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Purest of All Lilies

Fr. Donald H. Calloway, MIC, explores St. Faustina's rich relationship with the Mother of God - from her love of Mary growing up in Poland to the many passages that she devoted to ... Read more

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We know of the intimate relationship St. Faustina had with Christ. But there was someone else who guided her and protected her. Author, speaker, and director of vocations for the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, has published a new book, Purest of All Lilies: The Virgin Mary in the Spirituality of St. Faustina (Marian Press). In the following interview, he sheds light on the Blessed Virgin Mary's profound influence on the life and spirituality of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

Father Donald, how did the book come about?

At the end of my seminary studies, our Marian Provincial allowed me to go to Dayton, Ohio, to the International Marian Research Institute and begin studies for a Licentiate in Mariology. That began in 2002. I got my Licentiate in 2005, and the book is basically a condensed version of my thesis.

How does the book contribute to the study of the life and spirituality of St. Faustina?

Most people, when they think about St. Faustina, they automatically think about The Divine Mercy, and rightly so. That's first and foremost. So what happens is, a lot of people don't really go into the other aspects of St. Faustina's life and spirituality. When you read through the Diary of St. Faustina, the Virgin Mary pops up all over the place, but nobody has really studied and written about it in any great depth. I write in there at one point how when Fr. George Kosicki, CSB, undertook the project of compiling a thematic index to the Diary, he was struck by how many times the Blessed Virgin Mary came up, and yet how little attention had really been paid to that aspect of St. Faustina's life.

From the beginning of her life, St. Faustina was exposed to Marian devotions. I've read how her father once put a little shrine to Our Lady around the family's pear tree, and young Helen (Faustina) would gather the other children around it to sing hymns.

Yes, her father had a great devotion to Our Lady, especially as the Immaculate Conception. And even as a little girl, St. Faustina had dreams of the Virgin Mary. From a very early age, she was saturated in a very Polish, Catholic, Marian environment, and that helped form her into very much a child of Mary. She knew she could confide in Mary. It's not surprising then that when she goes to Warsaw to begin her religious life, when she doesn't know a soul in this big city, the first thing she does is she cries out to Mary: "Mary, lead me, guide me" (Diary, 11). It was so natural to her. It was ingrained in her. It was in the culture, it was in the family, and then later, in was in her religious order.

Would you describe the special role Mary plays a St. Faustina's spirituality?

Saint Faustina has a very Eucharistic spirituality. There are things that the Eucharist and Mary share in common, such as the suffering, and being Immaculate. Just as the Host is white, St. Faustina's favorite way of referring to Our Lady is as "the Immaculate." And just as the Eucharist is God's humility in what looks like bread, she is always talking about Mary's humility. And just as the Eucharist is silent, St. Faustina finds in Our Lady a model of silence. She's always talking about silence. It's amazing to consider when you look at Christ's appearances to Faustina, with the exception of the ones that focus on the Image of The Divine Mercy, the vast majority of them are Jesus appearing as a Child in the arms of Mary. When you read the Diary, you might not pick that up. Mary was pretty much always there.

What is the significance of that?

At one point, St. Faustina asks Jesus why He appears to her as a Child so much, and the reason He gives is because He wanted her to be humble, to realize she, too, had to be child-like. I think the reason He appears to Faustina in Mary's arms is because we are to understand that we cannot have the Baby Jesus without Mary, His mother. At one point in the book, I do note, "In the spirituality of St. Faustina, there is no separating Jesus from His Mother. They always go together."

You note, too, how Mary also taught St. Faustina to trust.

Yes, trust is a cornerstone of the Divine Mercy message. So during all the trials St. Faustina faced in her life, she always turned to Mary as an example of trust. Mary, of course, endured her own trials and suffering, such as in watching her Son die, and so St. Faustina knows she can turn to Mary because Mary has "been there." She's been through hardship. Yet Mary always trusted, and St. Faustina knows she herself needs to trust. Saint Faustina went through a nightmare with her community. They sent her for psychological evaluation. They thought she was weird and a freak. They made fun of her. They didn't believe her. They spied on her. So she was really needing to trust in our Lord's plan for her, and so she turned to Mary.

