Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska
1905 - 1938
Also known as: Elena Kowalska; Faustina Kowalska; Helena Kowalska; Maria Faustina Kowalska; Sister Faustina
Feast day: October 5
Helena Kowalska was born as the third of ten children on the 25th of August 1905 in a small Polish village called Glogowiec. Her parents were Stanilaus and Marianne Kowalski. They were poor, but happy, because they were with God. At home, prayer was connected with work in harmonious way. Her very real feelings for the Lord were very noticeable just like her care for the poor, even when she was a little girl. She started to go to school when she was twelve and when she was sixteen she went into service in order to earn money for her maintenance and to help her parents.
When she was seventeen years old, she recognized her destiny: she wanted to sacrifice her life for service for God in a convent. As a young girl, she preferred to spend all her free time at the Blessed Sacrament instead of with her friends. Being on service, she reserved for herself a possibility to attend in Holy Mass every day and to visit the persons who were sick or dying.
On 1st August 1925, Helena Kowalska entered the Congregation of Our Blessed Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, at 3/9 Żytnia Street. This Congregation was founded in Poland by Teresa Potacka in 1862, for breeding the girls and women who needed deep moral change. In an atmosphere of separation from influences of the world, through prayer and work, the Sisters’ foster-children were rebuilding a sensation of own dignity, they studied a profession in order they could come back to life in the society and to earn money for their maintenance in dignified manner.
In 1926, during the ceremony of the taking of the veil, Helena Kowalska received the name: Sister Maria Faustina, and now she is known in the whole world under this name. In 1928 she took her first vows: of chastity, poverty and obedience, which she repeated during 5 years in order to take perpetual vows in the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.
Sister Faustina worked in several different homes of the convent, doing jobs such as a kitchen-help, a gardener and a porter. Outwardly she did not differ from her fellow nuns, she was faithful to the rule of the religious order, in which she saw the will of God, she was full of trust to God and an active love of a neighbour. Under commonness, an intense religious life was hidden that impressed many people. Her contact with the supernatural world – meetings with the Lord Jesus, the Holy Mother, the angels, Saints, the souls who were in purgatory – was such real, simply and ordinary as the world perceived by senses. Already, during her firsts weeks in the Congregation, she had a vision of purgatory, then a vision of Heaven and hell. She received many, extraordinary graces, like apparitions, a gift of the ability of the reading in souls of other people, bi-location (it is an ability to be in two places at the same time), hidden stigmata, or so called mystical engagement and marriage with Jesus. The theologians include her into a circle of the most distinguished mystics in the history of the Church. In her spiritual “Diary”, which she wrote on the order of the Lord Jesus, on order of the priests-confessors and because the superiors agreed, she described not only extraordinary meetings with supernatural reality, but also her grey commonplaceness, which became beautiful and rich because of the fact that it was experienced with union with God.
The God picked out her as a secretary and apostle of the Divine Mercy. Through her, He delivered to the Church and the world, great message about the merciful love of God to every person. This great prophetic mission of Saint Faustina started in Plock, Poland on the 22nd February 1931. “When I was in my cell in the evening – she wrote in “Diary” - I saw Jesus dressed in a white robe. A hand was raised up to blessing, and the second hand touched His robe at the level of His heart. From His robe, which was slightly opened, two beautiful rays of light were visible, one was red and the other pale. Silently, I looked at THE LORD. My soul was afraid and yet full of joy. After a very short time, Our Saviour said to me: “Make a statue of Me, exactly as you see Me now, and under this statue you should place the words: 'Jesus, I trust You!' I want this statue to be worshipped, firstly in your chapel and then throughout the world. I promise that a soul who worships this picture, will not die. I promise also that already here, on the Earth the victory over enemies, and especially during the hour of death. I, personally will protect her as My glory” (Diary 47). Sister Faustina said about this to her confessor and he let her to paint this picture in her soul. But when she was going away from a confessional, the Lord Jesus said: “My picture is already in your soul. I desire that a feast of the Mercy will be. I want that this picture which you will paint by brush, was solemnly consecrated during the first Sunday after the Easter, this Sunday will be the feast of Divine Mercy.” (Diary 49). Sister Faustina did not know to paint, other sisters also did not, so a painting of the picture was delaying. And the Lord Jesus assured Sister Faustina that it was very important matter. “You need to know about it – said to her - that if you neglect the matter of painting this picture and the whole work of mercy, you will answer for a large number of souls during the day of the Judgment” (Diary 154).
