Year of Prayer: Saint Faustina Kowalska, the secretary of Divine Mercy

by Mary Martinovich

Helena Kowalska was born in Poland on August 25, 1905 to an impoverished family, the third of ten children. At a young age she stood out from other children because of her love of prayer, obedience, hard work and charity. At her First Communion, she described her awareness of the “Divine Guest” within her soul. At age sixteen, Helena wanted to join the convent, but her parents would not allow her to do so; she needed to work to support herself and the family. Working as a housekeeper, she went to Mass and received the Eucharist almost daily, never losing her desire for a religious vocation.

In 1925, Helena experienced an intense vision of “The Suffering Christ,” during which Jesus instructed her to join the religious life. Helena entered the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy and took the name Sr. Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. She worked as a cook, gardener and porter during her years in the congregation, serving in several religious houses. Sr. Faustina’s love for the Lord grew, always striving for her soul to be a sanctuary for Jesus. She found her strength in prayer and the Eucharist. From the outside, her life appeared monotonous and dull, however, inwardly, she hid a remarkable spiritual union with God. During her daily activities, Sr. Faustina constantly contemplated the Word of God, especially the Mercy of God, developing an attitude of complete trust in the Lord, as well as, mercy and charity toward others. At the request of the Lord, she began keeping a diary of her visions and His communications, later titled “The Divine Mercy of the Soul.” In her diary she writes how the Lord asked her to be the “Secretary of His Mercy” and spread His teachings to the world.

The years she spent at the convent were filled with revelations, visions, hidden stigmata, participation in the Passion of the Lord, the reading of human souls, and the gift of prophecy. Faustina’s visions were frequent and not limited to the Lord. In her diary, she also details encounters with Mary, Satan, angels, demons and souls in Purgatory. She also describes feeling tormented, constantly praying for strength. As word spread about her visions, she was ridiculed by others, including many of her fellow sisters. Her mother superior believed she was delusional. Faustina always remained silent, never defended herself, and relied on the Lord to provide her with the strength and assistance she needed. She saw her sufferings as voluntary sacrifices for sinners.

Sr. Faustina’s mission remained steadfast throughout her life. She was always conscious of the role given to her by God: to communicate to the world His merciful love of every human being, particularly sinners, and His great promises for those who entrust their lives to Him and actively show love and mercy toward their neighbor. The Lord introduced new forms of devotion to His Divine Mercy through Faustina, including veneration of the image He revealed to her of “The Divine Mercy,” with the inscription Jesus, I Trust in You, His desire to celebrate the Feast of The Divine Mercy (the Sunday after Easter), The Divine Mercy Chaplet and the 3:00 p.m. daily Hour of Mercy prayer.

Sr. Maria Faustina died from tuberculosis at age thirty three on October 5, 1938. She was honored for her spiritual maturity and extraordinary mystical union with God. She is commonly known as the Apostle or Secretary of His Mercy. St. Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska was canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II on April 30, 2000.

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