How God Revealed Himself, in Due Time
If anyone thinks for a minute that weekly church bulletins are a waste of paper, consider the case of one suffering woman who perused her bulletin before Mass one April morning in 2007.
Marie Lucien is her name. She was drawn into the spiritual safe haven of Divine Mercy by a single, innocuous calendar listing about a special celebration of a feast day called "Divine Mercy Sunday" at Our Lady of Jasna Gora Parish in nearby Clinton, Mass.
The celebration happened to be that very afternoon, Divine Mercy Sunday. After Mass at her parish, Marie told her husband she wanted to go. "I don't know what 'Divine Mercy' is. I just want to see what it it's all about," Marie heard herself saying.
Her husband, Fils-Aime — a native of Haiti, like herself — was a good sport about it. He drove her, and so began a spiritual journey where Marie's love for Christ grew stronger even as her physical health deteriorated.
Inside Our Lady of Jasna Gora, people were praying. Marie heard a voice in her heart telling her to stand in one particular line for confession out of two.
"Lord, You are in charge of everything," she recalls praying as she waited. When it came her turn, the priest called her over. He had a short-cropped gray beard and a gentle manner. He was none other than Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, world-renowned expert on the Divine Mercy message and devotion and the life and spirituality of St. Faustina. At the time, Marie didn't know anything about St. Faustina or Fr. Seraphim.
But something unusual was at hand. She knew that much. The confession felt more like a private conversation, Marie recalls. "I felt like he held the book of my life in the palm of his hand." During the confession, Fr. Seraphim stood up and prayed over her. All during Mass, she felt in her heart that Fr. Seraphim was praying for her.
After Mass, she made a beeline to thank Fr. Seraphim. The two got on to the topic of Divine Mercy — that term she still knew nothing about. "The next thing I know, he hands me literature on Divine Mercy and St. Faustina ... and he tells me he will see me at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy."
She had never heard of the Shrine, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which is less than two hours from her home in north-central Massachusetts. It didn't take her long before she visited the Shrine — more out of curiosity than anything else. The moment she stepped into the Shrine, a Marian brother directed her to confession to a side chapel that contains a relic of St. Faustina. The priest there was Fr. Seraphim, himself.
"How are you feeling today?" Fr. Seraphim asked.
Her health had continued to deteriorate from a rare disease. But she answered, "OK. I could be better, but I've felt worse." Father Seraphim prayed over her. Then, during Mass, just before the Consecration, she felt what seemed like a current of electricity shooting through her body, "like every bone in my body was breaking," she says. Afterwards, the pain subsided. Even the typical pain she had from her illness subsided a little, but this was temporary. It was as if God was giving her a glimpse of what it felt like to be healthy again.
"Divine Mercy, whatever you are, help me," she cried to herself.
The next three years, Marie's physical pain was excruciating. Her disease caused her to hemorrhage. Her body swelled. Every joint ached. She was losing coordination. Her eyes became bloodshot. Her immune system was crashing. All the while, she turned with trust to Jesus praying for mercy, praying that all this suffering had some sort of meaning.
In September 2009, she was rushed to the hospital after a "bleeding out" episode in her doctor's office. "While at the hospital, they informed me that I needed an immediate blood transfusion and countless liters of IV," she says. Within a month, three extraordinary experiences led to a miraculous physical healing.
"For Labor Day weekend of 2009," she recalls, "I went to St. Anne de Beaupre in Canada. ... Upon returning to my pew [after receiving Holy Communion], I began to feel a hot, cold, trembling, burning sensation to the point of my feeling scared and fearing being sick without my medical team in the same town. After a few quick minutes, all was done. But I was still very sick and actually the hemorrhaging got worse."
The second part of the healing process occurred a few days later during the celebration of the feast of the Exaltation of The Holy Cross when, again, she had a powerful, prayerful experience. But things would get worse before they got better.
"From that day on, my hemorrhaging got worse," she says, "and I felt as if life was slipping away from me. Then, on the sixteenth, a new batch of tests revealed that more doctors needed to see me and more tests were needed. On Friday the eighteenth of September, I went to the hospital for more tests to be followed by doctors' visits. There, at the doctor's office, things took a not-so-good-turn, but through it all, God's healing powers were being manifested even through the hands of the doctors.
"After trying to revive me once, somewhat successfully, and the other time not so, an ambulance was called to transport me to the hospital," she says. "At the hospital, still not finding what I was suffering from, I needed to receive a blood transfusion, IV, and the likes, while doctors continued to try to ascertain what was going on with me. I refused to do so until I received the Anointing of the Sick, (gave a) confession, and received the Eucharist. Since it was Friday, past 5 p.m., I had to wait until the next day."
By Oct. 5, 2009, she was at the lowest point in her life, health wise. Unbeknownst to her, this was the feast day of St. Faustina. At her wit's end, in prayer she pleaded to the Lord, saying:
Lord, you never give to people anymore than You know they can handle. I want to complain, but I don't dare complain because every trial and tribulation is in Your hand; You're working in our lives.
You've given me this, so there must be a reason. I don't know what the reason is. I place the reason in Your hands. I place the treatment in Your hands. Find me a doctor who can do it in Your hands. I want to cry. I have no more tears. I am in a battle for my life, and I feel You are the General of the battle. If it is Your holy will that I find treatment, let it be. If it is Your will that I do not, let it be. But at least let my illness not be in vain. If someone else comes down with it, may the doctors know how they can properly diagnose it.
She slipped into sleep but then woke up feeling restless, so she started to pray the Rosary. Maybe she was dreaming. Maybe she was hallucinating. Maybe she had a mystical experience. Whatever state of consciousness she was in, Marie reports that she all the sudden felt suspended between two worlds. She saw herself on a shiny table, like a hospital table. She felt like the rays of the sun were piercing her with an intense heat. She also saw three people praying over her at her bedside. One she identified as St. John Paul II, and the other two she would later identify as St. Faustina and Our Blessed Mother.
In the moments after this vision, or dream, or hallucination, Marie felt all her fears dissipate. She was at peace, true peace. She knew without a doubt now that Christ was present in her life. Whatever his plans for her were, she would accept.
Four days later, on Oct. 9, Marie had surgery. It was a success. After five years of illness, she was healed. She credits the healing to the intercession of the Blessed Mother, St. Faustina, and St. John Paul II.
She's certain that God had her go through this illness in order to completely surrender herself to His holy will. She is certain, too, that God put Fr. Seraphim in her life in order to expose her to the healing message of Divine Mercy, as revealed to the world through St. Faustina.
"I will always keep it in my heart and believe that Fr. Seraphim is truly an angel of mercy," she says.
She adds, "God was calling me to His Divine Mercy. I don't know if he was testing my faith and my strength. A priest told me once that whatever plan God has for you, in due time he will let you know."
What advice does she have for others who also suffer and are fearful?
"Pray, and when you are praying, pray for his mercy," she says. "If you pray for his mercy, it will come to you in ways you could have never expected. Also, in St. Faustina's Diary, Jesus allows her to know that her mission will not come to an end upon her death (see entry 281). She is there interceding for us. She is a super saint. Say, 'God, show me Your mercy,' and then call on the super saint and the Blessed Mother to intercede for you."
"Pray to God with all your mind and all your heart," says Marie, "and if your mind is not cooperating with your heart, give that to the Lord, too."