Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska was a 20th-century Polish nun and mystic, known by the Roman Catholic church as the "apostle of Divine Mercy". She experienced miraculous visions of Jesus Christ, which she recorded in her diary. In these visions, the Divine Mercy of Jesus was emphasized, and in particular, Jesus requested that the first Sunday after Easter would be a commemoration of his Divine Mercy. Under the Papacy of Pope John Paul II, this change took place in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar.
God is glorious in his saints!
Welcome to the Christian Saints Podcast. My name is Prof Darren Ong, recording from Sepang in Malaysia. In this podcast, we explore the lives of the Christian saints, from the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. Today, we celebrate St Maria Faustina Kowalska, a nun and mystic known as the Apostle of Divine Mercy.
Saint Maria Faustina was born as Helena Kowalska, in 1905 to a poor peasant family in Poland. She displayed great religious devotion at a young age, and eventually entered a convent. She is celebrated as a mystic, as she began to receive visons from Jesus that spoke of his great mercy. St Maria Faustina suffered with poor health and died young – but she has become a very popular saint. Today, in the Catholic church the first Sunday after Easter is known as the Sunday of Divine Mercy, following her visions of Jesus.
Let us read an account of her life from L'Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Holy See, in an article titled “20th-century Polish nun was chosen by Jesus to remind the world of the mystery of God’s merciful love”
St Mary Faustina Kowalska was born on 25 August 1905 in Glogowiec, Poland, to a poor, religious family of peasants, the third of 10 children. She was baptized with the name Helena in the parish church of Swinice Warckle. From a very tender age she stood out because of her love of prayer, work, obedience and her sensitivity to the poor. At the age of nine she made her First Holy Communion and attended school for three years. At the age of 16 she left home and went to work as a housekeeper in Aleksandrow, Lodz and Ostrowek in order to support herself and to help her parents.
At the age of seven she had already felt the first stirrings of a religious vocation. After finishing school, she wanted to enter the convent but her parents would not give her permission. Called during a vision of the suffering Christ, on 1 August 1925 she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and took the name Sr Mary Faustina. She lived in the congregation for 13 years, residing in Krakow, Plock and Vilnius, where she worked as a cook, gardener and porter.
Externally, nothing revealed her rich mystical interior life. She zealously performed her tasks and faithfully observed the rule of religious life. She was recollected, yet very natural, serene and full of kindness and disinterested love for her neighbour. Although her life was apparently insignificant and monotonous, she hid within herself an extraordinary union with God.
It is the mystery of God's mercy, which she contemplated in the word of God as well as in her everyday activities, that forms the basis of her spirituality. The process of contemplating and getting to know the mystery of God's mercy helped to develop within Sr Mary Faustina the attitude of childlike trust in God and of mercy towards her neighbour. "0 my Jesus, each of your saints reflects one of your virtues; I desire to reflect your compassionate heart, full of mercy; I want to glorify it. Let your mercy, 0 Jesus, be impressed upon my heart and soul like a seal, and this will be my badge in this and the future life" (Diary 1242). Sr Faustina was a faithful daughter of the Church. 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 the Lord Jesus and following his example, she made a sacrifice of her own life for this very goal. Her spiritual life was also distinguished by a love of the Eucharist and a deep devotion to the Mother of Mercy.
The years she spent in the convent were filled with extraordinary gifts, such as revelations, visions, hidden stigmata, participation in the Passion of the Lord, bilocation, the reading of human souls, prophecy and the rare gift of mystical espousal and marriage. Her living relationship with God, the Blessed Mother, the angels, the saints, the souls in purgatory—with the entire supernatural world—was as real for her as the world she perceived with the senses. In spite of being so richly endowed with extraordinary graces, Sr Mary Faustina knew that they do not in fact constitute sanctity. In her Diary she wrote: "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).
The Lord Jesus chose Sr Mary Faustina as the apostle and "secretary" of his mercy, so that she could tell the world about his great message. "In the Old Covenant", he said to her, "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).
The mission of Sr Mary Faustina consists in three tasks:
—reminding the world of the truth of our faith revealed in the Holy Scripture about the merciful love of God towards every human being;
—entreating God's mercy for the whole world and particularly for sinners, among others through the practice of new forms of devotion to the Divine Mercy presented by the Lord Jesus, such as: the veneration of the image of the Divine Mercy with the inscription: "Jesus, I trust in you"; the feast of the Divine Mercy celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter; chaplet to the Divine Mercy and prayer at the Hour of Mercy (3 p.m.). The Lord Jesus attached great promises to the above forms of devotion, provided one entrusted one's life to God and practised active love of neighbour;
—initiating the apostolic movement of the Divine Mercy, whose task is to proclaim and entreat God's mercy for the world and to strive for Christian perfection, following the precepts laid down by Sr Mary Faustina. The precepts in question require the faithful to have an attitude of childlike trust in God, expressed in fulfilling his will, and an attitude of mercy toward one's neighbour. Today millions of people throughout the world are involved in this Church movement: it includes religious congregations, lay institutes, religious, confraternities, associations, various communities of apostles of the Divine Mercy, as well as individuals who take up the tasks which the Lord Jesus communicated to them through Sr Mary Faustina.
