Updated: Jan 19
Trust and Confidence Years ago, I read a book by Connie Rossini, Trusting in God with St. Therese. In it Connie shares her own personal spiritual struggle and growth through tragedy, and life experiences, with the help of St. Therese. But there was one thing, in particular, that struck me while reading the book. And it had to do with a statement that St. Therese made about a murderer in France who was about to go to the gallows. I remembered this story from her diary, Story of a Soul, but did not remember her saying this…. that God would not give us desires that He did not mean to fulfill. “I felt in the depth of my heart certain that our desires would be granted, but to obtain courage to pray for sinners I told God I was sure He would pardon the poor, unfortunate Pranzini; that I’d believe this even if he went to his death without any signs of repentance or without having gone to confession. I was absolutely confident in the mercy of Jesus.” (St Therese, Story of a Soul) Pranzini, had been unrepentant, his heart hardened to God. Then, just seconds before his execution, seeing a priest standing nearby with a crucifix, He suddenly asked to kiss it. This was St. Therese’s confirmation. Now, you may say, “Well, she is a saint, so no wonder He answered her prayer!” Yes, that is true. But having complete trust and confidence in God is something that we can all reach for, since we are all called to be saints. And as long as our desire conforms with the will of God, why shouldn’t we be confident? This brings me to the next stage of my understanding of this extreme mercy of God.
Retroactive Consolation Throughout my life, I had wondered what it would be like to actually live in Jesus time. I pondered if I would have been a faithful follower, or one who walked away? In meditative prayer, I would sometimes place myself in different scenes of Jesus life, especially the Passion, to be there with Him in my mind. One day while I was “with Jesus” consoling Him in the Garden of Olives during his agony, I asked Him if He could accept it as if I was really there. To my surprise, and in the depths of my heart, I just knew…”Yes, you are there with Me.” I hadn’t known, or been taught this before, and it blew me away. Fast forward some years, and while reading the book Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Father Michael Gaitley, this desire, that of actually “being with Jesus” in prayer, was confirmed. Again, the confirmation blew my mind. Father Gaitley called it “retroactive consolation”. He writes: “The idea of giving retroactive consolation to Christ has something to do with consoling him now for his suffering in the past. Although he doesn’t use the word ‘retroactive’ Pope Pius XI seems to endorse such an idea in Miserentissimus Redemptor: Now if, because of our sins, also which were as yet in the future, but were forseen, the soul of Christ became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that then, too, already He derived somewhat of solace from our reparation, which was likewise forseen…” Father Gaitley then goes on to say that others (saints, theologians) have confirmed this idea, but in particular he mentions Saint Faustina Kowalska. In six of the nine days of the Divine Mercy Novena that Jesus gave to her, He speaks of this mystery… that we can somehow console Him now for what He suffered back then. Two examples: (Second day) Today bring to Me the souls of priests and religious, and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. (Third day) Today bring to Me all devout and faithful souls and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. These souls brought Me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were that drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness. I had read Saint Faustina's Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, and prayed this novena, but now more of this mystery was coming into focus.
Grace outside of time If this wasn’t profound enough, it led to another amazing insight. I began to ponder…what about those loved ones, or relatives who I had not prayed for at their death, but wished I had? What about that distant cousin who took his own life? Or that relative who left the Faith, and died unexpectedly? Some of them, obviously, I didn’t know were going to die, and some I never even knew. But I still had some regrets, due to just being very young, ignorant, or self-absorbed at the time. And now I had the desire to pray for them as if I was there by their side at the moment of death. Would the Lord accept my prayer now, as if I was there then? Since God is outside of time, couldn’t He, in His mercy, accept this? Didn’t St. Therese say that God would not give us desires that He did not mean to fulfill? I didn’t know for sure, but this idea had all the hallmarks of a loving, merciful God… to the extreme… which I knew my Savior to be.
Father Chris Alar Fast forward again, to our present time. My sister has been watching videos by Father Chris Alar, who is the Director of the Association of Marian Helpers at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA. I have watched some of them as well. (I found it no coincidence that he is the director at the Shrine of Divine Mercy) My sister shared a particular video with me, that had blown her away. And she had no idea that I had been pondering this. (I will provide the link here. Another talk on this is here.) In this video, Father Alar recounts his own grandmother’s death by suicide, and his regret that he was not only absent to her during that time of difficulty and pain in her life, but that he could do nothing to help her in that tragic moment in time. He and his family were convinced that because she took her own life by a gunshot to the head, there was no time for repentance, and she was in hell. Through a series of events, and a good priest, who was instrumental in bringing Fr. Alar (who was not a priest at the time) back to his faith, Fr. Alar was given a better understanding of what the Church actually teaches, and is in the Catechism, regarding death by suicide.
CCC The catechism states (and note the last paragraph):
“Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of” (#2280).
“Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God” (#2281).
“If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide” (#2282).
“We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for people who have taken their own lives” (#2283). †