From Fr. Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, author of the po... Read more
God Shines His Light, Literally
By Michael Binggeli
When this chaplet is said by the bedside of the dying person, God's anger is placated, unfathomable mercy envelopes the soul.
— Diary of St. Faustina, 811
These words of Jesus brought me such peace as I read St. Faustina's Diary. I often sit and reflect on Faustina — this young, Polish nun who had no money, status or political power. The Lord chose her for the task of writing her Diary, which has since introduced the message of the Merciful Lord across the world. Each page of Faustina's Diary has brought me closer to her and to Jesus.
Little did I know The Divine Mercy would soon be my rock. A trial of my faith and a miracle would lie ahead.
News from My Mother
While browsing eBay, I stumbled upon a box of 500 Divine Mercy prayercards for just a few dollars. Acknowledging my diamond in the rough, I immediately purchased the cards. I noticed the seller's name indicated he was a priest. Since I was on a mission to spread Divine Mercy everywhere, I sent an email to him asking if he would bless these cards before sending them. He replied back that he would, and thusly, blessed prayercards were on the way, and I was excited to use them for the benefit of souls. God would soon arrange for this.
As the long summer nights rolled in, I was well through Faustina's Diary when I received a phone call.
"Grandpa is very sick, and it doesn't look like he is going to make it," my mom told me.
My grandpa, Wayne Gulley, suffered from Parkinson's disease for more than 20 years. A successful businessman and investor, he was cut down in his prime and forced to retire. My grandparents thought it best to move to Florida. The last few years — as the disease reached its final stages — moving, eating, talking, and swallowing had become nearly impossible for him.
'When That Hour Arrives'
Growing up, we only saw my grandparents once every two or three years. As I grew in my faith, I became troubled because, from what I knew of Grandpa, he wasn't religious. I don't know if he ever went to church, was ever baptized or even believed in Jesus.
He developed an infection in his lungs, and the doctors finally determined recovery was impossible. He was admitted into hospice care, and family was notified. That night I remember kneeling at my bed, praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy and saying,"God, I don't know when his hour will come, but please let me say this chaplet when that hour arrives."
Over the next few days Grandpa's condition quickly deteriorated. It was Monday now and my mom and dad were preparing to leave for Florida to be at his bedside. Although anxious to go myself, the outlook was grim, and doctors were predicting just hours were remaining. Travel at this point seemed futile.
Monday had come and gone. Grandpa was still alive, but barely. Tuesday morning my parents were on a plane to Florida. I was still trying to do all I could by saying the chaplet daily. At noon, I went to daily Mass and offered it for Grandpa. Afterwards I went to confession. I wanted to be as spiritually clean as possible as I begged God to show His mercy for my grandpa.
In her Diary, St. Faustina stresses the need to find a good confessor, a priest who can understand the soul. I was fortunate to find such a priest in Fr. Matthew, who was two years out of seminary. His homilies were full of rich stories of the lives of the saints. He used humor and powerful messages from the gospels. After my confession, I told Fr. Matthew about my grandpa, and together we prayed for him. This brought peace to my soul.
Signs of God's Presence
As Tuesday slipped into Wednesday the doctor and nurses were shocked my grandpa was still alive. Could it be that God was giving me the time to go to Florida? Suddenly I remembered my prayer from the prior week: "Let me say this prayer when his hour arrived." God may have heard my request. Although Jesus doesn't require that we literally be "by the bedside of the dying" for them to receive graces through our praying of the chaplet — He wouldn't make such potentially logistical impossibilities be barriers to His mercy —I wanted to be by the side of my Grandpa.
I called my parents and told them I wanted to fly down. However, with such late notice, it would be Friday afternoon before I could make it there. Could Grandpa really make it another two days? I purchased my tickets for Friday. I now had to wait two days before leaving. I fully intended to simply be there for a service; not to actually see my Grandpa alive; however, I had to trust God.
Thursday night I was saying the chaplet again — praying for Grandpa's soul and praying I would make it in time for the privilege to say the chaplet at his side. At this point I was given interior knowledge that I would soon sit next to a priest. Friday morning, my wife, Linda, and I arrived at the airport. Grandpa still was alive, defying all predictions from the doctors and nurses. It really seemed as if we were going to make it there in time for me to say my chaplet with him.
Our plane arrived in Birmingham for a layover. The airport was packed as stormy weather was delaying flights. We fought our way over to some empty seats next to the window — the last few we could find. I sat down, and my heart nearly stopped. Sitting across from me was an old priest, his eyes closed. The chaos of the airport seemed to silence itself as I sat with my gaze fixed upon this old man. Did this just prove God spoke to me the previous night? As we flew out of Birmingham I read the Diary and spent time in prayer. I knew in my soul that this was going to be something miraculous.
All According to Plan?
The warm sun and salty sea breeze embraced me as we arrived in Florida a few hours later. A thousand emotions were running through me. Is it possible I am a part of a miracle?
That God has so unequivocally answered my prayer?
That once I recited the chaplet next to my grandpa he would pass quietly and all would be amazed?
We pulled into the hospice about 2:45 p.m. I didn't know what to expect, although I was certain I was on a prophetic mission. It was Friday, almost 3 p.m., the time of Jesus' death, known as the Hour of Great Mercy. Maybe Grandpa would die during the Hour of Great Mercy! What a blessing that would be.