Considering how few families today practice Marian devotions such as St. Faustina's family did, as a Marian priest, what challenges do you face in spreading devotion to Mary Immaculate?

What I find is that people in the last 40, 50 years have been so poorly catechized on who Our Lady is and what her privileges are — that she is immaculate, that she was assumed into heaven, that she doesn't have any sin. So many Catholics today don't even know the fundamentals about the teachings of the Church on Mary. When I'm giving talks at various conferences, I take that opportunity to give a talk on Our Lady and talk about what the Church teaches about her, and I am amazed at how many Catholics walk away from that saying, "You know what? I never knew that." That's why I have a whole section in the book where I go through the doctrinal aspects of St. Faustina's Marian spirituality — Mary's Divine Motherhood, her maternity, her intercessory role, her virginity, Assumption, Immaculate Conception, Queenship, etc. — so that people can get some familiarity with these concepts and how important they were for St. Faustina and that they come to understand that these things really are important in the life of this great saint. Hopefully, it will inspire people to grab the Catechism and read what the Church teaches about Our Lady.

I'm interested in your thoughts on this: Here was this woman, St. Faustina, whom Jesus Himself would speak to. With that in mind, what role could Mary play in a life like that? Why is Mary so important, when St. Faustina was already meeting Jesus every step of the way?

In many ways, it's like the Wedding Feast at Cana, where Mary says, "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5). Whenever Jesus comes to Faustina by Himself, Mary follows up and affirms and tells Faustina to obey and to do what He says and to trust.

And St. Faustina entrusts everything to Our Lady.

Yes. For instance, at first she had spiritual directors who weren't addressing her spiritual needs, and so St. Faustina prays to Our Lady, and then Faustina gets two very holy spiritual directors. She even gets a belt of chastity from Our Lord, but through Our Lady. Saint Faustina, having grown up in Poland, knew of the Our Lady of Czestochowa image. She would know that that image was carried into battles by armies, and she even refers to Mary as her shield. She knows she's in a spiritual battle, and she knows, just from living the life of the Church, that Mary is the one who has the victory over the darkness. She's the one who crushes the head of Satan. She's the promised one in Genesis. If you want to be on Jesus' side, completely and totally, and if you want to completely trust Him, you have to kind of nestle up close to Mary. She's going to be the teacher. Our Lady actually teaches St. Faustina about the interior life. You see that in how Faustina has to really keep her mouth shut a lot of the times and practice abnegation and self-sacrifice when people are saying stuff about her or doubt her. I think she finds her strength in being able to do that with Our Lady there able to comfort her as a mother does. At one point, her spiritual advisor, Fr. Andrasz, tells her, "Place yourself in the hands of the Most Holy Mother" (Diary, 1243.) Jesus actually tells Faustina at one point, just before she was to go on a retreat, to ask His mother for the graces she will need. The point is, we all need a mother, even if we're seeing Jesus in visions. It's human to want to have that maternal dimension. By nature, we need a mother.

And you dedicated this book to your mother.

Yes! She's just been awesome. She loved it.

I think your book may inspire people to re-read the Diary with a Marian perspective.

I hope so. They'll clearly discover how her relationship with Mary was very important to her. Definitely. There are so many ways St. Faustina shows her love for Mary. For instance, for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in 1937, she wrote in her Diary: "I prepared not only by means of the novena said in common by the whole community, but I also made a personal effort to salute (Mary) a thousand times each day, saying a thousand 'Hail Marys' for nine days in her praise" (1413). Saint Faustina made this extraordinary novena at least three times in her life. "Nothing is too much when it comes to honoring the Immaculate Virgin," she would say (Diary, 1413). Two of those times, she was sick, we know. She was in bed very ill. Try saying 9,000 Hail Marys — while sick!

As a Marian priest, with the special charism to spread devotion to Mary Immaculate and the message of The Divine Mercy, is this topic of Mary and St. Faustina particularly important to you?

Oh yeah, definitely. The Divine Mercy and Mary Immaculate go hand in hand. The Immaculate Conception is really the masterpiece of Divine Mercy. Mary is the perfect fruit of Christ's redemption and love. So when you bring Mary and Divine Mercy together, they really compliment each other and they point to each other. It's kind of like the sun and the moon. Jesus is the sun; Mary's the moon. She reflects the sun. John Paul II wrote in his encyclical, Dives Misericordia, that the one who had the greatest knowledge and understanding of Divine Mercy was Mary, because she received it, then she gives it — Divine Mercy, Jesus Incarnate — to the world. So she is Mother of Mercy, Mediatrix of Mercy. She's the one who gives us Jesus, and also the one who gives us the graces that Jesus won for us.

Of the many insights St. Faustina received from Mary, which would you say is most crucial — the one from which we can all learn?

Mary really conveyed to St. Faustina that she was her mother. On one occasion, Mary tells St. Faustina that her role as spiritual mother is part of the will of God. Quoting Mary's words to her, Faustina writes, "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). Mary wanted from St. Faustina a total filial, childlike relationship, one of trust and obedience, so that the will of God could be done. What Mary told Faustina was that there were three virtues Faustina should practice that are dearest to her (Mary). Mary said, "The first is humility, humility, humility, and once again humility; the second virtue, purity; the third virtue, love of God. As my daughter, you must especially radiate with these virtues." (Diary, 1415). Mary was teaching her all these things, focusing on doing the will of God. And she does this in her role as "Mother." You don't find a lot of titles for Mary in St. Faustina's Diary other than Mother. In Polish culture, you find that a popular way of referring to Mary is as "Queen of Poland." That doesn't appear at all. Her primary way of talking about Mary was as "Mother."

To order a copy of Purest of All Lilies: The Virgin Mary in the Spirituality of St. Faustina (Marian Press), please visit our online gift shop.

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Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!

Nathan Jers - Jul 18, 2008

I can't wait to read the book! It is true that Mary often gets overlooked in the life of St. Faustina. I will try and tell other people about the book also.

A servant of Jesus and Mary - Jul 18, 2008

Thank you very much for posting this article. It has shed new light on my journey. Thank you Blessed Mother for your tenderness and mercy. All Praise be to Jesus!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Theresa - Jul 19, 2008

Our Blessed Mother is everywhere in everything;just as her Son, Jesus. She leads and guides us ever so gently or as forceful as "the hounds of heaven" to Him. TO JESUS THROUGH MARY is it not?

This refkection of St. Faustina's life simply shows God's tender Love, Grace and Mercy in the dailyness of life. What can be not only for St. Faustina but what is openly and unconditionally, willfully available to each of us when we are open.

I am certain that if and when (which is something we need to do often) we reflect on our own lives we will find Our Blessed Mother Mary.

We can never and are never alone; only if we choose to be. I thank the Most Blessed Holy Trinity daily for Our Blessed Mother and the many ways she has come to us.

And I THANK this Congregation for your Great Works.

Erica T. - Jul 19, 2008

Oh Fr. Donald, just the article alone sounds so exciting! I can't wait to read your new book. Thank you so much for showing us this wonderful message. Our Lord blessed us through the gift of His Mother but also through the gift of your work and sacrifices for His Church. God bless you and your brother Marians!!

Amanda - Jul 19, 2008

What a gift God has given us through the Marians! THANK YOU, Fr. Calloway for bringing this book to us.

I hope this is an indication that we can expect more books from you in the future. I have heard you speak before and it is clear that you have a great grace for sharing God's message. You are an inspiration to the broken hearts of so many wounded souls. My prayers are with you.
Keep up the wonderful work!

Teresa M. - Jul 20, 2008

You put things so beautifully, Fr. Donald. Thank you. - Can we ever expect to see your work in Spanish?

Jim - Jul 21, 2008

This is very interesting. I never knew that our Blessed Mother had an important part in Saint Faustina's life.

michael misla - Jul 21, 2008

Yes, very interesting information. I didn't know this about St. Faustina's life either.

