Quit Smoking with Saint Faustina
I used to be a terrible cigarette smoker. I mean I smoked 2 to 3 packs a day for almost 30 years. I was so addicted I would wake up in the middle of the night and need a cigarette. It got so bad I couldn’t breathe without my lungs wheezing like a squeeze-box, I coughed constantly – even in my sleep I’m told, and climbing a single flight of stairs left me exhausted and gasping like a hooked fish for air. Everywhere I went I first made sure I could smoke. I was hopelessly addicted for over 30 years. I even smoked in the bathtub.
For years I tried to stop. Again and again I failed. I spent hundreds of dollars on nicotine gum and patches. I just got addicted to them, too. I took anti-anxiety medications. They had no impact whatsoever; I just continued to puff away. One time I went to my doctor and asked him to x-ray my lungs and show me all the damage. “Scare me!” I told him. “Scare me bad!” He did. And what did I do? I walked out of the appointment and fired up in my car while still in the parking lot.
I prayed for deliverance from smoking, too. I prayed a lot, in fact. I mean I got down on my knees and admitted I was helpless over smoking and needed divine help. I pleaded with the Lord for help. But none of my petitions seemed to be heard as I just continued to smoke and smoke and smoke. I can honestly say I tried to give up smoking, in a serious way, at least fifty times over the years, especially in my late thirties and early forties, all unsuccessfully. Oh, I could, with extreme effort, go for a few hours or days without smoking. One time I even went for a few months by chewing nicotine gum so much I got sores in my mouth. But the truth was that I was so addicted, the habit had so woven itself into every aspect of my life, that I didn’t believe it was possible to live without smoking. That is, live without being miserable all the time.
Then one time in confession, in a conversation unrelated to smoking, a priest recommended I read the diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, “Divine Mercy in My Soul.” It was a suggestion that would alter my life. I soon got a copy and was immediately stuck by the simple yet profound words of this young polish nun, a member of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, Poland, who had a special communion with the Lord.
Her short life was staggeringly remarkable, her ministry worldwide in dimensions. The Congregation of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception's literature on the subject touches briefly on it when it states:
"On February 22, 1931, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, known today the world over as the “Apostle of The Divine Mercy” and numbered by Catholic theologians among the outstanding mystics of the modern day Church, saw a vision of Jesus with two rays, one red and the other paler, flowing from the area of His heart. The Lord instructed her to have an image painted to represent this vision and to sign it, “Jesus I trust in You!” He also ordered the Servant of God to begin writing a diary so others would learn to trust in Him. In the diary, Saint Faustina details a series of revelations that taught her that Jesus Christ’s mercy was truly unlimited and available to everyone, even the greatest sinners, and reveals special ways and devotions for people to respond to His mercy. By the time of Saint Faustina’s death in 1938 at age 33, devotion to The Divine Mercy, as described in her diary, had already spread throughout Eastern Europe. By the time she was solemnly canonized in Rome by Pope John Paul II on the Sunday after Easter, April 30, 2000, (Feast of Mercy Sunday), it was global."
"One of these special devotions, a prayer called the Caplet of Mercy, which is recited using ordinary rosary beads of five decades, Jesus gave Saint Faustina for her personal use. He also promised great mercies to anyone who recited it, especially at the hour of death. The Lord said to her:
“Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you… Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death… When they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior… Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy… through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will.” (Diary 687, 1541,1731)
"Saint Faustina recited this Caplet almost ceaselessly, but the Lord told her that he had an appointed Hour of Mercy, 3 pm, which recalls His death, and that He especially wanted it and other special prayers said at that time – again, attaching great promises of blessings to those who did so: “At three o’clock implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in my Passion… In this hour I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of my Passion. (Diary, 1320)
What does all this have to do with my fiendish addiction to cigarettes? Well, you’ve probably guessed it. As I was: 1. A great sinner and in need of an advocate at the point of death, and 2. In desperate need of a miracle if I were to ever be freed from smoking while living, I decided this devotion was for me… at least, I would try it. So I began saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 pm quite regularly, especially for the dying and my cigarette addiction. And after introducing my mother, Fern, to the devotion, she oftentimes joined me. The chaplet, a beautiful prayer, only takes about 10 minutes to complete, and is a nice way to stop and focus on the Lord for a few moments on a busy day, a spiritual gift beyond the mighty promises attached to it.
