Similarities in the Lives of St. Thérèse and St. Faustina
By Fr. George Kosicki, CSB (Nov 18, 2010)
Love of the Eucharist
In her Oblation to Merciful Love, St. Thérèse prays "Remain in me as a tabernacle and never separate Yourself from Your little victim."
The commentary on the poem of St. Thérèse, My Desires Near Jesus Hidden in His Prison of Love, in the Poetry of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, describes her attitude toward the Eucharist:
1). as the sacrament of transforming union. That is really the ultimate end of her desires.
2). as a permanent Presence, which in turn calls for her loving presence and adoration, completely concerned with assimilating herself to the hidden life of Christ in this sacrament.
For St. Faustina, the Holy Eucharist was the center and key to her life. Almost every page of her Diary makes a reference to the Eucharist. Her full name reveals her devotion: Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Repeatedly she was awed by the mystery of mercy in the Eucharist:
Holy Hour. — Thursday. During this hour of prayer, Jesus allowed me to enter the Cenacle, and I was a witness to what happened there. However, I was most deeply moved when, before the Consecration, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and entered into a mysterious conversation with His Father. It is only in eternity that we shall really understand that moment. His eyes were like two flames; His face was radiant, white as snow; His whole personage full of majesty, His soul full of longing. At the moment of Consecration, love rested satiated — the sacrifice fully consummated. Now only the external ceremony of death will be carried out — external destruction; the essence [of it] is in the Cenacle. Never in my whole life had I understood this mystery so profoundly as during that hour of adoration. Oh, how ardently I desire that the whole world would come to know this unfathomable mystery! (Diary, 684)
Love of Mary
"The St. Virgin ... she is my mother" expressed St. Thérèse's relationship to Mary. She wrote, "I love the St. Virgin so much ... If I find myself anxious or in difficult situation, I turn quickly to her, and as the most tender of mothers she always takes care of my interests" (Manuscript C).
Thérèse, who was already near to death said: "There is still one thing I have to do before I die: I have always dreamed of saying in a song to the St. Virgin Mary everything I think of her."
She wrote her splendid poem reflecting on Mary, based on the gospel events portraying Mary: Why I love you, O Mary!
She penned her last lines that she would ever write: "Mary if I were Queen of Heaven and you were Thérèse, I should want to be Thérèse that you be Queen of Heaven!!!" (Last Conversations).
Saint Faustina was the "special daughter" of Mary, the Mother of God. On the day of her perpetual vows, St. Faustina addressed Mary:
Mother of God, Most Holy Mary, my Mother, You are my Mother in a special way now because Your beloved Son is my Bridegroom, and thus we are both Your children. For Your Son's sake, You have to love me. O Mary, my dearest Mother, guide my spiritual life in such a way that it will please Your Son. (Diary, 240)
This prayer of St. Faustina on the day of her spiritual nuptials to Jesus was answered by Mary in an extraordinary way when Mary appeared to her and said:
My daughter, at God's command I am to be, in a special and exclusive way your Mother; but I desire that you, too, in a special way, be My child (Diary, 1414).
In a special and exclusive way she was to be daughter to Mary by the command of God. The mother of God was to be mother of St. Faustina preparing her for a special mission.
Love of the Church
Saint Thérèse loved the Church. It was expressed in her oblation to Merciful Love in her desire to love the Lord and "to work for the glory of the Church by saving souls and liberating suffering in purgatory."
She found her vocation to be love in the heart of the Church. She expressed her love of the Church by her desire: "I want to be a daughter of the Church as our holy mother St. Theresa was and for the Holy Father's intentions which I know embrace the whole universe" (Manuscript C). "Everything I have, everything I merit, is for the good of the Church and for souls" (Last Conversations).
Saint Faustina expressed her love of the Church by her desire for sanctity by being a useful organism in the Body of the Church — an echo of St. Thérèse:
Now I can be wholly useful to the Church by my personal sanctity, which throbs with life in the whole Church, for we all make up one organism in Jesus. That is why I endeavor to make the soil of my heart bear good fruit. Although the human eye may perhaps never see it, there will nevertheless come a day when it will become apparent that many souls have been fed and will continue to be fed with this fruit. (Diary, 1364)
Again in a reflection of St. Thérèse in her "little way," St. Faustina reflects on her usefulness to the Church:
I strive for the greatest perfection possible in order to be useful to the Church. Greater by far is my bond to the Church. The sanctity or the fall of each individual soul has an effect upon the whole Church. Observing myself and those who are close to me, I have come to understand how great an influence I have on other souls, not by any heroic deeds, as these are striking in themselves, but by small actions like a movement of the hand, a look, and many other things too numerous to mention, which have an effect on and reflect in the souls of others, as I myself have noticed. (Diary, 1475)
Love of Priests
Saint Thérèse's Carmelite vocation was to pray and sacrifice: "to be the Apostle of the apostles. We pray for them while they are preaching to souls through their words and their example" (Manuscript A).
