The Message of Mercy in the Diary of St. Faustina
DM 101: Week 44
By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Jul 7, 2006)
On page after page, the Diary of St. Faustina proclaims the message of God's merciful love as the very heart of the Gospel. It was not a new teaching, of course: just a new expression and a clear focus on the very center of the Catholic Faith: the loving kindness and compassion of God. In private revelations recorded in her diary, Jesus had spoken to her words such as these (entries 1074, 699, 1485, 1578):
I am love and mercy itself. ... Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. ... My mercy is greater than your sins, and those of the entire world. ... I let My Sacred Heart be pierced with a lance, thus opening wide the source of mercy for you. Come then with trust to draw graces from this fountain. ... The graces of My mercy are drawn by the means of one vessel only, and that is trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive.
Sr. Faustina's devotional life was driven by her sincere desire to put her complete trust in the Lord's mercy in every aspect of life. For her, Jesus was "Mercy Incarnate," and the Lord had given her a mission: to proclaim this message of The Divine Mercy throughout the world, especially by the spread of the Image of Mercy, and the celebration of the Feast of Mercy. Moreover, this message and devotion was to be a fresh call to her, and to all people, to be merciful to one another. Jesus had said to her (entry 1688):
My daughter, look into My Merciful Heart and reflect its compassion in your own heart, and in your deeds, so that you who proclaim My mercy to the world may yourself be aflame with it.
As a result, Sr. Faustina was noted in her community for her special care of the poor who came to the convent seeking food, for the sick and infirm, and for the dying. She was also especially beloved by the destitute girls whom the sisters trained and educated at their religious houses.
Faustina's devotion to Jesus Christ found its center and wellspring in the Holy Eucharist. As she wrote in her Diary (entries 1392, 1489, 1037, 223):
All the good that is in me is due to Holy Communion. ... Herein lies the whole secret of my sanctity. ... One thing alone sustains me and that is Holy Communion. From it I draw my strength; in it is all my comfort. ... Jesus concealed in the host is everything to me. ... I would not know how to give glory to God if I did not have the Eucharist in my heart. ...
O living Host, my one and only strength, fountain of love and mercy, embrace the whole world, and fortify faint souls. Oh blessed be the instant and the moment when Jesus left us His most merciful Heart!
In short, for Sr. Faustina the Eucharist is the fountain of all graces because the merciful Jesus is uniquely present there, Mercy Incarnate, and he pours out all His graces upon us from His merciful Heart.
Faustina regarded the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the most trustworthy guide to the Heart of her Son. She therefore consecrated to the Mother of God all her concerns (entry 79):
O Mary, my Mother and my Lady, I offer you my soul, my body, my life, my death, and all that will follow 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.
It would be fair to say, therefore that three words - Mercy, Eucharist, and Mary - summarize the very essence of the spiritual teaching to be found in Sr. Faustina's Diary. The more that Fr. Sopocko read, as it flowed from her pen week by week, the more impressed he became by this message.
However, he was still not entirely convinced of the authenticity of her revelations. After all, Fr. Sopocko was a well-trained theologian, and some of the things that Sr. Faustina wrote were so striking that he wondered whether they were entirely orthodox.
First, Faustina claimed that Jesus had insisted that God is not only merciful to sinners - in fact, in a sense He is even more merciful to sinners than to the just. Faustina wrote (entry 1507):
All grace flows from mercy ... even if a person's sins were as dark as night, God's mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary: that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God's merciful grace, and then God will do the rest.
Jesus said to her (entry 1146):
Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. ... Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask.
Clearly, the message of Christ to Sr. Faustina was a message of extravagant love: He said He pours out a veritable ocean of graces upon contrite souls who come to Him with trust â€¢ even more than they ask. In fact, He has a special compassion for the very worst sinners, just because they are most in need of His mercy.
Fr. Sopocko was most amazed, however, by one of our Lord's messages to Sr. Faustina above all the others. Consequently, he made it the final testing-ground of the authenticity of all her revelations. This testing-ground was the claim that "mercy is the greatest attribute of God." Jesus had actually said this to Faustina several times, but one time he said it in a message that was intended directly for Fr. Sopocko - which certainly made him pay close attention! Jesus said to her (entry 300):
I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy. Ask of my faithful servant [Fr. Sopocko] that on this day, he tell the whole world of My great mercy; that whoever approaches the Fount of Life on this day will be granted complete remission of sins and punishment. Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy. ... My Heart rejoices in this title of Mercy. Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of My hands are crowned with mercy.
Fr. Sopocko's response to this message is found in his own recollections, written some years later. He wrote:
There are truths of the faith which we are supposed to know and which we frequently refer to, but we do not understand them very well, nor do we live by them. It was so with me concerning the Divine Mercy. I had thought of this truth so many times in meditations, especially during retreats. I had spoken of it so often in sermons and repeated in the liturgical prayers, but I had not gone to the core of its substance and its significance for the spiritual life; in particular, I had not understood, and for the moment I could not even agree, that the Divine Mercy is the highest attribute of God, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. It was only when I encountered a simple holy soul who was in close communion with God, who, as I believe, with divine inspiration told me of it, that she impelled me to read, research, and reflect on this subject. ...
I began to search in the writings of the Fathers of the Church for a confirmation that this is the greatest of the attributes of God, as Sister Faustina had stated, for I had found nothing on this subject in the works of more modern theologians. I was very pleased to find similar statements in St. Fulgentius, St. Idelphonse, and more still in St. Thomas and St. Augustine, who, in commenting on the Psalms, had much to say on Divine Mercy, calling it the greatest of God's greatest attributes. From then onwards, I had no serious doubts of the supernatural revelations of Sister Faustina.
(This series continues next week on the Divine Mercy spirituality of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska).