Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Happy feast day of Saint Faustina
Prayer to St. Faustina
Dear St. Faustina, I have come to know you as a friend. I ask you to plead to the Lord for me the prayer I ask of you. In times of doubt, dear friend, implore the Lord's Mercy as you did so often here on earth, that I may remember who I am, and to what His mercy has called me.
In times of fear, implore His Mercy that I may ever remember to trust, and trust again, in joy, and in the knowledge that God is preparing me for a beautiful mission.
Please pray dear St. Faustina, that I may never forget that the abyss between my Lord and I has been bridged by His tender mercy. He will continue to be faithful and heal me of anything which stands in the way of His Will. My life is in His Hands.
Thank you dear friend. Pray with me the prayer Our Lord taught you to spread throughout the world; Jesus, I trust in You! Remind all pilgrims of life that if our trust is great, there is no limit to Jesus' generosity.
Saint M. Faustina Kowalska
On October 5, 1938, a young religious by the name Sister Faustina (Helen Kowalska) died in a convent of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Cracow, Poland. She came from a very poor family that had struggled hard on their little farm during the terrible years of WWI. Sister had had only three years of very simple education. Hers were the humblest of tasks in the convent, usually in the kitchen or the vegetable garden, or as a porter.
On February 22, 1931, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ appeared to this simple nun, bringing with Him a wonderful message of Mercy for all mankind. Saint Faustina tells us in her diary under this date:
"In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord
Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing,
the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening
of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one
red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord;
my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After
a while Jesus said to me, 'paint an image according to the pattern
you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.'"
Some time later, Our Lord again spoke to her:
"The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous;
the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These
two rays issued forth from the depths of My most tender Mercy at
that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the
Cross....Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for
the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him."
Maria Faustina 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) was a Polish nun, visionary, and mystic, now venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as a saint.
Born as Helena Kowalska, she was the third of ten children born to a poor family. At the age of fifteen, having attended just three years of school, she started work to support her family. At the age of 20 she was considering a vocation in the Catholic church and felt and believed that God was calling her to be a nun.
Helena left for Warsaw, and applied to various convents in the capital, only to be turned down each time. She was finally accepted at the convent of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She was eventually initiated as a nun on April 30, 1926, with the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament.
Sister Faustina reported having seen Christ in Purgatory, having seen and spoken to Jesus and Mary several times. She wrote that Jesus revealed to her, her purpose: to spread the devotion of the Mercy of God. In Płock on February 22, 1931, she said that Jesus appeared as the 'King of Divine Mercy', wearing a white garment. His right hand was raised in a sign of blessing and the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment emanated two large rays, one red, the other white. Acting upon orders she said she received from Christ, Faustina had a picture of this vision painted. With the help of Father Michał Sopoćko, she distributed the images at Kraków and Vilnius (Wilno), and people began to pray before them.
Faustina kept a diary, despite her limited literacy. The diary was later published under the title Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina.
She wanted to found a "Congregation which would have proclaimed the Mercy of God to the world, and, by its prayers, obtain it for the world." She was repeatedly denied leave by her superiors.
In 1935, she had a vision which described what is now called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
In 1936, Faustina became ill, since speculated to be tuberculosis. She was moved to the sanatorium in Pradnik.
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. By June 1938, she could no longer write. She died on October 5. When Faustina's superior was cleaning out her room she opened the drawer and found the paintings of the Divine Mercy.
Index of Forbidden Books
After the death of St. Faustina, the nuns at her convent sent her writings to the Vatican. Prior to 1966, any reported visions of Jesus and Mary required approval from the Holy See before they could be released to the public.
After a failed attempt to persuade Pope Pius XII to sign a condemnation, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani at the Holy Office included her works on a list he submitted to the newly elected Pope John XXIII in 1959. The Pope signed the decree that placed her work on the Index of Forbidden Books and they remained on the Index for over 20 years. Father Sopoćko was harshly reprimanded, and all his work was suppressed. However, Eugeniusz Baziak, the archbishop of Kraków, permitted the nuns to leave the original picture hanging in their chapel so that those who wished to continue to pray before it could do so.
The current position of the Vatican is that misunderstandings were created by a faulty Italian translation of Kowalska's Diary in that the questionable material could not be correlated with the original Polish version because of difficulties in communication throughout World War II and the subsequent Communist era.
However, an article in the National Catholic Reporter suggests that the ban stemmed from more serious theological issues. For instance, her claim that Jesus had promised a complete remission of sin for certain devotional acts that only the sacraments can offer, and what Vatican evaluators felt to be an excessive focus on Faustina herself ran contrary to the views at the Holy Office.
