This month marks the first anniversary of my move to Ecuador. It also marks the 80th anniversary of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. When I boarded the plane to come here, I had a very small Chaplet in my pocket. Every day since then I’ve carried it with me.
The words of the prayers unify me with the rest of humanity as I pray: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Depending on where I am when I pray the Chaplet, the “us” in the prayer changes.
I pray the chaplet when I’m walking down dirt country roads, and the “us” includes the indigenous women working in the fields with a child wrapped tightly to their backs; it includes the men walking a group of cows down the road, looking for a place to graze; it includes the children who play in their dirty clothes among the chickens in the front yard.
As I walk down busy roads, the “us” includes the shop owners, mechanics, and construction workers.
It includes the drivers of the loud buses soaring by, the people crammed into the buses, and the pedestrians I pass.
When I kneel in the church in front of a statue of Saint Joseph, the “us” becomes my family–my wife, my child, and me.
Churches seem to be everywhere. Religious processions just seem to happen. Small figurines of Jesus and Mary sit on the dashboards of taxis. Crucifixes hang on rearview mirrors. Even the walls of banks and bars are adorned with religious paintings.
Yet I pray for the people of Ecuador because, despite the beauty I have seen here, I have also experienced a lot of hatred, greed, dishonesty, and inhospitality.
In Ecuador, it is not uncommon for people to assume I’m very wealthy, simply because of my nationality.
In taxis and markets, prices are increased and “fees” are made up to get the most money possible.
I have found much more to dislike about Ecuador.
Prostitution is legal. Domestic violence is an everyday truth. Men honk their horns in admiration at girls young enough to be their daughters.
All of this in a country where 91.95% of the country’s population have a religion, with 80.44% Roman Catholic.
Over the months, as I prayed my Chaplet the “us” slowly turned into “them.” Then, I remembered the words of a good friend, a Catholic missionary. I have been close to him since I was a young teenager.
When I moved to Ecuador, he told me something that I had forgotten:
“Focus more on seeing the good. And remember that gluttony, greed, lust, power, and waste are not just in rich countries. People are basically the same everywhere. They have these bad qualities, but they also laugh, cry, love, and need food and water.”
These words came from a man who witnessed atrocities in Bosnia most of us can’t imagine. He worked in the very poor parts of Dominican Republic. He has worked with youth around the world.
I had let his words slip from my mind. I had forgotten what he told me. When I remembered his words, everything made sense.
Reflecting on his words I continued to pray the Chaplet, asking Jesus Christ to “have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
Soon I realized that I am part of the “us.” I have been rude to people. I’ve mistreated others. I have never tried to charge someone more for a product or service based on their race, but I have failed in many other ways.
There’s a lot of beauty in the world. There’s also a lot of cruelty, and it calls for forgiveness and understanding. This is true whether you’re living in your own county or abroad.
As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the Catholic Church, I will continue to pray and to offer “the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”