33 Days to Merciful Love

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Why St. Therese?

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Father Michael Gaitley's new Marian Press title, 33 Days to Merciful Love: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy, was released on Feb. 11. The response has been enormous. We spoke with Fr. Michael about the book — his favorite to date:

This is a consecration to Divine Mercy, which focuses on St. Therese. Most people associate Divine Mercy with St. Faustina. Why Therese?

Therese is the saint of Merciful Love. Faustina is the saint of Divine Mercy. But "Merciful Love" and "Divine Mercy" are really the same thing. So the two saints are closely related. More specifically, Therese pioneered the modern movement that is bringing Catholic spirituality back to a focus on God's mercy, and she passed the baton of that effort to Faustina. In fact, Therese once appeared to her Polish friend in a dream and encouraged her to trust in Jesus (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 150). During that same dream, Faustina asked her, "shall I be a saint as you are ... ?" Therese responded, "Yes."

Therese and Faustina are more "like" each other than most people realize. They're both totally dedicated to God's great mercy.

What is your own relationship with Therese? How did she enter the picture in your life?

Therese first entered my life in high school, right around the time I had to decide which college I would attend. The choice came down to two: a secular university in California or a Catholic college whose students take their faith very seriously. While I wanted the secular school, God seemed to want the Catholic school — but it would take a miracle for me to choose what He wanted. Thankfully, the Lord worked such a miracle through the intercession of St. Therese. Let's just say she sent me several of her famous roses, which convinced me to go to the Catholic college despite my initial dislike for it. (It ended up being one of the best decisions I've ever made.)

But God worked an even bigger miracle in my life through St. Therese. By her writings and the doctrine of her "Little Way," I became convinced of Jesus' tender love for me — weak, broken sinner that I am. Now, that may sound cliché, but it's the truth. I'd had serious difficulty believing that God could really love me. Therese was the first one to break through and convince me of God's goodness and Merciful Love, and it's her Little Way that carries me still.

Many have made the consecration to Jesus through Mary using your book 33 Days to Morning Glory. How is this Divine Mercy consecration related to Marian consecration?

A consecration to Divine Mercy is really the next step after making a Marian consecration. I say that because the essence of Marian consecration is to allow Mary to bring us to the pierced side of Jesus, which is the Fountain of Mercy. So, a book like 33 Days to Morning Glory allows Mary to bring us to that fountain. 33 Days to Merciful Love, on the other hand, is about drinking from that fountain. And while we can get to the Fountain of Mercy without making a Marian consecration, such a consecration enables us to drink from it so much more deeply and easily. That's why I'd say that while you can certainly benefit from reading 33 Days to Merciful Love without having consecrated yourself to Jesus through Mary, you might want to try making a Marian consecration first.

You've said that this is your favorite book you've written. Why is that?

Well, let me put it this way. It's like I've been told the most amazing secret about God's Merciful Love by St. Therese herself, the greatest saint of modern times. It's a secret that even those who are most devoted to her often don't fully appreciate or even know much about, a secret that has saved my life and priestly vocation, a secret the drew me out from temptations of discouragement and even despair, a secret that has granted me great joy and happiness, a secret that, more or less, I've had to keep to myself for more than a decade because I didn't quite feel ready or capable of fully communicating it. Well, with this book, I've felt ready, and by the grace of God, I believe I've been able to fully share what's been in my heart of hearts for so long. More than in any of my other books, I've been able to give a reason for the hope that is within me. As we read in 1 Peter, we are to "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope (3:15).

To order 33 Days to Merciful Love, visit ShopMercy.org or call 1-800-462-7426.

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Anon - Nov 13, 2016

Therese overcame in her short life by Merciful Love the unholy trinity that Satan brought into the world. Sin, suffering and death. Sin - Mercy preserved her from it, Suffering - Mercy gently turned it all into the greatest joy, and Death - Mercy made it the sweetest martyrdom of Love!

