John Paul II's understanding of Divine Mercy gives hope when evil seems limitless
The phone rang. My husband, reporting that he was on his way home from the splash pad and asking if I could be at the ready to nurse the baby. Just a few words and we hung up. I was annoyed by the interruption from work but headed toward the back door to meet the van of kids as they unloaded.
He came in carrying our youngest and handed him to me with a groan. I looked up from the child to see terror in my husband’s face. “He’s all sweaty,” he told me, and then sobbing, “it’s because I left him in the car. I forgot him …”
Panic and anger surged through me simultaneously as I looked over my infant, noting now that his onesie was damp. I’d read the stories that occasionally pop up on Facebook feeds. Excruciating details of what a child endures when he dies in a hot car. Court battles. The angst that guilty parents can never work through, until it’s destroyed their marriages and their whole lives. Smart, successful parents who love their kids and would never neglect them in any way, but who forget that their normal routine is different one day, and remember their sleeping child when it’s already too late.
“The kids were playing and then I remembered him and ran back to the van,” my husband was explaining frantically, “and when I got there, he was still asleep. It didn’t look like he had been upset.”
I was taking in the information as my brain raced through what needed to happen next. Mental estimations based on the temperature now and how long they’d been at the splash pad. A phone call to ask a doctor if he was still in danger. Did we need to go to the ER? Screaming at my husband, who was already crumpled in guilt. And finally, eventually, calm returning with the realization that we had been spared. Because it was not yet summer, because it was a cloudy day, because it was only late morning, because the van isn’t a dark color, because something reminded him in time … because God had mercy. My baby son was playing and smiling and well-fed and well-rested after what had been merely a warm nap.
As I cuddled and nursed him, my preparation for Marian consecration came to mind. I was following a do-it-yourself retreat called 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Michael E. Gaitley. On Day 28, the author considers John Paul II’s trip to Fatima, where the pope went “in order to give thanks that the mercy of God” had saved his life during the assassination attempt, which occurred on the 64th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima’s first apparition. John Paul II credited Mary with diverting the bullet. Father Gaitley says, “According to John Paul, divine mercy is the limit imposed by God on evil.”