Photo: Felix Carroll
Jackie Mercado, center, with her daughter Alzie, son Ricky, and mother Gilberte Victor.
By Jackie Mercado
Years ago, when I was away from the Lord, I heard of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but never really prayed to her or paid any attention to her. I guess the Lord decided enough was enough and that I needed a wake-up call. So, He used His Mother to bring me back to Him, and it all started with a book. I'll never forget the day I read St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion to Jesus through Mary. I fell head over heels in love with Our Lady and from that point forward, she led me back to Our Lord. I realized that truly, the quickest and shortest path to Our Lord is through His Mother! Yet, this was only the beginning of my new life.
I began to read more on Our Lady and learn how entwined the Sacred Heart is to the Immaculate Heart. I was especially thrilled to see that through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I could enter into a deeper communion with the Sacred Heart of Our Lord.
Mary brought the Holy Trinity to the core of my life, my soul! She snatched me from the gates of hell and gave me a second chance at life. My eyes were opened. I finally saw my life from a new perspective. I also saw how much I had offended the Lord by my words, deeds, and thoughts. I wanted to change. I vowed to work hard towards being a better person. One of the things I experienced was a deep hunger and yearning for the Lord that I had never felt. So, after a very long confession, I became a daily communicant. I finally understood the privilege and honor of being able to receive our Lord in Holy Communion. That is why Holy Mass has become such a priceless treasure for me. In the past, I used to find Mass so burdensome, such a chore. I used to be the one who couldn't wait to leave. My grandmother would repeatedly chastise me for not attending Mass. How wrong I was about the Liturgy!
Our Lady brought me hope where before there was so much despair. I knew that as long as I had the Holy Trinity in my life, I would never despair. My conversion was not an easy one, but by the grace of Our Lady, I was able to go on. Change was not easy for me, because as we all know, bad habits are hard to break and having a stubborn and impatient streak made my conversion very difficult at times. I began the long and tough road of seeking and giving forgiveness. As Our Lady brought the Lord into my heart, I began to see the ugliness of my pride and selfishness, and how much I needed to practice humility. There was a book I read by Fr. Cajetan Mary da Bergamo titled Humility of Heart. That book further enforced my understanding of the need to practice humility — something with which I had struggled and at times found hard to put into practice.
Our Lady continually reminded me that as a wife and mother, I have to set the right example if I am to live out my vocation as God intends. Also, I would have to answer to our Lord for all that I neglected to do, so through Our Lady's grace, I found the courage and strength to do what needed to be done without worrying about what others think of me or try to please the world. If I love God and followed his commandments, then that was all that mattered because God would allow everything else to fall into its proper place.
The other thing was I developed a love for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. I began the First Saturday devotions in hopes that many souls would be alleviated from their sufferings and eventually granted speedy release from purgatory. Aiding Holy Souls became one of my missions in life. I would do whatever the Lord permitted and offer what I can for their speedy release. As that became my goal, so did concern for the souls of the living, especially those in my family who still had not found God and Our Lady.
I used to be quick to judge people and used to think myself better than others. I've learned an important lesson in not judging others, but judging situations to discern whether they are right or wrong. I still get it wrong, but by God's grace I will get better at it. I understand from the writings of the saints that instead of pointing fingers, we should always thank God that if we haven't fallen into certain sins it is because of the saving grace of God and Our Lady's intercession. Of ourselves, we can do no good for the only two things we possess are our sins and human weaknesses. It is only through the grace of God that we can do what is right and pleasing in His sight. That is why I found that instead of saying something coarse towards others who fall, I now ask God to give them the grace to stop whatever they are doing that is offending God. I ask that their hearts be opened to receive His mercy and love.
Knowing as much as I could learn about the Catholic faith was important to me. So I poured hours upon hours reading and researching our faith. In my readings, I came across writings about God's mercy but had not yet grasped it. Unbeknownst to me, God's mercy was already at work in me, but I didn't know it yet.
I also took up the practice of going on pilgrimages that were a welcomed respite from the business of everyday life. But most importantly, these pilgrimages were a source of strength and re-energizing of my faith, as well as time in quietness spent with our Lord. Because of Our Lady, I went on many Marian pilgrimages in thanksgiving for all she had done and continued to do in my life.
