St. Faustina Kowalska, Apostle of Divine Mercy
Today is the optional memorial of St. Faustina Kowalska (1905 – 1938), a Polish nun who was chosen by Jesus to remind the world of the mystery of God’s merciful love, the devotion to Divine Mercy.
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. When she was 15 years old, she quit school in order to work as a housekeeper to help support her family. By the time she was 18, she was sure that God was calling her to a religious life, but her parents objected. So she tried to put it out of her mind. But one night, while at a village dance, Helena saw Jesus, sad and suffering. The very next day she packed a small bag and went to the capital city of Warsaw to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, whose members devote themselves to the care and education of troubled young women. 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”. During her 13 years in various houses, she was a cook, gardener, and porter.
In the 1930’s, Sister Faustina grew in holiness and developed a mystical interior life. She began to have visions, receive revelations, and experience a hidden stigmata. She received from the Lord a message of mercy that she was told to spread throughout the world. She was asked to become the apostle and secretary of God’s mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing God’s plan of mercy for the world. Jesus appeared to her and asked that a picture be painted of him with the inscription: “Jesus, I Trust in You.” She commissioned this painting in 1935, showing a red and a white light shining from Christ’s Sacred Heart.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. Her special devotion to Mary Immaculate and to the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation gave her the strength to bear all her sufferings as an offering to God on behalf of the Church and those in special need, especially great sinners and the dying.
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 in 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. The message of mercy that Sister Faustina received is now being spread throughout the world; her diary, Divine Mercy in my Soul, has become the handbook for devotion to the Divine Mercy.
Faustina was canonized by the first Polish pope, John Paul II, on April 30, 2000. The first Sunday after Easter was declared Divine Mercy Sunday. St. Faustina’s remains rest at the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Kraków-Lagiewniki.
For more information on the Divine Mercy devotion and the feast of the Divine Mercy, go here.
Also see the following:
- Decree Establishing the Sunday after Easter ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’
- Divine Mercy Expresses the Jubilee Spirit, Pope John Paul II
- Sister Faustina: God’s Gift to Our Time, Pope John Paul II
- Saint Faustina, Apostle of Divine Mercy, L’Osservatore Romano
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