I also worked on quitting smoking during this time (1998-1999) as it was such a serious problem, but to no avail. So I guess I just “gave up on giving up” smoking. And, I suppose, I started to give up on the Lord. Frankly, the seeming failure of the Lord to answer me (when I wanted Him to) gnawed at my trust in God – the exact opposite intention of the devotion – it seemed to me. . Why weren’t my sincere prayers answered, I wondered, on this and other matters? (I have not always been steadfast in my faith – even after afforded extraordinary graces - far from it, as this story will attest.)
Then an inspiring event occurred: I learned that Sister Faustina was going to be officially acknowledged a saint by Pope John Paul II on the Feast of Mercy, the Sunday after Easter, in 2000. At the time, this was only a few months in the future. I saw this as a special opportunity as in 1937 the Lord also gave Saint Faustina another devotion, The Divine Mercy Novena, to which he also attached special graces to those who practiced it: “By this Novena (of Chaplets) I will grant every possible grace to souls.” (Diary 796) This beautiful devotion can also be recited anytime throughout the year, but the Lord wanted it said especially over the nine days starting on Good Friday and ending on Saturday, the day before the Feast of Mercy. When reciting it, along with saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 o’clock every day (which I followed by the rosary), one brings a different group of people to the font of the God’s unfathomable mercy.
I decided to say the Divine Mercy Novena as described in Saint Faustina’s diary for several intentions, especially my cessation from smoking so that it would coincide with this nun’s elevation to sainthood on the upcoming Feast of Mercy Sunday. My thinking, my hope, was that the Lord might be distributing special graces at such a wonderful event as a sign to unbelievers. (As if the Lord ever measures his infinite graces. Faulty thinking, sure – but I was also desperate.)
And I wasn’t alone in this idea… I thought. I learned after mass one Sunday, while reading the weekly church bulletin, that a large group of parishioners from several area churches were planning on praying the novena together, with a special service planned at my home church on the year 2000 Feast of Mercy, the Sunday of St. Faustina’s elevation. So I decided to join the group. (I found out later that this activity was and is still done every year, and was already a popular, annual tradition in many churches throughout the world by the 2000.)
So I prayed and smoked, smoked and prayed throughout the Novena. And again, I must say here I really prayed – I literally begged the Lord - whenever I found the time and just as fervently I asked Saint Faustina, and Our Lady, to assist me with my petitions. But nothing was happening it seemed to me, save that my prayer life improved.
Then on the 8th day of the Divine Mercy Novena, Friday morning, I awoke suddenly in the middle of the night. Somehow I knew that something had occurred, changed in the room around me, but I didn’t know what. I sat on the edge of the bed for a few moments wondering what it was. I remember looking all about me and seeing nothing unusual. Then I heard a soft, female voice. The voice said three words: “Lord, heal her.” Somehow I wasn’t frightened or even surprised. Rather, I felt very calm and filled with an inexplicable peace. And I knew the exact identity of my visitor; and the fact that she had died almost 70 years previously didn’t seem to matter. I simply felt blessed and after a while, I just drifted off to sleep.
The next morning I got up and, as usual, believe this or not, the first thing I did was fire up a cigarette! I didn’t even try to stop smoking! I thought about it, but I was too slavishly addicted to really try anymore. It was automatic. Nor did I tell anyone at this time what had happened – these things aren’t so easily explained - but reflected on the experience as I chain smoked my Basic 100s. Besides, I reasoned, I wasn’t healed of smoking as, well… I was still smoking. What was I to tell people? That the soon-to-be saint had visited me and prayed for my healing without success?