In such situation Sister Faustina asked God for help. At first, she asked for it that a priest in the name of the Church confirmed that requests which she had heard from Jesus, were really from the God, and they were not any illusion. Such confirmation she received during retreats in 1932, and then a promise of a priest who would help her to fulfil the wishes of the Lord Jesus. The name of the priest was Michal Sopocko, whom Saint Faustina met in Wilno (Vilnius). He after examination that the matter came from God, engaged himself in an realisation of the mission, which mission the Lord Jesus delivered to Saint Faustina. At first, he arranged to do a painting of Merciful Jesus, by painter Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, who lived in the same tenement-house. Sister Faustina gave advices to the painter and asked the Lord Jesus for explanations concerning meaning of some elements of the picture, which her confessor did not understand. The Lord Jesus said at this moment that His glance from this picture was like His glance from the cross, that in inscription on the picture should be: “Jesus, I trust You” and the rays: pale and red mean water and blood. “These two rays – explained the Lord Jesus – mean blood and water. The pale ray means water, which clears souls; the red ray means blood, which is the life of souls. These two rays went out from the entrails of My mercy at that time, when My dying heart was opened by a spear on the cross. These rays protect souls from My Father’s angry. Happy is the person, who will live in their shadow, because the just God’s hand will not reach him. I desire that the first Sunday after the Easter, be the feast of Mercy”. (Diary 299).
When the painting was painted, Sister Faustina cried, because Jesus on this picture was not so beautiful as she had seen Him. But Jesus answered that not in the beauty of paint is power of this picture, but in His grace.
In the first Sunday after the Easter, in the planned feast of Mercy, the picture of Merciful Jesus was for the first time shown publicly in the Sanctuary of the Holy Mother of Mercy in Ostra Brama. Priest Michal Sopocko preached about Divine Mercy and Sister Faustina saw how many people received graces. When she came back from this feast to the convent, she wrote: “The whole multitude of devils blocked my way, who threatened me with terrible tortures – and it could be heard voices: She took away from us everything, what we worked during so many years. – When I asked them: From where there are such multitude of you? – These malicious shapes answered to me: From hearts of people, do not torment us. Seeing their terrible hatred for me, in this moment I asked the Guardian Angel for help. – And in one moment a bright and radiant shape of the Guardian Angel stood, who said to me: Do not be afraid, My Lord’s betrothed, these ghosts will not do anything wrong to you without His permission. These wrong ghosts disappeared immediately and the faithful Guardian Angel accompanied me in visible way to home.” (Diary 418-419).
In Wilno (Vilnius) the Lord Jesus dictated prayer to Saint Faustina. We know this prayer as Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It was on 13-14 September 1935. Sister Faustina saw an angel who was to punish the Earth for sins. When she saw this sign of God’ anger, she started to ask the angel to suspend for a few minutes and the world will do penance. However, when she stood in front of the majesty of the Holy Trinity, she did not have courage to repeat this imploration. Only, when she felt the Lord Jesus’ power of grace, she started to pray by words which she heard internal and they were words of the Chaplet and she saw that punishment of the Earth was pushed away. On the second day, the Lord Jesus dictated her once again this prayer: At the beginning you will say 1 Our Father and 1 Hail Mary and 1 the Apostles’ Creed and next, on the beads of Our Father you will say following words: 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 Hail Mary beads you will say: For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world. At the end you will say 3 times these words: Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world. (Diary 474). During the next apparitions, the Lord Jesus delivered promises which He connected to saying this prayer. He said that by saying this Chaplet, it was possible to ask everything what was concordant with God’ will and He promised also a grace of happy and peaceful death. This grace can receive only these people who will say this chaplet with trust and also dying people, next to whom other people will say this chaplet. “Even if a sinner was the most obdurate – said the Lord Jesus – if he only once will say this chaplet, he will attaine the grace from My infinite mercy. I desire that the whole world will get to know My mercy. I desire to give inconceivable graces to souls who trust My mercy”. (Diary 687).
lso in Wilno (Vilnius) the Lord Jesus returned to the matter of institution of the feast of Divine Mercy, saying the great promises. “during this day – the Lord Jesus was saying – the entrails of My mercy are opened, I pour out the whole sea of graces for a soul who will approach to a source of My mercy. A soul who will confess and receive the Holy communion, will obtain the complete remission of sins and punishments. During this day, all Divine sluices are opened, through which flow graces; let any soul does not be afraid to approach to Me, even if the sins of this soul were like purple”. (Diary 699). As a preparation to this feast is novena, which we do by saying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, during 9 days, beginning on the Good Friday. In order to benefit from the great graces, one needs to be after well done confession, without any attachment to sin, and should receive the Holy Communion during this day and should experience this feast in the spirit of trust to God (with desire of fulfilling His will) and in the spirit of mercy to the neighbours.