Sharon - Jul 22, 2008

I did not know that St.Faustina had guidance from Holy Mother Mary to the Divine Mercy. After reading this caption, I would like very much to read this book "Purest of all Lillies", because I had a similar experience in relation to being guided to the Divine Mercy through Holy Mother Mary.

George Crestin - Jul 22, 2008

I heard Fr. Calloway speak at a Conference in Southern California last year, and if this book is anything like the way he speaks, I can't wait to read it.

Lucy Ann - Jul 22, 2008

Cannot agree how important one realises that you cannot love Jesus without having Mary as one's mother! - this is based on my own personal experience!!! Jesus wants us to honour His Mother and Mary, in turn, wants to take us back to Jesus, Her Divine Son. They cannot be separated - how strong their love bondage is! Praised be the Sacred Heart of Jesus, His Divine Mercy and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, now and forever...Amen!!

Sonja - Jul 22, 2008

Thank you father so much. It breaks my heart that so much devotion to Blessed Mother has left our country, and not being able to Crown Blessed Mother in May breaks my heart. I go into my Church and we have one very small statue of Blessed Mother way up on the ceiling. All my life, 70 yrs, its been to Jesus through Mary. God help us and have mercy on us.

Jim - Jul 23, 2008

Yes Sonja! Seventy years of coming "to Jesus through Mary" is wonderful! Our Blessed Mother Mary will lead us to Jesus Christ. I've heard someone say that "motherless children have a hard time." As a Roman Catholic I believe and I am thankful that God gave us Mary, the Immaculate, to be our mother right before he died on the cross.

Servus de Amor - Jul 23, 2008

Our Mother with her Immaculate Yes, her Life-giving Spirit of limitless self-emptying and self-giving and 'joy-filled' willingness, allowed her Immaculate Heart to be the altar on which Jesus The Priestly Victim Soul of Expiation, Adoration, Supplication and Thanksgiving Glorifies Our Father for our sake. Our Sweet Mother is the Infinite Pure Crystal Chalice of the Triune God's Infinite Love meant to be poured out to her little children.

When Jesus became man and dwelt among us as a little child, our Sweet Mother was at His side lavishing Him the Purest Love, but this Pure Love was a Gift of Jesus' Loving Presence, a Gift the Son made her. It was a Mother's Pure Love that smoothed the Son's Way, that served Him, that had no other interest than caring for Him, while adoring the Father in the Son. Jesus formed this Pure Maternal Love to be an example for us, and we should ask our Sweet Mother for the Grace to Love EVERY MAN with her Pure Maternal Love for Jesus!

In the spiritual notes of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes she writes: "This interior life of Jesus hidden in Mary's Heart is concealed from others, but what does that matter? How easily He finds His Heavenly Father in Mary! How lovingly He glorifies His Father on the altar of Mary's Heart! How He rejoices in cultivating Mary's beautiful soul with His Grace! May I too have an interior life! What does it matter if no one sees it as long as I imitate Jesus, as long as I live through Jesus and I dwell in the Heart of Mary like Jesus. May I accept privations, suffering and humiliations generously as Jesus, Mary and Joseph did IN ORDER TO GLORIFY GOD."

O Lord, teach us to look at Your Most Sweet Mother, let us draw our Pure Love for You form hers, let us adore You with her and together with her be well pleasing to You in the same service of Pure Love for God.

Through you, Mother, we have come to your Son. You conceived Him, you gave birth to Him, you accompanied him throughout His Life, in order to bring Him to us and to give Him to us. And also in order to show us how a man can bear and understand Him, how a man can place his life within the Life of your Son, so as to receive it from Him. In order to convey to us the Gift of His Infancy, of His years at home with you, the Gift of His public Life and of the hour of His Passion. At every phase of His Life you were so involved that everything His Loving Presence conveyed found room in your utterly receptive, with unquestioning openness and simplicity, and profoundly deep humility of your Immaculate Heart, yet not for you, but for us.