Canonization and Institution of Divine Mercy Sunday
When Karol Wojtyła (the future Pope John Paul II) became Archbishop of Kraków, a new investigation into the life and diary of St. Faustina was launched, and the devotion to the Divine Mercy was once again permitted. Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, John Paul II's successor as archbishop of Krakow, said that Faustina "reminds us of the gospel we had forgotten."
Faustina was beatified on April 18, 1993 and canonized on April 30, 2000. Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated the Second Sunday of Easter (which is the first Sunday after Easter).
“ Indeed the message [St. Faustina] brought is the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies. ”
—Pope John Paul II -Divine Mercy Sunday Homily,Sunday, 22 April 2001
The fact that her Vatican biography directly quotes some of her conversations with Jesus distinguishes her among the many reported visions of Jesus and Mary.
The Image of the Divine Mercy
The earliest element of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy revealed to St. Faustina was the Image. On February 22nd, 1931 Jesus appeared to her with rays radiating from His heart and said,
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 throughout the world. (Diary 47)
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. (Diary 48)
I am offering people 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." (Diary 327)
The two rays denote Blood and Water. the pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. These rays shield souls from the wrath of My Father. Happy is the one who dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him. (Diary 299)
Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush, lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace. (Diary 313)
By means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be a reminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works. (Diary 742)
In these texts the Church's doctrine on images, justification and grace are explained. First, by itself an image is merely a painting, no matter how beautiful and expressive. Yet, it can point us the mysteries of the faith and dispose us to grasp and receive what it represents, in this case the Divine Mercy. It is thus a vessel, not the source, a reminder, not the reality. The reality is the merciful fountain of grace flowing from the pierced Heart of Christ on the Cross, and flowing out visibly to represent the visible, that is the sacramental, signs of grace, Baptism and Eucharist, standing for all the sacraments of the Church. Thus, St. John in his first letter insists on the presence of the invisible with the visible, the Spirit with the water and the Blood.
The image also reminds us that salvation is not just by faith, but by works of charity also. It takes faith to see and believe in what the Image signifies, Divine Mercy poured out from Christ upon the Cross, but it takes mercy, love going beyond the strict requirements of justice, in order to draw down mercy on oneself. "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us" (Mt 6:12) and "the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you" (Mt 7:2) The Image of the pierced side of Christ pouring out blood and water reminds us that the Cross, love in action, is the price of mercy. "As I have loved you so also should you love one another." (Jn 13:34)
Diary, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul
The Work of God >> Divine Mercy >> Saint Faustina
The process culminating in the canonization of Sister Faustina Kowalska, commenced twenty seven years after her death in Krakow Poland, in 1938.
As part of the process leading to her canonization, two cases of miraculous healings were presented for consideration. The first one was the healing of Maureen Digan of Massachusetts. The second miracle was the healing of a congenital heart condition of Fr. Pytel after prayers done by members of his parish during the anniversary of Sr. Faustina's death on October 5 1995.
On April 18, 1993 the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter), Pope John Paul II elevated Sister Faustina to the status of Blessed during the Beatification of this Venerable Servant of God, a day when St. Peter's Square was packed with enthusiastic Divine Mercy devotees.
On March 10, 2000 at 11:30 a.m., during the celebration of sext, in the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, an ordinary public consistory for several causes of canonization was held, in the presence of the Holy Father.
In 1997 Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Sister Faustina's tomb in Poland, he called her the "the great apostle of Divine Mercy in our day." The Pope said at her tomb, "The message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me..., in a sense it forms the image of my Pontificate."
Sister Faustina was canonized on April 30, 2000 the first Sunday after Easter, on Divine Mercy Sunday.
She was honoured by becoming the first saint of this millenium, giving thus great emphasis to the Divine Mercy Devotion.
As one of the great events of the Jubilee 2000, the Holy Father John Paul II, conducted the ceremony of the canonization of St Faustina, before a crowd of around 200000 Divine Mercy Pilgrims.
Pope John Paul & Saint Maria Faustina
By Michael K. Jones
"Divine Mercy In My Soul," Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Sister Faustina heard these words as she prayed for Poland; "I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming."Notebook VI 1732
Question for the reader: Could this sentence have anything to do with His Holiness Pope John Paul II? "...From her (Poland) will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming."
Karol Wojtyla (John Paul) was born in Wadowice, Poland, where later he moved to Krakow begining his journey in the priesthood. Five years after his birth, Helena Kowalska from Glogowiec, Poland applied for the second time to the "Congregation of The Sister's of Our Lady of Charity" on August 1, 1925. This time she was accepted. She was nearly 20 at this time. After completing her postulancy she received her veil, and on April 30, 1926 she received her habit and her name in religion. From now on Helena would bear the name of,
Sister Mary Faustina.