In 1935 Sister Faustina heard also the Lord Jesus’ wish connected to an establishment of such congregation, which will proclaim and obtain by prayer, the mercy for the whole world. At the beginning, she was thinking that she needed to set up only one contemplative religious order, but the Lord Jesus gradually got her to know that it did not concern to only one congregation, but it concerned to great work in the Church, which will be done by many, men’s and women’s congregations, the enclosed religious orders and the active religious orders and by the great number of people living in the whole world. All of them will proclaim merciful God’s love through a testimony of life in the spirit of trust to God and an active love of a neighbour, through acts, words and prayer. Each – as wrote Sister Faustina – can belong to this “congregation” and make the merciful God’s love present in the world.
The basic way of proclaiming the messages of Mercy and the whole devotion to Divine Mercy is the attitude of trust in God, it means- fulfilling His will contained in the ten commandments, the duties of the position, the advices and blessings said in the Gospels or the recognized inspirations of Holy Spirit and an active love of a neighbour. “If I demand through you from people an adoration of Divine Mercy – the Lord Jesus was saying to Sister Faustina – it is you who first should be characterised by trust in My mercy. I demand from you the acts of mercy which originate from love to Me. You need to show mercy always and everywhere to the neighbours, you can not retire from it nor excuse yourself from it, nor exculpate. I am telling you three ways of making mercy to the neighbours: the first – acts, the second – word, the third – prayer; in these three steps, the fullness of mercy is concluded and it is the irrefutable proof of love of Me”. (Diary 742). The next way of proclaiming the messages of Mercy is an act, then a word and prayer. The task of proclaiming the messages of Mercy was gifted a great promise by the Lord Jesus. “souls who propagate the worship of My mercy – He said – I protect them through the whole life, as a tender mother her new-born baby and during the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but I will be the merciful Redeemer.” (Diary 1075). The Lord Jesus gave a special promise to the priests, as He said that when they would say about the merciful God’s love to a person, He would cause that the souls of the obdurate sinners would crush under their words, coming back to life in friendship with Him.
The Hour of Mercy – 15.00. In 1936 Sister Faustina came back to Krakow to spend there the last years of her life. The Lord Jesus appeared to her a next new form of worship of Divine Mercy, which we call the Hour of Mercy. It does not mean that we need to pray during the whole hour, but we need to honour the moment of the Lord Jesus’ death on the cross. The Lord Jesus said to Saint Faustina: “I remind you, My daughter that how many times you will hear as a clock repeats the third hour, dip the whole yourself in My mercy, admiring and praising it; call its omnipotence for the whole world, and especially for the poor sinners, because in this moment mercy is opened broadly for every soul. During this hour you will obtain by prayer everything for yourself and for others; at this hour, the grace for the whole world happened – mercy won justice. My daughter, try to do the way of cross, if your duty will allow you to do it; if you can not do the way of cross, go at least to a chapel for a few minutes and worship My heart, which is full of mercy in the Most Holy Sacrament; and if you can not go to the chapel, sunk in prayer there where you are through few minutes”. (Diary 1572). Prayer at that time (15.00) should be directed to the Lord Jesus and in implorations we need to appeal to the value and merits of His sorrowful Passion. It is the privileged time of each day, during which, by connecting with the Lord Jesus dying on the cross, we can obtain by prayer everything if it is concordant with God’s will and if we ask for it with trust, attaching to prayer the acts of mercy done for our neighbours.
The Lord Jesus not only delivered the new forms of worship of Divine Mercy to Saint Faustina (a picture with inscription: Jesus, I trust You, the Feast of Mercy, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the Hour of Mercy, a propagation of worship of Mercy) to which He attached the great promises, under the condition of solicitude for attitude of trust (performing the God’s will) and the active love of a neighbour, but also He allowed to know the depth of mystery of the Divine Mercy. Her “Diary” was called by Pope John Paul II: a “Gospel of mercy written in XX century”, as the message is such wonderful way shows the merciful love of God for a person during the whole perspective of the history of the world: since the moment of creating, through incarnation and birth of God’s Son, His life and teaching, Passion, death and Resurrection by the union of the Church, who is the Mystical Body of Christ and invitation to the Glory of Heaven. A cognition of the mystery of Divine Mercy, led Saint Faustina to a discovery of God in her own soul. That is why, she did not look for a God somewhere far, but in the depth of her heart, in order to experience together with Him her commonplaceness. She wrote that she went with Jesus to work, she took a rest with Him, she prayed with Him and suffered with Him. Jesus always kept her company and from a human soul He was driven out only by a mortal sin. “Diary” of Saint Faustina allows to know better the true face of the God and the true faith of a person, created from love and destined to the union of life with God already here on the Earth and through the whole eternity.