By your prompt and lilitless Immaculate Yes, you placed yourself totally at the disposal of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that the Triune God gave us the Son right through you. You led us to Him, but you were always fo much in God, so much within your mission and your own Limitless and Immaculate Yes, that your only desire was to act as the conveyor of the Gift and not as the original giver. Yet for that very reason your act of conveying also became a Goft that came from your incomparable deep humility ant that your profound humility gave us, a Gift to us, but also a Gift to God. And we would like to ask you today to accept into your egoless and selfless Immaculate Yes all that makes up our lives, not just its joys, but also its sacrifices, the roads we take the we had not reckoned on before. Do this so that we may once again con to your Son through you. So that through you, who knew so well how to carry out the Son's Will, we, too, may now accept anew everything He intends for us in the Will of our Father, may we will it anew because it is His Holy Will. But also that through you we may will anew, with you, grateful that everything you did occured entirely within His Mission. And when the sacrifice costs more than we thought, when it is harder to bear that we imagined, we want to remember that you did everything in the 'joy-filled' willingness of your Immaculate Yes. And we want to ask you to intercede for us with the Father, with your son, and with the Hooly spirit, so that we may be permitted to live by your strength, to come in REALITY to the Son through you, and to do in Him what you have done for Him all along. And when you see Archangel Gabriel your Holy Angel, Mother, remember that his propitious appearance assured you of the way. Ask him to surround us with care out of Pure Love for you, just as he did for you, to interced for us just as he interceded for you and, by his appearing, gave you the power to Immaculately say Yes on Holy Faith to everything.

Lord, before You became man and entered into Your Passion, You invited Your Mother to serve You as Mother, to bear Your Sacred Passion -Your Loving Holy Sacrifice for our sake- with You, but also to share with You Your Joys. And the Grace with which You endowed her and by which she became Your Mother is so inexhaustibly great that there is room in it for all who seek You in the purest, deepest and inmost center of their souls, for all who in their steadfast Faith desire to offer You sacrifices making their life as one single act of perfect love for You. The sacrifice of a life of in Your service, perhaps even the sacrifice of giving up this servie, ot the sacrifice of unforseen humiliations and sufferings. And because You Loved Your Mother and granted her such Pure Love for You, we ask You, Lord, to receive us, too, every day into this Divine Grace, to show us a place in Your relationship to Your Mother, a place that allows us to offer up anew each one of her sacrifices, to experience together with You each one of her joys, and to do forever precisely what the Mother, with You, and with the father and the Holy Spirit and all our Loving Family in Heaven, expect us. Grant us the Divine Grace and the Eternal Joy of Togetherness of the Holy Trinity of serving You today and in Eternity.

Let us, Father, come to You, but on the path You chose according to Your Holy Will, give us only the Pure Love that Your Eternity pours joyfull and so generously into each day.

Lord, burn us to ash, and scatter us according to Your Holy will. If I should ever say again what I will, do not grant that prauer: believe, even against every appearance, that from now on I am Yours alone and know no other will than Yours.

Father, let our whole life become One Single Act of Perfect Love and an unbroken loving prayer from our lowly hearts that rises up to You like fire and sweeps along in its flame everything evil and impure in Your Holy and Loving Presence and in Your Sight, all that belongs to us and to others, so that You may make it good enough to become Yours and to be used by You. Do not leave the evil in us wither, Lord, but turn it back; open our hearts to the Transformative Power of Your Creative Loving Action, even when it is painful turning us from passive recipient of Your Boundless Love to lovers of Your Will allowing our final and everlasting conversion from glory to glory always trusting in Your Will, allow it in Your own Holy Name.

Father make us humbly worthy in doing Your Will.

Jesus, We trust in You; Your Heart is ours, and ours is Yours alone. (Diary of Saint Faustina, # 327)

O God, give us Your Holy Spirit who indwells Your Eternal Word, for He is the Holy Oil of Eternal Love, Eternal Faith and Eternal Hope. Of ourselves we possess none of this. We depend on You; You alone can grant us the Life-giving Grace of Anointing with the Spirit, the same Spirit You gave to Your Messiah, the One annointed with holy Oil, the Christ. May the eternal meaning of our lives be a waiting for You, even when night comes.

