Hey, look! Another book recommendation, finally!
One of my favorite spiritual authors as of late has been Fr. Michael Gaitley. A Marian Father of the Immaculate Conception, Gaitley has become well-known in the last few years for his books that turn intimidating spiritual devotions into highly accessible and applicable practices. His most popular work of this genre is 33 Days to Morning Glory, which seeks to demystify devotion to Mary and to simplify the beloved (but sometimes difficult) formula for Marian consecration taught by St. Louis de Montfort. He also wrote Consoling the Heart of Jesus, which explores consoling spirituality as a quick and easy path to holiness.
Shortly before the start of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Gaitley released another do-it-yourself retreat that stands alone from his Marian consecration book but that is also meant to go hand-in-hand with it, 33 Days to Merciful Love. This book follows the 33 days formula of Morning Glory and uses St. Therese of Lisieux’s “little way” and Offering to Merciful Love to prepare the reader for consecration to Divine Mercy.
To anyone unfamiliar, or perhaps only vaguely familiar, with St. Therese of Lisieux and/or with the message of Divine Mercy given to St. Faustina, it might seem odd that Gaitley would choose a saint who died a few years before Faustina was even born to guide a consecration to the devotion that made her famous. But even a quick comparison of the theologies of both saints reveals similarities that are too striking to be coincidental. The essence of St. Therese’s Offering to Merciful Love and of the message of Divine Mercy are miraculously similar because, according to Gaitley, they are coming to us at a period in time when they are especially needed. They are signs of the times, so to speak–we live in an age of great evil, an age in which man is in desperate need of mercy and of a relatively easy way to holiness. This way to holiness is revealed to us through St. Therese’s discovery of her “little way” of trust and love, and through the Divine Mercy messages given by Jesus Himself to St. Faustina.
And what is the essence of St. Therese’s “little way,” and her Offering to Merciful Love? It is the same as the message of Divine Mercy. It is that Jesus is infinitely merciful to us and that we don’t need to do big things, perform heroic penances, or spend hours absorbed in prayer to lead holy lives and to earn God’s mercy. We need only to do our best to love and follow Christ in our ordinary circumstances and to trust that He is burning with desire to give us His love and mercy, especially when we fall into sin.
St. Therese is the perfect model for a consecration to Divine Mercy. Her writings reveal that she wished to do heroic things for God, such as be a traveling missionary or die a martyr’s death. But as she grew up, and especially as she entered her cloistered Carmelite convent, she realized that great things were beyond her strength and beyond her calling. She saw herself as too weak and too little. Thus, she resolved to love God by being obedient to Him in the smallest matters of everyday life, and by trusting His love and mercy in all things.
Therese’s spirituality was also informed by Jansenism, a rigorous strain of Catholic theology that was still gripping France during Therese’s lifetime, even though its influence was strongest centuries before her birth. Jansenism emphasized God’s justice over His mercy, and man’s depravity over God’s love for Him. It also emphasized the need for victims of God’s justice, souls who would beg God to heap upon them the suffering that humanity deserves because of its sin. The Church has many saints who were victims of God’s justice, and Therese was familiar this concept. But she had no interest in making herself such a victim. She instead desired to appeal to God’s mercy, so she composed the prayer that 33 Days to Merciful Love uses as its consecration day offering–the Offering to Merciful Love. With this prayer, Therese chose to make herself a victim of God’s mercy, offering herself to be consumed not by God’s justice, but by the mercy that God so wishes to pour upon humanity but that so few are willing to receive. Again, Therese’s understanding of God’s unspent mercy foreshadows the Divine Mercy revelations. St. Faustina recorded several times in her diary that Jesus revealed that He would pour His rejected mercy and graces into souls who wanted them:
“I desire to bestow My graces upon souls, but they do not want to accept them. You, at least, come to Me as often as possible and take these graces they do not want to accept. In this way you will console My Heart.” (367)
“I want to give Myself to souls and to fill them with My love, but few there are who want to accept all the graces My love has intended for them. My grace is not lost; if the soul for whom it was intended does not accept it, another soul takes it.” (1017)
“The flames of mercy are burning Me. I desire to pour them out upon human souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them!” (1074)
I found St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina separately and grew to love them for different reasons, and when I learned that their spiritualities were so similar, I knew that God had a reason for bringing them into my life. Gaitley’s 33 Days to Merciful Love made the connections between these two saints even more clear and deepened my appreciation for both St. Therese’s “little way” and the Divine Mercy message. I would recommend the book and Divine Mercy consecration to anyone seeking to further their devotion to Divine Mercy and/or to St. Therese and her “little way.”
Happy reading, and happy consecration!