She looks like St. Faustina — this is the first thing you notice about Sister Gaudia Skass, OLM.
She’s been a member of the same religious community as that Polish messenger of Divine Mercy for 13 years, and the habit helps when going around pleading with people to consider God’s love once and for all. And her prayer is a heavy one: “I pray you have the experience of sorrow — tears rolling down your face — of knowing God was tortured and died for you. I pray that you know he did it for you.”
To emphasize the point, when I walked into the lobby of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Stamford, Connecticut, where she was speaking on a recent Lenten week night, my name was written on a small brown package that was already prepared, waiting for me. “For Kathryn,” along with, “For Gretchen,” “For Father Owen.” You get the idea.
Inside, it was later revealed, was a small crucifix. We often see them in churches. Sometimes we wear crucifixes. If we pray the Rosary, a small one may pass through our hands frequently.
But do we look at him? Do we think about what this means? He did it for us.
And even more so, her plea was not to let another day pass by without realizing: We did it to him. We do it to him. That piercing of his side — that death that came to the heart of the Savior of mankind, to God himself — I did it. You did it. I do it. You do it. Realizing this is what gets us to the point of tears.
Pope Francis talked about this in one of his morning homilies in 2013:
“All of us have felt joy, sadness and sorrow in our lives, [but] have we wept during the darkest moment? Have we had that gift of tears that prepare the eyes to look, to see the Lord?”
He made the point Sister Gaudia made in a standing-room-only church on the night before a snowstorm:
“We, too, can ask the Lord for the gift of tears. It is a beautiful grace ... to weep praying for everything: for what is good, for our sins, for graces, for joy itself. ... [It] prepares us to see Jesus.”
I mention the snowstorm and the weeknight because that in itself gives me hope. There’s a desire for him. There’s a desire for reconciliation.
I see it all the time, everywhere I go. In the busiest places, people pop into a church. In the green room of a cable news show, people ask questions. After a talk. During an Uber ride. People want God. They want to know him. And we overcomplicate the matter sometimes.
And what a gift that the messenger this particular night looks like she walked off of the pages of a “lives of the saints” book. Before us she admits that she, too, struggles with complete trust in God. Now everyone feels a little bit less like a failure. She doesn’t look like St. Faustina because she’s perfected anything, but she wants to be perfected. She knows every suffering can make sense in the truth of his love for us, and she truly wants to live that trust.
Sister Gaudia’s message is simple, and it’s the same Ignatian pleading Pope Francis does frequently, and it’s the reason Pope St. John Paul II introduced the world to the Divine Mercy devotion: Look at him. See the love. Receive the love.
By telling the truth and letting him take the lead. That’s what we’re meant for. That’s what this Lenten time is for. If we could only stop texting/working/moving long enough to look at him looking at us from the cross.
It would change everything.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).