Sister Faustina began to have a number of religious experiences far from what one might consider the norm. Having mentioned these unusual occurrences to her spiritual advisors, (Rev. M. Sopocko and Fr. J. Andrasz, S.J.) Sister was instructed to keep a diary of these events. In the coming years Mary Faustina would receive many visitations from Heavenly Hosts. During some of these visitations Sister Faustina was instructed by Jesus for a devotional painting which today we call the "Image of Divine Mercy." Sister was also instructed with rosaries prayers known as the "Chaplet of Divine Mercy."
An artist was hired to work with Faustina to paint the image of Mercy. Though Faustina was never really happy with the image the final painting was considered finished. For a time this devotional was widely accepted. During this time is when Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (John Paul) heard of Sister Faustina and he believed in this attentiveness. Sad to say the Pope elect at that time did not believe in the Chaplet or the image of Divine Mercy and thus they were removed from all church devotions.
When Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II, he renewed interest in the Divine Mercy devotionals. With this renewed interest, the diaries of Sister Faustina were published in Polish and later published in English in 1987. To read "Divine Mercy In My Soul" is an undertaking, it totals 697 pages. However, it is one of the most moving and inspirational books I have ever read.
On March 10, 2000 the Vatican announced that Polish nun, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska would be canonized on April 30, 2000. The canonization took place as stated at, St. Peter's in Rome. The event also was joyously held at the National Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, MA. USA. Our beloved Pope, John Paul announced during the canonization in Rome that from now on the second Sunday of Easter is declared "Mercy Sunday."
On the evening of April 2, 2005 John Paul was near death. The next day was Divine Mercy Sunday. The usual vespers for the preparations of the "Divine Mercy" had started when John Paul passed away at 9:37, Rome time. There is no question that one of the greatest missions of John Paul was to bring back this awesome devotion. It is therefore fitting that he should pass away during the vespers in preparation of Divine Mercy Sunday. I believe without the Mercy of God there is no hope for this world. I personally remain convinced that John Paul's greatest mission was to place the Mercy of God, in the hands of much needed sinners.
Reference source: Diary of Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, Notebook III, 1209-1330, (57-66).
Jesus said to Sister Faustina, "Encourage souls to place great trust in My fathomless mercy. Let the weak, sinful soul have no fear to approach Me, for even if it had more sins than there are grains of sand in the world, all would be drowned in the unmeasurable depths of My mercy."
Is it just possible that Sister Faustina worte of John Paul in Notebook VI when she wrote the words she heard while praying for Poland, ""...From her (Poland) will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming."
There is no proof positive that this is what was meant by these words but certainly it would seem that John Paul would be a very reasonable possibility to this writing in Saint Faustina's diary.
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER
MASS IN ST PETER'S SQUARE FOR THE CANONIZATION
OF SR MARY FAUSTINA KOWALSKA
Sunday, 30 April 2000
1. "Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus, quoniam in saeculum misericordia eius"; "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever" (Ps 118: 1). So the Church sings on the Octave of Easter, as if receiving from Christ's lips these words of the Psalm; from the lips of the risen Christ, who bears the great message of divine mercy and entrusts its ministry to the Apostles in the Upper Room: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.... Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20: 21-23).
Before speaking these words, Jesus shows his hands and his side. He points, that is, to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in his heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity. From that heart Sr Faustina Kowalska, the blessed whom from now on we will call a saint, will see two rays of light shining from that heart and illuminating the world: "The two rays", Jesus himself explained to her one day, "represent blood and water" (Diary, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p. 132).
2. Blood and water! We immediately think of the testimony given by the Evangelist John, who, when a solider on Calvary pierced Christ's side with his spear, sees blood and water flowing from it (cf. Jn 19: 34). Moreover, if the blood recalls the sacrifice of the Cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water, in Johannine symbolism, represents not only Baptism but also the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3: 5; 4: 14; 7: 37-39).
Divine Mercy reaches human beings through the heart of Christ crucified: "My daughter, say that I am love and mercy personified", Jesus will ask Sr Faustina (Diary, p. 374). Christ pours out this mercy on humanity though the sending of the Spirit who, in the Trinity, is the Person-Love. And is not mercy love's "second name" (cf. Dives in misericordia, n. 7), understood in its deepest and most tender aspect, in its ability to take upon itself the burden of any need and, especially, in its immense capacity for forgiveness?
Today my joy is truly great in presenting the life and witness of Sr Faustina Kowalska to the whole Church as a gift of God for our time. By divine Providence, the life of this humble daughter of Poland was completely linked with the history of the 20th century, the century we have just left behind. In fact, it was between the First and Second World Wars that Christ entrusted his message of mercy to her. Those who remember, who were witnesses and participants in the events of those years and the horrible sufferings they caused for millions of people, know well how necessary was the message of mercy.
