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The Grace of Divine Mercy Sunday

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By Neil Fico (May 1, 2018)

When my mother, Camellia, visited our family in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, in 2016 for one of the last times, I never would have imagined how God's grace could work so profoundly through the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday. I have since learned that Jesus and His ocean of mercy is there for anyone.

My mother was born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she met my father, Steve, a devout Catholic. They fell in love, married, and had two children - my older sister, Beth, and myself. We were very active in our parish. Many of our best friends were parishioners and also devout Catholics.

Tragedy struck in 1980 when my father, a steelworker, was diagnosed with cancer. He died four years later at the age of 43. I was 15 years old at the time. My mom was only 46.

She never remarried and was bitter that God had left her without a husband. She felt that many of her Catholic friends could not relate to her and her loss. In the years after my father's passing she drew further from her Catholic faith. She rarely, if ever, went to Mass. Although she still continued to tithe to the Church, she was not sacramentally involved in any way. Knowing this, when she would visit, I would always look forward to having her attend Mass with my family at our parish, Precious Blood of Christ, with the hope that someday she would reconcile with God and the Catholic faith.

In 2011, my mother had fallen and hit her head causing a brain hemorrhage. She had a surgery in which holes were drilled through her skull to reduce the pressure in her brain. She never fully recovered, and signs of dementia began to slowly reveal themselves. When my mom decided to visit us in 2016, in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, her health had declined to the point that my sister had to coordinate with the airlines to wheel her on and off the plane and make sure she was aware of where she was going.

I would like to say that my mom really enjoyed coming to visit me, her son, but she mostly visited to see her four grandchildren. She especially enjoyed going to Mass and watching Neil, Tyler, Kate, and Clare serve Mass and participate in all the parish events. She would plan her trips to coincide with one of their birthdays or a holiday to celebrate with the grandkids.

Soon after my mother arrived, it was apparent to my wife Becky and I this might be the last time my mother would be able to visit us. We had to assist her in and out of the car and help her do many things that she had done the visit before without any problem. Though she knew who we were, her memory had also declined such that she was struggling with her daily routines.

Knowing that this was likely the last Easter season that my mother would be able to celebrate by going to Mass, I told my wife that I really wanted her to join us for Reconciliation. My wife prompted me to invite her and tell her about the Divine Mercy message. Knowing that she had not been to the Sacrament of Confession in many years and would likely say "no" to the invitation, I was a little nervous. But I explained to my mother the graces that she could receive by going to Confession and receiving Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday. She had never heard the Divine Mercy message and knew nothing of Divine Mercy Sunday. She said that she had no desire to go to Confession but definitely wanted to go to Easter Mass and see the grandchildren serve. So, we enjoyed a beautiful Easter Sunday Mass together, not thinking anything had really changed. But soon thereafter, God's mercy was about to open my mother's heart.

The week following Easter, I started back to my normal routine of getting ready to head to the office. The only difference was that my mother was staying in the main bedroom where I would normally sleep and get dressed to go to work. I typically attend daily Mass twice a week where Confession is offered before all weekday Masses, so I planned on going that morning before the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday.

Well, that morning I walked out of the bedroom closet to my mom staring at me wide awake. I looked at her and said good morning. I asked her if she slept well. She said, "Neil, I want to go to Confession."

I responded in shock, "What?" She repeated, "I want to go to Confession!"

Astonished, I asked her why the change of heart. She said, "I want to be where your father is." She went on, "I had a dream of your dad. I haven't dreamt of your father in many years, and it was as if he was standing right in front of me just like you are now." Even more surprising was that my mom seemed more like her former self, very bright and aware of where she was and what she wanted.

I gladly told her that I would take her to Confession and set off to make plans. I went to Mass and told the priest the story about my mother and asked if he would offer Confession to her that afternoon. He, of course, was excited for me and agreed to see her. I called Becky and told her to have my mom ready and I would pick her up before lunch to take her to Confession. After she met with Fr. Ed, received absolution, and did her penance, I asked her how she felt. She looked at me with a smile and said, "I feel forgiven." Divine Mercy Sunday came, and I witnessed my mom receive Communion. We all celebrated the great gift of that day together as a family.

My mom would only visit us one more time, six months later. She was able to receive the Eucharist in a state of grace until she passed on Sept. 20, 2017. I am so thankful that she responded to God's offering of His love and mercy!

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Pat Polachek - May 2, 2018

This is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing and I will share on my FB! I too live in the Pittsburgh area. My dear Mom passed away 4 years ago today! She was born on April 18, 1924. She celebrated her 90th birthday on Good Friday, 2014. The following week, she attended Divine Mercy Sunday and had all her sins and all the punishment washed away in the ocean of Jesus’ Divine Mercy. The following Friday, May 2, 2014, God called her Home to Heaven with a beautiful clean soul!! His Mercy endures forever!

Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC - May 2, 2018

God's grace is powerful! It is also important for us to have the courage to witness to our faith. Beautiful story!