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Life of Faustina Kowalska

This biography, formerly titled Mercy My Mission, includes many excerpts from St. Faustina's famous Diary. Whether read alone or as a study aid to reading the Diary itself, this bo... Read more

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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Sep 30, 2009)
A woman named Angela recently wrote to me asking a question I have received several times before, but always hesitated to try to answer. She asks:

Will St. Faustina ever be named a "Doctor of the Church"? If St. Therese, the Little Flower, was given that title in the Church because of the wisdom she received from Christ and expressed in her autobiography, then why not Faustina?

Well, Angela, I don't have any "insider info" on any discussions on such matters taking place inside the Vatican. But I can offer what I hope is an educated and prudent guess: I think she will indeed be named a Doctor of the Church, and probably sooner rather than later.

In its long history, the Church has granted that title to only 33 men and women. Michael P. Riccards in The New Oxford Review (October, 2008) explained the three stringent requirements for the granting of that distinction, which can only be done by the Pope himself.

1. Holiness that is truly outstanding.
In other words, every Doctor of the Church must not only "talk the talk" but also "walk the walk," basing their teachings not only on their study and research, but also on living out their personal experience of the Merciful Lord. Thus, there is no Doctor of the Church that is not also a saint of the Church (which is not to say that some very eccentric and cantankerous saints have not been included on the list, notably the ancient biblical scholar St. Jerome!). Obviously, St. Faustina meets the "holiness" criterion.

2. Depth of Doctrinal Insight.
This means that a Doctor of the Church is someone who has penetrated the mysteries of the faith deeply, explained them with exceptional clarity and unfolded their implications for the life of the Church. Pope John Paul II described a Doctor of the Church as one whose writings not only conform with revealed truth, but also shed "new light on the mysteries of the Faith."

Many leading scholars are convinced that St. Faustina's writings do just that. In an article that appeared on this Divine Mercy website a few years ago, Felix Carroll quoted several theologians to this effect:

Sister Mary Ann Follmar, an author and expert on the Doctors of the Church, has read the Diary of St. Faustina many times and believes St. Faustina is a "shoe-in" for this distinguished ecclesiastical title.

"A Doctor of the Church is one who is recognized as a great teacher in the Church, and I think St. Faustina is a great teacher of the mystery of God's mercy," says Sr. Follmar, who teaches theology at Providence College.

Father Jan Machniak, chair of the Theology of Spirituality at the Papal Theological Academy in Krakow, Poland, agrees that St. Faustina is deserving of the title. He gave a talk on the topic in Krakow ... during the festivities marking the centennial of St. Faustina's birth. ...

Many say that St. Faustina, whose Diary includes a series of personal revelations she received from Jesus Christ in the 1930s, sheds light on the progress of the mystical life of the soul and gives an unparalleled understanding of the mystery of Divine Mercy.

Her Diary, written in simple language, "helps us to comprehend how God proceeds with souls," says Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC. "And it gives us a richer understanding of the relationship between mercy and love and the notion of merciful love as the source and ultimate reason for the whole of salvation."

This last point is worth emphasizing because the prophetic revelations received by St. Faustina from Jesus Himself recovered for the Church the truth that mercy is the greatest attribute of God, so that everything that God does toward His creatures can be described as an expression of His merciful love. As Jesus said to St. Faustina:

My Heart rejoices in this title of Mercy. Proclaim that mercy is the greatest attribute of God. All the works of my hands are crowned with mercy. (Diary, 300)

This theme was also picked up by Pope John Paul II, and became one of the main themes of His encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy) in 1980 (see section 13: "The Bible, Tradition, and the whole faith life of the People of God provide unique proof ... that mercy is the greatest of the attributes and perfections of God.").

Even during her own lifetime, St. Faustina's principal spiritual director, Bl. Fr. Michael Sopocko, recognized her extraordinary insight into the mysteries of the faith. Given that she had only three semesters of elementary-level education, this insight could only be the fruit of the infused gift of wisdom from the Holy Spirit:

I was amazed that she, a simple nun, with hardly any education, and without the time to read ascetic works, could speak so knowledgeably of theological matters, and such [difficult] ones as the mystery of the Holy Trinity, or the Divine Mercy and other attributes of God, with the expertise of a consummate theologian. (From the recollections of Fr. Sopocko).

