Photo: Felix Carroll
Jay Hastings (third from the left) leads in the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy for Allen Green, who is holding a relic of St. Faustina. The Society of St. Faustina is now a world-wide ministry, but that doesn't prevent local members in Tennessee from tending to the prayer needs of fellow parishioners like Mr. Green.
'We Believe in the Power of the Chaplet'
Dog-eared and marked throughout by a high-lighter, here's the copy of the Diary of St. Faustina that sits in the office of Jay Hastings, founder of the Society of St. Faustina. If there's one single Diary passage that serves as the mission statement for the Society it's passage 1074, which concerns how we are called to trust in the Lord.
By Felix Carroll (Feb 17, 2012)
Smell the roses, blow out the candles.
Smell the roses, blow out the candles.
There are no roses, and there are no lit candles in this timber-frame farmhouse in Bartlett, Tenn., just outside Memphis. But Allen Green is doing what he's told, practicing a breathing technique recommended by his caregivers: Breathe in deeply, exhale with gusto.
Diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010, and now having just completed his second round of chemotherapy, Allen looks exhausted as he sits on his living room couch in early December and contemplates whether he's on the mend or near the end. A machine delivering oxygen to his nose hums behind the couch. His arms are bruised from pinpricks made by nurses in difficult hunts for satisfactory blood veins.
He's exhausted, yes, but Allen, 68, is also a man at peace. Just look at him.
"Did you see his smile?" friend and fellow parishioner David Zaleski says later in the day. "That's how you know someone loves Christ."
Allen says his peace is a direct gift received through his devotion to The Divine Mercy. He's holding rosary beads to his chest. He's wearing a blue wristband embossed with the words "Jesus, I trust in You!" And dear friends who head up an extraordinary, world-wide ministry have arrived with a first-class relic of St. Faustina, the Polish nun to whom the Lord visited in the 1930s and entrusted His message of mercy, as recorded in her Diary.
Accompanied by his wife Linda, the group begins to pray over him:
Through the intercession of St. Faustina, we implore Your mercy, in virtue of Your Passion, particularly in Your abandonment at the moment of agony, for healing and God's will for Allen. As we pray this Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, we praise and glorify Your goodness and mercy. ...
At the conclusion of the chaplet, Allen crosses himself and kisses the relic. He tells a few stories of the graces he's received through St. Faustina, including a full, life-encompassing confession he made in her honor just before he became ill. He jokes that if his oxygen tube had enough slack, he'd walk the few blocks to the main road where later that day Bartlett was having its annual Christmas parade. He shows off a recent photo of his extended family.
The group talks of organizing volunteers to assist the Greens with yard work. Hugs and goodbyes for now.
Mercy Around the World
Back outside, Jay Hastings, who organized the visit, cradles the St. Faustina relic and says, "Okay, well let's run St. Faustina back to the church."
That church is the nearby St. Ann's, home parish for the Society of St. Faustina of The Divine Mercy. Spawned in 2002, from a Eucharistic experience, after receiving a 1st-class relic of St Faustina, the Society consists of Divine Mercy apostles who ensure that the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy is being prayed during every hour of the day. More than 1,300 people in 33 countries have joined up and committed to praying during an hour each day for three things: the promotion of the Divine Mercy devotion; the sick and dying in the hour that you pray; and people about to commit mortal sin.
The ministry's office is located in what used to be Jay and Patte Hastings' dining room, just a short drive from St. Ann's. The dining table and chairs have long since been consigned to storage. In their place is a veritable bunker of folders, Divine Mercy materials, printed prayer requests, and a copy of the Diary of St. Faustina that looks on the verge of being loved right out of its binding.
"I'm always referring to it," says Jay, the founder of the ministry. "I started highlighting the passages that seemed most important and wound up highlighting almost all the Diary, and when I didn't have a highlighter, I dog-eared the corner of the page."
He sits down at his computer. To give a glimpse of the vastness of his volunteer ministry, he opens his email, and the inbox becomes engulfed by a rising tide of new prayer requests — for a 5-year-old boy with a brain tumor fighting for his life; for a financial miracle; for a high school student to pass all his classes; for a father who has prostate cancer and a friend who has breast cancer; for a full conversion to Catholicism of a beloved friend; for the complete healing from leukemia of a 9-year-old girl; and on and on.
A night owl as well as an early bird, Jay tends to each email, gathering each prayer intention, responding to the emailers with fitting passages from the Diary and recommending they obtain an image of The Divine Mercy, which the Lord said was a vessel of grace. He also receives prayer requests by phone.