Reply to "concerns" - Jul 22, 2016

I read through it all in entirety and it is fair to say that these thoughts do come to everyone. I myself have had such doubts on the humility part that says being humble even to the point of not telling the truth. I am not able to agree with that because it seems so unfair. At last, I settled it in my mind that saints are a different breed. We are called to look at them as role models, so it is OK if we are not able to accept certain ways of their attitude, as long as we emulate as much as we could that is fair and honest to us. In the end, it is our conscience that matters to us & if we have surrendered our conscience, thoughts & mind to Jesus/Mary then we are good. They will deal with it. We will be fine. We can make mistakes but it is OK, they will bring and lead us in the right path.

Elizabeth - May 22, 2016

Yes, Father Mike Gaitley did an excellent work in "33 Days to Merciful Love". He unpacked the teachings of St. Therese so thoroughly thus rendering it easy to understand.

Margaret - May 19, 2016

This is addressed to the person who left a comment on May 13th with the name "concerns". After reading your comments, my suggestion to you is to read 33 Days to Merciful Love...or if you did already, perhaps read it again. Father Mike really explains things well and most of your concerns are already in the book. Also, you sound fairly young and i thought perhaps there is a youth program in your parish -maybe you could bring some of your concerns up to someone there or a group leader of sorts. I just feel bad that you have so much on your mind -I want you to find your answers:)

Lilianne - May 18, 2016

I belive that st.Terese aways kept the flowers and cross united with each other.Not arguing about a broken vase kept life running the course of a day somehow peacefully.She gave the flowers but kept the cross for herself wich is more like the merciful love in her little way.

Elizabeth - May 16, 2016

Doubtful Thomas'es are still walking among us.

Mary - May 15, 2016

I wish for many here at my parish to consecrate themselves to Divine Mercy, but we need 33 Days to Merciful Love in Spanish. Please make the translated version available as you did for 33 Days to Morning Glory. Thank you. God bless you.

thoughts of today - May 15, 2016

thinking more on this today, I've been thinking how immature it can be to even worry so much about if someone likes someone or they like them back. How elementary-school is that! Like yay for me, or yay for you, being all nice to someone we don't "like". Do we think we dislike them, because we haven't been self-effacing enough to find something good, true, and/or beautiful in their heart and soul beyond something about them that irritates us? Do we dislike them because we are impatient, selfish, or superficial, or just seeking attention or praise? Do we dislike the way they're trying to show us how we might be wrong about something -- is this pride in us? I've been guilty of all of this myself. I think more important than trying to become ever so "virtuous" by being "nice" to someone I "don't like" something about, is to think more about how I can help lead this person closer to God, and how can I learn to get along with them so that I allow God to use them to lead me closer to God too? I'm sure the other sisters in the convent all helped to lead Sr. Therese to greater holiness, whether by challenging her, encouraging her, supporting her, or praying for her -- for her Little Way. I do like St. Therese, and I do want to try to follow her Little Way. I can't be exactly like her, but I can be like me and try to hope against hope in God's goodness like she did, and love God like a child as she did.

