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They Go the Distance
One way of looking at it is that despite their finances being tight, the distance being long, and the payload being crammed with their beloved children, Richard and Margaret George drove from Tennessee to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in April on pilgrimage to receive Christ's graces.
But the other, more accurate way, of looking at it is that because their finances are tight, the distance long, and the payload crammed with children, Richard and Margaret George drove from Tennessee to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in April on pilgrimage to receive Christ's graces.
The first entails a leap of faith. The second is no leap at all. It entails trust. Period. That is, trust in God's desires for us. He desires us to reach out to Him. He'll do the rest.
As they have done each year for six years now, Richard and Mary traveled to the Shrine in Stockbridge, Mass., joining the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and about 16,000 pilgrims for the celebration Divine Mercy Sunday.
Here are the vitals:
• The distance from their home in Piperton, Tenn., to Stockbridge is 1,400 miles.
• Their seven children range in age from 3-16.
• They all pile into a nine-seat Sprinter Van.
• No one complains. Quite the contrary.
"We come to divest ourselves," Richard says. "It really is a beautiful experience of being grateful to God and just letting go of ourselves and our worries, really emptying ourselves out to receive His mercy and graces.
"The children actually look forward to going every year," he says. "They really seem to come alive with it."
Tough Economic Times
Like millions of Americans these days, the Georges are navigating tough economic times, struggling to make ends meet on barely a living wage. Needless to say, making a pilgrimage was not in the budget. Still, they came.
Why? Because The Divine Mercy is paramount to their lives.
"We need Christ's mercy more than ever at this point in our lives," Richard says. "With all that is happening in the world around us I don't think it would be a good thing to let my devotion to The Divine Mercy slip away."
In terms of traveling to Divine Mercy Sunday, he reasoned, "God, if you want me there, I'll come."
The Georges, who are members of the Association of Marian Helpers, based at the Shrine, received a personal invitation from the Marians to come. It was all providential.
A Gift to a Marriage
Richard and Margaret, both graduates of Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio, married in 1993. He brought the Divine Mercy message and devotions to the marriage.
"I first discovered the Divine Mercy devotion while on pilgrimage in Medjugorje back in 1988," he says, " If any charism can be claimed there, it's reconciliation; since the Divine Mercy devotion works to the reconciliation between God and man and among mankind it should be of no surprise to find that it was being propagated there."
(Medjugorje is the site of alleged Marian apparitions. The Church has not yet made a determination on the authenticity of the alleged apparitions.)
The Divine Mercy message and devotions became a part of Richard's daily prayer life. He prays a perpetual Divine Mercy novena, which grew from the solemn Novena of Divine Mercy from Good Friday to Easter Saturday given by Christ to the world through St. Faustina in the 1930s.
"If I didn't have the Divine Mercy devotion, I wonder how much the less I would have been able to see His working in and through my life," Richard continues. "I know that the good of my relationship with God and others would be less than it is and my eyes wouldn't have seen Him working had I not been praying the chaplet and following our Lord's requests made known through St. Faustina."
An Historic Opportunity
Divine Mercy is particularly important now in this point in history, Richard says, since so many people around the world are enduring economic, social, and political uncertainty.
"We all suffer in one way or another," he says. "Coming closer to Christ and enduring the pain with Him is much better than enduring the pain without Him. What's more, I've found that if we divest ourselves and surrender our crosses, uniting them to Jesus and His Passion, we will find ourselves cooperating with Christ in the work of salvation in a more perfect way."
Indeed, surrendering to Christ's will — that's the means by which true freedom and true peace can be found. Christ, through St. Faustina, challenges aching mankind to ask for His mercy, receive His mercy, and spread that mercy to others.
For the Georges, the following is what they have come to understand through their devotion to The Divine Mercy:
• "You can do wonderful things for your family members, for your marriage, for your children, for the ones who are often forgotten, the ones who hurt you that you wouldn't be able to love otherwise," Richard says.
• "When you unite your prayers and sacrifices to Christ and His Sacrifice for the good of others—especially for those who hurt you—I've found that that is the right way to love," he says.
• "We actually all have crosses, and everyone has to endure them," Richard says, "but it's much to our advantage—not to mention the many others we could help—if we embrace the cross with Christ and then look for the door of opportunity that He presents to you. I think that when we embrace the cross and walk with Him, as we do when we meditate on His Passion while praying the Divine Mercy chaplet, we are actively participating in His Plan and that helps keep our minds sharpened and our eyes opened to those opportunities. That's the only answer. That's how you get through it."
• "We have to unite ourselves to Christ with the means that He gives to us: the Divine Mercy, the Rosary, Holy Mass, frequent Confession — these are all means of graces and mercy that He's calling us to, and that's what helps us get through to the other side of it," Richard says.
No need to ask for directions. This family knows where they're going. They go the distance.