How Can You Still Be Catholic?

“How can you still be Catholic?” Cradle... Read more


Buy Now

Deacon Fran Phillips (third from left), visiting the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, along with (from left) Marianne Rahner Krug, Wanda Larrivee, Fran's wife, Janice, and Sally and John Rahner.

In the Battle for His Soul, the Devil Was Dogged

Print this story

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter


By Felix Carroll (Jun 29, 2018)
Each year the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy receives tens of thousands of pilgrims who are drawn to the Sacraments, the natural beauty, and the fellowship of Catholics who seek God's mercy or who wish to give thanks for graces received.

Meet Deacon Fran Phillips of the Glen Mills area of Pennsylvania:

Here's what helped prevent Fran Phillips from losing hope, from allowing his marriage to fall apart, and from taking his own life: the words of Jesus to St. Faustina, as recorded in her Diary.

Particularly these words:

My mercy is greater than your sins ... (1485).

That comes from the Diary section titled "Conversation of the Merciful God with a Sinful Soul."

To put it into context, Christ descended from Heaven, allowed Himself to be nailed to the Cross and for His Sacred Heart to be pierced with a lance — all as a sacrificial offering for the sake of sinful souls. He reminds the world of this through St. Faustina.

"Come, then, with trust to draw graces from this fountain," Jesus says. "I never reject a contrite heart. Your misery has disappeared in the depths of My mercy" (1485).

These days the once miserable Deacon Fran shares this Diary passage with people all the time, people dwelling in the tomb despite Christ's Resurrection, people unacquainted with the profound and practical implications of having a Father in Heaven whose greatest attribute is mercy.

Deacon Fran and his wife, Janice, visited the Shrine recently with their dear friends John and Sally Rahner and their daughter, Marianne, to give thanks to the Lord. The five of them, each of whom carry crosses made lighter through their faith, are frequent Shrine visitors. For years, they served as volunteers for the Shrine's annual Divine Mercy Sunday celebrations before they decided a couple years back, with the approval of their pastor, that it was time to bring Divine Mercy Sunday programs to their own parish. They are members of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy prayer cenacles. They practically devour books by Marian authors Frs. Michael Gaitley, MIC, and Donald Calloway, MIC.

They strive to be true apostles of Jesus whose merciful love — poured out upon us in prayer and in the Eucharist and received by us through repentance and faith — can transform our whole lives, reorder our priorities, remake our relationships, and fashion us into instruments of His mercy in a troubled world.

Deacon Fran, for one, plans to write a book about his experiences. The book will begin by featuring a boy — himself — raised by an alcoholic mother and workaholic father. The boy would often come home from school to discover his mother passed out from drinking. His father, averse to confrontation, would put most of his energies into civic and social endeavors separate and apart from his family. He was a "Mr. Fix-It" for the community but a no-show at home.

When Fran's childhood friends would ask Fran to do things with them, he'd make up excuses as to why he couldn't. The truth was, the task of caring for his mother and his siblings had fallen to him.

"I would cover up my mother's alcoholism and my dad never being around," he says.

A Catholic psychologist would eventually tell him that he had suffered from "parentification," a role reversal whereby a child is obliged to act as parent to their own parent. He would read up on it — how in extreme cases, the child is used to fill the void of the alienating parent's emotional life.

Meanwhile, the boy in this book will grow up to become a man who would habitually bury hard truths under a lush layer of lies. He would put up a good front that all was well. He would avoid conflict with his wife and children at the expense of solving problems that needed to be solved.

He would cover up financial troubles from his wife. A former employer would borrow a large sum of money from him and never pay him back. His home would eventually have a lien put on it. He would absorb it all, bury it, and not talk about it. Meanwhile, inside, he would be at war with himself.

This will all be in the book.

