Modern Day Saint

Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska


(1905-1938)

Saint Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in a small village west of Lodz, Poland, on August 25, 1905. She was the third of ten children. She came from a very poor family that struggled hard on their little farm during the terrible years of WWI. Sister had only three years of very simple education.  When she was almost twenty, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy whose members devote themselves to the care and education of troubled young women. Her’s were the humblest of tasks in the convent, usually in the kitchen or the vegetable garden, or as a porter. The following year she received her religious habit and was given the name, Sister Maria Faustina, to which she added, "of the Most Blessed Sacrament", as was permitted by her congregation's custom.

On February 22, 1931, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ appeared to this simple nun, bringing with Him a wonderful message of Mercy for all mankind. Jesus came with a message of trust in God's mercy that she was told to spread throughout the world. He asked her to be the apostle and secretary of His mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing God's plan of mercy for the world.

Of course if anyone, even a religious, admitted to being given a message by Jesus to spread throughout the whole world we would have our doubts. Faustina’s superiors arranged for a psychiatric assessment. She received a bill of complete mental health.  Convinced Faustina had indeed had a vision of Jesus, her spiritual mentor engaged an artist to produce a painting under Faustina's direction, rendering her vision of the merciful Savior.  

Christ told her to keep a journal or diary of her mystical experiences. Only a few of her superiors, her confessor, and her spiritual director knew of her visions and revelations.

Saint Faustina tells us in her diary under this date:
"In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing; the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, 'paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.'"

Some time later, Our Lord again spoke to her:
"The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous; the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My most tender Mercy at that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross....Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him."

Her entire life, in imitation of Christ's, was to be a sacrifice -- a life lived for others. At the Divine Lord's request, she willingly offered her personal sufferings in union with Him to atone for the sins of others; in her daily life she was to become a doer of mercy, bringing joy and peace to others, and by writing about God's mercy, she was to encourage others to trust in Him and thus prepare the world for His coming again.

She wrote and suffered in secret, with only her spiritual director and some of her superiors aware that anything special was taking place in her life. After her death from tuberculosis on October 5, 1938, even her closest associates were amazed as they began to discover what great sufferings and deep mystical experiences had been given to this Sister of theirs who had always been so cheerful and humble. She had taken deeply into her heart God's gospel command to "Be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful" as well as her confessor's directive that she should act in such a way that everyone who came in contact with her would go away joyful.

During her lifetime, Faustina was virtually unknown -- even to many sisters of her congregation. Following her death, the message of God's mercy as revealed to Faustina began to spread. However, because of the political situation in Poland during and after the war, it was difficult for the Church to authenticate Faustina's writings. As a result, the Vatican imposed a ban on spreading the message of mercy according to these revelations.

Once the writings were examined, scholars and theologians were astounded that a simple nun with only three years of formal education was able to write so clearly -- and with such detail and simplicity about the mystical life. Her writings were found to be entirely theologically correct, and are numbered among the greatest works of mystical literature.

Mere months before being named pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, after years of exhaustive work, succeeded in having the ban on Faustina's writings lifted.  Not only was he instrumental in having the ban on the spread of the message lifted, but he made Divine Mercy the theme of the second encyclical of his pontificate. During his visit to Faustina's tomb on June 7, 1997, he even stated that Divine Mercy has "formed the image of his pontificate."

Since that time, Pope John Paul II has promoted Divine Mercy and championed the cause of St. Faustina and her writings. He has done this mostly through the designation of the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The image of the Divine Mercy; the Diary of Sister Faustina Kowalska, now called “Divine Mercy in My Soul”; The Divne Mercy Chaplet; and, the Divne Mercy Novena has spread throughout the world. As a result, the revelations to Faustina became known as "The Message of Divine Mercy" and Jesus received a new title -- "The Divine Mercy" -- similar to "The Sacred Heart" as a renaming of Jesus himself.

 

Jim Fritz

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