"On that day, the depths of My Mercy will be opened to all... Let no one hesitate to draw near to Me, even those whose sins are most numerous and serious... Humanity will find peace only when it draws near to this font of Mercy." (Jesus to Sister Faustina.)
by Thérèse Tardif
Good news for the whole world, and especially for those who are, like Sister Faustina, apostles of Divine Mercy. Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament (Helena Kowalska) will be canonized on April 30, in Rome, by Pope John Paul II, her fellow countryman, who, when he was the Archbishop of Krakow, was the promoter of the cause of beatification of this humble Polish nun.
April 30, 2000, is the first Sunday after Easter. It is precisely on that day that Our Lord asked the Church, through His "secretary", Sister Faustina, to establish the Feast of His Divine Mercy.
The Church requires two miracles for a person to be canonized. In December, 1999, Pope John Paul II announced that a second miracle had been attributed to the intercession of Blessed Sister Faustina Kowalska, and that the Church could therefore declare her a saint.
It was in 1981 that the Rev. Seraphim Michalenko, rector of the U.S. National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., accompanied a woman of this town, Maureen Digan, to Faustina's shrine in Poland, after which this woman was healed of lymphodemia, a life-threatening illness. The Church, after seeing the evidence, officially attributed the healing to Sister Faustina.
Last October, the Church acknowledged a second miracle: the 1995 healing of a Baltimore priest, the Rev. Ronald Pytel.
Two prophecies of Sister Faustina will be fulfilled next April 30: she will be proclaimed a saint, and the Feast of Divine Mercy, asked by Our Lord, will be celebrated in Rome.
The dream Sister Faustina had at the beginning of her religious life is very striking. She relates herself the fact:
"During my noviciate, I saw, in a dream, Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus. I had then some difficulties that I could not overcome. All of a sudden, I had the idea to invoke Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, and I began a novena to her. On the fifth day of this novena, Saint Theresa appeared to me in a dream:
"My sister," she said in a convincing voice, "know that, in three days, everything will work out all right."
"Please tell me, dear Saint Theresa, will I go to Heaven?"
"You shall be a saint."
"But, dear Theresa, will I be a saint just like you, raised to the altars?"
"Yes, just like me, but before that, you must have a great trust in Jesus."
"I noticed," related Sister Faustina, "that as soon as I entered the convent, I was reproached, ironically, with being a saint. At first, this remark hurt me; but after a while, I paid no attention to it. One day, however, one person was harassed because of my 'saintliness', and it made me very sad. I complained about it to Our Lord, asking Him why this was happening. Jesus said to me: 'This makes you sad, and yet, you are a saint; soon I will show it Myself in you, and people will again say this same word about you, "a saint", but this time, it will be with love.""
Sister Faustina fulfilled her mission of being an apostle of the Divine Mercy, and in her personal life, she strived to be what Christ wanted her to be, that is, a great saint. He said to her: "My daughter, look at My Merciful Heart, and imprint its compassion on your own heart. I will manage to have My Mercy, which you are annoucing to the world, kindle your own person."
Sister Faustina wanted to win the whole world over to the Merciful Love of God. " I would like to shout to the entire world: 'Love God, because He is so good, and His Mercy is forever!'"
God led her through all the steps of contemplation, up to the union of ecstasy with God. He raised her to the transforming union (or spiritual marriage) that prepares the soul for the vision of the Holy Trinity in Heaven.
On April 30, 2000, as it was predicted to her by Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus back in 1926, Sister Faustina will be proclaimed a saint by the Church, a saint on the altars. Can we doubt now about the truth of the mission that Our Lord had entrusted her with?
Born on a farm Helena Kowalska, who took the name of Sister Faustina in religion, was born on August 5, 1905, in the village of Glogowiec near Lodz, Poland. She was the third of ten children. She was baptized the next day. Her father was a farmer and a carpenter, with a great piety. Helena grew up under the watchful eye of her mother. She went to school for two years, but the dire poverty of her family prevented them from continuing her education.