Jesus told Sr Faustina: "Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy" (Diary, p. 132). Through the work of the Polish religious, this message has become linked for ever to the 20th century, the last of the second millennium and the bridge to the third. It is not a new message but can be considered a gift of special enlightenment that helps us to relive the Gospel of Easter more intensely, to offer it as a ray of light to the men and women of our time.
3. What will the years ahead bring us? What will man's future on earth be like? We are not given to know. However, it is certain that in addition to new progress there will unfortunately be no lack of painful experiences. But the light of divine mercy, which the Lord in a way wished to return to the world through Sr Faustina's charism, will illumine the way for the men and women of the third millennium.
However, as the Apostles once did, today too humanity must welcome into the upper room of history the risen Christ, who shows the wounds of his Crucifixion and repeats: Peace be with you! Humanity must let itself be touched and pervaded by the Spirit given to it by the risen Christ. It is the Spirit who heals the wounds of the heart, pulls down the barriers that separate us from God and divide us from one another, and at the same time, restores the joy of the Father's love and of fraternal unity.
4. It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called "Divine Mercy Sunday". In the various readings, the liturgy seems to indicate the path of mercy which, while re-establishing the relationship of each person with God, also creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings. Christ has taught us that "man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but is also called "to practise mercy' towards others: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy' (Mt 5: 7)" (Dives et misericordia, n. 14). He also showed us the many paths of mercy, which not only forgives sins but reaches out to all human needs. Jesus bent over every kind of human poverty, material and spiritual.
His message of mercy continues to reach us through his hands held out to suffering man. This is how Sr Faustina saw him and proclaimed him to people on all the continents when, hidden in her convent at £agiewniki in Kraków, she made her life a hymn to mercy: Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo.
5. Sr Faustina's canonization has a particular eloquence: by this act I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium. I pass it on to all people, so that they will learn to know ever better the true face of God and the true face of their brethren.
In fact, love of God and love of one's brothers and sisters are inseparable, as the First Letter of John has reminded us: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments" (5: 2). Here the Apostle reminds us of the truth of love, showing us its measure and criterion in the observance of the commandments.
It is not easy to love with a deep love, which lies in the authentic gift of self. This love can only be learned by penetrating the mystery of God's love. Looking at him, being one with his fatherly heart, we are able to look with new eyes at our brothers and sisters, with an attitude of unselfishness and solidarity, of generosity and forgiveness. All this is mercy!
To the extent that humanity penetrates the mystery of this merciful gaze, it will seem possible to fulfil the ideal we heard in today's first reading: "The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather everything was held in common" (Acts 4: 32). Here mercy gave form to human relations and community life; it constituted the basis for the sharing of goods. This led to the spiritual and corporal "works of mercy". Here mercy became a concrete way of being "neighbour" to one's neediest brothers and sisters.
6. Sr Faustina Kowalska wrote in her Diary: "I feel tremendous pain when I see the sufferings of my neighbours. All my neighbours' sufferings reverberate in my own heart; I carry their anguish in my heart in such a way that it even physically destroys me. I would like all their sorrows to fall upon me, in order to relieve my neighbour" (Diary, p. 365). This is the degree of compassion to which love leads, when it takes the love of God as its measure!
It is this love which must inspire humanity today, if it is to face the crisis of the meaning of life, the challenges of the most diverse needs and, especially, the duty to defend the dignity of every human person. Thus the message of divine mercy is also implicitly a message about the value of every human being. Each person is precious in God's eyes; Christ gave his life for each one; to everyone the Father gives his Spirit and offers intimacy.
7. This consoling message is addressed above all to those who, afflicted by a particularly harsh trial or crushed by the weight of the sins they committed, have lost all confidence in life and are tempted to give in to despair. To them the gentle face of Christ is offered; those rays from his heart touch them and shine upon them, warm them, show them the way and fill them with hope. How many souls have been consoled by the prayer "Jesus, I trust in you", which Providence intimated through Sr Faustina! This simple act of abandonment to Jesus dispels the thickest clouds and lets a ray of light penetrate every life. Jezu, ufam tobie.
8. Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo (Ps 88 : 2). Let us too, the pilgrim Church, join our voice to the voice of Mary most holy, "Mother of Mercy", to the voice of this new saint who sings of mercy with all God's friends in the heavenly Jerusalem.
And you, Faustina, a gift of God to our time, a gift from the land of Poland to the whole Church, obtain for us an awareness of the depth of divine mercy; help us to have a living experience of it and to bear witness to it among our brothers and sisters. May your message of light and hope spread throughout the world, spurring sinners to conversion, calming rivalries and hatred and opening individuals and nations to the practice of brotherhood. Today, fixing our gaze with you on the face of the risen Christ, let us make our own your prayer of trusting abandonment and say with firm hope: Christ Jesus, I trust in you! Jezu, ufam tobie!