As for his spiritual life, he went through the routines. Prayer would feel perfunctory. He would fail to experience in the Mass a true and transcendent encounter with God the Father. It was as if his heart — which had yearned for the love of his biological father — was Kevlar-coated to resist being pierced by the radical love of his Heavenly Father. Fran, by the way, was studying for the diaconate, at the urging of two priests he was seeking spiritual guidance who saw something in him that he, himself, was blind to.

Fran's life was falling apart. Then came Memorial Day weekend 2010, when he contemplated purchasing a gun.

"I was a fingernail's length away from going and finding some sort of instrument and taking care of my former employer's life and then my life," he recalls. "That's how close I was."

Instead, he called Janice on the phone and told her everything.

"I'm a habitual liar," he said. "You've got to leave me. You don't want me. I'm no good for you."

She was having none of it. She saw to it he got the help he needed. He spent several days in a psychiatric ward. A doctor eventually sorted things out for him from a psychological perspective. The Divine Mercy revelations of St. Faustina eventually sorted out everything else.

"I remember in 2012, I was looking at an Image of Divine Mercy up at the altar, and I just started crying," Deacon Fran recalls. "I just felt something in my heart melt away, and I knew the Blessed Mother was present. For the first time since the age of 12, I knew I had a mother again."

Two years after that, he was ordained to the diaconate.

As he puts it today, "God won."

Print this story

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter


Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Maria - Jul 8, 2018

@Maria Teresa: For deliverance and healing from demonic activity, the sure way to deliver yourself out is to pray to Jesus to cover you, your home, your foundation with His blood. Ask Jesus to cover with His blood the moment of your conception till the current moment. Lots of prayer is needed. Pray often to Mother Mary, do Eucharistic Adoration, go to confession, go to Mass and don't do anything that could allow Evil to get any hold of you - in short - be as Holy as possible. So the end result would be that you would be in this world but you would not be of this world.

Doing through demonic activity is very tough but you can come out of it for good and you can come out of it very holy. It is not the end, it is the beginning of a close spiritual walk with God. Our God is near to all who suffer and He is ever merciful and ever loving.

DCM - Jul 3, 2018

Joe, sometimes a Christian feels like they're spinning their wheels with prayer and sacrifice and never making a difference. Grief of losing a daughter at 17 in a car accident feels like a life sentence of sadness. Watching friends and family descend into drug addiction even though you pray and pray for them. Lists of pain, suffering and disappointments go on and on. With all this tragedy though, God has given me greater compassion and understanding for others that I would otherwise not have known. My heart has expanded. He's shown me what we're really here on earth for, to do as He has done, to love and give ourselves for others; to be there for others when they suffer leading them to Him. When life pulls me down I look past the temporal and look to heaven, to what is in store for me and for all those who suffer. The church has given us so much to lift us up and to heal our spirits, but we must look to it. We must see the big picture. All the eternal beauty, joy, love and happiness God has awaiting us is the end game...the pearl of great price. Never, ever, ever give up or be disheartened. Grace awaits you. Your sister in faith.

Maria Teresa - Jul 2, 2018

Desperately need deliverance and healing from demonic activity,my body can't take it,it makes me sick!My heart goes out to all of these special needs're in my heart.

Denis - Jul 2, 2018

Everyone suffers, and I have read all the posts here and I see so much pain and suffering. But know that no person has ever suffered, or will will ever suffer, more than Jesus, and then Mary. And especially Jesus' moral suffering during is passion, a "willed" suffering which grew from a love and obedience that, perhaps, no creature will ever fully comprehend. But please consider also your brothers and sisters in Christ who presently suffer the pains of purgatory. Theirs is a greater pain, a greater suffering than ours, and they cannot help themselves. The devil would have us turn despondent and feel sorry for ourselves, causing us to become self-centered in our suffering, which bears no fruit. No! offer up all of your suffering for the Glory of God, for the conversion of poor sinners and for the souls in purgatory. Remember The Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross; was there ever a person, besides Christ, who suffered more? Remember Faustina, how she united her suffering to the Eternal Father for the salvation of the whole world!!

