I used to volunteer in a hospital in Boston as a Minister of Holy Communion. It is a great privilege. After several years, I began to also pray the Divine Mercy chaplet for dying patients in the hospital. The Lord always seemed to find a way for me to reach the very sick and dying and reveal the greatness of His Mercy.
On Palm Sunday last year, I had visited some patients with Holy Communion. When I was done, I was about to leave the chaplain’s office and go home when I noticed a box on a table in a corner of the room. Inside the box were palms, each tied in the shape of a little cross.
There were a lot of them. In fact, the box was filled. It was Palm Sunday at 6pm. “OK, OK, Lord, I’ll go give them out.”
So I set out, with the box of palms.
I made it to all the nurses’ stations. Everyone wanted palms. Palms for themselves, palms for their patients, palms for their families. I even left extras for the night shift.
On the last floor, as the supply ran out, one of the nurses said, “You should go into room 12.” I said, “Why?” She said, “You should go.”
So I went.
I saw a patient in his bed with his sister, his wife, and his brother standing around him. He was completely emaciated. He had on a breathing mask that pumped fresh oxygen, but even with that, his chest heaved with extraordinary labor at every breath. There’s no way a man could live too long breathing like that. His stare had fear.
Death was present.
I came over to his family and greeted them and introduced myself, and asked how everyone was. Now in between this conversation, the patient was motioning for attention from his sister. “No, I’ve already told you, you can’t go home until tomorrow, the doctors want you to stay overnight.” I understood: he knew he was going to die that night, and he wanted to die at home.
I asked if there was anything I could do. Now, people sometimes think I’m a priest, and so his sister asked him, “Do you want to see the priest?” I’ll never forget his response:
It had the most energy I could imagine someone in his condition producing. It had defiance in it. It had permanence in it.
That is a huge “No.” It is a scary “No.”
Immediately, I turned to his wife and I showed her the Divine Mercy prayer card. I explained a little bit about it, and that I could go and get the Rosary beads she would need to pray it. She said, “OK.”
So I went to get the Rosary beads.
When I arrived back at the room, she had read more about the prayer, and said, “I’m going to pray this tonight.” As I left the room after saying goodbyes, I recalled in awe the Lord’s words to St. Faustina: “when [souls] say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the merciful Savior (Diary, 1541).”
God had a way to conquer this man’s huge, scary No.
What was it?
His Divine Mercy and my little yes. His Divine Mercy and the nurse’s little yes. His Divine Mercy and the man’s wife’s little yes.
Eve said No to God, too. It was a huge No, a scary No. But God had a way to conquer that No, too. It was His Divine Mercy and Mary’s little yes: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38 )
Evil is a huge, scary No. The world can seem like it’s filled with huge, scary No’s. But God has a way to conquer them all: it is His Divine Mercy.
All He needs is your little yes.