In Faustina, Saint for Our Times, Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, gives us an insightful look into St. Maria Faustina Kowalska's life, spirituality, and mission.
Photo: Felix Carroll
At the Epicenter for St. Faustina
If it's information regarding St. Faustina that you're after, Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, is your man. He'll probably squint, direct his eyes skyward, and take a deep breath as if gearing up to haul down heavy luggage from an overhead compartment.
He'll haul it down all right
Saint Faustina (1905-38), the simple nun who heard the word of God and lived it?
Hang on to your hat.
Saint Faustina, the "Apostle of The Divine Mercy," whom the Lord entrusted to prepare the world for His final coming?
Better have a notepad handy.
Saint Faustina's revelations, a message for our times, the last hope of humanity?
Maybe a tape recorder would be a better option.
Yet, if it's information regarding himself that you're after — how his life has interlocked with the epicenter of the mission given to St. Faustina — he'll likely hit the mute button on his memories.
"What can I say?" he'll say, a glint in his eyes, the clue his stonewalling is part humility, part mischievous.
What can he say? He could tell war stories. After all, he was a witness to the first miracle attributed to St. Faustina's intercession that opened the way for her beatification. He served as coordinator of the efforts that served to verify that miracle and a second miracle that made possible the elevation of St. Faustina to the honors of the altar as the first saint of the new millennium.
So since we're not going to get much out of him, others will happily fill in the blanks.
A Miracle in the Making
"Father Seraphim is a living sign of God's presence in this moment of time." Those are the words of Bob Digan, and he should know.
Let's back up to the seminal year of 1979, the year Fr. Seraphim was appointed by Rome to be vice-postulator in North America of Sr. Faustina's canonization cause and the year a guileless, self-deprecating Marine veteran named Bob Digan first learned about the Divine Mercy message. He was spellbound. The prophetic revelations of St. Faustina seemed perfectly suited to meet the needs of our times — and the needs of his own suffering family.
Bob's wife, Maureen, had an inoperable disease, lymphedema. His son, Bobby, was born brain damaged and had a severe seizure disorder that left him unable to communicate well or to move freely.
When Bob learned of Fr. Seraphim, how he had been put in charge of Sr. Faustina's canonization cause, he packed up his family and drove three hours to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass. Once seated in Fr. Seraphim's office, Bob announced that he had received a "collect call" from God to bring his family to Poland, and as a favor for making that trip, God would heal both Maureen and Bobby. Bob then looked squarely at Fr. Seraphim, and in his thick, East Boston accent, said, "We want you to witness the miracle."
Together, with Fr. Seraphim and Victor Daniello, a friend of the Marians, the Digans made their improbable spiritual journey to the tomb of the little-known nun in Communist-controlled Poland. And, indeed, two healings occurred. Bobby suddenly became a playful child, energetic like he had never been before, and Maureen's disease had disappeared. It was Maureen's healing that led to Sr. Faustina's beatification in 1993.
He Said 'Yes'
Victor recalls Fr. Seraphim's crucial role in the miraculous events at Faustina's tomb.
"He made sure Maureen followed Christ's instructions on how to obtain His mercy," Victor said. "He urged her to make a good confession and receive the Eucharist. He pressed that upon her. He was very priestly, very fatherly, leading her — and me, for that matter — to a deeper understanding of Divine Mercy. He embraced the Digan family as his own."
Victor continues, "Bob asked 'Would you come to Poland?' and Fr. Seraphim said 'yes.' That's what' he's done his whole life. He's said 'yes' to God. And I believe that's why God has chosen Fr. Seraphim to fulfill such an important role, to be an ambassador of Divine Mercy."
Father Seraphim was also involved in the case in 1995 of Fr. Ron Pytel, the Baltimore, Md., priest who was miraculously healed from an operable heart defect through the intercession of St. Faustina. Father Seraphim helped guide the process of gathering medical records and witnesses' accounts connected with the healing. Together with Fr. Pytel, Fr. Seraphim presented the case to the Vatican.
At the National Shrine on Aug. 22, 2010, friends, family, and fellow Marians paid tribute to Fr. Seraphim on his 80th birthday. Among the well-wishers were four sisters from St. Faustina's order, the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.
Sister Saula Firer, OLM, speculated why God has chosen Fr. Seraphim to be one of His instruments in the spread of Divine Mercy. She said that, like St. Faustina herself, Fr. Seraphim shows the character that God most admires. "God wants to show His greatness through the humble," she said.
As an instrument, Fr. Seraphim was sharpened by his surroundings at a ripe young age. In the mid-1940s, his home parish, in Adams, Mass., became the first in the western hemisphere to enshrine an image of The Divine Mercy. He was even tapped as a child in the 1940s to help clean the residence in Stockbridge in preparation for the moving in of the Marian Fathers.
Through his subsequent writings and talks, and his role overseeing the Marians' publication of Divine Mercy materials sent from Stockbridge throughout the world, Fr. Seraphim has become one the most renowned experts on Divine Mercy and the life of St. Faustina. He'll talk about Divine Mercy. Easy. He'll talk about St. Faustina. Easy. But he won't say much about himself.
Such as: Why does he suppose he was chosen as vice-postulator?
"Because there was nobody else," he says.
And: Is he pleased to have played such a major role helping Divine Mercy become the greatest grassroots movement in Church history?
"Not because of me," he says, annoyed. "It's on account of St. Faustina!"
Just the same, Fr. Seraphim, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to you.