'What a Grace of God'

When Marian Helper Louise Fecteau of Lewiston, Maine, gave birth to her first child, Nicholas, doctors discovered he had a rare heart condition needing immediate surgery.

"There was only one other person who had survived this procedure," Louise said. "Nicholas was the second one." Louise believes Nicholas survived thanks to the intercession of St. Padre Pio. Doctors, however, said that the surgery's success only had a 10-year window.

Nicholas had a second open heart surgery at the age of 17 and was given high expectations to live another 20 years. He was attending community college and dating a lovely young lady.

Despite bringing his girlfriend into the Catholic faith, he moved in with her, much to his mother's dismay.

Around this time, Louise gave birth to her 13th child, Anna Grace. The next day, Nick came to the hospital to visit. When he arrived, Louise said that her "mama bear" instinct kicked in. She looked at her son and said, "Nick, have you been going to church?"

He said "no," using as an excuse his 12-hour shift on Sundays at his new job.

"You're a practicing Catholic," Louise told him. "You get your butt back to Confession and start going back to church."

She added, "You never know when you're going die."

Nick told his mother "yes," that he would go to Confession and Mass.

The next day, Nov. 7, 2010, Louise returned to a home full of family and friends with her newborn daughter. But as soon as she arrived, she received a disturbing call. "We got a phone call from the hospital identifying me as Nicholas' mother and to come in immediately," Louise said.

Just after coming out the door of the hospital with her newborn child, she had to turn around, walk back in, and identify the body of her eldest. "He had passed away," she said. "He dropped dead at work."

Louise, her husband Blake, and all her children were devastated. "It felt like an iron fist had just grabbed ahold of my heart and wouldn't let go," she said.

At his funeral, in lieu of flowers, the family asked for Mass cards. "He received more than 300 Masses," she said. "He had a massive amount of people praying for his soul."

Though Nicholas didn't make it back to Confession before his death, he told his mother "yes," that he planned to. "To me, that was a consolation from God. Looking back, you sit and you reflect. He gave God his fiat," she said. "I think God took that 'yes.'"

Still, she wondered about his salvation. "This is where Divine Mercy started kicking in hard," she said. She began praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for Nicholas every morning and afternoon at 3 o'clock. "Early in the morning, my guardian angel must have woken me up every time," Louise said. "I did that for a few years."

One day shortly after Nick's death, praying through her grief, Louise heard a soft voice in her heart say, "That pain that you are now experiencing is but a pin drop of the pain that the Holy Souls feel in Purgatory.'"

"And it made sense," Louise said. "We know we're going to see each other someday, but we just don't know when. These Holy Souls are in a similar state. They love God. They know they'll see Him at some point, but they don't know when. Grief is a similar sharing of pain in that way."

Despite their grief, Louise and her family decided to celebrate Thanksgiving as best they could. "We just wanted to try to offer up the pain and not be just immersed in misery," Louise said. "It was difficult, but we did it."

Then, of course, came Christmas. "For gifts, we can't do a lot. We have Masses said for the children," she said.

A few days after Christmas, Louise was grieving privately, wondering about her son's salvation, when her 11-year-old, John Paul, came in. He excitedly told her about a dream he had the night before in which his guardian angel took him to Purgatory and Heaven.

He told his mother that in his dream, his angel took him to a huge, white room. "He said it was glowing white, and there were thousands of people there of all different colors, all wearing white robes," Louise said. In his dream, he said that he asked a guard at a nearby door if he had seen his brother, Nick. The guard told him with a smile, "Nicholas went through that door at the Christmas Mass."

The dream continued. John Paul said he went through the door with his angel. "He said the colors were out of this world," Louise said. "They were bright, unlike anything he had ever seen. There was a bridge made of different stones, and on the other side of the bridge there was Nicholas talking to Jesus. They both looked at John Paul, and he walked toward them, and Nicholas reached out to ruffle his hair. Then he woke up."

This dream brought Louise much consolation. "This is from an 11-year-old," Louise said. "We never told him what Purgatory looks like. I have no idea. Or Heaven, we've never talked about that."

She came to believe that all the Masses being said, all her prayers to St. Padre Pio, and all her Chaplets of Divine Mercy for Nick had an eternal impact.

"The pain of the possible loss [of a soul] from God's grace - that's the most devastating feeling in the world," she said. "Knowing that there is a Purgatory, what a grace of God. What an immense grace."


You might also like...

One of the principal intentions of the personal prayers of St. Francis of Assisi (feast day: Oct. 4) should sound familiar to Divine Mercy apostles. This is no surprise.

Wow, have you ever considered all the things Pope St. John Paul II had to say about Divine Mercy? As we celebrate his feast day on Oct. 22, take another look.

Let us ask Jesus and His saints to help us take up our crosses and follow them on the well-worn path to Heaven.