What Does the Pope Say
Pope John Paul II knew the visions and messages of Christ received by St. Faustina were private revelations. The Church's doctrine of Divine Mercy are based on Holy Scripture, the faith handed down by the apostles. St. Faustina's revelations add nothing new. The "Divine Mercy Sunday" was not established to commemorate St. Faustina's mystical experiences. No one is required on Mercy Sunday, to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or venerate the image of the Divine Mercy.
However, Pope John Paul II, has strongly encouraged the whole, universal Church, on several occasions, to pay heed to the messages and revelations given to St. Faustina as a special call to our time to turn back to the God of merciful love, the Pope has also recommended both the image and the chaplet as helpful means to that end. "There is nothing that man needs more than Divine Mercy--that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights of the holiness of God. "In this place we become particularly aware of this. From here, in fact, went out the message of Divine Mercy that Christ Himself chose to pass on to our generation through Blessed Faustina. "And it is a message that is clear and understandable for everyone. Anyone can come here, look at this image of the merciful Jesus, His Heart radiating grace, and hear in the depths of his own soul what Blessed Faustina heard: 'Fear nothing. I am with you always' (Diary, 586). "And if this person responds with a sincere heart, 'Jesus, I trust in you,' he will find comfort in all his anxieties and fears."
From the Holy Father, Mercy Sunday, 2001 Homely:
"It is a great joy for me to be able to join all of you, dear pilgrims and faithful who have come here from various nations to commemorate, after one year, the canonization of Sr Faustina Kowalska, witness and messenger of the Lord's merciful love. The elevation to the honors of the altar of this humble religious is not only a gift for Poland, but for all humanity. Indeed the message she brought is the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies. Jesus said to Sr. Faustina one day: 'Humanity will not have peace until it turns with trust to Divine Mercy' (Diary, 300). Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium....
"Today the Lord also shows us His glorious wounds and His heart, an inexhaustible source of light and truth, of love and forgiveness.... St. Faustina saw coming from this Heart that was overflowing with generous love, two rays of light which illuminated the world. 'The two rays,' according to what Jesus Himself told her, 'represent the blood and the water' (Diary, 299). The blood recalls the sacrifice of Golgotha and the mystery of the Eucharist; the water, according to the rich symbolism of the Evangelist St. John, makes us think of Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5; 4:14). "Through the mystery of this wounded heart, the restorative tide of God's merciful love continues to spread over the men and women of our time. Here alone can those who long true and lasting happiness its secret."
The Apostle of Divine Mercy
St. Faustina Kowalska, first saint of the third millenium
The third of ten children, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska was born into a pious peasant family in 1905, in Glogowiec, Poland. She was christened Helena. At the age of seven years, she first heard an interior call to the religious life. Thirteen years later she was to knock on many a convent door, before finally, on August 1, 1925, gaining admittance to the Convent of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, where she took the name Sister Maria Faustina. After a five-year-long novitiate in Krakow, she made her perpetual vows of chastity, poverty and unselfish love. Being a natural, cheerful person, Sister Faustina served as cook, gardener and doorkeeper at convents in Krakow, Pock and Vilnius. It was during these years that Jesus commissioned her to write her Diary. This extraordinary record reveals the depth and richness of her mystical life and union with God. She enjoyed great graces and a host of spiritual gifts: contemplative prayer, revelations, visions, prophecy, mystical espousals, invisible stigmata, the ability to read human souls, and a profound knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy.
St. Faustina receives a vision of Jesus
During her lifetime, Faustina was virtually unknown, even to many sisters of her congregation. Only a few of her superiors and her confessor and spiritual director, were ever aware of her visions and revelations. She died of tuberculosis, mystically united with Christ, at the age of 33, on October 5, 1938, having been a religious for 13 years.
Faustina’s mission to spread the message of Divine Mercy began on February 22, 1931. Having appeared to her in a vision, Christ commissioned her to paint an image of Him with red and pale rays radiating from His heart. The image was to bear the subscription: Jesus, I trust in You!
In her Diary, Faustina writes: "I saw the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. (...) After a while, Jesus said to me; ‘Paint an image according to the model you see, with the motto below: Jesus I trust in You. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world’ " (47).
"I promise that the soul that venerates 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" (48).
When Faustina’s spiritual director learned of her visions, he had her submit to a psychiatric assessment. Having determined the soundness of her mental faculties, he placed an artist under the saint’s direction with a view to producing a true copy of her vision of the Merciful Savior.