Lorraine - Jul 2, 2018

My husband is an habitual liar as well. It is very difficult being married to such a man. He will stare me right in the eye swearing he is telling the truth knowing full well he is lying. Pray for me, and pray for him. We are both senior citizens.

Kat - Jul 2, 2018

We need to ask Jesus and Mary to keep our eyes fixed on heaven. The Earth is not our home and when you feel underappreciated, overwhelmed or frustrated asked the Holy Spirit to fill you with consolation. Our priest had a wonderful sermon yesterday stating that Jesus came to heal us spiritually, emotionally and physically. Ask the Blessed Mother to show you any sin that is blocking God's love and grace and repent of it and ask Jesus for deliverance!! Ask him to fill you with the Holy Spirit!

Don - Jul 1, 2018

Please know that you are not alone. I would like to believe that myself and others are your family and friends. We love you dear sister. Peace.

Liz - Jul 1, 2018

Ann: I, too will pray for you. Do you know a good priest you can talk to?
Read St. Faustina's book and feel God's love for you and your family.

Liz - Jul 1, 2018

Liz to Anne
I too suffer from what you said .. start saying all 20 decades of the Holy Rosary .. And ask Our Lady to help you .. she has helped me a whole .. pray ..pray .. and keep praying.. even when you want to give up.. start saying the family rosary together.. go talk to your priest.. he will advise you..go to mass ...spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.. 5 to 10 your way up to an hour..

Ann - Jul 1, 2018

Joe, I heard a Dominican Priest say "God would not allow anything in the past, that was not part of His loving plan for the future". He then gave the example of the lives of many Saints including Mother Teresa & St. John Paul ll. In the example of John Paul ll, he lost his mother when he was 8 years old, then his older brother whom he was very close with died, & then his father passed away. By the age of 20 he had lost everyone that he loved. It was after the death of his father, that Karol Wojtyla began thinking about the Priesthood. He not only was ordained a Priest, but became the Pope & he is now Saint John Paul ll. I do believe that God allows suffering in order to draw a greater good out of it. God bless you!

Joe - Jul 1, 2018

I feel like the Christian life is huge sacrifice with no returns. We are told to trust in the Lord with all our heart and to not lean on our own understanding
Having lived 46 years, it seems like doing the same thing over again and again and expecting different results. I don't post here as someone who is looking for debate. I am not an unbeliever. I just struggle to understand why people suffer for so much. Yes, Jesus suffered but it was for a period of time. And it ended. Not so with the human family.

Carrie - Jul 1, 2018

Thank you Don. I will pray for you and everyone here too.

Don - Jul 1, 2018

I suffer from many afflictions too. Some of them mentioned already. Thanks be to God for the spiritual growth that comes my way as a result. I will pray for the needs of those posted. A.M.D.G.

N - Jul 1, 2018

I understand when you fear there is a curse on your family by the evil one. My family has alcoholism & drug addictions, my d-i-law committed suicide 1 1/2 yrs ago... I pray daily....have Masses said for my family, pray a rosary daily or two & novenas often! I pray to stay on course & not loose hope. I say... Jesus I trust in you. But like any addict, I have to talk the talk & walk the walk, at times, minutes at a time. I'll add you to my prayers Anne!

Carrie - Jul 1, 2018

Ann I will pray for you. Don’t lose hope. As I sit here and write this I am thinking about how I feel hopeless and depressed too. I suffer from cardiomyopathy, lymphredema where I can’t walk with one leg and 2 children who I try to care for with a bipolar and traumatic brain injured husband. I have no friends anymore and no family. Sometimes I feel like giving up . Please pray for me too.

Anne - Jul 1, 2018

Thank God I found Deacon Fran’s message. There is hope. I suffer from scrupulousity. And I truly fear going to Confession. I fear there is a curse on my family by the Evil One. I need spiritual guidance, I know. Please pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You!