In observance of the Holy Week, I will be on blogging fast for the rest of the week. I will leave you with this touching article by Suzette, Rache's ICA friend, to serve as a Lenten reflection. What would you do now if you know that we are to witness the Second Coming in our lifetime?
Falling In Love with His Divine Mercy
by Suzette T. Yu-Kho (ICA batch 1991)
Like many Catholics, I once took my faith for granted: I did not attend Mass regularly, stopped going to Confession and avoided religious people. I strayed away from the Faith and began dabbling in other forms of worship. I even took part in an East Indian “healing” seminar (it only lasted for a day). Each of them guaranteed the same results: true peace and happiness.
Yet despite all their sweet words and the promise of Eden, I felt empty. As I plunged deeper into sin, I thought there was no escape. There was no way that I could go back to the Church and face God being the sinner that I was--I was incredibly ashamed of myself! How could I stand there singing hymns with other “saintly” people who never committed such atrocious deeds? I could not fathom confessing to a priest once again who in my mind would surely rebuke me; consequently, for a quite a long time, I did not receive the Holy Eucharist either.
Years later, I was still in my predicament when I heard of Stanley Villavicencio: a Filipino lay person who touched the lives of sinners from all around the world and opened their hearts to Jesus Christ’s Divine Mercy. His testimony was mind-boggling: after three days of being pronounced “clinically dead” in Chong Hua Hospital in Cebu, he came back to life, much to the shock of his doctors and family members who were busy arranging his funeral. He claimed to have seen Jesus upon his death amidst a garden filled with various kinds of beautiful flowers. Jesus then showed him the film of his life starting from the time he was a young boy up to the moment of his death. Whenever he committed a venial sin, the film would slow down; whenever he committed a mortal sin, the film would stop and enlarge itself. Nothing could be denied since the film had the exact date and time of when the sins were done--even the minutes and seconds were recorded! He also said the sins he confessed to a priest felt lighter compared to the sins he did not confess.
After reviewing the film of his life, Jesus then sent Stanley back to earth with a mission and that was to spread the word of His Divine Mercy. He told Stanley that He would be communicating with him very often. In this dream-like state, Stanley could see, touch and even embrace Christ. Stanley was also asked to obey his authorities (Cardinal Vidal and Msgr. Cris Garcia, his spiritual director) who instructed him to write down the messages he would receive every time there was an encounter with Jesus. Msgr. Cris Garcia who had been endowed with the gift of internal locution was made aware of each encounter simultaneously by Jesus Himself; he in turn would confirm the messages with Cardinal Vidal. To date there have been 31 encounters with our Lord since 1993.
Jesus’ main message is simple: the doors of His Mercy are still wide open to penitent sinners. Souls should not hesitate to come back to Him even if their “sins be as plentiful as the stars in the sky”. If people refuse to pass through the doors of His Mercy, they have to pass through the doors of His Justice after the period of time He allots. He is also asking us to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy unceasingly, receive the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist often and celebrate the Mass regularly. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a powerful tool against hell for a dying soul: if prayed for a dying soul, God will see the soul through the wounds of His Son instead of through that person’s sins. If a repentant sinner prays the Chaplet for himself even just once, God will also be merciful to him because Jesus says that He will stand between the sinner and His Father upon that person’s death. Furthermore, Jesus promises that on the Feast of the Divine Mercy (the first Sunday after Easter) “the soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishments”. Church officials say that the graces one receives during Divine Mercy Sunday is similar to the graces obtained during baptism.
Stanley’s resurrection was so miraculous that the doctor who attended to him decided to enter the seminary. He is now a Jesuit priest doing missionary work in Africa besides being the head of the Jesuit Hospital of the Philippines. Stanley’s testimony is also supported by 22 bishops and 2 cardinals in the Philippines as well as various Church leaders throughout the world including the late Pope John Paul II (who during his lifetime was promoting the Divine Mercy devotion and fulfilled the vision of Saint Faustina in the 1930s by declaring the first Sunday after Easter as the Divine Mercy Sunday in 2000; Pope John Paul II incidentally died on the eve of the Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005). His story has attracted a huge number of people from different countries and has converted many to Christianity. When he went to China to deliver his message, he miraculously started speaking in Mandarin even though he had no background on the language. By the end of his speech, the Chinese audience had tears in their eyes: they understood every word he said and 200 of them embraced the Catholic Faith right away!