Jesus asked Faustina that the first Sunday after Easter be declared Mercy Sunday, the "Feast of Divine Mercy", a day when His graces would flow in an extraordinary way to all those who asked for them. He told Faustina: "I desire that priests proclaim this great mercy of Mine toward the souls of sinners. Let no sinner be afraid to approach Me" (50).
Pope John Paul II at the shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow on June 7, 1997, in front of the tomb of Sister Faustina and the image of the Merciful Jesus
Mercy Sunday is now celebrated in thousands of Catholic parishes across the United States. It has already been designated a liturgical Feast Day of the Catholic Church in Poland. St. Faustina’s Diary describes the promise Jesus made to those who solemnly participate in the Feast of Divine Mercy: "Whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment" (300).
"I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and a shelter for all souls, especially poor sinners. On that day, the very depths of My tender mercy will be opened. I will pour out an entire ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy. The soul that goes to Confession and receives Holy Communion will obtain complete forgiveness of sins and a remission of all punishment. (...) Let no soul fear to approach Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. (...) Humanity will not enjoy peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy" (699).
On being asked by Faustina about the significance of the two rays on the image, Jesus replied: "The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays poured forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart on the Cross was opened by the lance" (299).
Faustina’s mission consisted in: reminding the world of God’s merciful love towards every human being, even the greatest sinner; conveying new forms of devotion to the Divine Mercy; launching a great movement of devotees and apostles of Divine Mercy, who would lead people to a renewal of Christian life in the spirit of this devotion; i.e. in the gospel spirit of childlike confidence in God and love of neighbour.
“Have mercy on us and on the whole world!”
“Jesus, I trust in You”
I promise that the soul that venerates 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."
Jesus said to St. Faustina: “Let no sinner be afraid to approach Me." In Faustina’s "Diary," Jesus invites each one of us to yield to His infinite mercy, to trust in His compassion and forgiveness. Great graces are promised to those who proclaim His great mercy.
"I shall protect them Myself at the hour of death, as My own glory. And even if the sins of the soul are as dark as night, when the sinner turns to My mercy, he renders Me the greatest praise, and becomes the glory of My Passion. When a soul praises My goodness, Satan trembles before it and flees to the very bottom of hell" (Diary, 378).
Christ is always knocking at the door of our hearts to remind us that if we have recourse to His Divine Mercy, He will free our souls from evil, restore our ability to love and purify our intentions. Sin is our greatest tragedy since it leads us into the horrible reality of death and eternal condemnation. Trusting in Jesus, praying to Him, relying on Him – this is our one avenue of salvation. Jesus assures us that His wounded heart will not abandon us in the hour of death. It is never too late to renounce evil and start walking in the path of salvation. Having chosen Faustina, a simple, uneducated nun, who trusted Him boundlessly, Christ assigned her the critically important task of proclaiming His Merciful Love to the world: "Today – Jesus told her – I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. It is not my desire to punish hurting mankind, but to heal it, press it to My merciful Heart (Diary, 1588). You are the secretary of My mercy. I have chosen you for that office in this and the next life (Diary, 1605) (...) to make known to souls the great mercy that I have in store for them, and to exhort them to trust in the bottomless depth of My mercy" (Diary, 1567).
The Hour of Mercy
Jesus asked Saint Faustina to celebrate the Hour of great Mercy, which is the hour when Our Lord died on the cross. He promised that from this prayer of the chaplet of Divine Mercy, said during this hour, tremendous graces would be given to all. This can be applied to other people as well, especially for the dying and the suffering souls in purgatory.
At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy... In this hour I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion. (Diary, 1320).
As often as you hear the clock strike the third hour, immerse yourself completely in My mercy, adoring and glorifying it. Invoke it’s omnipotence for the whole world, and particularly for poor sinners, for at that moment, mercy was opened wide for every soul. In this hour you can obtain everything for yourself and for others for the asking; it was the hour of grace for the whole world – mercy triumphed over justice.
Try your best to make the Stations of the Cross in this hour, provided that your duties permit it; and if you are not able to make the Stations of the Cross, then at least step into the chapel for a moment and adore, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, My Heart which is full of mercy. Should you be unable to step into the chapel, immerse yourself in prayer there where you happen to be, if only for a very brief instant. (Diary, 1572)
Divine Mercy and St. Faustina’s Diary
The essence of Christ’s message to St. Faustina is that we are living in a time of mercy. The present age, more than any other in history, calls for a great outpouring of the mercy of God. As a result, the revelations to Faustina have become known as "The Message of Divine Mercy" with Jesus receiving the new title, "The Divine Mercy", not unlike His earlier title of "The Sacred Heart". Many times Jesus reveals to Faustina how deep His mercy is.