Still, I had had an extraordinary visitor and the Feast of Mercy Sunday, where she would be officially proclaimed a saint, was coming up in a couple days. In light of what had just occurred, I began to really look forward to the event as I knew from personal experience that the church was really right on this one. Sister Faustina was still at work in the world after her physical death, just as she had promised in her diary, asking the Lord for mercy for souls in need.
And the special church service was remarkable. My mother and I both attended. A half-dozen priests showed up to hear confessions. The Divine Mercy Chaplet was sung. My favorite priest, Father Leo, celebrated mass. It was really beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that toward the end of the service, during communion, I experienced a very special grace. I can’t really explain this mercy accept to say I was incredibly moved by the service: I believed I was witnessing the ultimate and most wonderful feast in the world with the Lord, Himself, welcoming people to it. (And I was.) As I knelt there, I remember feeling humbled and spiritually delighted and privileged beyond words to be invited to such a table. Then, suddenly, I noticed a man was talking to me who I didn’t know. It was another parishioner. He was bent over me asking if I was alright. I guess I looked faint. I wasn’t, but my mother was concerned, too.
The special service soon ended and my mother and I left. We spent the rest of the day quietly, doing ordinary things - shopping at a local farmer’s market, preparing dinner, chatting about the service and family matters. A wonderful peace rested upon both of us--
The Lord will give strength to his people; the Lord will bless His people with peace. (Psalm 29:11)
Peace I leave you; My peace I give you; not as the world gives to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
As for my horrible problem with cigarettes… I really don’t remember when I realized it. It had to be sometime that first day or the day after as, under normal condition, I would have lit up a cigarette as soon as I got to the car after church. But I didn’t. I didn’t even consider it. I know I was preoccupied with what had happened during the Feast of Mercy service, and with spending time with my mother, but such things would never have stopped me from smoking in the past. Nothing would.
Anyway, at some point I realized I hadn’t smoked since the Feast of Mercy Sunday service had begun! More, I didn’t want to smoke, and had no interest whatsoever in cigarettes at all! I didn’t even think about them anymore! I had been healed, made into a non-smoker, without even my knowledge! I got my miracle after all! (And I’ve never wanted another cigarette. No, not in the almost ten years since this happened.)
Absolutely none of my family and friends could believe it. By this I mean they couldn’t believe I wasn’t smoking, let alone without any withdrawal symptoms whatsoever. That I just didn’t smoke anymore. To this day I’m often asked about this particular miracle because, as the years roll by and I remain smoke free, more and more people seeking a healing from some illness or addiction remember my deliverance from cigarettes and want to know what I did.
And what did I do? Well, I said a thousand prayers for healing from the deadly habit and for years didn’t think I was heard. (I was, of course.) Then I said The Divine Mercy Novena and I was instantly, completely, and permanently freed from the addiction at the Feast of Mercy Sunday service a couple days after a certain long-dead Polish nun came to me and prayed over me. I just had to wait on the Lord. I was healed in His perfect timing, not mine. (I think too this is the reason there was a two day delay between Saint Faustina praying over me for healing and my actual healing. I believe the saint wanted to make sure I knew it was the Lord, not her, who did the healing. But clearly, the devotions, and the saint, are blessed.)
Trust in the Lord forever for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and it shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, wait on the Lord. (Psalm 27: 13-14)
No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised. (Roman 4 20-21)
I, of course, encourage
others to practice these beautiful devotions.
For those who want to incorporate it into their prayer life, please reference: http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/mercy/novena.htm#1 http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/praythechaplet.php
The Lord also attached special graces to those who venerate the Divine Mercy image which can be found on both instructional sites. The Servant of God’s diary is available at most secular and religious bookstores worldwide, and at many sites online. In the ten years since this blessing, I have read the work countless times and highly recommend it to anyone seeking spiritual direction. It has a permanent home at my bedside as it has greatly contributed to my spiritual life, as it has millions of others. (First time readers should make sure they take in the extensive footnotes in the back of the work as they read along; these annotations really help to illuminate the text, especially the time-line and what life was like in St. Faustina’s particular order.)