Already last night’s timeline is incomplete: today I was reminded that my first real, in-depth exposure to St. Faustina and Divine Mercy came in February 2016, five months before we left for Poland. Fr. Chris Allar of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, keepers of the Shrine of Divine Mercy here in the United States, came to St. Michael to lead our annual parish retreat, and despite having a full agenda, managed to infuse the occasion with enough about St. Faustina, the Divine Mercy image, and the revelations of God’s boundless love and mercy that my curiosity was sparked.
His message seemed almost to good to be true: God loves us and wants us all to be saved. To do so, we must A) ask for His mercy, B) be merciful to others, and C) completely trust in Him.
That’s it, in a nutshell. Hope swells in the heart at the thought it might be that simple, doesn’t it? (Too simple, some would argue–where’s the judgement and justice in that?) Of course, trust in God is not always easy, nor is humbling ourselves to ask for mercy or extend it to others.
One personal story told by Fr. Allar sticks with me to this day, and it seems now to be the spark that set me smoldering over the past two years. (I will do my best to recall it since I took no notes at the time; perhaps he will read this and correct me one day!) He talked about a time during his own conversion in which he was remembering his grandmother, who had passed away some time before. He had loved her, but had not seen her before she died and regretted not praying for her soul—until he was told that, since God exists outside of time, it was not too late to pray for her, even years later. His prayers, even now, matter!
How is that possible? How can prayers made years after the death of a loved one affect the salvation of his or her soul, when we believe that particular judgement occurs immediately after death?
That doesn’t make sense to us, because we are time-bound and sequential creatures. But to God, Who exists beyond time and for all eternity, everything is present. The prayers we offer for those who have died, whether before, during, or after their death, are effective because God knows you have prayed, you are praying, and you will pray for that soul.
Do you follow? Our past, present, and future prayers are already in the balance at the time of their death. (To be clear, He doesn’t force you to pray—and He knows just as well when you didn’t pray, aren’t praying, and won’t pray!)
This was a beautiful revelation to me, because it meant that I, who came so late to the faith and the Church, could still pray effectively for those I had lost before I knew the Truth. My paternal grandmother, in particular, came to mind: She took her own life when my dad was a boy, and for as long as I’ve known the story, I’ve longed to know her, to see her one day, smiling and beautiful as she is in the old photos I’ve seen of her.
I was not yet born when she died, but we are all present to God. From God’s perspective, every loving act we undertake is in the present tense.
These days, I pray daily for her—Mary Rose Thorp—and my cousin Eddie, and other family members, friends, acquaintances, and strangers who left this world too soon for whatever reason, in the hope that as they, too, step out of time and into eternity, they see God’s love for them and joyfully accept His mercy.
I rejoice that my prayers count. I am humbled that they are counted on. And I persevere because they have already been counted.