Marians, Pilgrims Celebrate 'Apostle of Divine Mercy'
Saint Faustina wrote before she died that her mission would continue after her death and that she would not forget us. Certainly, we have not forgotten her.
Several hundred pilgrims visited the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., on Thursday, Oct. 5, to celebrate and commemorate the life of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the "Apostle of Divine Mercy," who died on this date, 68 years ago.
"God gave us tremendous grace through the life of St. Faustina," said Fr. Kaz Chwalak, MIC, Director of Evangelization and Development for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who administer the Shrine. "This is a day in which we rejoice together that St. Faustina is in heaven, interceding for us, that we may become holy and share in divine happiness. That's why we celebrate this feast in honor of St. Faustina. We want everyone to receive these blessings."
The feast day celebration included a morning talk on "Trust in Divine Mercy" by Immaculee Iligabiza, survivor of the Rwandan holocaust, who told her powerful story of forgiveness, and a presentation by Fr. Leszek Czelusniak, MIC, Rwanda Missionary.
Afternoon devotions included a Holy Hour and Rosary for Life, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Holy Mass, and the praying the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy.
Prior to the feast day observances, the Marians offered a Novena of Prayers for St. Faustina each day from Sept. 26 to Oct. 4.
In his homily, main celebrant Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers, recounted St. Faustina's role in being called by Jesus to be the vehicle through which He would share Divine Mercy with the world.
Saint Faustina "was given a special enlightenment to live the Gospel message more intently," Fr. Seraphim said. "The light of Divine Mercy which the Lord wished to give us through [her] will illumine the way for the world as we progress in history throughout this Third Millennium."
Through her Diary, St. Faustina has sparked what many call the greatest grassroots movements in the history of the Church — a movement defined by works of mercy, prayer, and trust in Jesus.
"This movement of Divine Mercy is meant for every single Christian to come into the stream of what Christianity exists for," said Fr. Seraphim, in his homily. "We are to be instruments of God's mercy coming upon the world."
Father Seraphim said that we should not forget St. Faustina's promise to us. She wrote: "Poor earth, I will not forget you. Although I feel that I will be immediately drowned in God as in an ocean of happiness, that will not be an obstacle to my returning to earth to encourage souls and incite them to trust in God's mercy. Indeed, this immersion in God will give me the possibility of boundless action" (Diary, 1582).
Marge Szpara, from Fullerton, Md., can vouch for that "boundless action." She said that through the intercession of St. Faustina, many of her prayers have been answered.
"I always pray to her when I have family troubles," said Marge. "She's listening. She hears our prayers. She cares about us."
"She's the saint of our day, the saint of our time," said Fred Hickey, visiting the Shrine from Schenectady, N.Y. "For people who know nothing of St. Faustina and her writings, they need to know the fathomless mercy of Jesus Christ. It's there for the taking."
"So many people misunderstand what it means to be Catholic," said Beth Dutton, visiting from Lavonia, Mich. "They think it's about guilt. But through the message of Divine Mercy, we understand that it's all about mercy and forgiveness."
Who is St. Faustina?
In the 1930s, the Lord Jesus began appearing to St. Faustina, a humble Polish nun who was barely even known by the sisters of her own congregation. He said her at one point: "know that your task is to write down everything that I make known to you about My mercy, for the benefit of those who by reading these things will be comforted in their souls and will have the courage to approach Me." (Diary, 1693)
Among the tasks given to her by our Lord was to remind the world of the truth of our faith revealed in the Holy Scripture — about the merciful love of God toward every human being.
She was also to entreat God's mercy for the whole world and particularly for sinners through the practice of new forms of devotion to the Divine Mercy. Those devotions include the veneration of the image of the Divine Mercy with the inscription: "Jesus, I Trust in You"; the feast of the Divine Mercy celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter; and the chaplet to the Divine Mercy and prayer at the Hour of Mercy (3 pm). The Lord Jesus attached great promises to the above forms of devotion, provided one entrusted one's life to God and practiced active love of one's neighbor.
A third task in St. Faustina's mission consists in initiating the apostolic movement of the Divine Mercy, which undertakes the task of proclaiming and entreating God's mercy for the world and strives for Christian perfection. The precepts in question require the faithful to display an attitude of child-like trust in God that expresses itself in fulfilling His will, as well as in the attitude of mercy toward one's neighbors.
Today, this movement within the Church involves millions of people throughout the world; it comprises religious congregations, lay institutes, religious, brotherhoods, associations, various communities of apostles of the Divine Mercy, as well as individual people who take up the tasks which the Lord Jesus communicated to them through St. Faustina.
Saint Faustina was born on Aug. 25, 1905 in Glogowiec in Poland of a poor and religious family of peasants, the third of 10 children. 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 seven she had already felt the first stirrings of a religious vocation.
When she was 19, she had a vision of the Suffering Christ, after which she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy on Aug. 1, 1925. She took the name Sr. Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. She lived in the Congregation for 13 years in several religious houses. She spent time at Krakow, Plock and Vilnius, where she worked as a cook, gardener, and porter.
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.
It is the mystery of the Mercy of God which she contemplated in the word of God as well as in the everyday activities of her life that forms the basis of her spirituality. The process of contemplating and getting to know the mystery of God's mercy helped develop within Sr. Maria Faustina the attitude of child-like trust in God as well as mercy toward her neighbors.
Saint Faustina was a faithful daughter of the Church which she loved like a Mother and the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Conscious of her role in the Church, she cooperated with God's mercy in the task of saving lost souls. At the specific request of and following the example of the Lord Jesus, she made a sacrifice of her own life for this very goal. In her spiritual life she also distinguished herself with a love of the Eucharist and a deep devotion to the Mother of Mercy.
The Secretary of God's Mercy
The Lord Jesus chose St. Faustina as the Apostle and "Secretary" of His Mercy, so that she could tell the world about His great message, which Sr. Faustina recorded in a diary she titled Divine Mercy in My Soul. In the Old Covenant He said to her:
"I sent prophets wielding thunderbolts to My people. Today I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart." (Diary, 1588)
In an extraordinary way, St. Maria 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 has been translated into many languages, among others, English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Hungarian, Czech, and Slovak.
Saint Faustina, consumed by tuberculosis and by innumerable sufferings that she accepted as a voluntary sacrifice for sinners, died in Krakow at the age of just 33 on Oct. 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 St. Faustina to the glory of the altars. She was canonized on April 30, 2000. St. Maria Faustina's remains rest at the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki.