October 4, 2017

Saint Faustina, Virgin, Apostle of Divine Mercy

Saint Faustina,

October 5th, the Church observes 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, the third of ten children to indigent, Catholic peasants Stanisław and Marianna Kowalska in Głogówiec, Poland. Her father was a carpenter; her mother a simple housekeeper.

When she was 15 years old, she quit school in order to work as a housemaid 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 the lively polka music was playing 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. There she commenced religious life, taking the name Sister Mary Faustina.

This humble sister with only three years of formal education lived a short but consequential life. Through her, God revealed His compassion, His desire to forgive sins and reconcile mankind to Himself. She endured great hardships in carrying out this divine mission. At first, many people did not believe Faustina. The sisters in her convent thought Jesus could not possibly have selected her.

On February 22, 1931, Our Lord appeared to Faustina as the King of Divine Mercy. He asked her to have a picture painted of him 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. Under the image are the words, "Jesus, I trust in you." Jesus instructed her to tell the world of His infinite love and mercy. She kept a diary of these visions; published under the title: Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina. 

At the age of only 33, Faustina 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 Saint John Paul II), reopened the investigation into Faustina's life and writings, and approved devotion to 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. Almighty 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 we require most. Let us submit ourselves to your Divine Mercy, and in so doing, experience eternal Beatitude with you. Amen.

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