Sister Faustina was also a faithful daughter of the Holy Mother of Mercy. Mary was for her not only the Mother of God’s Son, but also her Mother and the Mistress of spiritual life. She taught her a contemplation of God in her own soul, an attitude of trust in relation to Him, it means- fulfilling His will in a perfect way, cherishing the cross, a love of a neighbour and also a practise of virtues which condition such attitude. A vision of the Holy Mother and Her instructions harmonized with the mission, which the Lord Jesus gave to Saint Faustina. The Most Holy Mother enlightened her, how a great role in God’s plans, the messages of Mercy will play, messages which she received from the Lord Jesus. Holy Mother strengthened her in fulfilling her mission. She said to Sister Faustina: “I gave the Redeemer for the world and you are to say to the world about His great mercy and to prepare the world for His repeated (91) coming, who will come not as the merciful Redeemer, but as just the Judge. O, this day is terrible. It is decided the day of justice, the day of God’s anger, the angels tremble before of this day. Say to souls about this great mercy, by the time of mercy; if you are silent now, you will answer during that terrible day for a great number of souls. Do not be afraid of anything, be faithful by the end, I sympathize with you”. (Diary 635).
In February 1938, several months before her death, Sister Faustina had a vision of The Blessed Virgin Mary: “In a great light, I saw the Holy Mother in white dress, with a golden belt, the stars, also golden ones were on the whole Her garment and the sleeves were covered with gold. The overcoat was sapphire, lightly flung, on the head She had flung a transparent veil, hair were flowing, beautifully arranged and a crown of gold, which had small crosses at the ends. On the left hand She held the Infant Jesus. Such Holy Mother I did not see yet. Suddenly, she looked at me graciously and said:
I am the Priests’ Mother
Then She laid Her child on the ground, raised her right hand to Heaven and said:
God, Bless Poland, bless the priests
And She said again to me:
Tell to the priests what you have just seen.
I decided to say about it, at the first opportunity of seeing with a father, but I personally can not understand this vision”. (Diary 1585).
Sister Faustina in her life left to us the pattern of complete trust to God, about whom she talked that He was Love and Mercy. When she suffered very much, she came in a front of the tabernacle and said: “The Lord, even if you kill me, I will trust You”. In another place she wrote that even if the earth would disappeared under her foot, she will not stop trust Him, because she understood that He was only kindness. She admired of God’s merciful love so much that she wanted to change her life into mercy. During prayer she asked the Lord Jesus to change her eyes, ears, tongue, hands, legs and the first of all the heart in such way, as they could render Him love in other person. She wanted that Divine Mercy would pour out on the whole world, through her life. She prayed and did sacrifices not only for people who were around of her, but also for the whole world and especially for sinners, because they need mercy the most. On the request of the Lord Jesus she gave her life as sacrifice for them, that is she promised to receive all fears and torments which the sinners feel and to give them all her consolations which came from the close communion with God, in order to obtain for them a grace of conversion and to save for eternal life.
Sister Faustina, exhausted by illness (she was sick on tuberculosis), by sufferings which were connected to a prophetic mission of Mercy and the sacrifices done for the sinners, died in the convent in Krakow-Lagiewniki, on 5th October 1938, being only 33 years old. The informative process was started in Krakow Diocese by cardinal Karol Wojtylla in 1965. One year later, worldly remains of Sister Faustina were moved to a convent chapel. After the ending of process in diocese, the documents were sent to Rome and there since 1968 the process of beatification was continued. They investigated a heroism of virtues and miracle attributed to her intercession. On the first Sunday after Easter, on 18th April 1993, Pope John Paul II beatified Sister Faustina and on 30th April 2000 he canonised her and he proclaimed the first Sunday after Easter as the feast of Divine Mercy. At that time, the gift of messages of Mercy he gave to the Church for third millennium.