"I have opened My Heart as a living fountain of mercy. Let all souls draw life from it. Let them approach this sea of mercy with great trust. Sinners will attain justification, and the just will be strengthened in goodness. Whoever places his trust in My mercy will be filled with My divine peace at the hour of death" (1520).
"I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image bearing the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You" (327).
"I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls" (1074).
Faustina’s Diary tells us that it is not enough to trust Jesus. We must show mercy to our neighbours in deed, in word, and in prayer (742). Jesus says to Faustina: "If a soul does not exercise mercy in one way or another, it will not obtain My mercy on the Day of Judgment" (1317).
"The Lord said to me, ‘It should be of no concern to you how anyone else acts; you are to be My living reflection, through love and mercy.’ I answered, ‘Lord, but they often take advantage of my goodness.’ ‘That makes no difference, My daughter. That is no concern of yours. As for you, be always merciful toward other people, and especially toward sinners’ " (1446).
"Oh, how painful it is to Me that souls so seldom unite themselves to Me in Holy Communion. I wait for souls, and they are indifferent toward Me. I love them tenderly and sincerely, and they distrust Me. I want to lavish My graces on them, and they do not want to accept them. They treat Me as a dead object, whereas My Heart is full of love and mercy. In order that you may know at least some of My pain, imagine the most tender of mothers who has great love for her children, while those children spurn her love. Consider her pain. No one is in a position to console her. This is but a pale image and likeness of My love" (1447).
Throughout the Diary we encounter magnificent prayers addressing God’s mercy, prayers that urge us to venerate God’s infinite mercy and compassion toward any soul that seeks to be joined with Him. "Praise the Lord, my soul, for everything, and glorify His mercy, for His goodness is without end. Everything will pass, but His mercy is without limit or end. And although evil will attain its measure, in mercy there is no measure. Oh my God, even in the punishments You send down upon the earth I see the abyss of Your mercy, for by punishing us here on earth, You free us from eternal punishment. Rejoice, all you creatures, for you are closer to God in His infinite mercy than a babe is to its mother’s heart. O God, You are compassion itself for the greatest sinners who sincerely repent. The greater the sinner, the greater his right to God’s mercy" (423).
The family of St. Faustina Kowalska
St. Faustina reminds us of the meaning of the Eucharist and the Holy Trinity. "Jesus, when (…) in Holy Communion (…) You (…) condescend to dwell in the little heaven of my heart, I try to keep You company throughout the day. I do not leave You alone for a moment, even though I am in the company of other people or those entrusted to my care. My heart is always united to Him. When I sleep, I offer Him every beat of my heart. When I am awake, I immerse myself in Him in silence. On awaking, I make a brief act of adoration to the Holy Trinity and thank God for allowing me to live yet another day, that the mystery of the incarnation of His Son may once more be repeated in me, and once again His sorrowful Passion may unfold before my eyes. I try to make it easier for Jesus to pass through me to other souls. I go everywhere with Jesus. His presence accompanies me everywhere" (486)
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
On September 13, 1935, Sister Faustina had a terrible vision of a destroying Angel ("the agent of divine wrath") about to strike some place on the planet. She began praying, begging him to put off the punishment until the world did penance. At first, her pleas seemed in vain, but presently she saw the Holy Trinity and felt the power of Christ’s grace in her soul. Again she began to plead for the world in words that welled up out of the silence of her soul:
"Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us" (475).
Her prayer was answered and the angel was prevented from carrying out the chastisement. The following morning, Sister Faustina heard these interior words: "Every time you enter the chapel, start reciting the prayer which I taught you yesterday" (476).
Later, she was instructed in the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy: "This prayer will serve to appease My wrath. You will recite it for nine days, on the beads of the Rosary, in the following manner: first of all, you will say one Our Father and Hail Mary and the I Believe in God. Then, on the Our Father beads, you will say the following words: ‘Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, for our sins and those of the whole world.’ On the Hail Mary beads you will say the following words: ‘For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.’ In conclusion, three times you will recite these words: ‘Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world’ " (476).
Jesus Himself tells us why it is so important to recite this prayer: "Recite the chaplet unceasingly that I have taught you. Whoever recites it will receive great mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even in the case of the most hardened sinner, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world know My infinite mercy. I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls that trust in My mercy" (687).
"Oh, what great graces I will grant to souls that say this chaplet; the very depths of My tender mercy are stirred for the sake of those who say the chaplet" (848). "At the hour of their death, I defend as My own glory every soul that will say this chaplet; or when others say it for a dying person, the indulgence is the same" (811).
"Through the chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask is compatible with My will" (1731).
