Today we continue our regular series called “Learning from the Saints.” Our guide is expert Bert Ghezzi, a dear friend of mine and the author of numerous books including Voices of the Saints, Saints at Heart, and Discover Christ: Developing a Personal Relationship with Jesus.
Today, Bert profiles St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun who launched the worldwide Divine Mercy devotion.
Helena Kowalska was the third of ten children of a peasant family who lived in Glogowiec, Poland. She was simple, uneducated, and attractive. As a child, she began to sense God’s call, but she was 20 before she found it irresistible. In 1925, Helena entered the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She took the name Faustina and was assigned to domestic service.
On the evening of February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to Faustina. He wore a white robe, and two rays, one white and one red, flowed from his breast. In this and subsequent visions, Christ directed Faustina to propagate devotion to the Divine Mercy. He instructed her to make a painting of his image, promising that anyone who honored it would be saved. He also told Faustina that he wanted the whole Church to celebrate the first Sunday after Easter as the Feast of Mercy.
Faustina’s first efforts met with ridicule, doubt and only lukewarm support. However, after 1933 with the aid of her spiritual director, Father Michael Sopocko, she made good, but slow progress. By 1935, thousands in Poland were participating in the Divine Mercy movement.
The Divine Mercy meant not only receiving mercy, but also giving it. With Faustina we can pray that we too might become merciful:
“O Most Holy Trinity! As many times as I breathe, as many times as my heart beats, as many times as my blood pulsates through my body, so many thousand times do I want to glorify your mercy.
“I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.
“Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbor’s souls and come to their rescue.
“Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.
“Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
“Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbor and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.
“Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.
“Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon us.”
Faustina died of tuberculosis in 1938. After her death, the Divine Mercy devotion has grown steadily. With the support of Pope John Paul II, it became popularly established throughout the entire Church.
Faustina, and other saints like Margaret Mary Alacoque, Joan of Arc and even the Virgin Mary were simple and unassuming young women. What makes them extraordinary is God’s grace. He seems to favor ordinary folks with his mercy, which is very good news.
Read more from Bert at his website www.BertGhezzi.com, or check out his many books on Amazon.