The convent of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki, where Sister Faustina lived and died, became the world capital of worship of Divine Mercy. There, in the convent chapel are her worldly remains and there is the miraculous painting of Merciful Jesus, famous in the whole world, on which the words of the Lord Jesus, said to Sister Faustina, were fulfilled: “I desire that this picture be worshipped at the beginning in your chapel and then in the whole world”. People from the whole world pilgrimage to this place, among of them was Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. From this place, the messages of Mercy are spread on the whole world in order to give people a light of hope and to prepare them to the repeated coming of Christ. Only in Divine Mercy – as Pope John Paul II said – “the world will find peace and a person – happiness”.
The mission of Sister Faustina is proclamation of messages about the merciful love of the God to people, by a testimony of life, in the spirit of trust to God and mercy in relation to the neighbours, through acts, words and prayers, especially through a practice of Devotion of the Divine Mercy in forms handed down by her (the picture of Merciful Jesus, the feast of Divine Mercy, Chaplet of Divine Mercy and prayer at the hour of dying the Lord Jesus on the Cross, called the Hour of Mercy). To each of these forms as well as to a proclamation of the Divine Mercy, the Lord Jesus attached the great promises, under the condition that they will be practised well, it means it will be solicitude for an attitude of trust (fulfilling the God’s will) and mercy in relation to the neighbours. The mission of Saint Faustina is continued by the Apostolic Movement of Divine Mercy which is created by the enclosed congregations, the active congregations, the different unions, the apostolate and the people who individually proclaim the messages of Divine Mercy to the world.
April 18, 1993 by Pope John Paul II; her beatification miracle involved the cure of Maureen Digan who suffered Milroy's disease, a hereditary form of lymphedema that cost her a leg.
April 30, 2000 by Pope John Paul II; her canonization miracle involved the cure of Father Ronald P. Pytel's heart disease.
We would like to say thank you to Sister Elzbieta Siepak from the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki for her help in preparation of the study and we enclose also official websites of the Congregation:
Prayer to Saint Mary Faustina Kowalska
Dear Saint Mary Faustina, I have come to know you as a friend. I ask you to plead to the Lord for me the prayer I ask of you. In times of doubt, dear friend, implore the Lord's Mercy as you did so often here on earth, that I may remember who I am, and to what His mercy has called me.
In times of fear, implore His Mercy that I may ever remember to trust, and trust again, in joy, and in the knowledge that God is preparing me for a beautiful mission.
Please pray dear Saint Mary Faustina, that I may never forget that the abyss between my Lord and I has been bridged by His tender Mercy. He will continue to be faithful and heal me of anything which stands in the way of His Will. My life is in His Hands.
Thank you dear friend. Pray with me the prayer Our Lord taught you to spread throughout the world; Jesus, I trust in You! Remind all pilgrims of life that if our trust is great, there is no limit to Jesus' generosity.
Novena to Obtain Graces Through the Intercession of St. Faustina
O Jesus, Who filled Your servant, St. Faustina, with profound veneration for Your boundless Mercy, deign, if it be Your holy will, to grant me, through her intercession, the grace for which I fervently pray.
My sins render me unworthy of Your Mercy, but be mindful of St. Faustina's spirit of sacrifice and self-denial, and reward her virtue by granting the petition which, with childlike confidence, I present to You through her intercession.
Saint Faustina´s Healing Prayer
Jesus may Your pure
and healthy Blood
circulate in my poor ailing
organism, and may Your
pure and healthy Body
transform my weak
unhealthy body, and may a
healthy and vigorous life
flow once again within me,
if it is truly
Your Holy will.
Prayer of St. Faustina to Our Lady
O Mary, my Mother and my Lady, I offer you my soul, my body, my life and my death and all that will come after it. I place everything in your hands, O my Mother, cover my soul with your virginal mantle and grant me the grace of purity of heart, soul and body. Defend me with your power against all enemies and especially against those who hide their malice behind the mask of virtue. Fortify my soul that pain may not break it. Mother of grace, teach me to live by God’s power.
O Mary, a terrible sword has pierced you holy soul. Except for God, no one knows of your suffering. Your soul does not break, it is brave, because it is with Jesus. Sweet Mother, unite my soul to Jesus, because it is only then that I will be able to endure all trials and tribulations and only in union with Jesus will my little sacrifices be pleasing to God. Sweetest Mother, continue to teach me about the interior life. May the sword of suffering never break me. O pure Virgin, pour courage into my heart and guard it.