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St. Faustina's 100th anniversary of birth and the Year of the Eucharist

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By Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC (Jun 6, 2005)
Two months ago I was in Puerto Rico where the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy sponsored two Divine Mercy presentations — one in San Juan on the north side of the island, and the other in the city of Ponce on the south side of the island. In the cathedral of Ponce, on the wall to the right side of the main altar — between the sanctuary and the side altar on which the Blessed Sacrament is kept — there is a framed poster of a monstrance with red and pale rays streaming out from the host. Across the top of the poster are the words, "The Year of the Eucharist." Across the bottom in Spanish there is the invocation, "Jesus, I trust in you."

I was told that the bishop of the diocese ordered a copy of the poster to be placed in a prominent place in every church of the diocese. The poster represents a vision that was granted several times to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska — who, after more than a thousand years of Christianity in Poland was the first woman born on Polish soil to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

The poster represents a vision described in her Diary: "Once the Divine Mercy image was being exhibited over the altar during the Corpus Christi procession. When the priest placed the Blessed Sacrament on the altar and the choir began to sing, the rays from the image pierced the sacred host and spread out all over the world. Then I heard these words: 'These rays of mercy will pass through you, just as they have passed through this host. And they will go out through all the world.' At these words profound joy invaded my soul," she added.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of St. Faustina, who was allowed by the custom of her religious order to adopt an additional name to the one given her at entrance to the religious life. Faustina chose to be called Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Holy Sacrament.

In Holy Scripture, names most often express the nature of a person or thing. The name Saint Maria Faustina took for herself truly indicated the essence of her life and defined the direction of her spirituality. On the occasion of the New Year 1935 Saint Maria Faustina made this entry in her spiritual Diary:

"Jesus likes to intervene in the smallest details of our life. And He often fulfills secret wishes of mine that I sometimes hide from Him, although I know that from Him nothing can be hidden. There is a custom among us of drawing by lot on New Year's Day, special patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning, during meditation there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special patron for this year. Also as in the past. But, hiding this desire from My beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that.

"When we came to the refectory for breakfast we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the Holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one. But I didn't read the name immediately, as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly I heard a voice in my soul. I am your patron. Read. I looked at once at the inscription and read. Patron for the year 1935, the most holy Eucharist. My heart leaped with joy and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament. Where I poured out my heart. But Jesus gently admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the room."

Is there by some divine reason an important connection between Saint Faustina, the Divine Mercy message and devotion, and the year of the Eucharist? The Feast of St. John Bosco, celebrated at the end of last month, brought to many the remembrance of the prophetic vision he received, which was then expressed in a painting. A pope was represented standing fearlessly in St. Peter's boat - the Church. On the turbulent sea amidst great darkness. The boat was held steady by two chains, attached to two pillars planted in the sea. One pillar was crowned by a monstrance to the Blessed Eucharist. The other by an image of the Blessed Mother.

Around to Peter's bark in the turbulent waters were little rowboats carrying cardinals, bishops, and priests, and if I'm not mistaken, laypersons — who jumped Peter's bark and were directing weapons against it.

There were two dates that St. John Bosco ordered to be inscribed on the painting. But then he had one of them - a future date - painted over. The one indicating the Church's triumph, I guess, over the storm because of the Eucharist and the Mother of God.

Is there a special meaning behind the Holy Father's designation of this year as the Year of the Eucharist? And just before this, the year of Our Lady of the most holy rosary? Two pillars to which Peter's boat is securely chained?

Sister Faustina died in 1938 on October the 5th, a Wednesday. It's the day of the week the Church designated to honor St. Joseph — to whom St. Faustina had a very special devotion and who is known as the Patron of the Happy Death. Her funeral took place on October 7th. The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was one of the saint's favorite prayers. It was noticed, for example, that while she weeded her garden with one hand, she fingered her rosary beads with the other.

In 1938, October the 7th also happened to be a first Friday — a day that Saint Faustina always observed with special devotional practices in honor of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was the eternal Word of God — the second person of the Most Holy Trinity — by whom, through whom, and for whom everything that exists was created (including the heavenly bodies by which the earth calendar is guided). So it could only have been the Lord of History to have designed by coincidence the Year of the Eucharist — the 100th birthday of her who He called the secretary and apostle of His mercy. And who herself declared in her writings that it is the institution of the Eucharist that manifests Divine Mercy to a depth that cannot be measured.

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