3. An Extensive Body of Writings which the Church can Recommend as part of the Authentic and Life-giving Catholic Tradition.
Most of St. Faustina's written work, of course, is found in her Diary, which the Roman Breviary now states is "counted among the outstanding works of mystical literature." But of course, it is not only "mystical." The Diary is also theological and autobiographical. Moreover, I believe that the cause for the designation of St. Faustina as a Doctor of the Church will be speeded along by the fact that this Diary has already been given a thorough theological review by the Vatican during the investigation into her life and virtues for her canonization. That work was carried out by the Rev. Ignacy Rozycki, a member of the International Theological Commission of the Holy See. Father Rozycki's massive tome of 500 pages in French analyzes almost every theological theme in the Diary, and it shows not only that St. Faustina passes the test of Catholic orthodoxy, but also that she gives us new insights to ponder regarding the mysteries of the faith. For example, Fr. Rozycki wrote these reflections on Faustina's understanding of the merciful Heart of Jesus:

It is evident to every believing Catholic that the infinite Mercy of God is inexhaustible. The greatest sins, not only of an individual person but those of the entire world, will neither exhaust it, nor ever equal it. Likewise, the Divine-human mercy of the heart of Jesus is inexhaustible. Jesus speaks of it in revelation 56: "It [Divine Mercy] increases through giving itself" (Diary, 1273). At first glance this is an extraordinary argument, but in reality it is profoundly theological. It refers to the universally accepted contention of moral theology that all virtues grow through performance of those acts to which they incline. Consequently, we find no basis for the exhaustion of the Divine-human Mercy of the Heart of Jesus. In the whole history of Catholic theology, no one has given a deeper reason for the inexhaustibility of the Divine-human Mercy of the Heart of Jesus ( from Rev. Ignacy Rozycki, "Essential Features of the Devotion to The Divine Mercy" in Robert Stackpole, Ed., Pillars of Fire in my Soul: the Spirituality of St. Faustina. Stockbridge: Marian Press, 2003, pp. 100-101).

Finally, the Church often names someone a Doctor of the Church because that individual found a special way of expressing the Gospel message that is ideally suited to meet the needs — and cure the moral, spiritual, and intellectual ills — of the People of God. In other words, they are "doctors" not only in the sense of manifesting deep theological knowledge, but also in the sense of knowing how to apply that knowledge to the needs of souls. They are doctors in a medicinal-spiritual way, and not only in an abstract, theological way.

Pope John Paul II certainly believed that this is true about St. Faustina. In his homily on Mercy Sunday, 2001, he called the Divine Mercy message given to St. Faustina "the appropriate and incisive answer that God wanted to offer to the questions and expectations of human beings in our time, marked by terrible tragedies. ... Divine Mercy! This is the Easter gift that the Church receives from the risen Christ and offers to humanity at the dawn of the third millennium."

In short: yes, I do think that St. Faustina will be given the title of "Doctor of the Church" — perhaps in my lifetime (I just turned 50 years old!). Moreover, I am pretty sure that John Paul II, the Great Mercy Pope, also will be named a "Doctor of the Church." What an incredible privilege it has been to live during the time of that great Bishop of Rome — and the canonization of the great "Apostle of Divine Mercy," too!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Come one, come all, to the North American Congress on Mercy! Inspired by the revelations of St. Faustina, the Mercy Congress will take place on Nov. 14-15, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C. To learn more about the Mercy Congress and a Divine Mercy Networking Forum on Nov. 13, please visit mercycongress.org. You can register for either event or both by clicking here.

Robert Stackpole, STD, is director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy. His latest book is Divine Mercy: A Guide from Genesis to Benedict XVI (Marian Press). Got a question? E-mail him at questions@thedivinemercy.org.

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Brother Leonard Konopka M.I.C. - Sep 30, 2009


Thank you for this historical and well written update on eventually establishing St. Faustina as one of the leading "Doctors" in the Catholic Church. Just about every page in her Diary can be used for catechetical purposes and beyond.

St. Faustina describes her mystical union with Jesus with such clarity that it makes it easier for most Christians to perhaps understand similar experiences in their own lives.

I join you in believing that some day it will be accomplished, in His time and Will.
Since we had to wait over twenty years for the Devotion to the Divine Mercy to be approved, no doubt we can wait a few more years for St. Faustina to be so universally recognized.
Thank you Robert and God bless all your effort in this regard.

Dave Came - Sep 30, 2009


In making the case for St. Faustina being made a Doctor of the Church, see John Paul II's last book, MEMORY AND IDENTITY, where the Great Mercy Pope writes, "I mention Sr. Faustina because her revelations, focused on the mystery of Divine Mercy, occurred during the period preceding the Second World War. This was precisely the time when those ideologies of evil, nazism, and communism, were taking shape. Sister Faustina became the herald of the one message capable of off-setting those ideologies, the fact that God is Mercy — the truth of the merciful Christ. And for this reason, when I was called to the See of Peter, I felt impelled to pass on these experiences of a fellow Pole that deserve a place in the treasury of the universal Church (pp. 5-6).

