St. Faustina of Kowalska 

Feastday: October 5

1905 - 1938
Beatified By: Pope John Paul II
Canonized By: Pope John Paul II


Saint Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in a small village west of Lodz, Poland on August 25, 1905. She was the third of ten children. When she was almost twenty, she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, whose members devote themselves to the care and education of troubled young women. The following year she received her religious habit and was given the name Sister Maria Faustina, to which she added, "of the Most Blessed Sacrament", as was permitted by her congregation's custom. In the 1930's, Sister Faustina received from the Lord a message of mercy that she was told to spread throughout the world. She was asked to become the apostle and secretary of God's mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing God's plan of mercy for the world. It was not a glamorous prospect.

Her entire life, in imitation of Christ's, was to be a sacrifice - a life lived for others. At the Divine Lord's request, she willingly offered her personal sufferings in union with Him to atone for the sins of others; in her daily life she was to become a doer of mercy, bringing joy and peace to others, and by writing about God's mercy, she was to encourage others to trust in Him and thus prepare the world for His coming again. Her special devotion to Mary Immaculate and to the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation gave her the strength to bear all her sufferings as an offering to God on behalf of the Church and those in special need, especially great sinners and the dying.

She wrote and suffered in secret, with only her spiritual director and some of her superiors aware that anything special was taking place in her life. After her death from tuberculosis in 1938, even her closest associates were amazed as they began to discover what great sufferings and deep mystical experiences had been given to this Sister of theirs, who had always been so cheerful and humble. She had taken deeply into her heart, God's gospel command to "be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful" as well as her confessor's directive that she should act in such a way that everyone who came in contact with her would go away joyful. The message of mercy that Sister Faustina received is now being spread throughout the world; her diary, Divine Mercy in my Soul, has become the handbook for devotion to the Divine Mercy, Maria Faustyna Kowalska, commonly known as Saint Faustina, born Helena Kowalska (August 25, 1905, Głogowiec, Poland then in the Russian Empire – Died October 5, 1938, Kraków, Poland)[1] was a Polish nun, mystic and visionary. She is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as a saint, and is known as the Apostle of Divine Mercy.

Throughout her life, she reported a number of visions of Jesus and conversations with him, which she wrote about in her diary, later published as the book Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul. Her Vatican biography quotes some of these conversations regarding the Divine Mercy devotion.

At age 20 she joined a convent in Warsaw and was later transferred to Plock, and then to Vilnius, where she met her confessor Michael Sopocko who supported her devotion to Divine Mercy. Faustina and Sopocko directed an artist to paint the first Divine Mercy image, based on Faustina's reported vision of Jesus. Sopocko used the image to celebrate the first Mass on the first Sunday after Easter - which later became known as Divine Mercy Sunday

In her diary Faustina predicted that her work would be suppressed for some time, then accepted again. Two decades after her death the Divine Mercy devotion was banned by the Vatican, but was approved again in 1978 and she was declared the first saint of the 21st century in April 2000. The Divine Mercy devotion is now followed by over 100 million Catholics 

Early life

Childhood and early years


She was born as Helenka Kowalska, in Głogowiec, Łęczyca County, just west of Lodz in Poland.[She was the third of ten children of Stanislaus and Marianna Kowalska. Stanislaus was a carpenter and a peasant, and the family was poor and religious. She stated that she first felt a calling to religious life while attending the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at age seven.[10] She wanted to enter the convent after finishing school, but her parents would not give her permission. When she was sixteen years old, she went to work as a housekeeper in Lodz to support herself and help her parents.[3][8] After a year of working, she twice asked her parents to let her enter a convent, but her requests were met with a firm refusal.

Joining the convent in Warsaw

In the summer of 1924, at age 19, Faustina and her sister Natalia went to a dance in a park in Lodz. Faustina stated that while at the dance she had a vision of a suffering Jesus, and rushed away to the church, where she was told by Jesus to leave for Warsaw immediately and join a convent. She packed a small bag that night and took a train for Warsaw (85 miles away) the next morning, without the permission of her parents, and without knowing anyone in Warsaw. 

Plaque on the window of Faustina's convent room inKraków-Łagiewniki

After she arrived in Warsaw, she entered the first church she saw, (St. James' church on Grójecka street) and attended Mass. She asked the priest, Father Dabrowski, for suggestions, and he recommended staying with Mrs Lipszycowa, a local lady whom he considered trustworthy, until she found a convent. 

Faustina approached several convents in Warsaw, but was turned down time after time, in one case she was told "we do not accept maids here", referring to her being penniless and without much education.  

