St. Sr. Ma. Faustina Kowalska, OLM

1905 - 1938

Feast Day - October 5

Saint Maria Faustyna Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament, OLM, popularly spelled as “Faustina,” was born as Helena Kowalska, in Glogowiec, Leczyca County, north-west of Lódz in Poland on August 25, 1905. She was the third of 10 children of Stanisław Kowalski and Marianna Kowalska. Her father was a carpenter and a peasant and, the family was poor and religious.

The young Helena Kowalska

Faustina first felt a calling to the religious life when she was just 7yrs. old while attending the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. After finishing her schooling, Faustina said that she wanted to immediately join a convent. However, her parents refused to let her. Instead, at 16-years-old, Faustina became a housekeeper first in Aleksandrów Łódzki where she received the Sacrament of Confirmation then in Łódź, to help her parents and support herself. Faustina could read and write and had three years of education.

In 1924 at the age of 19 years, Faustina and her sister, Natalia, went to a dance in a park in Łódź. Faustina said that while at the dance she had a vision of a suffering Jesus. She then went to the Cathedral, where she said that Jesus instructed her to depart 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. After she arrived, she entered the first church she saw, Saint James Church in Warsaw, and attended Mass. She asked the priest, Father Dąbrowski, for suggestions and he recommended staying with a Mrs. Lipszycowa, a local woman whom he considered trustworthy, until she found a convent.

 

Faustina approached several convents in Warsaw, but was turned down every time, in one case being told that "we do not accept maids here", referring to her poverty. After several weeks of searching, the mother superior at the convent of Zgromadzenie Sióstr Matki Bożej Miłosierdzia (Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy) decided to give her a chance and conditionally accepted her, provided that she could pay for her religious habit. Faustina knew nothing of the convent she was entering, except that she believed she was led there.

Jesus appears as the Divine Mercy to St. Sr. Faustina Kowalska
Jesus appears as the Divine Mercy to
St. Sr. Faustina Kowalska

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

“Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: "Jesus, I trust in You" (in Polish: "Jezu, ufam Tobie"). 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.” [Diary Entry #s 47 & 48]

On the same night, Faustina also wrote in her diary 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 1 May 1933 she took her final vows in Łagiewniki and became a perpetual sister of Our Lady of Mercy.

In 1925, Faustina worked as a housemaid to save money, making deposits at the Convent throughout the year, and finally gained acceptance. On 30 April 1926 at the age of 20 years, she received her habit and took the religious name of Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament. The name "Faustina", meaning "fortunate" or "blessed", may have been intended as a feminine form of Faustinus, the name of both the martyrs Faustinus and Jovita. In April 1928, she took her first religious vows as a nun with her parents attending the profession rite.

From February to April 1929, she was sent to the convent in Wilno, then in Poland, contemporarily VilniusLithuania, as a cook. Although her time in Vilnius was short, she returned there later and met Father Michael Sopoćko, 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 almost two years.

That year, 1930, 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.

In late May 1933, Faustina was transferred to Vilnius as the gardener, work that included growing vegetables. She remained in Vilnius for about three years until March 1936. The convent in Vilnius had only 18 sisters at the time and consisted of a few scattered small houses rather than a large building.

St. Sr. Ma. Faustina Kowalska, OLM
St. Sr. Ma. Faustina Kowalska, OLM
Diaries of St. Faustina Kowalska
Diaries of  St. Faustina Kowalska

Shortly after arriving in Vilnius, Faustina met Father Michael Sopoćko, the newly appointed confessor to the nuns. Sopoćko was also a professor of pastoral theology at Stefan Batory University (now called Vilnius University). Jesus said to Faustina of Fr. Sopocko, “This is my faithful servant, he will help you carry out my will on earth”.  

 

When Faustina went to Sopoćko for her first confession, she told him that she had been conversing with Jesus, who had a plan for her. After some time, in 1933 Father Sopoćko insisted on a complete psychiatric evaluation of Faustina by Helena Maciejewska, a psychiatrist and a physician associated with the convent. Faustina passed the required tests and was declared of sound mind.

 

Thereafter, Sopoćko began to have confidence in Faustina and supported her efforts. Sopoćko also advised Faustina to begin writing a diary and to record the conversations and messages from Jesus, which she was reporting. Faustina told Sopoćko about the Divine Mercy image and, in January 1934, Sopoćko introduced her to the artist Eugene Kazimierowski who was also a professor at the university.

 

By June 1934, Kazimierowski had finished painting the image based on the direction of Faustina and Father Sopoćko. That was the only Divine Mercy painting Faustina saw. A superimposition of the face of Jesus in the Image of the Divine Mercy upon that in the already well-known Shroud of Turin shows great similarity.

