St. Maria Faustina Kowalska: Messenger of Divine Mercy
Today is the feast of St. Maria 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.
Helena Kowalska was born in a small village in west-central Poland, the third of 10 children. She worked as a housekeeper in three cities before joining the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1925. During her 13 years in various houses, she was employed as a cook, gardener, and porter.
In the 1930’s, Sister Faustina grew in holiness and developed a mystical interior life. During her time at the convent, Sister Faustina was blessed with many spiritual gifts, including: visions, prophecy, the stigmata, bi-location, the ability to read human hearts, and mystical marriage.
Sister Faustina 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. The two rays emanating from Christ’s heart represent the blood and water poured out after Jesus’ death. 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, 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.
Sister Maria Faustina died of tuberculosis in Krakow, Poland at the age of 33 in 1938. She 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.
Excerpts from Her Diary
Jesus told St. Faustina: “I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart” (Diary 1588).
“Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God” (Diary 1107).
“If souls would put themselves completely in my care, I myself would undertake the task of sanctifying them, and I would lavish even greater graces on them. There are souls who thwart My efforts, but I have not given up on them; as often as they turn to Me, I hurry to their aid, shielding them with My mercy, and I give them the first place in My compassionate Heart” (Diary, 1682).