October 4, 2016

Saint Faustina, Apostle of Divine Mercy

St. Faustina KowalskaOctober 5th, is the optional memorial of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, (1905-1938) the 20th century Polish nun who Jesus chose to deliver to the world His message of Divine Mercy. She was born, Helena Kowalska, in Głogówiec, Poland, the third of ten children to poor, Catholic peasants Stanisław and Marianna Kowalska.

Her father was a carpenter and her mother an occasional housekeeper. At 15, Helena left school to help support her family. As a young child, she felt called by God to a religious vocation. In 1925, she entered the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, taking the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament.

This simple nun with only three years of formal education lived a short but very consequential life. Through her, God reveled His compassion, His desire to forgive sins and reconcile mankind to Himself. She endured great hardships in carrying out this divine mission, in which, she was disbelieved and her diary suppressed.

Faustina received visions of our Lord, in which, Jesus instructed her to tell the world of His infinite love and mercy. She kept a diary of these visions; later published under the title Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina. During her life, Sr. Faustina was virtually unknown, even to sisters of her congregation. Only a few of her superiors, her confessor and spiritual director, were aware of the miraculous events and revelations.

At 33, she succumbed to tuberculosis. Following her death her writings were met with skepticism. After the Second World War, the Church would revisit them. The Archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyła (the future St. John Paul II), reopened the investigation into Faustina's life and writings and approved devotion to the Divine Mercy, including praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

St. Faustina is the first canonized saint of the 3rd millennium. She was canonized by St. John Paul II, on April 30, 2000. The Divine Mercy Devotion was universally recognized and the first Sunday after Easter was declared Divine Mercy Sunday. O God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask. Let us submit ourselves this very day to your Divine Mercy, and in so doing, experience eternal Beatitude with you and your saints in heaven.

Saint Faustina and the Divine Mercy of Christ

The Divine Mercy image
Image of Divine Mercy
On February 22, 1931, as Faustina prayed in her cell, Jesus appeared to her as the King of Divine Mercy. He asked her to have a picture painted of him (pictured left) as she saw him, clothed in white, with red and white rays of light streaming from his heart. The rays represent the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross. Beneath the image were to be the words, "Jesus, I trust in You".

In her Diary, Faustina writes: "I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. ...After a while, Jesus said to me; 'Paint an image according to the model you see, with the motto below: Jesus I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world'". "I promise that the soul that venerates this image will not perish. I also promise victory over its enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory".

In June 1934, an artist completed the painting of the Divine Mercy according to her instructions; and it soon became a focus for devotion. Faustina continued to record in her diary the appearances of Jesus.

At first, many people did not believe Faustina. The sisters in her convent thought that Jesus could not possibly have selected her for this great favor. After all, she was an uneducated peasant girl. Her superiors often refused to give her permission to carry out Jesus' requests. Church theologians, too, doubted her word. When Faustina’s spiritual director learned of her visions, he had her submit to a psychiatric assessment before proceeding. Jesus told Faustina that he loved her obedience and that his will would be done in the end.

Christ's will was indeed done. At St. Faustina's canonization Mass, her fellow countryman St. John Paul II's homily praised her steadfast and courageous life and witness in spreading the Divine Mercy of Christ to all humanity:

"Divine Mercy reaches human beings through the heart of Christ crucified:  'My daughter, say that I am love and mercy personified', Jesus will ask Sr Faustina (Diary, p. 374). Christ pours out this mercy on humanity though the sending of the Spirit who, in the Trinity, is the Person-Love. And is not mercy love's "second name" (cf. Dives in misericordia, n. 7), understood in its deepest and most tender aspect, in its ability to take upon itself the burden of any need and, especially, in its immense capacity for forgiveness?

Today my joy is truly great in presenting the life and witness of Sr. Faustina Kowalska to the whole Church as a gift of God for our time. By divine Providence, the life of this humble daughter of Poland was completely linked with the history of the 20th century, the century we have just left behind. In fact, it was between the First and Second World Wars that Christ entrusted his message of mercy to her. Those who remember, who were witnesses and participants in the events of those years and the horrible sufferings they caused for millions of people, know well how necessary was the message of mercy."

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