Photo: Felix Carroll
The Holy Trinity, painted in the sanctuary of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.
Part 1: St. Faustina and the Secret of the Holy Trinity
Robert Stackpole Answers Your Divine Mercy Questions
I have had a few questions in recent months about St. Faustina's devotion to the Blessed Trinity, and usually (I am paraphrasing) the questions go like this: "When I am reading the Diary of St. Faustina, I find great comfort and consolation in all that Sr. Faustina writes about the compassionate Heart of Jesus and His merciful love for us. But when she starts talking about the Holy Trinity, my mind goes kind of 'blank,' and I really do not know what she is talking about."
If that has been your experience too, then know that you are not alone. In fact, many millions of Catholics have never really been brought "up to speed" on what the Church teaches about the Holy Trinity, and why it is so important — indeed, why, in many ways, it is the central doctrine of our faith. When St. Faustina writes about the Trinity, she assumes knowledge of Trinitarian doctrine that few of us possess, and this can make those passages in her Diary seem somewhat foreign and opaque to us. But fear not: With the help of the Holy Spirit, over the next few weeks, we shall ponder the mystery of the Trinity together, and thereby draw a little closer to St. Faustina in mind and heart.
The Trinity in St. Faustina's Diary
In dozens of places in her Diary Sister Faustina wrote about the Holy Trinity, but let's survey just a few of the principal ones here.
First of all, she says that as she advanced in her journey with Jesus Christ and came to appreciate more deeply the compassion of His Heart, "His Trinitarian Being enveloped me entirely" (Diary, 1056). In other words, the more she grew closer to Jesus, the more she felt enveloped in the Holy Trinity. For example, on the Feast of the Ascension, 1937, she wrote:
After Holy Communion I communed for a while with the heavenly Father. My soul was drawn into the glowing center of love. I understood that no exterior works could stand comparison with the pure love of God. ... I saw the joy of the Incarnate Word, and I was immersed in the Divine Trinity. When I came to myself, longing filled my soul, and I yearned to be united with God (Diary, 1121).
Notice in the last quote how she connects a deeper appreciation for the Trinitarian mystery of God with an appreciation of the "glowing center of love" in God. We find this again in entry 1020:
I understand the spiritual espousal of a soul with God, which has no exterior manifestation. It is a purely interior act between the soul and God. This grace has drawn me into the very burning center of God's love. I have come to understand His Trinitarian quality and the absolute Oneness of His Being.
Often she received a deeper understanding of the Blessed Trinity during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. For example, in entry 472 she tells how one time she heard an angel singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" at the moment of the elevation of the Host, and then she received new light into the mystery of the Trinity:
I knew more distinctly than ever before the Three Divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But their being, their equality, and their majesty are one. My soul is in communion with these Three; but I do not know how to express this in words; yet my soul understands this well. Whoever is united to One of the Three Persons is thereby united to the whole Blessed Trinity, for this Oneness is indivisible (472).
One time, after receiving Holy Communion, she began to understand that the entire Holy Trinity came to dwell within her soul:
Once after Holy Communion, I heard these words: You are our dwelling place. At that moment I felt in my soul the presence of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I felt that I was the Temple of God. I felt that I was a child of the Father. I cannot explain all this, but the Spirit understands this well (451).
Sister Faustina even tells us that in heaven the souls of the saints forever contemplate the wonder of the Holy Trinity:
Today I was in heaven, in spirit, and I saw its inconceivable beauties and the happiness that awaits us after death. I saw how all creatures give ceaseless praise and glory to God. I saw how great is happiness in God, which spreads to all creatures making them happy; and then all the glory and praise which springs from this happiness returns to its source; and they enter into the depths of God, contemplating the inner life of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, whom they will never comprehend nor fathom.
This source of happiness is unchanging in its essence, but it is always new, gushing forth happiness for all creatures. Now I understand St. Paul who said, "Eye has not seen, not has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him" (777).
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "That is all very beautiful, but I still don't get it! What does the Trinity really mean? How can God be One in being and essence, but Three Persons at the same time? And what difference does it really make if we believe all this or not?"
Well, Sr. Faustina wanted to know more, too! Listen to what she wrote near the very start of her Diary:
On one occasion I was reflecting on the Holy Trinity, on the essence of God. I absolutely wanted to know and fathom who God is. ... In an instant my spirit was caught up into what seemed to be the next world. I saw an inaccessible light, and in this light what appeared like three sources of light that I could not understand. And out of this light came words in the form of lightning which encircled heaven and earth. Not understanding anything, I was very sad. Suddenly, from this sea of inaccessible light came our dearly beloved Savior, unutterably beautiful with His shining Wounds. And from this light there came a voice which said, Who God is in His Essence, no one will fathom, neither the mind of angels nor of man. Jesus said to me, Get to know God by contemplating His attributes. A moment later, He traced the sign of the cross with His hand and vanished (30).
So, right from the start, Jesus was telling her that no one can ever completely fathom the mystery of the Trinitarian Being of God, but that if we contemplate God's attributes, we can at least begin to understand it. And as we have seen, that is precisely what Sr. Faustina did: The more she contemplated the compassionate love in the Heart of Jesus, and the more she appreciated the "glowing center of love" in God and the "burning center of God's love," especially manifested in the Holy Eucharist, the more she began to appreciate what it means to say that God is Three Persons in One Being or Essence. She tells us the same thing in her extended meditation on the Trinity in entry 911:
On one occasion God's presence pervaded my whole being and my mind was mysteriously enlightened in respect to His Essence. He allowed me to understand His interior life. In spirit I saw the Three Divine Persons; none of them is either greater or smaller; there is no difference in either beauty or sanctity, for They are One. They are absolutely One. His Love transported me into this knowledge and united me with Himself. When I was united to One, I was equally united to the Second and to the Third in such a way that when we are united with One, by that very fact, we are equally united to the Two Persons in the same way as with the One. Their will is One, One God though in Three Persons. When One of the Three Persons communicates with a soul, by the power of that one will, it finds itself united with the Three Persons and is inundated in the happiness flowing from the Most Holy Trinity, the same happiness that nourishes the saints. This same happiness that streams from the Most Holy Trinity makes all creation happy; from it springs that life which vivifies and bestows all life which takes its beginning from Him. In these moments, my soul experienced such great delights that I find this difficult to express.
What we shall see over the next two weeks is that Sr. Faustina was actually given the key that unlocks for us the mystery of the Trinity. These quotes from her Diary may still seem opaque, but bear with me: In the next two Wednesdays, I am going to try to show how she uncovered the secret of the Trinity as the "burning" and "glowing center" of Divine Love. Not only is the Trinity entirely true and justifiable on the basis of logic and of Scripture, but in the light of Divine Love, it begins to make sense of the mystery of God Himself.
Go to Part 2 of the series.
Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.