How St. Thérèse Prescribes Mercy
A conversation with Marian Father Michael Gaitley
Marian Father Michael Gaitley, director of evangelization for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and director of formation of the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy, does not simply write Catholic books. He writes them with deep insights, all delivered in his conversational, easy-to-understand style. His 33 Days to Morning Glory, a do-it-yourself program for Marian consecration, has more than 400,000 copies in print.
In another major work, his 2015 The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, Father Gaitley sheds new light on Divine Mercy, weaving together Fatima, St. Faustina, St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Immaculate Heart.
On Feb. 1, his latest book was released: 33 Days to Merciful Love: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Consecration to Divine Mercy (ShopMercy.org; see gift guide in section B). He explained how the book came about, its purpose and how a doctor of the Church, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, played a major role in it to Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen.
Why did you write this sequel to 33 Days to Morning Glory?
I wrote it because of two friends.
The first one is a priest in my community, Father Chris Alar. He came up to me one day after Mass, looking like he’d just seen a ghost. He told me that, as he elevated the Host, he became overwhelmed by the idea that we need a consecration to Divine Mercy, and he felt that I was supposed to write it.
While I was moved by the zeal with which he presented his proposal, I declined to do it because I was already swamped with other writing projects.
The second friend, an old buddy from college, called me a few months after the conversation with Father Chris. Unfortunately, I had to tell him I couldn’t talk long because I was desperately trying to meet a book deadline. He responded, “No problem, but that’s why I called.”
Confused, I asked him what he meant. He said, “Well, I know what your next book needs to be.”
Now, I’d been thinking that my next book would be about St. Thérèse of Lisieux. And even though I was in the middle of a deadline, I wanted to hear what my friend had to say. So I asked him, albeit a bit skeptically, “Oh yeah, what book is that?”
His reply blew me away. He said, “You need to do for the ‘Offering to Merciful Love’ of St. Thérèse of Lisieux what you did for Marian consecration.”
With that, I knew exactly what he meant. He was asking me to write a consecration to Divine Mercy based on St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a sequel to 33 Days to Morning Glory.
After that phone call, I felt that the book on Thérèse was something the Lord wanted. So I knew what I had to do next: Go eat some humble pie. I went back to Father Chris and asked him if he’d mind if I’d write the book on the consecration to Divine Mercy after all. Thankfully, he was still all for it.
Please tell us about the third friend who has been such an inspiration to you: St. Thérèse.
St. Thérèse is one of my very favorite saints. Her spiritual doctrine, the “Little Way,” gave me hope that even a very “little soul” like me could aspire to sanctity — and that was a game changer for me. It brought great joy to my life. I mean, since the time of my conversion in high school, I’d known that the meaning of life is to become a saint. Yet it didn’t seem possible — really possible — until I got to know St. Thérèse.
Sure, I had read that Marian consecration is the “quickest and easiest” way to become a saint, and I loved that.
But it was St. Thérèse who, if I may use her own expression, “set me full sail upon the way of confidence and love.”
This book is about a lot more than Thérèse’s Little Way. It’s also about her “Offering to Merciful Love,” which is her consecration to Divine Mercy. Can you explain what it is in relation to the Little Way?
The “Offering to Merciful Love” is basically the culmination and fulfillment of St. Thérèse’s whole Little Way. It’s something around which, as one of her sister’s put it, her whole life revolved. Problem is, not many people know about it, and that’s amazing to me. I mean, in Thérèse, you have one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church today — a doctor of the Church, no less — yet hardly anyone has ever heard of what may be her most important teaching.
I admit that I also hadn’t heard about her offering. In a nutshell, what is it?
The book goes into a lot more detail, but here are its three most basic points.
First, Thérèse’s “Offering to Merciful Love” is based on the saint’s profound insight into the love of the heart of Jesus. Specifically, she recognized that Jesus’ heart is full of mercy and that he longs to pour out his merciful love, especially on sinners.
Second, she realized that sinners often close their hearts to the Lord’s loving mercy, and their rejection of it causes Jesus great suffering.
Third, for the purpose of consoling Jesus, St. Thérèse asked the Lord to pour into her little soul all the rejected mercy that others don’t want — and he gave it to her. All of it. And that experience set St. Thérèse happily on fire with merciful love.
Why do you say Thérèse’s “Offering to Merciful Love” is probably the most powerful form of consecration to Divine Mercy?
Well, let me put it this way: The “Offering to Merciful Love” is the culminating teaching of a recent doctor of the Church who is also, according to St. Pius X, “the greatest saint of modern times.” It doesn’t get much better than that.
Do you find many similarities between Thérèse’s spirituality and Faustina’s?
Yes, the main one being a laser-like focus on Divine Mercy. The other many similarities, such as humility, magnanimity and trust, all flow from that.
How is this consecration related to consecrations to the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart?
A consecration to Divine Mercy is really the next step after making a Marian consecration. I say that because the essence of Marian consecration is to allow Mary to bring us to the pierced side of Jesus, which is the fountain of mercy.
So a book like 33 Days to Morning Glory allows Mary to bring us to that fountain.
33 Days to Merciful Love, on the other hand, is about drinking from that fountain. And while we can get to the fountain of mercy without making a Marian consecration, such a consecration enables us to drink from it so much more deeply and easily. That’s why I’d say that while you can certainly benefit from reading 33 Days to Merciful Love without having consecrated yourself to Jesus through Mary, you might want to try making a Marian consecration first.
Do you think Jesus may have had St. Thérèse prepare the faithful for the next step to Divine Mercy before St. Faustina?
I think that’s true. St. Thérèse’s emphasis on confidence in Divine Mercy was certainly radical in her time, a time that was marked by an unhealthy fear of God and the sense that you have to earn God’s love. So you might say she tilled the hard soil of her day so Faustina could plant the seed of the modern message of Divine Mercy that has sprouted, grown and is now bearing all kinds of fruit in our day.
- Feb. 21-March 5, 2016