Her desire was to support a brother priest:
For a long time I had a desire which appeared totally unreasonable to me, that of having a brother as a priest (Manuscript C).
The Mother Superior assigned her two priests to be her "brothers." In her letters to Fr. Maurice and Fr. Adolphe Roullard she opened her heart to her spiritual brothers and supported them by her words, prayer, and sacrifice.
On five occasions our Lord told St. Faustina to tell priests about His mercy. She was to tell them that they are to receive mercy (Diary, 177); that they are to tell everyone about His great and unfathomable mercy (Diary, 570); that they are to proclaim mercy to sinners (Diary, 50); that hardened sinners will repent on hearing their words of mercy and wondrous power to touch hearts will be given to priests who proclaim His mercy (Diary, 1521); and that priests are to recommend the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy to sinners (Diary, 687).
Our Lady also addressed priests through St. Faustina (See 1585).
The book, Tell My Priests, the Words of Our Lord to Priests (Marian Press), relates how St. Faustina writes of her love, prayer, and suffering for priests:
I have offered this day for priests. I have suffered more today than ever before, both interiorly and exteriorly. I did not know it was possible to suffer so much in one day. I tried to make a Holy Hour, in the course of which my spirit had a taste of the bitterness of the Garden of Gethsemane. I am fighting alone, supported by His arm, against all the difficulties that face me like unassailable walls. But I trust in the power of His name and I fear nothing. (Diary, 823)
Saint Thérèse wrote under obedience to her superiors in such a simple and spiritually enriching way that it drew the faithful of the Church around the world to a great devotion to her. Her inspirational writing, especially on her "little way," earned for her the declaration: Doctor of the Church.
She shared with us not only her autobiography (Manuscripts A, B and C), but letters, hymns, prayers, and her final conversations (recorded by her sister Mother Agnes) leaving for the whole Church a treasure chest full of jewels.
She considered her writing on her "little way" as part of the mission of her life that would continue after her death.
Saint Faustina with just three semesters of schooling began to write her Diary in obedience to her spiritual director and continued in obedience to her superiors. The Lord spoke to her and directed her in writing about His infinite mercy especially for souls in distress that they may trust in Him.
Her Diary records revelations of God's mercy and practices on growing in trust and mercy. She records her own spiritual and physical struggles in growing in union with the merciful Lord. She expressed herself more and more profoundly as the Diary developed describing her desires for the Lord, desires for the salvation of souls, especially sinners.
It is with good reason that the introduction to the Office of Readings for her feast (Oct. 5th) states:
She left behind a spiritual diary, which is numbered among the outstanding works of mystical literature.
Saint Faustina's Diary has been translated into 29 languages. The Thematic Concordance to the Diary is available as well as a biography, Life of Faustina Kowalska, by Sr. Sophia Michalenko.
Suffering for Souls
In St. Thérèse's Oblation to Merciful Love she thanks God for the grace of passing through "The Crucible of suffering."
In her Passion of suffering and darkness in her dying of tuberculosis, she said:
"It's only to save souls that I want to suffer." On the day of her death, she exclaimed: "Never would I have believed it was possible to suffer so much! Never, never! I can only explain it by the ardent desires I have had to save souls (see Bp. Guy Gaucher, The Passion of Thérèse Lisieux, p. 183-185).
In hundreds of entries in her Diary, St. Faustina records her reflections and those of our Lord on suffering for the salvation of souls, especially sinners. She also died of tuberculosis. Like St. Thérèse, her attitude toward suffering can be summarized in an equation: Suffering + Love = Joy
Saint Faustina echoes the response of St. Thérèse in the amount and extent of suffering:
O Christ, if my soul had known, all at once, what it was going to have to suffer during its lifetime, it would have died of terror at the very sight; it would not have touched its lips to the cup of bitterness. But as it has been given to drink a drop at a time, it has emptied the cup to the very bottom. O Christ, if You Yourself did not support the soul, how much could it do of itself? We are strong, but with Your strength; we are holy, but with Your holiness. And of ourselves, what are we? — less than nothing ... My Jesus, You suffice me for everything else in the world. Although the sufferings are severe, You sustain me. Although the times of loneliness are terrible, You make them sweet for me. Although the weakness is great, You change it into power for me. (Diary, 1655)
Both St. Faustina, at the age of 33, and St. Thérèse, at 24, died in intense suffering, offering all in union with Jesus for souls.
Father George W. Kosicki is a longtime collaborator with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in spreading the message of Divine Mercy. In 1987, he headed their Divine Mercy Department in Stockbridge, Mass., which was responsible for editing and proofing the English translation of the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.