Photo: Felix Carroll
Divine Mercy's Greatest Gifts: The Eucharist and Mary
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Dec 20, 2012)
In recent articles in this series, we have been meditating on the blessings and graces that our Lord provides to aid us on our journey to the heavenly kingdom. Now we come to His greatest gifts of all: the Holy Eucharist and the loving care of the Mother of God.
Blessed Michael Sopocko, the confessor and spiritual advisor of St. Faustina, writes that the Eucharist "is a masterpiece of the love of Our Lord," for in it He plunges into the very depths of our hearts with His mercy:
The Eucharist reveals the love of Jesus for each of the members of the Church, for He gives Himself to each of them. Desiring to be the source of Divine life in them, Jesus takes on the form of nourishment to come close to us and penetrate into the recesses of our hearts, where He exalts, consoles, and enriches us, and gives Himself to us as a pledge of future happiness. (God is Mercy, p. 64)
In itself, Fr. Sopocko says, the Eucharist is a stupendous miracle — the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ — and the Source of all the miracles of divine grace in our lives:
I believe in the miracle performed each day in the holy Mass. It is a continuous and miraculous multiplication of the Angelic Bread and pouring of graces on the zealous and on lukewarm souls. I desire to expand my love and to prepare myself for an ever more fruitful reception of this inexhaustible source of miracles. (p. 98)
Blessed Sopocko loved to enumerate all the blessings and benefits we receive from devout reception of our Lord in this sacrament. For him the "effects of the Eucharist are the most clear proof that the infinite mercy of God is there present." He writes:
The effect of Holy Communion is the conservation and increase of sanctifying grace and supernatural life to degree which is not attained by any other sacrament. As bodily food serves to build the physical side of man, so the Blessed Sacrament revives, heals, protects and strengthens, feeds and develops the supernatural life of the soul. Here is effected the closest union with Christ, not only a spiritual but also a physical union with such tangibility and perfection that no closer union on earth is possible. Moreover, this sacrament ... imparts to us a special grace of devotion and of ardent love from which comes happiness and bliss, peace and fortitude, and boundless readiness for sacrifices for God and our neighbor. (p. 65)
With regard to the Blessed Sacrament, Bl. Sopocko and St. Faustina were obviously kindred spirits, since many of the most ardent and passionate sections of her Diary concern her love for Jesus in the Eucharist and her amazement at the extraordinary graces He poured out on her soul there:
All the good that is in me is due to Holy Communion. ... Herein lies the whole secret of my sanctity. ... One thing alone sustains me, and that is Holy Communion. From it I draw all my strength; in it is all my comfort. ... Jesus concealed in the Host is everything to me. ... I would not know how to give glory to God if I did not have the Eucharist in my heart. ... O living Host, my one and only strength, fountain of love and mercy, embrace the whole world, and fortify faint souls. O blessed be the instant and the moment when Jesus left us His most merciful Heart! (Diary, 1392, 1489, 1037, and 223)
The one who brings us to the merciful Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist is the Mother of Mercy, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She has this title in God's plan for two reasons, Fr. Sopocko tells us: because "she is Mother of Jesus in Whom Divine Mercy is incarnate, and [because] she continually shows us mercy." (p. 49). Her maternal care for us began at the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel first called her to be the Mother of our Savior, and it continued throughout Her Son's earthly life until she received on Calvary His explicit call to be the Mother of Mercy to all. Thus, she not only conceived and gave birth to Jesus, Divine Mercy Himself; she also in a sense conceives and gives birth to our new life in Him:
She conceived us at the Annunciation, bore us from the time of the presentation [in the Temple], and brought us forth in pain beneath the cross. [Christ's words to her from the cross] "Behold thy son" was God's reply to Mary's "fiat" [at the Annunciation]. "Thou hast consented to be My Mother to save sinners, now take them as My brothers. From now on they will by thy children and thou shall be their Mother, the Mother of Mercy." ...
From this time on Mary became Mediatrix of all graces and the actual Mother of Mercy to all people. There never was, nor is, nor ever will be a grace given by God in any other way than by Mary's mediation. ... For by God's will, no grace is given to us but through the mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. (p. 51)
For Blessed Sopocko this was not merely a matter of abstract Mariology; it was a fact of daily life: Mary takes care of her children by her prayers every day as they journey toward the kingdom of her Son:
If Jesus was born of Mary, all those who are part of Jesus [in His Mystical Body, the Church] must also be born spiritually of her. We became God's adopted children only through Mary's consent, for her motherly heart desired and willed it and prayed for it. While so many millions of people lack the faith, she obtained it for us. By her entreaties she won for us true Christian parents, true education and protection, and with another's care noticed the reactions of our will to the devil's suggestions. Perhaps we can remember more than a few sins in the span of our life — Mary wept because of them. She considered the best means of correction, like reproaches of conscience, adversities or failures, all this to compel us to enter into ourselves. Perhaps we have been spiritually dead in mortal sin? With what solicitude did Mary then obtain for us the grace of resurrection to the life of grace through the Sacrament of penance! Let it remain a secret known to God alone how many times we have caught ourselves in the same snare; the more frequently it happened, the more we obtained the special sorrow and loving attention of the Mother of Mercy. (pp. 52-53).
On all this, the teachings of Fr. Sopocko seem to be a clear echo of what the Holy Spirit guided the bishops of the Church to write about the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Second Vatican Council:
The motherhood of Mary, in the order of grace, lasts without interruption from the consent which she faithfully gave at the Annunciation, and which she sustained without hesitation under the Cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. In fact, being assumed into Heaven, she has not laid aside this office of salvation, but by her manifold intercession, she continues to obtain for us the graces of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she takes care of the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth, surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are lead into their blessed home. (Lumen Gentium, 62)
In short, nourished in the depths of our hearts by the Bread of Life, Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist, and surrounded by the maternal and loving care of our merciful Mother, we cannot fail to arrive safely at our journey's end, where our Lord and our Lady are waiting to receive us in heavenly glory, and where "eye has not seen, nor the heart of man conceived, the things that God has prepared for those who love Him" (Col 2:9).
For more information on Blessed Michael Sopocko, the confessor and spiritual director of St. Faustina, visit thedivinemercy.org/message/Sopocko.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is the director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, based in Stockbridge Mass.