Last July 16th, I was able to bring Stanley Villavicencio to our community via his Divine Mercy volunteer team. I was fortunate and honored that he was able to spare some time for our villagers despite his impossibly-busy schedule. He was indeed tireless and passionate about his mission. Besides narrating his experience with death and encounters with our Lord, he also adeptly answered questions especially on the Sacrament of Penance and why it was so necessary.
Towards the end of his talk, there was a veneration of the images of Jesus and Mary. Since Cardinal Vidal did not allow Stanley to lay hands on individuals for healing, people were just asked to approach the images themselves and many miraculous incidents have occurred worldwide during the veneration.
In my case, one of those people I prayed for during the veneration was my second son who was only 19 months old at the time. He was diagnosed with asthma then and was wheezing. He also developed big red spots all over his arms and torso that morning and I had no idea where they came from. Almost immediately after I prayed for him at the veneration, however, his skin condition improved and we did not have to give him medication beginning the next day at all! His asthma disappeared as well!
Perhaps one of the greatest miracles that took place was the fact that the participants were awakened by his message. We realized that reconciliation with our Lord also starts with reconciling with our enemies. If we want to obtain our Lord’s Mercy, we should be merciful towards one another, too. There is also this urgent need to spread the apostolate for we do not know when our hour will come and we need to save as many souls as we can. As Jesus told Stanley, “He who saves a soul saves his own.”
In spite of his hectic schedule, Stanley was so kind to grant me an interview for the benefit of our readers:
Question: Many of us are delighted to hear that Jesus has chosen a Filipino to relay his Divine Mercy message. Does God have a special plan for the Philippines?
Stanley: There is a bright future for the Philippines because Jesus loves us. He says we should not lose hope. There is a special plan for us: Filipinos around the world are being used by the Lord. They are not only there to work but they are also being used to evangelize.
Question: What is Jesus’ stance on artificial contraception?
Stanley: Jesus is very sad because our Church also has family planning, but it should be natural family planning. It’s not the family-planning problem which makes children live in the streets: it’s the parents’ irresponsibility. God will find a way to feed the children. It is not us who will feed them, it is the Lord. We just have to trust Him but we also have to work. We can’t just sit and waste time by gambling, drinking…
Question: Do you have any clues as to when Jesus’ Second Coming will be?
Stanley: He said that I will witness His Final Coming but He did not say how or when.
Question: What can you say to people who deny the existence of hell?
Stanley: There is a hell because Jesus mentioned to me that there are only two choices: heaven or hell. There is also purgatory but then purgatory is part of heaven; it is just a cleansing area because heaven is only for the clean and the pure and nobody is clean. All of us are sinners so we have to pass through purgatory for cleansing. Jesus has mentioned hell to me several times. The souls there suffer much, and it’s for eternity. You can never get out.
Question: How exactly does Jesus look like?
Stanley: You cannot totally describe the Lord. You cannot just totally describe your feeling, your happiness, and your satisfaction. He is everything. As I see it He’s taller than me and if you look at Him from a distance His hair is blonde because of His golden aura and its reflection on Him. But when He is just in front of you, His hair is black, straight, but wavy. He’s very handsome: eyes are blue, skin is pinkish, sharp nose, and his teeth are all white and even. He has a moustache and when He smiles you can see His dimples. He is more polite than me because in every conversation He always says “Please”. So I say to myself, “How humble is our Lord!”
Question: Why is there so much suffering in the world?
Stanley: Jesus allows suffering because it makes us closer to the Lord. The more we suffer, the more we pray. Suffering is purification, suffering is cleansing. We should not blame the Lord whenever we suffer.
Question: Will rich people be able to make it to heaven?
Stanley: Yes, rich people can also make it to heaven because it is not in wealth or poverty but in how good your heart is. If God were given the chance He would want everyone to enter heaven but we have free will which is why we make our own destinations. Without free will we all become robots.
Question: Will the Divine Mercy message help those who have already died?
Stanley: Jesus explained to me that Mercy is only possible when you are alive; justice takes over when you are dead. While you are still living, breathing, Mercy is still possible. When you die, there is no more Mercy. When you pray for someone who has already died, your prayers will help him if he is in purgatory but if he is in hell, there is nothing that you can do.
Question: How will we know if we are saved?
