Florida Physician Spreads Divine Mercy for the Living and the Dead
Dr. Bryan Thatcher assists holy souls in November through Eucharistic adoration.
As a young physician in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dr. Bryan Thatcher worked day and night to improve the bodily health of his patients. In fact, the first three years that Thatcher practiced medicine came and went without a single vacation. Because of his diligent efforts, he became very wealthy but was struggling interiorly.
Thatcher went through the motions of church attendance, but the job stress took its toll on his marriage, and he became estranged from his wife, Susan. The two most important things in life — faith and family — were severely strained.
However, things would take a turn for the better after a trip to Mexico City in 1991. That marked the beginning of Thatcher’s reversion back to the Catholic faith. Now, Thatcher, a father of 10 — seven on earth — is the founder and director of Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, a lay apostolate under the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, based in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Thatcher recently spoke of his work to spread the message of Divine Mercy to everyone — especially those most in need of it, which includes the Holy Souls, who are powerless to help themselves.
What were your early days in medicine like?
In the late ’80s early ’90s, I was a very successful gastroenterologist [an expert in stomach and intestinal health]. I did many good things for many people and made a lot of money along the way. The problem was, it all began and ended with me; there was not a spiritual component to what I did. I had numerous patients with serious conditions die while I was working on them in the ICU, and I never would have thought about praying for them or reflecting on what was happening in the spiritual realm to them. I just wasn’t “there” mentally.
I was struggling interiorly and realized there had to be more to life than what I was doing. In fact, I was dying inside. But God is a God of second chances, and, reflecting back, Our Lady was walking with me. In 1991, when I was in Mexico City for a medical conference, I took the afternoon off and visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Did you have a conversion after seeing the famous image of Our Lady?
No, it was not an immediate conversion, right there, on the spot. Outside of the basilica I noticed how all the poor, simple and uneducated people seemed so happy. They had no fancy clothes or food or cars, yet they were so joyful as they interacted with each other. The sharp contrast with my own life — which did include fancy clothes, food and cars, yet was not fulfilling — really hit me. My marriage was falling apart amid material trappings, and I saw all these joy-filled people who were united in simplicity.
I stood there, a wealthy gringo among those poor yet happy people and cried my eyes out. It became really clear that I had to change my life, but I wasn’t quite sure how to go about doing that. There was a lot of guilt, so I knew things had to change.
In 1992, I was given a copy of St. Faustina’s Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, and noticed entry 723 with the words of Jesus to the saint: “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy.”
It might have to do with the translation from Polish, but it has been said that if we had a right to mercy, it would not be mercy; it would be justice. How does that square with the passage?
It is surely the case that we are not owed mercy. However, when we consider that Jesus started the Church for our salvation, it then follows that we have “claims” on certain things — if only we do as God wants us to do.
The very purpose of God becoming man was so that we would be saved. We should approach our merciful God with confidence, rather than with fear — or worse still, decline to approach him at all. Repentance is a prerequisite, as well; we must regret our sins and desire to walk on the path to eternal life.
It has been said that the Church is not simply a museum for saints; it’s a hospital for sinners. For a penitent not to seek forgiveness in confession would be like a patient not seeking physical health in treatment or in surgery, but just staying in the lobby of the hospital, or even outside of the hospital.
That took me a while to understand, but it coincided with learning of how valuable we are in God’s eyes — not because of any worldly attributes, but because we are made in his image and likeness.
How did you become the head of the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy?
I fell in love with the message of Divine Mercy and began to come to grips with the realization that God loves me! Not for the person I thought I needed to be, but for me — for who I am in God’s eyes. I wanted to share that message with others, but there was still a struggle going on inside me.
Then I noticed entry 464 in the diary, which says that God chooses the weakest souls for his work so that it will shine forth as his own, rather than the work of men. When we are filled with God’s love, we cannot contain it and want to share it with others, and this is what I then felt freed to do.
I studied the diary and realized there was a significant Eucharistic component. I began to read Eucharistic Miraclesby Joan Carroll Cruz and other books that led me into a deeper appreciation for the Catholic faith. Eucharistic Miracles even inspired me to take a trip to Europe to visit some of the sites where evidence of the miraculous is still present.
Not surprisingly, two major themes that grew out of my reading were Divine Mercy and the Real Presence. That’s what led to the formation of Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, or EADM.
What exactly does EADM do?
My wife and I, under the guidance of Marians of the Immaculate Conception Father Seraphim Michalenko, a noted expert on the message of Divine Mercy, wrote three manuals that guide prayer groups — or cenacles — through the diary of St. Faustina, and we integrate into the lessons sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Typical prayer group meetings include readings from sacred Scripture and from the diary, as well as intercession for the sick, dying and, especially in November, for the faithful departed. We also promote other works of mercy, especially for the marginalized, and want groups to assist their pastor in building up the local Church.
St. Faustina had a love for the dying, and as a physician I knew we must pray for them. In 1999, Pope St. John Paul II gave a personally signed apostolic blessing for those dying in that hour during Eucharistic adoration, as well as for those praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy during their hour of prayer. We also encourage prayer for the poor souls in purgatory, as that is a charism of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.
The Marians also have booklets that encourage Divine Mercy, and you have written at least two booklets for them.
Yes, I wrote a booklet with Kathleen Wabick called At the Bedside of the Sick and Dying, which outlines EADM and some things we can do for the seriously ill, such as praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Being present for people is an additional blessing and another wonderful work of mercy.