After several weeks of searching, eventually the Mother Superior at the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy decided to give her a chance and conditionally accepted her, provided she could pay for her habit.  Faustina knew nothing about the convent she was joining, except that she was led there. But she knew that she had joined the convent as a "lay sister" and that due to her lack of education it was not likely she would attain higher levels within the order and that her duties would forever consist of cooking, cleaning and gardening.[12]

During 1925, Faustina worked as a house maid for one year to save up money, making deposits at the convent through the year and was then accepted at the convent. On April 30, 1926, at age 20, she received her habit and took the name "Maria Faustina" of the Blessed Sacrament. The name Faustina means the "fortunate or blessed one" and may have been a feminine form of the name of the Christian martyr Faustinus. In April 1928 she took her first vows as a nun, and her parents attended the ceremony. She was to be a nun for just over a decade, dying in October 1938.

From February to April 1929 she was sent to the convent in Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), as a cook. Although this was a short stay in Vilnius, she would return there later and meet Father Sopocko who supported her mission. A year after her first return from Vilnius, in May 1930 she was transferred to the convent in Plock, Poland for close to two years

Life as a nun

Plock and the Divine Mercy image

The first Divine Mercy painting byKazimierowski (1934) at the Divine Mercy Sanctuary (Vilnius)

Faustina arrived in Plock in May 1930. In the autumn of that year the first signs of her illness (which was later thought to be-tuberculosis  appeared and she was sent to rest for several months in a nearby farm owned by her religious order. After recovery she returned to the convent and by February 1931, had been in the Plock area for about nine months.

Faustina wrote that on the night of Sunday February 22, 1931, while she was in her cell in Plock, Jesus appeared to her as the "King of Divine Mercy" wearing a white garment, with rays of white and red light emanating from near his heart. In her diary (Notebook I, items 47 and 48) she wrote that Jesus told her:

"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." 

Not knowing how to paint, Faustina approached some other nuns at the convent in Plock for help, but received no assistance. Three years later, after her assignment to Villnius, the first artistic rendering of the image was performed under her direction.

In the same February 22, 1931 message about the Divine Mercy image, Faustina also wrote in her diary(Notebook I, item 49) that Jesus told her that he wanted the Divine Mercy image to be "solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy." 

In November 1932 Faustina returned to Warsaw to prepare to take her final vows as a nun. On the first day of May 1933 she took her final vows in Lagiewniki and became a perpetual sister of Our Lady of Mercy,

Krakow: the final years


In the summer of 1936 Father Sopocko wrote the first brochure on the Divine Mercy devotion andArchbishop Jalbrzykowski provided his imprimatur for it. The brochure carried the Divine Mercy imageon the cover. Sopocko sent copies of the brochure to Faustina in Warsaw. 

Faustina's chapel at her resting place, the Basilica of Divine Mercyin Krakow, Łagiewniki.

Later in 1936, Faustina became ill, since speculated to betuberculosis. She was moved to the sanatorium in Pradnik,Kraków. She continued to spend much time in prayer, reciting the chaplet and praying for the conversion of sinners. The last two years of her life were spent praying and keeping her diary.

On March 23, 1937, Faustina wrote in her diary (Notebook III, item 1044) that she had a vision that the feast of Divine Mercy would be celebrated in her local chapel, and would be attended by large crowds, and that the same celebration would be held in Rome attended by the Pope. 

In July 1937 the first holy cards with the Divine Mercy image were printed and in August Father Sopocko asked Faustina to write the instructions for the Novena of Divine Mercy which she had reported as a message from Jesus on Good Friday 1937.[22]

Throughout 1937 progress was made in promoting the messages of Divine Mercy and in November 1937 a pamphlet was published with the title Christ, King of Mercy. The pamphlet included the chaplet, novena and the litany of Divine Mercy and the Divine Mercy image appeared on the cover, with the signature, "Jesus I Trust in You". On November 10, 1937 Mothere Irene, Faustina's superior, showed her the booklets while Faustina rested in her bed.

As her health deteriorated at the end of 1937, her reported visions intensified, and she was said to be looking forward to an end to her life. In April 1938 Faustina's illness had progressed and she was sent to rest in the sanatorium in Pradnick, for what was to be her final stay there. By June 1938, Faustina was so ill that she could no longer write.

In September 1938 Father Sopocko visited her at sanatorium and found her very ill, but in ecstasy as she was praying. Later in September 1938 she was taken back home to Krakow, to await her death there. Father Sopocko visited her at the convent for a last time on September 26, 1938.

On October 5, 1938 Faustina made her final confession and died in Krakow, 13 years after entering the convent. She was buried on October 7 and now rests at the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland.

 

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