Mercy and Mary Retreat with Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC
Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC and the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy visited St. Pius X parish in Granger on March 8 and 9 for the Mercy and Mary retreat. Participants in this retreat included St. Pius X parishioners and members of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, with many others even journeying from out of state to hear Fr. Gaitley’s powerful message of mercy. I was blessed to spend the first days of spring break with a group of about 20 Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross students at this retreat.
Fr. Gaitley is well-known for his books on the topics of Divine Mercy and Marian Consecration, as well as the Trinity and Pope St. John Paul II, and has written two consecration preparation books, 33 Days to Morning Glory and 33 Days to Merciful Love which serve as self-guided retreats for readers as they follow the example of the saints to learn about consecrating themselves to Mary and Divine Mercy, respectively. His books are popular with Catholics of all ages thanks to his accessible and inspirational writing style. Lizzie Self, a freshman living in Walsh who attended the retreat, told the Rover, “Three of Fr. Michael’s books have made a huge impact on my life, and everything I have learned from him culminates in a conviction that I can actually become a saint!”
In his first conference Friday night, Fr. Gaitley shared how he grew in his faith as a student at Franciscan University in Steubenville. During his freshman year, he made his Marian Consecration following St. Louis DeMontfort’s preparation and began discerning a vocation to the priesthood. He was introduced to the devotion to Divine Mercy and realized “mercy was at the heart of the Gospel.” As he learned what Jesus told St. Faustina, “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My mercy” he began to pray for his father’s conversion and healing from cancer.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, he discovered that his father had also been learning about Divine Mercy and experiencing a great change in heart and much spiritual consolation thanks to the devotion. His father was ultimately healed of his cancer and to this day has a very strong love for Divine Mercy. Fr. Gaitley recounted how his father loves praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and “entrusting family and friends to those rays (coming from Jesus’ heart in the Divine Mercy image).” Bea Cuasay, a sophomore at St. Mary’s told the Rover, Fr. Gaitley’s message “has left me super edified and I hope to pray ever more fervently for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of souls through the saving grace of Divine mercy.”
During his first talk on Saturday, Fr. Gaitley connected St. Therese’s humility in her “Little Way” to St. Faustina’s steadfast trust in God’s Divine Mercy. He outlined the two steps to sainthood which these saints exemplify: a continual trust in God to make us saints and satisfy our desires for holiness and a persistent effort to keep trying to become a saint. He spoke of how we need the magnanimity to desire to do great things for God and the humble recognition of our own littleness and need to continually trust in God’s Divine Mercy.
In his second and third conferences, Fr. Gaitley preached on the lives of Pope St. John Paul II and St. Maximilian Kolbe, respectively. He calls the life of Pope St. John Paul II the “second greatest story ever told,” and outlined how John Paul II devoted his ministry as a priest, bishop, and pope to spreading the message of Divine Mercy. When he was able to proclaim the Feast of Divine Mercy during the Jubilee Year of 2000, John Paul II dubbed it “the happiest day of (his) life.” Fr. Gaitley reflected on this, reminding the audience that we will be filled with great joy when we complete the missions God has uniquely given us.
In the following third talk, Fr. Gaitley pointed to the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe as an additional example of fulfilling the mission to which God calls us. As a great apostle of Marian consecration, St. Maximilian Kolbe had a mission to inspire others with his lofty goals of conquering the world for Christ through Mary. He also played a key role in Poland and Japan at the specific time around World War II. Fr. Gaitley observed that Our Lady used Kolbe to “prepare Poland for World War II” by reminding them of Mary’s maternal care and “(providing) a tender, motherly presence to Mary’s children who were most hurting, most suffering and most abandoned, in places that were ravaged by war, and which culminated in laying down his life for a stranger.” Kolbe brought Our Lady and hope even into the living hell of an Auschwitz starvation bunker, with his look of love and joyful embrace of suffering. Fr. Gaitley emphasized and challenged us to embrace the reciprocal nature of the Marian consecration which Kolbe so exemplifies — where Mary brings us closer to Jesus’ pierced heart, and we seek to console her pierced heart by giving her complete permission to use us as she wills.
Both during the lunch break and at the conclusion of the retreat, Father Gaitley was very generous and gracious to meet and pray with many retreat participants, including the ND, SMC, and HCC group. Lizzie Self, who was able to meet Fr. Gaitley shared, “What was particularly special for me on the retreat was realizing what a humble, ordinary guy Father Michael is. He comes from a broken family. He has struggled with relationships. He’s not a historian or an extraordinary intellectual, but he can look at history and his own life, see God’s hand in them, and take to heart what such revelations mean to our day-to-day. This is how Christ wants us to encounter Him in all things, and dare to “hope against hope!” We don’t even need to be saintly to be saints—we just need to keep trying, trusting, and being mindful of our littleness.”
Note: The Notre Dame Militia of the Immaculata is partnering with Fr. Gaitley’s young adult outreach group Mercy through Mary based in Ave Maria University to offer free copies of Father Gaitley’s 33 Days to Morning Glory for preparation for Marian Consecration starting on March 24 and concluding on April 26, the feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel, and 33 Days to Merciful Love for preparation for consecration to Divine Mercy on Divine starting on March 25 and concluding on April 28, Divine Mercy Sunday. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to request a copy of either.
Mackenzie Kraker is a senior studying biochemistry and theology. She lives in McGlinn Hall in a pretty awesome quad that has a framed JPII puzzle hanging in the common room. To ask her how her quadmates procured such illustrious dorm decor contact her at email@example.com