At the age of 15, she told her parents that she wanted to become a nun. Her father refused right away, saying he had no money for the dowry and the clothing.
Being discouraged of not being able to pursue her ideal, she abandoned herself to the vanities of the world. One evening, with her sister, she went dancing; she saw suddenly, near her, Jesus, who was covered with wounds, and who said to her: "How long will I have to endure your deceiving Me?... Go to Warsaw and enter the convent."
After having met with refusals from several communities, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy on August 1, 1925, where she took the name of Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament. She was then sent to convents in various places: Warsaw, Grochow, Plock, Wilno, Valendow, Derdy, and finally, Lagiewniki, near Krakow. She fulfilled conscientiously her duty in the kitchen, the garden, or as a doorkeeper.
"Saintliness," she said, "consists in the love of God and in our efforts to practice charity towards our neighbor."
Besides the mortifications required by the rule of her community, Sister Faustina wore a small iron chain, and prayed stretching out her arms at the sides. She had a great respect for her religious habit, and wore it even in the kitchen.
She often repeated: "Remember that, first of all, we must strive to sanctify ourselves, to obtain a real interior life and intense union with Our Lord."
In 1929, while she was attending Mass, she saw Jesus, who said to her: "I have for you an eternal love, and so that your purity will remain spotless, you will no longer have any temptation against this virtue."
The humility of Sister Faustina was profound: "The happiest moments of my life," she said, "are those when I remain alone with my God, having a heart-to-heart talk with Him. It is at these moments that I understand His greatness and my own nothingness."
The humble nun was chosen by Our Lord as a victim of love. She relates: "During my third probation, Our Lord made me understand that I had to become a victim in His presence, that I had to offer up myself to Him, so that He could accomplish in me all that He wanted."
Sister Faustina accomplishes the Will of Her Divine Master so well that He said to her one day: "Ô my victim, you are the consolation of My gravely offended Heart."
Since her childhood, the Blessed Sacrament was the source of Sister Faustina's thoughts, deeds, and desires. So, in the garden of the convent of Wilno, she took special care of the flowers aimed for adorning the altar. During her stay at the hospital of Pravnik, she made an heroic effort to receive Holy Communion. She said that she had received several times Holy Communion from the hands of angels.
She could read into consciences, even at a distance.
She had the gift of prophecy. She announced eight years in advance the declaration of World War II in 1939. She predicted that it would be a long war, and that Warsaw would be bombed. In 1936, she predicted that she would die two years later. As predicted, she died on October 5, 1938, at the age of 33, the same age as Our Lord when He died.
Being totally melted in God, impregnated with the Eucharist, and hidden with Him, the mission of Sister Faustina becomes more and more clear. Before Judgment Day, the day of reckoning, she announces to mankind the Day of Mercy. 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. Through you, as through the Host, the rays of My Mercy will be diffused all over the world."
Sister Faustina wrote in her diary: "I feel that my mission will not end with my death on earth, but it will rather begin at that very moment. Ô souls who doubt, I will open Heaven to convince you of the reality of Divine Goodness, so that you may no longer offend the Sacred Heart of Jesus through your lack of trust."
The story of the life of Sister Faustina would be incomplete without mentioning her love for her homeland, which she loved with all her heart. "Ô my dear homeland, if you knew how many prayers and Sacrifices I offer up to God for you! Remember to give thanks to God and to show your gratitude for all the graces and privileges He has granted you. You cost me dear, my dear homeland. I pray for you daily!"
Jesus spoke to her about the mission of her homeland: "Poland is dear to My Heart in a very special way. If Poland is faithful and obedient to My Will, I will raise it high in power and sanctity; it will project the light that will prepare the world for My second coming."
Sister Faustina left to the world, the great Message of God's infinite Mercy. This Message was dictated by Jesus Himself. Our Lord gave to Sister Faustina the instructions and means to carry out her mission. He enlightened her with several revelations, which became more and more frequent as she became more united to His Holy Will.