There were so many missed opportunities for me to spiritually assist the dying when I was practicing medicine, but I take comfort in knowing that my prayers can help the dying now, and even those who died long ago without my prayers at the time. God is outside of time, so he can make use of what we send him, regardless of our limitations.
Souls in a state of grace who were not able to completely avoid purgatory can also benefit from our prayers. We can’t forget the Holy Souls, especially this month. It’s our duty to assist them in their final purification.
EADM started with one cenacle in my local parish, and we now have over 4,000 in the U.S. Additionally, we are active in 45 other countries; and in 2003, we received another personally signed papal blessing from Pope St. John Paul II for those praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for all pro-life causes and for all its victims, as well.
Another Marian group you are associated with is Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy. Can you tell us a bit about this organization?
That is our sister ministry, founded by a nurse, Marie Romagnano. She has yearly conferences on medical and bioethics issues of the day and has been a driving force in getting Catholic health-care providers to better live the Gospel message in the workplace by being icons of love and mercy to their patients.
Putting a Catholic emphasis on our work as health-care providers is so important. It’s even more important than the physical treatment we give. Patients are not bodies with a bunch of parts to be studied, to tinker with; patients have a mind, body and soul, and they were created to be with God and praise him in heaven for eternity.
What saints do you hold up in your own life as a model of Catholic medicine?
In retrospect, if I could do it over again, I would have loved to have been more like St. Joseph Moscati, a physician from the late 1800s and early 1900s. He met Blessed Bartolo Longo, a man whose conversion will inspire those who think Divine Mercy is not for them.
Dr. Moscati performed the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, showing what an ideal medicine man should be like. We just celebrated his feast on Nov. 16, so now is the perfect time for physicians to look into the life of this man known as the “Holy Doctor of Naples, Italy,” if they have not already heard of him.
I also admire Dr. Jerome Lejeune, a pioneering 20th-century geneticist who maintained his pro-life beliefs amid great pressure to discard them. He discovered that Down syndrome was caused by an extra chromosome and warned his colleagues not to use his findings as a tool for abortion. He is a Servant of God, so maybe one day soon we will be able to call him a saint, too.
Speaking of Dr. Lejeune reminds me of a story I once read about a “cure” for Down’s. Of course, I was intrigued, but when I read on, it turns out this “cure” was to abort babies with Down’s. That’s absurd, just like saying the “cure” for cancer is to kill cancer patients. We could say that killing is the “cure” to all syndromes, disorders or diseases, but a far better route is to treat everyone with respect and pursue ethical research into improving health.
You have a personal pro-life story that extends beyond being against abortion and into the early years of childhood.
In November of 1996 our family experienced the near-drowning of our 15-month-old son, John Paul. I got a call from my oldest son, Bryan, aged 11, who told me that John Paul had drowned. He had been found floating, facedown, and when my wife pulled him out, he was blue and had no pulse. Worse still, I quickly realized I was the one who made that possible, as I had inadvertently left the pool gate open before leaving the house.
Needless to say, we were all in a panic, and my faith was severely tried. Then I remembered what I had recently told a conference of people about trusting in Jesus. I had to do the same, so with the story of Abraham and Isaac in mind, I prayed a prayer of surrender. Whatever the Lord of Life wanted to do, I was open to accepting. I gave John Paul back to Jesus and thanked him for the time he had given our son to us.
Then what had seemed like the end of a life started to slowly turn into how life had been. By the time John Paul was in the ambulance, he had a pulse. Then he got incrementally better at the hospital. Within two days, he was released and today is a healthy 25-year-old man.
I called my sister and asked her to pray for John Paul in her prayer group that night. They went to Mass the next morning and, after Mass, her friend Irma stated, “Do not worry. John Paul will be fine. During Mass I had a vision of Abraham offering Isaac to God, and Jesus stepped in and gave him back.” We saw this as a sign that Jesus was giving John Paul back to us.
Speaking of the dead and miracles, the other booklet you co-authored, Rachel, Weep No More: How Divine Mercy Heals the Effects of Abortion, was with Priests for Life founder Father Frank Pavone in 2003. What would you say to those affected by involvement in abortion?
Divine Mercy has been the healing force for abortion-related sins. There is so much pain in the souls of fathers and mothers who have taken the lives of their children. Yet God’s grace is infinitely greater than this pain.
This is where bold trust comes into play again. We don’t have an absolute right to forgiveness, but we are encouraged by Jesus himself to come to him and confidently accept it. This is not an act of pride, but of humility, as well as an act of trust in Jesus.
It would actually be pride to think that our problems are too great for God to correct, so we should run to Jesus rather than hold back. Then we can help others to heal. Jesus told St. Faustina in entry 300 of the diary that “Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My Mercy.” I believe that pertains to the world but also to each and every one of us individually.
It’s all about accepting God’s will and living in it.
God’s will is paramount. All sin comes from rejecting God’s will, and all good comes from accepting it. St. Faustina had a “letter perfect” demonstration of the importance of the divine will in entry 374 of her diary. There is a big “X” through the words “my own will” on the page and a declaration by her that, from then on, she will do God’s will always and everywhere.
We can get a foretaste of heaven by accepting God’s will in all things in this life. Then maybe we won’t spend any time in purgatory and we’ll be able to make a smooth transition into heaven, where everyone is always content with everything, since it all comes from the bountiful mercy of God.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.
His book Fit for Heaven (Dynamic Catholic, 2015)
contains numerous Catholic sports interviews,
most of which have appeared in the Register.
His latest book is Apostolic Athletes.
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