by Elizabeth Ficocelli
Our Council of Knights recently organized a Divine Mercy prayer program in honor of Pope John Paul II’s 25th anniversary as Pontiff. It was a pleasure for me to attend and celebrate what I consider to be the two greatest gifts our Church has received from Poland: a strong and faithful Vicar of Christ and the message of Divine Mercy, which has touched my own heart in a very special and profound way.
I first became aware of the image and story of Divine Mercy about eight years ago, when I read the diary of a simple Polish nun, the recently canonized Faustina Kowalska. This woman was blessed to receive many supernatural gifts from God, above all, the responsibility to transcribe messages directly from Jesus Himself. In St. Faustina’s writings, Jesus pleads for the return of sinners and implores our trust in His unfathomable mercy. His lamentations are so beautiful and persuasive that when I read them my heart was moved and I began to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet on my Rosary.
Not long after, I had the good fortune to discover a video that detailed the life of St. Faustina. I felt it would be a wonderful blessing to share with our scripture group, and a great opportunity to teach our friends how to pray the chaplet. To prepare for the event, I decided to pray the Divine Mercy novena and make a confession on Divine Mercy Sunday (the Sunday after Easter) for a complete pardon of sins as promised in the words of Jesus.
Just when everything was falling into place so perfectly, the unthinkable happened, and I committed the most regrettable sin of my life. In a moment of weakness largely attributed to many sleepless nights with a newborn, I raged against my four-year-old. For a few fleeting seconds, I wanted to hurt him — and I did. Horrified, my world turned upside-down. I was shocked and devastated at my unbridled outburst, and filled with deep shame and regret. How could this have happened, I dismayed, now, during the holiest time of year?
Even the forgiveness of my husband and son could not console me. I wondered how I could ever face God after what I had done, but I knew it was imperative. So, with heavy heart, I went to Confession. I cried as I have never cried before in Reconciliation, as I related to the priest what had happened. Although he was sympathetic and understanding, the absolution still felt hollow and empty. My heart was broken and it seemed no penance could ever be enough to take away my pain.
As I was leaving the confessional, however, an amazing thing happened. The moment I opened the door, I felt a sudden and very tangible sensation as if someone were pouring a bucket of water over top of me. I felt washed clean, tingling all the way down to my toes and at the same moment feather-light, like the weight of the world had just been lifted off my shoulders. I had never experienced anything like this before.
Instantly, I recognized that I had just received a miracle from God — I was experiencing firsthand His Divine Mercy. This was not mere words on a page, but living and true mercy, and it was amazing and powerfully healing. God saw how broken, humbled and genuinely contrite I was, and He was welcoming me back with open arms — me, a poor sinner, who could not forgive myself.
The words of Jesus, as given to St. Faustina, held new meaning for me: “Know, my daughter, that My Heart is mercy itself. From this sea of mercy graces pour out upon the whole world. No souls that come to Me depart without being comforted. All misery vanishes in My Mercy…”
This incredible experience has taught me some very important lessons. First, I am acutely aware now of how frail I am — how frail we all are — and how quickly salvation can be jeopardized. Second, I also understand in a new and meaningful way that God’s forgiveness, regardless of the sins we commit, is ours simply for the asking. Third, God has revealed to me how light can come from darkness. Sharing my story with others has helped many return to Confession and experience Divine Mercy for themselves.
Although it has been eight years since my “confession miracle”, the memory of it is as fresh in my mind – and my body — as if it happened yesterday. I know today that every time I make the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I am granted that same unconditional and Divine Mercy, even if I only experience it with the eyes of faith.
The message of Divine Mercy is and always will be a special part of our family. The image of Our Lord with those red and white rays streaming from His heart is displayed in our home and it is why the last words on our children’s lips during their nightly prayers are, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
Elizabeth Ficocelli is a Catholic author of fifteen books for adults and young people, a national speaker, and host of the radio program, “Answering the Call.” For more information, please visit www.elizabethficocelli.com
Published in Columbia, April 2004