My mother tells a story about a visit with her mother after she and her siblings were grown up and living far away. In my mother and aunt’s case, far away in another country. The reunion was an emotional one. Overwhelmed by the immensity of having all her children together under one roof and the subsequent chaos of loud talk, laughter, and undoubtedly, tears of joy, my grandmother retired to a side room where she sat still and listened from afar.
Abuela claimed that she could hear and understand everything better from a distance.
I had that same experience recently, and it has stayed with me in the most amazing way. Last Saturday I visited the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. My dear friend and fellow pilgrim took me there in spite of some awfully sorry weather, but even through the rain, I could tell it’s an exquisitely beautiful place.
Our pilgrimage coincided with the celebration of St. Faustina’s feast day, so Mass and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy were held outside in anticipation of large crowds. It was wet. And cold.
Did I say it was wet and cold? We decided to sit in the small church instead of getting soaked. Had I asked, I’m sure my friend would have braved the elements, but it was far more intimate inside, and the better choice for us. We prayed at the relics of Saint Faustina and Saint John Paul II.
We sat in the muted silence of the church, two sisters in Christ huddled together whispering the prayers of the chaplet, together, and yet, somehow, separately. We each have our own unique needs and desires of the heart that we poured into the moment, but there we were, side-by-side, united by the same Truth.
Eventually we sat back, finished with the formal prayer and now lost to our private thoughts and ponderings. I could hear parts of the Mass float up from the field — not the whole Mass, only parts. Two prayers, especially, came to me clearly like I had been sitting in the front row, and it was as if I were hearing them for the first time. It was my favorite part of the visit to the shrine.
Have you noticed how many times we ask for mercy in Mass? No? Me neither. But I might count, just because.
I’ve often thought I needed signs and wonders to believe, my heart giving my mind a soft rebuke for my lack of faith, but there, in that moment, I let go of my trepidation.