In part due to columns Jay writes for the Marian Fathers' website, thedivinemercy.org, the Society has become well-known around the world to those seeking mercy and those seeking to pray. Those who pray include suffering souls who offer their daily struggles for others, uniting them with the Lord's suffering.
"You're already suffering anyway. Why not let the Lord use it to help someone else get to His kingdom?" says Emma Conroy who joins the Society in prayer.
Non-Catholics have also joined the ministry having experienced how the chaplet unites different Christian denominations at the foot of the Cross to pray for His mercy upon the whole world.
"We see miraculous things," Jay says, "because we believe in the power of the chaplet."
As with the case of Allen, the Society's Bartlett-based members often find themselves dropping everything at all hours, day and night, when they receive requests to bring the relic and pray over the sick and dying.
'He Sent Me St. Faustina'
Back in 2002, when Jay and Patte lived unassuming lives free of prayer requests from Panama, or Zambia, or Burma, or you name it — when their dining room was still a dining room — Jay felt compelled to make a prayerful commitment to trust God more and to devote more of his life to Him.
"When I opened that door, He sent me St. Faustina," says Jay, a 56-year-old father of four who sells insurance for a living.
He soon discovered the Diary of St. Faustina. Through the Diary, he says, "I was able to understand the role we can all play as dispensers of God's mercy."
At a time when he was just learning about Divine Mercy, St. Ann's was lent a relic of St. Faustina. Saint Ann's pastor, Fr. Bruce Cinquegrani, put Jay in charge of organizing a Divine Mercy novena leading up to the feast of Christ the King. During the novena the whole diocese was invited to venerate the relic. The novena proved a great success and led many parishioners to become devoted to The Divine Mercy message.
Jay's devotion soon took an unexpected turn. One day, during Holy Communion, he says he underwent a life-changing experience.
"When I received the Host, it broke in half on my tongue, which had never happened to me before," he recalls. "In my heart, I heard the words 'Help Me repair the Body of Christ.' Identifying the phrase with the broken Host, I was deeply moved."
"Later, I told Fr. Bruce, about it, and he had to make sure I wasn't going fanatical on him," says Jay, with a laugh.
Jay then received the inspiration to get people to pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy every hour of the day, and thus, "to help repair the Body of Christ spiritually and through our individual acts of mercy," he explains.
As recorded in St. Faustina's Diary, Jesus attaches extraordinary promises to the recitation of the chaplet. At one point, Jesus transports St. Faustina in front of a man who was dying and who had demons attacking his soul. Saint Faustina continuously prayed the chaplet before him, and soon the demons disappeared, and mercy engulfed the man's soul (see Diary, 1565). Through St. Faustina, Jesus speaks of the power of the chaplet. "Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death" (687). "When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior" (1541).
"It takes about seven minutes to pray the chaplet," says Jay. "God makes things so simple for us."
'An Abundance of Graces'
If there's one single Diary passage that serves as the mission statement for the Society it's passage 1074.
"We want to approach the Lord with trust," says Jay, paraphrasing the passage. "Jesus told St. Faustina that when we approach Him with trust, we will be filled with such an abundance of graces that we will not be able to contain the graces within ourselves, so we will radiate them to other souls."
That trust has amounted to countless spiritual dividends.
Saint Ann's pastor Fr. Russ is a strong promoter of Divine Mercy. The parish now has several Divine Mercy cenacles. Last fall, they received diocesan approval to have a shrine named for "St. Faustina of The Divine Mercy." It will be in its original church, now a Chapel and will be dedicated in 2012.
Jay says there are high hopes for the shrine, which is the size of a typical country chapel in the thick of the Bible Belt whose mega churches rival that of shopping malls in terms of sheer bulk. The chapel already serves a crucial role for the devotion to The Divine Mercy. Each day, the prayer intentions the Society receives are brought before the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration at the 3 o'clock hour, the Hour of Great Mercy. Jay and others pray a chaplet and a Rosary for those intentions.
Here's one such intention emailed in and please pray for him and his family:
Lance, a 5-year-old child that is fighting for his life. ... He has a brain tumor that is active. He is in the final stages of his life and needs your mercy. Lord, please save him. Jesus, I trust in You. Jim D
To send prayer requests or to sign up to pray with the Society of St. Faustina of The Divine Mercy, contact Jay Hastings via e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone, 901-438-7772.