The image of the Divine Mercy originates from a vision that Sister Faustina had in Plock on February 22, 1931. She relates in her diary:
"In the evening, when I was in my cell, I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays — one red, the other pale. In silence I kept my gaze fixed on Our Lord; my soul was struck with awe, but also with great joy. After a while, Jesus said to me: "Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: '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 will venerate 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.
"The flames of My Mercy are consuming Me. I wish to enkindle all souls with the flames of My Mercy. Their lack of trust pierces Me to the very depths of My Heart.
"What pains Me the most is the lack of trust of privileged souls, who still retain some doubts despite the proofs My love has given them. Even My death would be insufficient to convince them.
"The rays that emanate from My Heart are the symbol of My Mercy; they represent the pouring forth of My Precious Blood and the water from My side on the day of My sacrifice on Calvary.
"Write this, that before coming as Judge, I shall come first as the King of Mercy. Before the coming of that day of Justice, there will be a sign in the heavens. All light will be extinguished in heaven and on earth. Then will appear in the sky the sign of the Cross. From each of the wounds on My hands and feet will shine forth a light that will, for a brief time, brighten the earth. (Every human being will see in himself the state of his soul.) This will be a short time before the last day.
"I give to all men a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of Mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: 'Jesus, I trust in You'. This picture must constantly remind poor humanity of the infinife Mercy of God."
The second point of the Message of our Lord to Sister Faustina concerned the institution of the Feast of the Mercy of God. Jesus said to her:
"My daughter, announce to the entire world My infinite Mercy. I desire that the Feast of My Mercy be a refuge for all souls, but especially for poor sinners. On that day, the depths of My Mercy will be opened to all. Those who confess their sins and receive Holy Communion on that day will receive pardon for their sins and the remission of the temporal punishment due to these sins. Let no one hesitate to draw near to Me, even those whose sins are most numerous and serious. The Feast of My Mercy flows from the very depths of My Being. I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of My Mercy. Humanity will find peace only when it draws near to this font of Mercy."
The purpose of the Feast is to honor this great attribute of God, and to encourage mankind by this effusion of Mercy all over the earth. Priests must preach on that day the infinite Mercy of God, without which there is no salvation. Jesus promises a very special aid to priests who will preach His Divine Mercy.
In a supernatural manner, Sister Faustina saw in advance, in spirit, the celebration of that Feast of Mercy in Rome. She wrote in her diary, March 23, 1937:
"This ceremony was taking place in Rome, in a magnificent sanctuary, where the Holy Father presided with countless members of the clergy. I suddenly saw Saint Peter at the altar next to the Holy Father. Just what Saint Peter said, I was unable to hear, but I could see that the Holy Father had understood."
It would be too long to mention all the sufferings, contradictions, mockeries, and persecutions Sister Faustina had to endure during her short life on earth because of the mission Our Lord had entrusted her with. She left this world filled with the confidence that the work for which she had given her life would be realized:
"Notwithstanding Satan's rage, God's mercy will triumph throughout the world, and it will be glorified by all souls."
After Sister Faustina's death, pictures of the Merciful Jesus began spreading throughout the world like wildfire. The devil could not endure that. For reasons unknown to us, on March 7, 1959, the Holy See in Rome placed an interdict upon the propagation of the pictures and writings concerning the devotion to the Divine Mercy as dictated by Our Lord to Sister Faustina.
However, notwithstanding this ban, the cause of Sister Faustina advanced considerably. In 1965, with the permission of the Holy See, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow opened the inquiry process, as a first step towards the beatification of Sister Faustina. On April 15, 1978, the Holy See cancelled the 1959 interdiction, and allowed the publication of Sister Faustina's writings. Six months later, on October 16, 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope. No one was in a better position than him to know about the mystical life and sanctity of his fellow countrywoman. One cannot go against God's Will. God can even have a Pope elected to reach His designs.
In 1993, on the first Sunday, after Easter, Sister Faustina was beatified in Rome. On April 30, 2000, also the first Sunday after Easter, the triumph of the Merciful Jesus will be complete. May He be glorified and praised forever for His infinite Goodness and Mercy!