The recent tornado that ripped through Washington, Illinois, destroyed the home of my office manager, Kenna. When she heard the sirens and realized what was going on, she barely had enough time to wake her daughter and get her out of bed to run down to the basement of their house. As soon as they got down the stairs, the tornado took out her daughter’s bedroom and then tore through the rest of the house. If Kenna had delayed her decision to get her daughter out of bed by five seconds, neither one of them would be alive today.
In addition to Kenna’s house, the house of another one of my employees was also destroyed by the tornado. Two of my relatives who live in Washington also lost their homes. The path that the tornado took was less than a mile away from where I live. I feel guilty because the only inconveniences that my family and I had to endure were a loss of power for one day and a boil order that the City of Washington put into place for a few days.
Within hours of the tornado, hundreds of people took it upon themselves to reach out and assist the people whose homes were destroyed.
During the first few days after the storm, my wife volunteered to help out at different facilities that were set up in Washington to distribute items that were donated by local residents. She told me that she was overwhelmed by the generosity of the members of our community. One man walked in with several boxes of brand new blankets he had purchased from a local store. A woman dropped off a couple dozen new coats she had purchased from Bergners. Hundreds of other people donated newly purchased items.
On the first day my wife helped out, she said that within hours, the inside of the building looked like a showroom for Sam’s Warehouse. It was filled with everything from diapers to canned goods, which were being given away for free to people who were in need.
I periodically write about the importance of practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Since the storm, we’ve seen numerous people putting into practice four of the seven corporal works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless. Less visible, have been the people who pitched in by practicing two of the seven spiritual works of mercy: comfort the sorrowful and pray for the living and the dead.
A couple of years ago, in an article titled “A St. Louis Miracle,” I wrote about how my cousin’s house was spared during a tornado, while several of the houses that surrounded his house were significantly damaged or destroyed. Inside my cousin’s house, hanging on one of the walls, was a Divine Mercy picture.
My cousin learned about the Divine Mercy devotion and picture when he heard my mom speak at a youth-group meeting he attended when he was a teenager. During her presentation, my mom told the story of how, during World War II, two Catholic churches in different cities remained standing, while all the buildings around them had been completely destroyed by bombs. In each of the two churches, there was a large Diving Mercy picture hanging on a wall. In a neighborhood that was near one of the churches, all the houses were completely destroyed, except for one house that had a Divine Mercy picture hanging on a wall.
The history of the Divine Mercy dates back to Sunday, February 22, 1931, when our Lord appeared to a Polish nun, Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska. According to Sr. Faustina’s diary, our Lord was wearing a white garment and appeared to her as the “King of Divine Mercy.” There were rays of white and red light emanating from near his heart. Our Lord told Sr. Faustina, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul who will venerate this image will not perish.” (Note the word, “promise.”)
Sr. Faustina later wrote in her diary, “I saw two rays coming out from the Host, as in the image, closely united but not intermingled…” (Diary, 344). She then quoted our Lord: “The two rays [in the image] denote blood and water. The pale ray stands for the water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the blood that is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.” (Diary, 299). She later provided guidance to an artist who painted what she saw in her vision.
Sr. Faustina died on October 5, 1938, at the age of 33. She was beatified on April 18, 1993, and canonized on April 30, 2000. St. Faustina was the first saint to be canonized in the 21st century, and is commonly referred to as The Apostle of Mercy.
According to St. Faustina’s diary, Jesus taught her how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and asked her to teach it to others. The purpose of the chaplet is threefold: (1) to obtain mercy, (2) to develop trust in Christ’s mercy, and (3) to learn how to show mercy to others. You can find more information about devotion to the King of Divine Mercy at http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/backgr.htm, and details about how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet at http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/dmmap.htm.
For years, my mom has given newly married couples a framed picture of the Divine Mercy to hang in their homes.
In addition to my family, four of my brothers and sisters also live with their families in Washington, Illinois. Thanks to my mom, we all have Divine Mercy pictures hanging in our homes.
Although one of my brother’s homes had some damage to the exterior siding and the shingles of his house, there was no damage to the interior of his home. All the houses in the neighborhood behind his house were destroyed by the tornado. A house that was located down the street from my sister’s house was destroyed, while her house was untouched. The rest of our homes were untouched.
The dictionary defines “mercy” as “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power” and “lenient or compassionate treatment.” Does the merciful Son of God have the power to keep a tornado from destroying a house? We know the answer to that question:
And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep. And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us before we perish. And Jesus said to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm. But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him? Matthew 8:23-27.
I don’t know if any of our homes would have been destroyed by the tornado if we had not had the Divine Mercy pictures hanging in them. I do, however, believe that we receive special protection from our Lord at all times because we display in our homes the image that He described to St. Faustina. Although He is not physically present in our homes in the same way He was physically present in the boat with His apostles, He mercifully extends to us the same protection that He extended to His apostles.
A couple of days after the tornado hit, I ordered a dozen framed Divine Mercy pictures to give to my employees and a few of my relatives. I’m going to tell them that the picture is not a good luck charm. It is a representation of the King of Mercy, and a reminder to us that if we have faith in Him and look to Him for guidance and protection, He will protect us from harm.
It is my hope that all our family members, our friends, and the members of our community will view this recent experience as an opportunity to develop a devotion to the King of Divine Mercy. He is waiting for each of us to reach out to Him for mercy, guidance, and protection.