol realized that "this wasn't your normal thief," but a very unstable individual.

After nearly being discovered by another priest, the intruder ordered Fr. Nickol and Boots outside. He forced them into Fr. Nickol's car and told him to start driving, while he sat in the back with Boots, still holding the knife to her.

Father Nickol did as he was told, but had no idea where he was going. He pleaded with the man to let them out, saying he had a wedding to celebrate later that morning. The man asked for prayers, because he didn't want to go back to jail. He had just been released five days before because of overcrowding in the prison system.

After Fr. Nickol kept hitting dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs, the man grew frustrated and told him to stop the car. All three of them got out, and the man ordered Fr. Nickol to open the trunk. "Get in!" he told him.

Father Nickol had no choice but to obey. At that point, he got very scared. Boots was now driving, and the man was beside her, still holding the knife to her.

Lying in that dark, hot space, Fr. Nickol began praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Soon, Fr. Nickol says he heard a voice. It told him, "Get out of this trunk!" With the voice, he recalls, came a sense of calm and a knowledge that God was with him. So he put his mind to figuring a way out.

He found a release wire for the trunk and pulled it gently. The trunk opened slightly, so he held it shut and waited for his opportunity.

A few minutes later, the car stopped at a red light. Father Nickol popped the trunk and jumped out. Boots realized what was happening and scrambled out of the driver's seat. The fleeing passengers were quickly surrounded by onlookers, one of whom helped them call an ambulance.

The startled assailant tried to pursue them, but had no choice but to get back in the car and drive. He was arrested a few days later after committing another crime.

It wasn't just a whim that made Fr. Nickol pray the Chaplet that day — he'd already been praying it for six years and spreading the devotion at every new parish he was assigned to.

Since that day, his love for the Divine Mercy devotion has only grown stronger. "I tell this story and preach Divine Mercy everywhere I go, so it's part of me," he says.

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michael - Oct 1, 2017

What an incredible testimony to Jesus mercy! When all hope is basically lost, Jesus is just getting going.

Never give up.

Jesus loves working in hopeless situations.

I trust you Jesus.