Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Most Blessed Sacrament
Born 25 August 1905 Glogowiec, Russian Empire
Died October 5, 1938 (aged 33) Kraków, Poland
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 18 April 1993
Canonized 30 April 2000, Pope John Paul II
Major shrine Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, Kraków, Poland
Feast 5 October
Maria Faustina Kowalska, commonly known as Saint Faustina, born Helena Kowalska (August 25, 1905, Glogowiec, Poland then in the Russian Empire – Died October 5, 1938, Kraków, Poland) was a Polish nun, visionary, and mystic, now venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as a saint.
Born as Helena Kowalska, she was the third of ten children born to a poor family. At the age of fifteen, having attended just three years of school, she started work to support her family. At the age of 20 she was considering a vocation in the Catholic church and felt and believed that God was calling her to be a nun.
Helena left for Warsaw, and applied to various convents in the capital, only to be turned down each time. She was finally accepted at the convent of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. She was eventually initiated as a nun on April 30, 1926, with the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament.
Sister Faustina reported having seen Christ in Purgatory, having seen and spoken to Jesus and Mary several times. She wrote that Jesus revealed to her, her purpose: to spread the devotion of the Mercy of God. In Plock on February 22, 1931, she said that Jesus appeared as the 'King of Divine Mercy', wearing a white garment. His right hand was raised in a sign of blessing and the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment emanated two large rays, one red, the other white. Acting upon orders she said she received from Christ, Faustina had a picture of this vision painted. With the help of Father Michal Sopocko, she distributed the images at Kraków and Vilnius (Wilno), and people began to pray before them.
Faustina kept a diary, despite her limited literacy. The diary was later published under the title Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina. She wanted to found a "Congregation which would have proclaimed the Mercy of God to the world, and, by its prayers, obtain it for the world." She was repeatedly denied leave by her superiors.
In 1935, she had a vision which described what is now called the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
In 1936, Faustina became ill, since speculated to be tuberculosis. She was moved to the sanatorium in Pradnik.
She continued to spend much time in prayer, reciting the chaplet and praying for the conversion of sinners. The last two years of her life were spent praying and keeping her diary. By June 1938, she could no longer write. She died on October 5. When Faustina's superior was cleaning out her room she opened the drawer and found the paintings of the Divine Mercy.
Index of Forbidden Books
After the death of St. Faustina, the nuns at her convent sent her writings to the Vatican. Prior to 1966, any reported visions of Jesus and Mary required approval from the Holy See before they could be released to the public.
After a failed attempt to persuade Pope Pius XII to sign a condemnation, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani at the Holy Office included her works on a list he submitted to the newly elected Pope John XXIII in 1959. The Pope signed the decree that placed her work on the Index of Forbidden Books and they remained on the Index for over 20 years. Father Sopocko was harshly reprimanded, and all his work was suppressed. However, Eugeniusz Baziak, the archbishop of Kraków, permitted the nuns to leave the original picture hanging in their chapel so that those who wished to continue to pray before it could do so. The current position of the Vatican is that misunderstandings were created by a faulty Italian translation of Kowalska's Diary in that the questionable material could not be correlated with the original Polish version because of difficulties in communication throughout World War II and the subsequent Communist era.
However, an article in the National Catholic Reporter suggests that the ban stemmed from more serious theological issues. For instance, her claim that Jesus had promised a complete remission of sin for certain devotional acts that only the sacraments can offer, and what Vatican evaluators felt to be an excessive focus on Faustina herself ran contrary to the views at the Holy Office.
Canonization and Institution of Divine Mercy Sunday
When Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II) became Archbishop of Kraków, a new investigation into the life and diary of St. Faustina was launched, and the devotion to the Divine Mercy was once again permitted. Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, John Paul II's successor as archbishop of Krakow, said that Faustina "reminds us of the gospel we had forgotten."
Faustina was beatified on April 18, 1993 and canonized on April 30, 2000. Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated the Second Sunday of Easter (which is the first Sunday after Easter).
“ Indeed the message [St. Faustina] brought is the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies. ”
—Pope John Paul II -Divine Mercy Sunday Homily,Sunday, 22 April 2001
The fact that her Vatican biography directly quotes some of her conversations with Jesus distinguishes her among the many reported visions of Jesus and Mary.