How I realized one dangerous encounter was all about Divine Mercy

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Divine Mercy
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I pretended I didn’t hear him. His faint cry drifted over the four lanes of traffic. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I kept walking. It was dusk and I was in a part of a major city I probably shouldn’t have been as a visitor. I was headed to a neighborhood perpetual adoration chapel.

He charged across the street, disregarding the oncoming cars. A car horn blared. I walked faster. I fervently hoped he’d lost interest.

Kneeling in prayer

Before I even knew what happened, he had seized the top part of my habit and pulled it off of me. Instinctively, I reached out and grabbed the hood with both hands.

“What are you doing here,” my assailant growled. “I’m going to pray,” I replied.

“Gimme that,” he said, trying to shake my hands loose. I gripped the piece of my habit more tightly. “No, that’s my sacred clothing,” I replied.

I wasn’t afraid, even though I should have been. I glanced around — no one was near us. My attacker was much larger than me. The thought that he might have a weapon never occurred to me.

All I could think was that I couldn’t show up to the retreat I was supposed to preach the next day with part of my habit missing!

The two of us clung to my hood. I tugged on it, pulling him closer. I could smell evidence of his drinking. My friend was not in his right mind, I realized.

We shared a few more exchanges. He told me I shouldn’t be there and that I wasn’t welcome. I insisted I was his friend.

He kept telling me to let go. I hung on, clutching my habit tighter.

He refused to believe I was a priest. “Come with me to pray,” I said.

I clung to my habit, desperate to not embarrass the sisters who had invited me to preach at their school. And then, inspired by my guardian angel, I dropped to my knees. “Jesus, help my friend know that I love him,” I prayed aloud.

The man scoffed, let go of my habit and stumbled away.

I stood for a moment, in shock at the exchange. I put the top piece of my habit back on and walked the remaining blocks to the adoration chapel.

Remembering Divine Mercy

Kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, I prayed for my friend. I wasn’t angry. He hadn’t done me any harm in the end. To my surprise, I was sad. I was sad because he needed love, really needed it. And I had tried, however imperfectly, to bring it to him. I realized then, that this had been an encounter with Divine Mercy.

Divine Mercy helps us be aware of the sufferings of our neighbor and to meet them with the balm of Christ, even as we’re experiencing our own difficulties. Pope Francis says, “We think that we are experiencing unbearable pain and situations of suffering, and we suddenly discover that others around us are silently enduring even worse things.”

Pouring out the love of Divine Mercy drew me from shock and anger. However uncomfortable I was in that moment, I wasn’t the one in real need.

St. Faustina writes in her diary, “One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest.” Maybe that prayer was enough for this soul? Maybe a tiny crack had opened?

I had been walking to pray that evening. And pray I did.

Father Patrick Briscoe

Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, is a Dominican friar and the editor of Our Sunday Visitor. Along with his Dominican brothers, he is host of the podcast Godsplaining and a co-author of "Saint Dominic’s Way of Life: A Path to Knowing and Loving God." He is also the author of the OSV seasonal devotional, "My Daily Visitor."