After Faustina’s death, the message of God’s mercy began to spread throughout the world. However, owing to the political situation prevailing in Poland during and after the war, the Church found it difficult to verify the authenticity of Faustina’s writings. As a result, the Vatican was forced to impose a temporary ban on the spreading of the revelations. Eventually, however, the writings were subjected to a thorough scrutiny. Since then, scholars and theologians have been staggered by the ability of a simple nun, with barely two winters of formal education, to write so profoundly and so clearly on the mystical life. Her writings were found to be entirely free of theological error. They are now numbered among the masterpieces of mystical literature.
Lagiewniki – Capital of Divine Mercy
The chief purpose of the Holy Father’s pilgrimage to Poland on August 2002 was to visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki. At the Eucharistic celebration, John Paul II dedicated a new church, solemnly entrusted the world to the Divine Mercy, and declared Lagiewniki to be the capital city of Divine Mercy. After all, had not Jesus promised that "the spark preparing the world for His final coming" (Diary, 1732) would fly forth from here?
Until World War II, the Convent of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki remained a private institution, serving the sisters and those entrusted to their care. Today, it houses the sanctuary of the Divine Mercy with its famous, grace-working image of the Merciful Jesus and the relics of Sister Faustina. Thousands of pilgrims regularly converge on this spot from all over the world. Here the message of mercy is proclaimed. Prayers are offered up for God’s mercy for the world. Acts of mercy are rendered to those in need. Here also apostles of God’s Mercy receive their spiritual formation.
The Mercy Message
The message of mercy is simply this: that God loves us, all of us, no matter how great our sins. He wants us to turn to Him so that He may bless us. He wants us to recognize His mercy and allow it to flow through us to others. In this way, all will come to share in His joy. To repeat: it’s as simple as ABC: Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him, repent of our sins and ask for His Mercy. Be Merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. Completely Trust. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust.
On the first Sunday after Easter, April 18, 1993, at St. Peter’s Square in Rome, Pope John Paul II declared Sister Faustina a member of the community of the blessed. She was canonized in the Jubilee Year 2000 on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 30th. She is, therefore, the first saint of the Third Millennium.
In his canonization-Mass homily, the Holy Father pointed out that by Divine Providence, the life of this humble daughter of Poland was inextricably linked with the history of the recently ended 20th century. "In fact, it was between the First and Second World Wars that Christ entrusted His message of mercy to her. Those who remember, who witnessed or participated in the events of those years and the horrible sufferings they caused for millions of people, know well how necessary was the message of mercy. (...) What will the years ahead bring us? What will man’s future on earth be like? We are not given to know. However, it is certain that in addition to new progress, there will unfortunately be no lack of painful experiences. But the light of Divine Mercy, which the Lord wished to return to the world through Sister Faustina’s charism, will illumine the way for the men and women of the third millennium.
"Sister Faustina’s canonization has a particular eloquence: by this act I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium. I pass it on to all people, so that they will learn to know even better the true face of God and the true face of their brethren. (...) Sister Faustina Kowalska wrote in her Diary: ‘I feel tremendous pain when I see the sufferings of my neighbors. All my neighbors’ sufferings reverberate in my own heart; I carry their anguish in my heart in such a way that it even physically destroys me. I would like all their sorrows to fall upon me, in order to relieve my neighbor’ (Diary, 365). This is the degree of compassion to which love leads, when it takes the love of God as its measure! (...) It is this love which must inspire humanity today, if it is to face the crisis of the meaning of life, the challenges of the most diverse needs and, especially, the duty to defend the dignity of every human person. Thus the message of Divine Mercy is also implicitly a message about the value of every human being. Each person is precious in God’s eyes; Christ gave his life for each one; to everyone the Father gives his Spirit and offers intimacy (...)
This consoling message is addressed, above all, to those who, afflicted by a particularly harsh trial or crushed by the weight of the sins they committed, have lost all confidence in life and are tempted to give in to despair. To them the gentle face of Christ is offered; those rays from His heart touch them and shine upon them, warm them, show them the way, and fill them with hope. How many souls have been consoled by the prayer "Jesus, I trust in you", which Providence intimated through Sister Faustina! This simple act of abandonment to Jesus dispels the thickest clouds and lets a ray of light penetrate every life. "Jezu, ufam tobie" (...) And you, Faustina, a gift of God to our time, a gift from the land of Poland to the whole Church, obtain for us an awareness of the depth of Divine Mercy; help us to have a living experience of it and to bear witness to it among our brothers and sisters. May your message of light and hope spread throughout the world, spurring sinners to conversion, calming rivalries and hatred, and opening individuals and nations to the practice of brotherhood. Today, fixing our gaze with you on the face of the risen Christ, let us make our own your prayer of trusting abandonment and say with firm hope: Christ Jesus, I trust in you! Jezu, ufam tobie!" (Homily of the Holy Father, April 30, 2000).