It was November 10, 2016. I needed to go to confession, something I’ve been doing every two weeks for several years because it gives my heart great peace and joy.
My regular confessor in those days was on retreat, so he recommended that I go to the shrine of Divine Mercy in Łagiewniki (a neighborhood in Kraków) “because there are priests of God there who confess without haste.”
So I did. It was a sunny morning, but the basilica was in a prayerful twilight. Priests were hearing confessions on both sides of the church. Instinctively, I went to the right.
In the confessional, I could see a middle-aged, bespectacled priest with a cheerful face.
During confession, he made me realize how important it is to pray for the dying. At one point, as a side comment, he mentioned an initiative of prayer for the dying that he had created.
As a penance, he told me to pray, offering a moment of adoration or receiving Communion for the next person whose death I learned of. Of course, he told me not to worry if it took a while.
A penance to pray for the confessor
After the confession, I had a rather busy time, as well as difficulty accessing the internet, so I didn’t have the chance right away to learn more about the apostolate of prayer for the dying that the priest had mentioned in the confessional.
Ten days passed and I hadn’t been able to fulfill the penance. I started to worry a little bit because I don’t like to put things like that off.
I thought maybe I could go back to the shrine to meet that priest and somehow join his apostolate. I could ask someone what his name was so I might somehow be able to communicate with him.
I drove to the parking lot of the Pilgrim House, and decided to head to the chapel of Perpetual Adoration for a moment of prayer.
As I was walking, I saw a funeral procession approaching the shrine. Somehow, although it was a sad sight because a person had died, I rejoiced that I could fulfill the penance assigned to me.
It was almost noon, so I thought that the midday Mass would probably be a funeral Mass, and that would mean I could receive Communion for that particular deceased person.
As I approached the door of the basilica something incredible happened. My legs buckled as I saw the picture of the deceased: it was the priest to whom I had gone to confession!
The penance he had given me during confession was going to invoke God’s mercy upon the priest himself. No one had planned these events, and I still can’t forget it.
The good we do comes back to us! We never know if a request to pray for someone will come back to us in some way.
An initiative of prayer for the dying
The Apostolate for the Relief of the Dying founded by Father Piotr Nikolai Marx consists of five works:
1. Holy Mass
A Mass for all those who are dying is celebrated every first Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Krakow. Obviously, not everyone can join that particular Mass, but anyone can go to a local Mass and pray for that particular intention that day or simply once a month according to availability.
Participants offer fasting and Communion on a day of their choice.
3. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
The shrine offers 24-hour Adoration every first Friday in the Adoration Chapel. People around the world can go to their local adoration chapel, or if there isn’t one nearby they can simply pray before the tabernacle at their parish.
4. Perpetual vigil at the bedside of the dying
Some people who participate in the apostolate dedicate themselves to staying by the bedside of the dying to pray, especially the Divine Mercy chaplet.
5. A prayer for the dying requested by telephone
This part has yet to be implemented beyond Poland, but there, the loved ones of the dying can send a text message to a phone number asking for prayers, and a prayer for the dying is offered in reply.
The (extra)ordinary life of Fr. Piotr
The founder of this apostolate, Fr. Piotr Marx, was originally from Pomerania, in northwestern Poland. He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Pelplin in 1997.
In the last years of his life, he lived in the Archdiocese of Krakow and served as pastor and confessor at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Łagiewniki.
He had experienced clinical death, which is why he loved the dying so much. More than once he had emphasized that the moment of transition to eternity is beautiful.
During the last two decades of his life, as was pointed out in the homily at his funeral Mass, he “survived on borrowed time” because he was living with a transplanted heart.
He was ready to die and aware of the possibility that he could go at any time.
Fr. Piotr died on November 15, 2016, at the age of 47. His apostolate of prayer for the dying continues to grow.