concerns - May 13, 2016

even though I love St. Therese and would hope she would want to be my friend had I lived in her convent or known her on the outside, I have some concerns that I still haven't figured out, in relation to how to apply her Little Way to my life. Like, did she really write all those poems and plays, even though she dropped out of school?-- or did some of her sisters write for her and attribute it to her? And, in the full oblation to merciful love -- it sounded like she was asking for the early death that she got ("to die of love"), and I'm afraid of that for my own life? I just wouldn't want anyone to get confused and develop suicidal thoughts because of all this longing for heaven business... all in God's timing. And if the oblation to God's justice is asking for suffering, what's the difference with the way she asked for merciful love and suffered so much? (I want someone to explain it for me, I want to understand it better, i'll pray/ponder for now). Also, I'm confused about humility from her example at times... like the time (remember in the Therese movie by Luke Films?) when Sr. Augustine thought Therese had broken the vase when she came in, and St. Therese let her believe something that wasn't true... is what she did the most humble thing, or would it also be humble to have told the truth, even if the sister wouldn't believe the truth? She could have told her what truly happened, and then let it go without arguing? This is very hard to do, to be falsely accused, and her attitude was sweet about it, but what about the element of truth being part of humility? I was told that humility has to be truthful?... that we shouldn't lie to make ourselves look better or worse, but tell the truth? I don't know, I haven't perfected it myself, and there's probably so many cases of when I've failed in these kinds of faults and got defensive, unlike St. Therese. It's hard not to lose our temper, so to maintain peace of heart and to be peaceful to others requires virtue, like patience. Also, sometimes I side with other sisters that St. Therese had conflict with, since obviously Therese is the holiest one of us all, it's easier to understand their side of it sometimes... like when she would incessantly smile at Sr. Augustine and it sort of ticked her off, I'm trying to imagine how she felt, and I wonder if maybe it would bug me too... wondering, does this poor girl suffer from same-sex attraction? is her smile genuine or fake? it's kind of more annoying when someone is being nice without really meaning it, y'know? We all have to do that though otherwise we'd be losing our temper all the time, cuz so many things are irritating, in ourselves and others. We have to behave ourselves and be polite if possible. And yet I still wonder, and hope, would I have gotten along with St. Therese, or debated her philosophy about not worrying about purgatory? it's easy for her to say how trusting she would be if she had committed more sins, but she doesn't understand the psychological feelings that go along with the consequences of sin, so she should definitely be thankful she was preserved. Like when her sister wrote she had been to Paris or somewhere and seen scandalous things (and who knows what, if she's the one that had the chance to almost get married) and didn't know if she could go to communion and Therese said she "understood" and go to Communion. I might have told the sister, go to confession, then go to communion. I honestly don't think Therese understood if she hadn't experienced the feelings or gone through what her sister did. Some of us DO need purgatory, and we'll be the better for that purification, because try as we might, there's still more to purify before being as ready as St. Therese was. Therese's words were documented, but others who were around her were apparently not as documented, and maybe that's humility of their part, because we always get Therese's side of it all, how virtuous she was in relation to them, but how about how they all formed her to be that way, and only the good Lord knows what they went through in order to mold her into a saint. How do we know that Sr. Augustine also didn't have to use many virtues to put up with St. Therese too? THink of it, a younger sister she had to look after, maybe there were many times when she was kinder to her than Therese knew, using the very same philosophy Therese had about not knowing if what looks like a lack of virtue is another type of virtue in disguise? Why am I writing all of this, I guess to express that even though this is my favorite book, and even though I love St. Therese and all her flowery-ness, I myself often find Therese very difficult to relate to, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to get to know her better and be a better friend in her close circle of spiritual companions. I dread the thought that maybe Therese wouldn't like me :( I would hope that we could become kindred spirits, and that she wouldn't just put up with me, but would truly like me. Everyone can irritate someone else, even Therese, so I hope she can overlook my irritating qualities and pray for me to learn better trust.

may 13th - May 13, 2016

and today is the next consecration day since the last one! :) my plan is to renew every month, that's what I'm doing today, after I immediately got the book and consecrated on Good Friday. I'm mentioning this not to brag, but to suggest it as an idea to others. Re-reading it, even if it's just in a "do-it-yourself" kind of way, is helping me to understand it all more in depth, take it more to heart, and learn it more fully so that I can pass on what I'm learning by word and example to others. This is my favorite of his books so far. Therese helps me trust more, and have more hope. Even if I am a bit different and don't mind a transition through purgatory for the love of God if it's necessary for me (even if it wasn't necessary for her) I see it all as Mercy. God is so good! I still agree with her ideas about striving for sanctity, because He will be our sanctity Himself.