Love and Mercy: Faustina Movie - DVD

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Called Home to the Church

A Conversation, in the Digital Age

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Zachary Winter of Nashville, Tennessee, is no stranger to suffering.

Beginning at around age 12, he experienced debilitating symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. As if that weren't a struggle enough, growing up, he was frequently bullied on account of his autism.

"My disposition is very gentle," he said. "I was never someone who fought back."

Eventually, Zachary would find consolation through his faith in Jesus Christ, his love for the Blessed Mother, and by becoming a member of the Association of Marian Helpers. But it took him many years to find a spiritual home.

He was raised nominally Protestant, but he never paid much attention in Sunday school. At around age 18, he was drawn to learn more about Christianity when he discovered that "The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy was based on books written by a Catholic author, J.R.R. Tolkien.

"Through my research of Catholicism, I stumbled across the Shroud of Turin and that became my autistic obsession," Zachary said. "I studied everything about it, and I concluded that God is real."

He then joined a local Orthodox church, where he was baptized, upon which "I felt like a huge weight was lifted off me," he said.

Unfortunately, even with Zachary's growing faith, his obsessive-compulsive disorder continued to torture him. "After my conversion, I started getting a constant bombardment of the most evil thoughts. It was terrible. It just debilitated me. I got to the point where I couldn't even drive a car."

He found consolation in the Gospels.

"The Wedding at Cana, how Christ listened to His Mother, it made me want to cry out to the Theotokos for help," he said. "When I did, I felt deep in my soul that she was with me."

After more than a decade of debilitating anxiety, Zachary concluded he needed to tackle his obsessive-compulsive disorder head on. "Long story short, through cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, I recognized that when it comes to thoughts and fear, the only way to defeat it is to face it. I got through all my compulsions. I have zero OCD to this day."

Despite years of intense suffering, Zachary remained faithful to the Lord, in large part because of the writings of some Roman Catholic saints. "I came across the Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux," he said. "I identified with her severe oversensitive nature and her scrupulosity. She was the first saint I had ever read whom I connected with 100 percent. I started praying to St. Thérèse, even though the Orthodox church I belonged to was critical of this. But I started implementing her Little Way in my life."

Despite Zachary's mental and spiritual progress, about two years ago he experienced a loss that brought him to the brink of despair. "Never in my life have I felt like taking my own life. But sometimes it would hit me that I just wanted my life to be over. So, I started reaching out to anyone I could," he said.

This led Zachary to email a prayer request to the Marian Fathers' prayer line. Zachary had discovered the Marian Fathers through a talk on YouTube about the Shroud of Turin given by Fr. Chris Alar, MIC.

"After I sent in my prayer request, I got an email saying that I was now a Marian Helper. In one sense, I thought it was awesome because I love the Mother of God so much. In another sense, I thought it was kind of strange that I was allowed to be a Marian Helper because I said in my prayer request that I was Orthodox. Then I saw the video about Marian Helpers and what it means. In it, [Fr. Chris] talks about all the graces that you can receive by being a Marian Helper, that you're remembered daily in their Masses."

Then something amazing happened. "Just a few days after receiving this email, the despair that I had been going through for years just totally went away! The feeling of not wanting to live just vanished. The love I had experienced on and off throughout the years was now in my heart all the time."

Zachary started tuning in to the Marian Fathers' daily livestreamed Masses and attending Mass at a local Roman Catholic church in Nashville. "For the first time, I kind of felt like I was at home there," he said. Soon, he began the process of entering the Catholic Church, and officially entered on Sept. 19. "I know it's [Mary's] hand guiding me along into the fold of St. Peter. The fact that it is through your encouragement that I'm becoming Catholic demonstrates the Virgin Mother's care in my life. You all are literally called 'the Marians'!"

Amidst his conversion, Zachary also discovered the cherished writings of yet another saint: St. Faustina. "The message of Divine Mercy itself, to a heart like mine, is so consoling. I used to see God as a harsh judge. But St. Faustina's spirit and message helped me not to look at God that way. I learned that suffering is a gift as well. ... Sin wounds each of us so incredibly deeply, both our own sins and other people's sins committed against us. Modern man needs the message of God's loving mercy, because each and every one of us has missed the mark in one way or another as a result of the times in which we live. I'm humbled by this mercy, and it brings much gratitude into my heart."

— Marc Massery

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Inspired - Nov 22, 2020

Hello Zachary,
I find your life inspiring. The Lord and Mary, His Mother helped you greatly and will continue to do so. all the best. St. Therese is super, too.