Stanley: In truth, we do not know because salvation is a free gift from God. If God were to have a choice, He wants all of us to be saved but because of free will, man chooses where to go. Religion cannot save us. Religion will only guide us to salvation; however, among all the religions, it is only the Catholic Church which has plenary indulgences. When Jesus explained the Feast of the Divine Mercy, He said that if you are in a state of grace and receive Holy Communion that day, there is a complete forgiveness of sins and punishments. That grace is also called a plenary indulgence by the Church.
Question: Is it a sin when people claim that they are saved?
Stanley: Yes, it is a sin. They think they are righteous. That’s pride.
Question: Many feel that it is not necessary to confess to a priest when they can confess directly to God Himself. What can you say about this?
Stanley: It’s written in the Bible, “Whatever sins you forgive on earth will be forgiven in heaven and whatever sins you retain on earth will be retained in heaven.” If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God then we have to obey the Bible.
Whenever we go to confession, we should see the priest through his vocation as a priest and not through his sins. It is our Lord sitting there listening to us as we confess. If the priest is a sinner, it is he who will answer to God, not us. Whenever we attend Mass, don’t we receive graces from the Mass through the priest, too? If we keep on thinking of the priest as a sinner, how can we obtain graces from the Mass? Don’t we use a broom to clean our homes before a visitor comes? Isn’t a broom dirty yet why do we use something dirty to clean our homes? In the same way, we should receive the Sacraments through the priest (a sinner ordained by God) who is God’s instrument and view him through his priesthood, not through his sins to receive the graces our Lord wants us to receive.
Question: Can you share your thoughts on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist?
Stanley: We should prepare ourselves before taking Holy Communion. Jesus mentioned that He observed that during the Mass, most people receive Communion but are they prepared? I often ask my audiences what they do before a visitor comes over. They reply that they clean their homes and prepare. If Christ were to enter our bodies, we also have to prepare by going to Confession. We don’t just keep receiving the Holy Host without proper preparation because by doing so, we are just adding to our sins. It is not ordinary bread that we are taking. It is the Body and Blood of our Lord. Look at the Divine Mercy image. During the time of St. Faustina it was explained that the white rays represented water and the red rays represented blood. When Jesus and I spoke, He said that the white rays represented the Sacrament of Confession, the cleansing of our soul while the red rays represented the Holy Eucharist. He is really present in the Eucharist. What we are truly receiving is His Body and Blood.
Question: The Catholic Church has many traditions which are being questioned by other religious sects. What are your thoughts on this?
Stanley: Actually they say that we worship images. In the Old Testament when Moses went up the mountain the people left down below made images of animals and birds and worshipped them. When Moses came down he destroyed all the idols. It was because they made images of animals. In the New Testament, though, Jesus became flesh and many people saw Him which was why they were able to make images of Him; however, those are images of our Lord, not images of animals. Also, we are not worshipping the pictures. Those are just our guides in worshipping the Lord. In the same way, we are not worshipping Mama Mary. We are just asking for her intercession like we ask for help from the saints. The saints are similar to our lawyers here on earth. When the judge gives you a subpoena, you don’t go directly to the judge; you look for lawyers to accompany you to the judge. It’s the same way when you die. The saints are our lawyers and they really help especially the saints you’re devoted to. The saints are our good examples because they sacrificed so much.
After thanking Stanley and being touched by His Divine Mercy, I concluded that the greatest weapon Satan has is despair. Jesus offers hope to every one of us. He calls us to His flock no matter how horrible our sins are and yes, He can forgive. According to Stanley, the only sin which Jesus cannot forgive is if one cannot believe that He has the power to forgive ALL sins because by doing so that person does not believe that He is God. That is the sin which hurts Him the most: the sin of distrust.
Isn’t it funny that the young woman who used to shy away from the Faith is presently an ardent believer and promoter of the Catholic teachings? Isn’t it ironic that the same lady who never prayed the Rosary on her own initiative was able to convince her husband to joyfully pray the Rosary with her every night? Indeed, the Lord works in wonderful ways!
THE CHAPLET OF THE DIVINE MERCY
Using ordinary rosary beads, say one Our Father, Hail Mary and The Creed.
On the large Our Father beads pray the following: “Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”
On each of the small beads pray the following: “For the sake of His sorrowful passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Conclude the fifth decade with: “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” (3x)
“Jesus, King of mercy, we trust in You.”