SAINT MARIA FAUSTINA KOWALSKA (1905-1938), virgin and religious – Patron saint of The Divine Mercy, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Divine Mercy Apostolates
Today, the Church honors Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, or more popularly known as Saint Faustina, the “Apostle of The Divine Mercy” who belongs today to a group of the most popular and well-known saints of the Church.
Through her, our Lord communicated to the world the great message of God’s Mercy and revealed the pattern of Christian perfection based on trust in God and on the attitude of mercy toward one’s neighbors.
She was born on August 25, 1905 in Głogowiec in Poland into a poor but religious peasant family. She was the third of ten children and was baptized with the name Helena in the nearby parish church of Saint Casimir in Swinice Warckie.
From a very tender age, she stood out because of her love of prayer, work, obedience, and also her sensitivity to the poor. At the age of seven, she had already felt the first stirrings of a religious vocation, hearing within her soul a voice calling her to a more perfect way of life. Helena made her First Holy Communion at the age of nine, which was a very profound moment in her awareness of the Presence of the Divine Guest within her.
She attended school for three years. After finishing school, she wanted to enter the convent, but her parents would not give their permission. At the age of sixteen, Helena left home and went to work as a housekeeper in the towns of Aleksandrów, Lodi and Ostrówek in order to find the means of supporting herself and helping her parents.
Helena never lost her desire for a religious vocation. After being called during a vision of the Suffering Christ, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy on August 1, 1925, and took the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. She lived in the Congregation for thirteen years in several religious houses in Poland. She spent time at Kraków, Plock and Vilnius, where she worked as a cook, gardener, and porter.
Externally, nothing revealed her rich mystical interior life. Sister Maria Faustina zealously performed her tasks and faithfully observed the Rule of religious life. She was quiet and, at the same time, very natural, serene and full of kindness and unbiased love for her neighbor. Although her life was apparently insignificant, monotonous and dull, she hid within herself an extraordinary union with God.
It is the mystery of the Mercy of God, which she contemplated in both the Word of God as well as in the everyday activities of her life that formed the basis of her spirituality. The process of contemplating and getting to know the mystery of God’s Mercy helped develop within herself the attitude of child-like trust in God as well as mercy toward her neighbors.
Sister Faustina was a faithful daughter of the Church which she loved like a Mother. Conscious of her role in the Church, she cooperated with God’s Mercy in the task of saving lost souls. At the specific request of and following the example of our Lord Jesus, she made a sacrifice of her own life for this very purpose. In her spiritual life, she also distinguished herself with a profound love for the Eucharist and a deep devotion to Mary as the Mother of Mercy.
Jesus chose Sister Maria Faustina as the Apostle and “Secretary” of His Mercy, so that she could tell the world about His great message, which Sister Faustina recorded in a diary titled Divine Mercy in My Soul.
Jesus said to her, “In the Old Covenant, I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart” (Diary, 1588).
In an extraordinary way, Sister Maria Faustina’s work sheds light on the mystery of The Divine Mercy. It delights not only the simple and uneducated people, but also scholars who look upon it as an additional source of theological research. Her “Diary” has been translated into many languages – English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak, to name just a few.
Sister Faustina, consumed by tuberculosis and by innumerable sufferings which she accepted as a voluntary sacrifice for sinners, died in Kraków at the age of only thirty-three on October 5, 1938, with a reputation for spiritual maturity and a mystical union with God. The reputation of the holiness of her life grew as did the cult to The Divine Mercy and the graces she obtained from God through her intercessions.
In the years 1965-1967, the Investigative Process into her life and heroic virtues was undertaken in Kraków, and, in the year 1968, the Beatification Process was initiated in Rome.
On April 18, 1993, she was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II, and was canonized a saint by him on Divine Mercy Sunday on April 30, 2000, as the first saint of the Jubilee Year of the Third Millennium. Saint Faustina’s mortal remains rest at the Sanctuary of The Divine Mercy in Kraków-Lagiewniki.
We commemorate her feastday on October 5.
(From thedivinemercy.org, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, vultus.stblogs.org and vatican.va/news_services)
(The following prayer is from the Collect for Saint Maria Faustina)
“O God, who in a wondrous manner revealed the inexhaustible riches of Your Mercy to Saint Maria Faustina, grant, we beseech You, that, by looking with trust upon the pierced side of Your Son, we may be strengthened to show mercy one to another and, at length, sing forever of Your Mercy in Heaven.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”