Sr Mary Faustina's mission was recorded in her Diary, which she kept at the specific request of the Lord Jesus and her confessors. In it she faithfully wrote down all of the Lord's wishes and described the encounters between her soul and him. "Secretary of my most profound mystery", the Lord said to Sr Faustina, "know that your task is to write down everything that I make known to you about my mercy, for the benefit of those who by reading these things will be comforted in their souls and will have the courage to approach me" (Diary 1693). Sr Mary Faustina's work sheds light on the mystery of the Divine Mercy. It delights not only simple, uneducated people, but also scholars, who look upon it as an additional source of theological research.
Sr Mary Faustina, consumed by tuberculosis and innumerable sufferings, which she accepted as a voluntary sacrifice for sinners, died in Krakow at the age of 33 on 5 October 1938, with a reputation for spiritual maturity and a mystical union with God. Her reputation for holiness grew, as did the devotion to the Divine Mercy and the graces received from God through her intercession. Pope John Paul II beatified Sr Faustina on 18 April 1993. Her mortal remains rest at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki.
St Maria Faustina’s diary contains her accounts of these encounters with Jesus, with a strong emphasis on Christ’s mercy and love. Let us read from a few sections of thjis diary:
Today Jesus said to me, "I desire that you know more profoundly the love that burns in My Heart for souls, and you will understand this when you meditate upon My Passion. Call upon My mercy on behalf of sinners; I desire their salvation. When you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith on behalf of some sinner, I will give him the grace of conversion. This is the prayer: “O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You.”
“Great love can change small things into great ones, and it is only love which lends value to our actions. And the purer our love becomes, the less there will be within us for the flames of suffering to feed upon, and the suffering will cease to be a suffering for us; it will become a delight! By the grace of God, I have received such a disposition of heart that I am never so happy as when I suffer for Jesus, whom I love with every beat of my heart.” (303)
“O my God, how sweet it is to suffer for You, suffer in the most secret recesses of the heart, in the greatest hiddenness, to burn like a sacrifice noticed by no one, pure as crystal, with no consolation or compassion. My spirit burns in active love. I waste no time in dreaming. I take every moment singly as it comes, for this is within my power. The past does not belong to me; the future is not mine; with all my soul I try to make use of the present moment. (351, page 157)
“When I see that the burden is beyond my strength, I do not consider or analyze it or probe into it, but I run like a child to the Heart of Jesus and say only one word to Him: “You can do all things.” And then I keep silent, because I know that Jesus Himself will intervene in the matter, and as for me, instead of tormenting myself, I use that time to love Him.” (1033, page 392)
“Today the Lord said to me, ‘Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of Mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrent of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls.” (1602, page 568)
In several of the diary entries, Faustina writes that Jesus told her that he wanted the first Sunday after Easter to be a celebration of his divine mercy. Under Pope John Paul II, this was put into practice, and in the Roman Catholic calendar today the first Sunday after easter is the Sunday of Divine Mercy. Let us pray one of the prayers associated with that day, the chaplet of Divine mercy. Let us pray the last portion of those prayers together:
10 x For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
3x Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion — inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy will, which is Love and Mercy itself.
O Greatly Merciful God, Infinite Goodness, today all mankind calls out from the abyss of its misery to Your mercy — to Your compassion, O God; and it is with its mighty voice of misery that it cries out. Gracious God, do not reject the prayer of this earth's exiles! O Lord, Goodness beyond our understanding, Who are acquainted with our misery through and through, and know that by our own power we cannot ascend to You, we implore You: anticipate us with Your grace and keep on increasing Your mercy in us, that we may faithfully do Your holy will all through our life and at death's hour. Let the omnipotence of Your mercy shield us from the darts of our salvation’s enemies, that we may with confidence, as Your children, await Your [Son’s] final coming — that day known to You alone. And we expect to obtain everything promised us by Jesus in spite of all our wretchedness. For Jesus is our Hope: through His merciful Heart, as through an open gate, we pass through to heaven
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Let us end with another prayer associated with Divine Mercy Sunday, the Novena of Divine Mercy. This prayer is prayed over the nine days leading up to Divine Mercy Sunday. We will read part of the prayers for the third day of the nine:
Most Merciful Jesus, from the treasury of Your mercy, You impart Your graces in great abundance to each and all. Receive us into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart and never let us escape from It. We beg this grace of You by that most wonderous love for the heavenly Father with which Your Heart burns so fiercely.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon faithful souls, as upon the inheritance of Your Son. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, grant them Your blessing and surround them with Your constant protection. Thus may they never fail in love or lose the treasure of the holy faith, but rather, with all the hosts of Angels and Saints, may they glorify Your boundless mercy for endless ages. Amen.