Saint Faustina Kowalska, an apostle of the Divine Mercy, belongs today to the group of the most popular and well-known saints of the Church. Through her the Lord Jesus communicates to the world the great message of God’s mercy and reveals the pattern of Christian perfection based on trust in God and on the attitude of mercy toward one’s neighbors.
She was born on August 25, 1905 in Glogowiec in Poland of a poor and religious family of peasants, the third of ten children. She was baptized with the name Helena in the parish Church of Ðwinice Warckie. From a very tender age she stood out because of her love of prayer, work, obedience, and also her sensitivity to the poor. At the age of nine she made her first Holy Communion living this moment very profoundly in her awareness of the presence of the Divine Guest within her soul. She attended school for three years. At the age of sixteen she left home and went to work as a housekeeper in order to find the means of supporting herself and of helping her parents.
At the age of seven she had already felt the first stirrings of a religious vocation. After finishing school, she wanted to enter the convent but her parents would not give her permission. Called during a vision of the Suffering Christ, on August 1, 1925 she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and took the name Sister Mary Faustina. She lived in the Congregation for thirteen years and lived in several religious houses.
Externally, nothing revealed her rich mystical interior life. She zealously performed her tasks and faithfully observed the rule of religious life. She was recollected and at the same time very natural, serene and full of kindness and disinterested love for her neighbor. Although her life was apparently insignificant, monotonous and dull, she hid within herself an extraordinary union with God.
The years she had spent at the convent were filled with extraordinary gifts, such as: revelations, visions, hidden stigmata, participation in the Passion of the Lord, the gift of bi-location, the reading of human souls, the gift of prophecy, or the rare gift of mystical engagement and marriage. The living relationship with God, the Blessed Mother, the Angels, the Saints, the souls in Purgatory — with the entire supernatural world — was as equally real for her as was the world she perceived with her senses.
On February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to her as King of Divine Mercy, “wearing a white garment. One hand was raised in a sign of blessing; the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment emanated two large rays, one red, the other pale.” Jesus asked St. Faustina to have an image painted of Him as she saw Him, but her superiors hesitated. At last, God sent her a new spiritual director, Father Michael Sopocko, who helped her to promulgate devotion to the Mercy of God. It was Fr. Sopocko also who ordered her to write a diary of the graces she received, even though she had a hard time writing and spelling because of her scanty education.
Father Sopocko, assisted her in having the Divine Mercy image painted. He used his own money to have copies of the image, together with the Chaplet of Mercy, printed on leaflets for wide distribution,
In spite of being so richly endowed with extraordinary graces, Sr. Mary Faustina knew that they do not in fact constitute sanctity. In her Diary she wrote: “Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God” (Diary 1107).
In an extraordinary way, St. Faustina’s work sheds light on the mystery of the Divine Mercy. It delights not only the simple and uneducated people, but also scholars who look upon it as an additional source of theological research. The Diary, titled “Divine Mercy In My Soul” has been translated into many languages, among others, English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak.
Sister Mary Faustina, consumed by tuberculosis and by innumerable sufferings which she accepted as a voluntary sacrifice for sinners, died in Kraków at the age of just thirty three on October 5, 1938 with a reputation for spiritual maturity and a mystical union with God.
The reputation of the holiness of her life grew as did the cult to the Divine Mercy and the graces she obtained from God through her intercession. In the years 1965-67, the investigative process into her life and heroic virtues was undertaken in Krakow and in the year 1968, the Beatification Process was initiated in Rome. The latter came to an end in December 1992. On April 18, 1993 our Holy Father John Paul II raised Sister Faustina to the glory of the altars. St. Faustina’s remains rest at the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Kraków.