Blessed Faustina Kowalska: Apostle of Mercy

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

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Blessed Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in the village of Golgowiec 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 reilgious habit and was given the name 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 about 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 glamourous 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, brining 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 wrold for His coming again.

Convinced of her own unworthiness, and terrified at the thought of trying to write anything, she nonetheless began keeping a diary in 1934 in obedience to the express wishes of her spiritual director, and then of Our Lord Himself. For four years she recorded divine revelations and mystical experiences, together with her own inmost thoughts, insights and prayers. The result is a book of some 600 printed pages that in simple language repeats and clarifies the gospel story of God's love for His people, emphasisizing, above all, the need to trust in His loving action in all aspects of our lives.

It also reveals an extraordinary example of how to respond to God's mercy and manifest it to others. Blessed Faustina's spiritual life was based on deep humility, purity of intention, and loving obedience to the will of God in imitation of the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. her special devotion to Mary Immaculate and to the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation gave her the strength to bear all her suffering 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 expereiences 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; she has been recognised by the Church as "Blessed" and her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, has become the handbook for devotion to The Divine Mercy. She would not have been surprised, for she had been told that the message of God's mercy would spread through her writings for the great benefit of sould.

In a prophetic statement she had declared:

"I feel certain that my mission will not come to an end upon my death, but will begin. O doubting souls, I will draw aside for you the veils of heaven to convince you go God's goodness." (Diary entry 281)

The A B C's of Mercy

The message of mercy is that God loves us - all of us, no matter how great our sins. He wants us to recognise that His mercy is greater than ours, so that we will call upon Him with trust, receive His mercy, and let it flow through us to others. Thus, all will come to share His joy. It is a message we can call to mind simply by remembering 'ABC'.

Ask for His mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world.

Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us.

Completely trust. God want us to know that the graces fo His mercy are dependant upon out trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.

Christ picture© Marian Helpers

The Image of Divine Mercy

In 1931, Our Lord appeared to Blessed Faustina in a vision. She saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left hand was touching his garment in the area of the heart, from where two large rays came forth - one red and the other pale. She gazed intently at the Lord in silence, her soul filled with awe, but also with great joy. Jesus said to her:

"Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You...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. (47, 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." (327) ...I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [the] throughout the world."

At the request of her spiritual director, Blessed Faustina asked the Lord about the meaning of the rays in the image. she heard these words in reply:

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 depths of My tender mercy when My agaonzed Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross...Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him. (299)...By the means of this image I shall grant many graces to souls. It is to be areminder of the demands of My mercy, because even the strongest faith is of no avail without works. (742)

Many different versions of this image have been painted, but Our Lord made it clear that the painting itself is not what is important. When Blessed Faustina first saw the original image that was being painted under her direction, she wept in disappointment and complained to Jesus: "Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?" (313)

In answer she heard these words:

Not in the beauty of the colour, not of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace. (313)

The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

In 1935, Blessed Faustina received a vision of an angel sent by God to chastise a certain city. She began to pray for mercy, but her prayers were powerless. Suddenly, she saw the Holy Trinity and felt the power of Jesus' grace within her. At the same time she found herself pleading with God for mercy with words she heard interiorly:

Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world; for the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. (476)

As she continued saying this inspired prayer, the angel became helpless and could not carry out the deserved punishement. (see 474, 475) The next day, as she was entering the chapel, she again heard this interior voice, instructing her how to recite the prayer that our Lord later called "the Chaplet." From then on she recited this form of prayer almost constantly, offering it especially for the dying. In subsequent revelations, the Lord made it clear that the Chaplet was not just for her, but for the whole world. He also attached extraordinary promises to its recitation.

Encourage souls to say the Chaplet which I have given you. (1541)...Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death.(687)...When they say this chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior.(1541)...Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy(687)...I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy.(687)...Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will. (1731)...
[Editor's Note: the Chaplet of Divine Mercy is prayed on ordinary rosary beads, as follows: begin with an Our Father, Hail Mary and Apostle's Creed. Then on the large bead before each decade, pray, "Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world;" On the ten small beads of each decade, pray, "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world." Conclude with "Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world." (Three times)] ...The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is an intercessory prayer that extends the offering of the Eucharist, so it especially apporpriate to use it after having received Holy Communion at Holy Mass. It may be said at any time, but our Lord specifically told Blessed Faustina to recite it during the nine days before the Feast of Mercy (the first Sunday after Easter) He then added:
By this Novena, [of Chaplets] I will grant every possible grace to souls. (796)

The Hour of Great Mercy

It is likewise appropriate to pray the Chaplet during the "Hour of Great Mercy" - three o'clock each afternoon (recalling the time of Christ's death on the Cross). In His revelations to Blessed Faustina, Our Lord asked for a special remembrance of His Passion at that hour:...

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 wil refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion.

The Feast of Mercy

Blessed Faustina's diary contains at least fourteen passages in which Our Lord is quoted as requesting that a "Feast of Mercy" be officially established in the Church: He declared:

This Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of My tender mercies (420)...It is my desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter...I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fountain of My mercy... (699)

The Novena to Divine Mercy

On Good Friday, 1937, Jesus requested that Blessed Faustina make a special novena before the Feast of Mercy, from Good Friday through the following Saturday. He, Himself dictated the intentions for each day. By means of a specific prayer she was to bring to His Heart a different group fo souls eadh day and thus immerse them in the ocean of His mercy, begging the Father - on the strength of Jesus' Passion - for graces for them. (see 1209) ...In this novena we make the Lord's intentions our own - a beautiful expression of the Church's privilege and duty, as the Bride of the Lord, to be the intercessor at Christ's side at the throne of Mercy.

The foregoing excerpts from "The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion" are published here with the kind permission of the Marian Helpers, Stockbridge MA.

On Sunday, April 18th, 1993, Sister Faustina was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter's Square during a Mass celebrated with over 100,000 pilgrims from all over the world. In his homily, the Pope said,

"Her mission continues and is yielding astonishing fruit. It is truly marvellous how her devotion is spreading in our contemporary world, and gaining so many human hearts! This is doubtlessly a sign of the times - a sign of our 20th century. The balance of this century which is now ending, in addition to the advances which have often supasssed those of preceeding eras, presents a deep restlessness and fear of the future. Where, if not in the Divine Mercy, can the world find refuge and the light of hope? Believers understand that perfectly. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good...Give thanks to the Lord, for He is merciful..."

Recommended reading:

Homily for the Canonization of Sr Mary Faustina Kowalska, 30 April 2000

A good resource for things Marian and Divine Mercy is:

The Marian Helpers, Eden Hill, Stockbridge, MA. 01263, USA. Phone: 1-800-462-7426 (USA)

Canadian readers may also vidit the Divine Mercy Centre of Canada website. Address and phone: Canadian Divine Mercy Centre and Apostolate #2531 Dalhousie Concession 2, Lanark, ON K0G 1K0, Canada Phone: 1-800-461-9254.

The Works of Mercy

The corporal Works of Mercy:

Feed the hungry,
Give drink to the thirsty.
Clothe the naked.
Shelter the homeless.
Comfort the imprisoned.
Visit the sick.
Bury the dead.

The spiritual Works of Mercy:

Admonish sinners.
Instruct the uninformed.
Counsel the doubtful.
Comfort the sorrowful.
Be patient with those in error.
Forgive offenses.
Pray for the living and the dead.

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