 

Faustina wrote in her diary that on Good Friday, 19 April 1935, Jesus told her that he wanted the Divine Mercy image publicly honored. A week later, on 26 April 1935, Father Sopoćko delivered the first sermon ever on the Divine Mercy, which Faustina attended.

 

The first Mass during which the Divine Mercy image was displayed was on 28 April 1935, the first Sunday after Easter Sunday, and was attended by Faustina. This day was also the celebration of the end of the Jubilee of the Redemption by Pope Pius XI. Father Sopoćko obtained Archbishop Jałbrzykowski's permission to place the Divine Mercy image within the Gate of Dawn church in Vilnius during the Mass that Sunday and celebrated the Mass himself.

 

On 13 September 1935, while still in Vilnius, Faustina wrote of a vision about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy in her diary. The chaplet is about a third of the length of the Rosary. Faustina wrote that the purpose for chaplet's prayers for mercy are threefold: to obtain mercy, to trust in Christ's mercy and, to show mercy to others.

In November 1935, Faustina wrote the rules for a new contemplative religious congregation devoted to the Divine Mercy. In December she visited a house in Vilnius, which she said she had seen in a vision as the first convent for the congregation.

In January 1936, Faustina went to see Archbishop Jałbrzykowski to discuss a new congregation for Divine Mercy, but he reminded her that she was perpetually vowed to her current order. In March 1936, Faustina told her superiors that she was thinking of leaving the order to start a new one specifically devoted to Divine Mercy, but she was transferred to Walendów, southwest of Warsaw. She reported that Jesus had said to her: "My Daughter, do whatever is within your power to spread devotion to My Divine Mercy, I will make up for what you lack."

 

In 1936, Father Sopoćko wrote the first brochure on the Divine Mercy devotion and Archbishop Jałbrzykowski provided his imprimatur for it. The brochure carried the Divine Mercy image on the cover. Sopoćko sent copies of the brochure to Faustina in Warsaw.

 

Later in 1936, Faustina became ill, since speculated to be tuberculosis. She was moved to the sanatorium in PrądnikKraków. 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 23 March 1937, Faustina wrote in her diary that she had a vision that the feast of the Divine Mercy would be celebrated in her local chapel and would be attended by large crowds and also that the same celebration would be held in Rome attended by the Pope.

In July of 1937, the first holy cards with the Divine Mercy image were printed. In August, Father Sopoćko 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.

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

 

As her health deteriorated at the end of 1937, Faustina's reported visions intensified, and she was said to be looking forward to an end to her life. In April 1938, her illness had progressed and she was sent to rest in the sanatorium in Prądnik for what was to be her final stay there.

St. Sr. Faustina Kowalska with her family at Głogowiec, Poland in 1935
St. Sr. Faustina Kowalska with her family at Głogowiec, Poland in 1935

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

 

Faustina died at the age of 33 on 5 October 1938. She was buried on 7 October and now rests at the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Kraków, Poland.

The Lord chose St. Faustina to be the “Apostle and Secretary of His mercy” so she would share the urgent message and devotion to the Divine Mercy with our troubled modern world. Her mission consisted of 3 main tasks:

Funeral of  Sr. Ma. Faustina Kowalska
Funeral of  Sr. Ma. Faustina Kowalska

1. Reminding the world and the Church of the truth of God’s mercy for every           human being as revealed in the Holy Scriptures,

2. Entreating Divine Mercy for the whole world, especially for poor sinners               through the practice of the message and devotion to the Divine Mercy,

 

3. Initiating the apostolic movement of Divine Mercy, the followers of which             proclaim and entreat Divine Mercy for the whole world and strive to practice       the works of mercy,  following the example of St. Faustina.

 

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.

 

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.

 

In 1965, Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II, opened up the first investigations into Faustina's life and virtues. He submitted a number of documents on her life to the Vatican and requested the official beatification process to start.

 

St. Faustina Kowalska was beatified on April 18, 1993 and canonized on April 30, 2000, both by Pope St. John Paul II. Her feast day is celebrated on October 5 and she is the patron saint of Mercy.

 

The fact that her Vatican biography directly quotes some of her reputed conversations with Jesus, distinguishes her among the many reported visionaries. Thus, in October 2011, some cardinals and bishops sent a petition to Pope Benedict XVI that St. Faustina be made the fourth female doctor of the Church.

Pope John Paul II reads the word of canonization declaring Sr. Faustina Kowalska a saint
Pope John Paul II reads the words of canonization declaring Sr. Faustina Kowalska a saint

 

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