Divine Mercy and health care
Health-care professionals bring the Divine Mercy devotion to the sick and dying . . .
At 3 o’clock every afternoon, residents, staff and family members at the Town and Country Nursing Center in Lowell, Mass., gather in the community room to ask for God’s mercy for themselves and the whole world.
It is the “hour of mercy” when Jesus instructed a Polish saint to implore his mercy, promising, according to the diary she kept, that “in this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of me in virtue of my passion.”
Christ gave the Divine Mercy Chaplet to St. Faustina Kowalska in 1933 with instructions to pray it unceasingly. Legatus member and Maronite Deacon Steven Marcus is president and CEO of New England Geriatrics, which operates Town and Country. He introduced the devotion at the facility after learning about it last year.Marcus also placed the Divine Mercy image, which depicts rays representing blood and water coming from Christ’s heart, in the home’s chapel.
Marcus is part of a wave of health-care professionals who have been drawn to the Divine Mercy devotion and its message as part of their work with the sick, aged and dying.
In Massachusetts, Marie Romagnano, a criticalcare nurse who was inspired by the events of 9/11 to start a group called Nurses for Divine Mercy, has seen the organization expand into the 3,000-member Health Care Professionals for Divine Mercy. Romagnano’s book, Nursing with the Hands of Jesus: A Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy, has sold 40,000 copies. Health Care Professionals for Divine Mercy now holds an annual conference attracting up to 350 people.
After developing a love for the Divine Mercy devotion on a trip to Medjugorje in 1989, Dr. John Bruchalski began to bring his obstetrics/gynecology practice into conformity with Catholic teaching. In 1994, he and his wife, Carolyn, a nurse, founded the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax, Va., which has since grown into Divine Mercy Care, a nonprofit company that also oversees the DMC Pharmacy and a perinatal hospice program. Future plans include family practice, home health care, pediatrics and mental health services.
In 1996, Dr. Bryan Thatcher, a Florida physician who discovered the Divine Mercy message by reading St. Faustina’s diary, founded Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, which promotes praying the chaplet for the sick and dying and sends shipments of medical materials to the poor around the world.
“As you pray, you begin to see the power of this chaplet,” said Divine Mercy Care’s Bruchalski. “You’re drawn to do something — to do an act of mercy.”
Bruchalski said he believes the Divine Mercy devotion is gaining in popularity because “it’s a message for our time in a world that’s gone off the deep end.”
The chaplet is especially suited to those who work with the dying because of God’s promise to St. Faustina that whoever recites it will receive great mercy at the hour of death.
“What a perfect time in life to hear about God’s great mercy — that no matter what they’ve done, his mercy is greater than their greatest sin,” said Thatcher of the Eucharistic Apostles. He added that Christ also told St. Faustina to pray the chaplet at the bedside of the dying, saying he would be there for the person as a merciful savior and not a just judge.
If someone cannot pray at the bedside, Thatcher explained, the chaplet is still effective. “With God there is no space or time.”
Legatus member Greg Patterson, a hospice consultant and former hospice owner, prays the chaplet with his wife, Lee, and their five daughters. “We pray for the intentions of our patients, those who have passed and those current patients as well.” The family also prays for the hospices Patterson consults.
Romagnano said she had been praying the chaplet for her patients, especially those who were dying, since the early 1980s, but that she wasn’t moved to spread the message more widely until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
As she was preparing to take a team of trauma nurses to New York to assist victims, she got a call telling them they weren’t needed. “They said, ‘We think everybody was killed,’” Romagnano recalled. She suggested the nurses pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, but none of them knew what she meant. “I just assumed everybody knew about it and would know to pray the chaplet in the middle of a disaster.”
Shortly afterward, Romagnano began teaching a class for nurses in spiritual care. Forty showed up the first week. Monthly classes followed. Her ministry grew to include her book and the annual conferences.
Once people learn how merciful God is and understand the Divine Mercy devotion, Romagnano said, they see how God can help when no more physical help is possible. “With the Divine Mercy message, you realize that you not only make the most critical intervention to save a person’s life, but you make a spiritual intervention based on the promise of Jesus. The Lord says he actually depends on us to intercede for these people. He said that by your prayers you are responsible for many souls.”
As a critical care nurse and case manager, Romagnano said she has worked with many families whose loved ones are hanging on a thread between life and death. She often gives them the Divine Mercy image and tells them about God’s mercy. “Nobody has ever said, ‘I don’t want that.’ I don’t care what religion they are — Jewish, Muslim, Protestant.”
Through her work with Health Care Professionals for Divine Mercy, Romagnano has heard from medical personnel who knelt on the floor and prayed the chaplet when a patient was dying. She often prays the chaplet with her patients’ family members at the bedside. “The Divine Mercy message brings hope where there is no hope, and that’s what health care needs.”
Judy Roberts is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.