Eternal God, in whom Mercy is endless and the Treasury of Compassion inexhastible, look kindly upon us and increase Your Mercy in us, that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your Holy Will, which is Love and Mercy itself. (Diary of Saint Faustina, #476)

O our Three, our All, our Beatitude, Infinite Solitude, Immensity in which we lose ourselves, we surrender ourselves to You as Your holy victims of Love. Bury Yourself in us that we may bury ourselves in You until we depart to contemplate in Your Light the Abyss of the Greatness of Your ever-greater Love and Mercy.

Holy Mother of God and Our Mother, Totus Tuus.

Claudia - Jul 25, 2008

I have always looked at our Blessed Mother for guidence and it is great to know she was present in the life of Faustina. Thank you for the interview.

Rita - Jul 28, 2008

I am trying to get my self together and come back to Church. My Last Confession was over 2 years ago. I suffer from depression and Isolation. At my last confession I told my Priest I pray for my children to return, he cut me off and said it was their decision to leave the Church. I also said I pray the Divine Mercy for the Holy Soul in Purgatory, he told me there is a question as to "if there is a purgatory. saying has anyone met anyone who has been there?" When he cut me off about praying for my children to come back, I was going to add " for them to have a good relationship with Jesus." Then perhaps they would come back to the church. This last sentence I was going to tell him I would leave it up to Jesus. I left Confession so confused and wondering how did this happen. Father had always been a good and kind Priest. He was just so different. Thats when the darkness really came into my life. I could not pray and nor wondering how to pray to get back my praying at all. It took a long time, but at least I can say the Rosary.I will add him to my Rosary, He has been transfered to a smaller Church, near the seacoast. But I still have not been able ot go to Church but did go to the Eucharistic Veneration this last Wednesday. It's a long struggle and I wish I could just return to my Church. Perhaps a different Church would be a different we have 5 of them here in my home town. I cannot wait to buy your book.

fr. calloway - Jul 28, 2008

I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience. I know that can be difficult. Pray for that priest, but don't be afraid to return to the Church. Jesus and Mary love you very, very much. I will also say some prayers for your children to return to the practice of their faith.

Servus de Amor - Jul 30, 2008

Dear Rita:
Love and forgive your priest. If it will console you, know that even Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face suffered a lot because her priest told everyone in her convent that she had only one venial sin all her life.

Love is seen in sorrow. Lovingly offer your suffering to God and rest in Jesus Heart who loves you with exceeding Love. I would like to share with you a beautiful prayer of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes:

"O my God, I do not ask You to keep me from suffering, but to be with me in affliction. Teach me to seek You as my only comforter; sustain my faith; strenthen my hope; purify my love. Grant me the Grace to recognize Your hand in the midst of suffering and to want no other comforter than You."

Remember also the mother of Saint Augustine, Saint Monica, who with steadfast faith persevered in her prayers for the conversion of her very intelligent son who argued against Christians just for fun! Trust in Jesus with limitless love and your prayers and sacrifices for your children will be answered for He desires what you desire. Never doubt His Love. I will pray for you and your children that your hearts are all united to Jesus and Mary. God bless.

Mary S. - Sep 24, 2008

Hello Father, your testimony in El Salvador struck many hearts of filipinos.This is how Our Jesus of Mercy touched your heart, The role of Mama Mary was very important to your life,I was sad,if all younger boys and girls including my two sons where there to listen,You will be their inspiration.God bless.

Cathy Fitz - May 21, 2010

Fr.Calloway, Your testimony of your conversion through Our Lord's Divine Mercy and Our Lady's intercession was inspiring. We heard you at Santa Clara Church in Yorba Linda, CA last week and you blessed us with your witness of God's infinite love and mercy. We thank God for you and your fiat.

Lou Anne Roskowski - Aug 14, 2010

Father - I've heard you speak at a conference. But, I can't remember the details of where and how did the beginning of your conversation take place. Thank you and God Bless

Moderator - Aug 17, 2010

Hi Lou Anne.
Fr. Calloway has a new book, "No Turning Back," that tells the story of his conversion.

For more info, go to his website:

God bless!