And then it happened. I was watching EWTN. Mother Angelica was talking about God's mercy. I was captivated by what Mother was saying. Little by little, God's mercy began to make sense to me, and I wanted to know more. I started reading about St. Faustina, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, and anything else about the mercy of God. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit I decided to take my family on a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., which is administered by the Marians, who have been spreading Divine Mercy since 1941. I remember well our first visit to the Shrine, which was sometime in 1998.
Our first Divine Mercy Sunday was a cold, wet ,and rainy one. My husband Alfonso was in the Middle East at the time, so he couldn't be with us. Therefore, my son Ricky (11 years old), daughter Alzie (6 years old), my mother, and my aunt made the trip to the Berkshires. Upon entering the grounds, there was such a sense of holiness and peace. I felt as if a piece of heaven had descended upon us.
I remember us staying in the long line outside, waiting to view the inside of the Shrine. Ricky and Alzie were sharing an umbrella, my aunt and mother had theirs, and mine was broken so I just stood out in the rain not caring about the weather. I was so at peace it didn't matter how wet or uncomfortable I felt. By the time we had found a spot to sit at the outdoor shrine, the umbrella Ricky and Alzie were sharing was of no use; it was torn. On top of that, the strong winds had bent the umbrella. I was concerned about the children getting sick since they were exposed to the elements, but I surrendered it all to God's hands. We stayed for Mass and the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. One of the things I'll never forget about the day was how at the 3 o'clock hour, as the bells tolled to signal the hour of Great Mercy, the sun suddenly came out and illuminated the top of the hill. I was in awe by the holiness of this place. I wanted more and decided that we would visit on a regular basis.
As we were heading home, the children started sniffling and everyone else was shivering. We were cold and couldn't wait to get home for some hot soup. While driving home, we said a prayer of thanksgiving for the wonderful day and all the graces our Lord and His Mother had showered upon us. For some reason, I wasn't worried about anyone becoming seriously ill. I prayed that our Lord and His mother would allow us good health so Ricky and Alzie wouldn't miss school and the rest of us wouldn't miss work. Well, the Lord answered our prayers because the following morning, nobody awoke with even the slightest sniffle.
Afterward, we began visiting the Shrine more often, and, eventually, the Holy Spirit inspired me to move from Manchester, Conn., up to the Berkshires. This clearly was the work of God because not in my wildest dreams would I have considered moving so far away from our family. But God's plans are not our plans.
Throughout my journey, especially after moving up to the Berkshires in June 2000, Our Lady continues to teach me the valuable lesson of the infinite mercy of God, and of trusting Him without reserve and without holding back. God is the center of my life, and through Our Lady, the Marians remind me of this in their homilies and all they do. They are truly blessed to have the Blessed Mother as their Patroness as we are blessed to have her as Our Mother.
As Saint Faustina mentioned in her Diary, "If I do all that is in my power, the rest is not my business" (952). This is why the phrase, "Jesus, I Trust In You" is my fortress — the rudder that guides me through whatever life throws my way. And for me, to trust God means doing so no matter what the outcome. That is why I came up with the acronym GYM to apply in my daily life's challenges:
You, my neighbor
Me will be taken care of as long as God and You my neighbor come first.
God's mercy confirms me in the hope and promise that it is never too late for anyone wishing to return to His Love. And because of God's mercy, I can never give up on my siblings and others who have strayed because just as the Lord took pity on me, so I must be kind and understanding towards others. Just as Our Lord forgave us, so I must not and should not do any less towards others. In fact, because of our sinful nature, we have to practice all the more in being quick to forgive and be merciful.
Though my tiny brain will never fully comprehend or totally absorb the omnipotence and greatness of God, my heart knows with absolute certainty that God's mercy and love will never be depleted. I daily see my sinful self and know that it is only by His love and mercy that I have not been cast from His sight.
It is God's mercy that causes me to repeat the words in Psalm 116, "What return can I make to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?"
We invite you to read another powerful piece by Jackie Mercado, as she shares her love for the Eucharist.
Jackie Mercado lives in Pittsfield, Mass. She and her family have become familiar faces at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. Her son is an altar server, and she is a Eucharistic minister and lector, and they all take turns leading the Rosary on Saturday morning. If you would like to become a Shrine volunteer, please call us at 413-298-1118.
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