The bright, sunny rays of the Florida sun poured into his room. Family members surrounded him as I made my way to his bedside. His body was completely paralyzed from the Parkinson's, his lifeless eyes, barely open and unresponsive, starred into nothing. The room was quiet except for the short gasping breaths he was taking.
I pulled up a chair next to his bed, gently squeezing his hand, praying that somehow he knew I was finally there. I removed my rosary from my bag. I was here for one thing and that was to finish this. In my mind I knew exactly what would happen. I would recite the chaplet, and as the clock struck 3 p.m. Grandpa would breath his last breath, and the power of God would manifest itself. Hands trembling, I recited the chaplet, fingers gliding from bead to bead. I could feel the eyes of everyone in the room piercing me as if they knew just as much as I did that this prayer would bring his hour of death to a closure. I finished the chaplet, and then ... Two short breaths, then two more, and then two more. Darkness flooded into my soul like water bursting from a dam. Grandpa was still alive! Wait, shouldn't he have died?
Every time Faustina mentioned in her Diary that she recited the chaplet, the suffering person would die. So what happened with all my signs? The blessed prayercards. The priest at the airport. The fact that I was here. How could all this happen and then when I say the chaplet: nothing?
Feeling foolish, I quietly placed my rosary back into my pocket and retired back to a chair along the wall. Had God had betrayed me?
The room remained silent for an hour. Making her way over to my grandpa's side, my grandma asked if she could see my rosary. She wanted to pray the chaplet but didn't know how. I offered to say it out loud with her. Perhaps this was God's plan. Maybe God wanted me to pray the chaplet out loud so everyone in the room could hear. I recited the chaplet again. Still, Grandpa's short, shallow breaths continued.
I went back and sat down on the couch as other family members tended to Grandpa. My soul was wounded, my mind confused, doubt filled me. I was questioning everything, including God.
By 8 p.m. Linda came to me and whispered, "Perhaps we need to baptize him." Those words brought new life into my soul! "Of course," I thought! "God wouldn't have brought me all this way not to have Grandpa baptized." I never knew if Grandpa had ever been baptized or not. While the idea of baptizing Grandpa seemed so easy, I was once again filled with dread. Besides Linda and my immediate family, no one else in the room was a practicing Christian. The Devil exploited this fear in me. How would everyone perceive me if I took it upon myself to baptize Grandpa? The Devil kept assuring me I was not qualified to do this and that I was committing a sin in doing so even though I was well aware the Church teaches anyone can perform a baptism if it is in the case of an emergency.
It is amazing how effective and persuasive the Devil can be, how he can get in your mind and convince you all you think you know is wrong. About every reason why I shouldn't do this was front and center in my mind. I knew though that if I didn't baptize him I would certainly regret it forever. I couldn't let my fear keep me from doing what I knew was right. I said a quiet prayer, asking the Lord to forgive me if I were doing any wrong. I dipped my fingers in a cup of cool water, three times to baptize my Grandpa in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
A Blessed Prayercard
The sun had set. The stars filled the sky. The family decided it was time to go while my Grandma remained behind. We didn't expect Grandpa to survive through the night, but he had gone five days at this point so no one was making any additional predictions. I hugged Grandpa goodbye, knowing this would probably be the last time I would see him alive. His eyes were nearly shut, his frozen body locked in place, no emotions, no nothing. I gently slid my hand across his head, peacefully touching him one last time.
The lights were turned out. Darkness filled the room except for the subtle glow of a small desk lamp next to his bed. As we were heading out, I pulled out one of my blessed Divine Mercy prayercards and laid it on the nightstand under the lamp. Perhaps a nurse or someone else would find hope in it.
As we were settling in that night in our hotel room, I felt abandoned by God, and worse; I felt betrayed. I was doing what Jesus requested through St. Faustina, and yet I had received no consolation.
At 11:26 p.m. I got a call that Grandpa had finally died.
The next morning, I felt like my faith had been shaken. I hadn't received any affirmation from God that He answered my prayers to pour down His mercy on my grandpa.
We headed to my grandma's house, where she greeted us at the door.
"You won't believe what happened last night!" she said.
My ears perked up.
"Last night when everyone left," she said, "I was sitting next to Grandpa, holding him, telling him he could go, that he didn't need to stay any longer, that I would be fine."
Tears welling up in her eyes, she continued, "I told him he could go with me here or if he preferred I would leave and he could go alone. All of a sudden the little desk lamp next to his bed lit up like a giant spot light, filling the entire room with light! His eyes went wide open, and a large smile came upon his face. He then passed away."
I was nearly brought to my knees. I couldn't believe what she had just told me! All I could think about was how I had placed that Divine Mercy card under that lamp. Could it be the rays of Christ's Mercy had burst through, showering the entire room with mercy as Grandpa's soul was relinquished to his Creator?
In Scripture, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah and said, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways" (Is. 55:8). I truly believe that I witnessed a miracle and was a part of it from the beginning. When reflecting back, I have seen how God answered my prayer and allowed me to partake in it. However, I, too, had to be made humble. I, too, had to be made to trust.
"When this chaplet is said by the bedside of the dying person, God's anger is placated, unfathomable mercy envelopes the soul."
— Diary, 811
Michael Binggeli is a senior software developer at Level Five Solutions. He lives in Lee's Summit, Missouri, with his wife Linda and their three children.