Here, then, Pope John Paul II in his last book is making the case that the patrimony of Divine Mercy, which was entrusted to St. Faustina and is contained in her DIARY, "deserve[s] a place in the treasury of the universal Church."

P. - Oct 1, 2009

As a good birthday gift for St.Faustina , hope many of us (often failing:) students will continue to be blessed through her heavenly aid and inspirations - to ever see the need for mercy , to be free to trust in His love and mercy for each of us ; to focus on the truth of the innate dignity/ goodness of being His children , thus to love ourselves and the other in spite of the hatreds that might bubble up ; freedom to see the compassionate loving gaze, free of all hatred , from The Cross at each of us who is there too, through our hatred against life itself, of ourselves or any other.. freedom to hate evil and deal with it through prayer, penance , goodness and mercy , by immersing in The Word, in good teachings of great teachers like our saint and meditating on His Passion, in the company of His Mother , who too chose to trust and love, in the middle of it all, for our sake too ..

Thank you to all who help many of us slow learners !

Robert Allard, Director, Apostles of Divine Mercy - Oct 1, 2009

Thanks Robert for sharing your thoughts with us. I see that it also made it on www.SpiritDaily.com today, right on the Feast of another "Doctor" of the Church, St. Therese. Everyone should read the diary of St. Faustina ASAP.

Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC - Oct 1, 2009

I pray I live to see that day!

My birthday - Oct 2, 2009

As a child I was always sad to be born near many wonderfeast days- the angels, st Fransis, St. Teresa but I never had a special sait on Oct 5- will St Faustina have her feast day on that day/ I understand Fr Selenus also died on that die, Do you have an answer. I would be a lovely birthday gift since 10./5 is not here yet- thank you. I am also Polissh and recently prayed in her convernton Mercy Sunday- WHAT AN EXXPERIENC!I would love to hear she could be my special saint

Mary Lou - Oct 2, 2009

Maybe the SECRETARY of the DIVINE MERCY will soon become a DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH!

Tara - Oct 2, 2009

I pray and hope that St. Maria Faustina will very soon be declared a "Doctor of the Church!!! I love the Divine Privileges God in His incomprehensible Mercy has granted this beautiful soul, whose place is so close to God's Throne! And her closeness to the great Mother of God was so beautiful.

Fr. Paul - Oct 2, 2009

Thanks for the post. It brings back some difficult yet beautiful memories.

When I was doing college ministry, one recent convert asked me if he should read her Diary. I told him, "it's a dangerous book."

By that, I meant it as a compliment. Sr. Faustina once prayed, "Lord, make me your perfect servant." That means one thing: the Passion.

I believe Pope John Paul II was proundly influenced by Sr. Faustina. Just read Salvifici Doloris. She had an understanding of human suffering that definitely makes her a Doctor of the Church in my mind.

My mother and father attended her beatification in Rome. My father's copy of her Diary is marked and notaded. His favorite prayer was the one I mentioned above. He got cancer and died nine months later. He died a beautiful death, but you have to be willing to take up the Cross if you follow her way, Our Lord's Way.

I hope she is made a Doctor of the Chuch soon.

Fr. Paul, pastor, St. Joseph's, Dalton GA

Maryanne Linkes - Oct 2, 2009

St. Faustina will be a Doctor of the Church. So many comparisons between St. Faustina and St. Catherine of Sienna, another Doctor of the Church. One does not have to be highly educated to be holy and to teach us. St. Faustina always allowed our Lord to lead her and she was faithful. She has taught me so much.

Cathy Mack - Oct 2, 2009

Ihope she becomes a doctor of the church soon. Also, Why isn't she listed on the church calendar for her feast day October 5th. St Faustina's statue should be on the Shrine grounds. All other saints are there and she isn't. WHY!!!!!!

maryS - Oct 3, 2009

that would be great! Happy feast day St. Faustina.God bless.

Maria P. (Canada) - Oct 4, 2009

Thank you Dr. Stackpole for this explanation. I have often thought about this as she has become my mentor next to Our Blessed Mother. My other two mentors are St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena-both Doctors of the Church with unique gifts from God. But St. Faustina's beautiful gift of deep reverance for God's boundless mercy is what's needed in this troubled world especially at this time in history. May her teachings be spread like wildflower. In my heart she is already a Doctor of the Church. I also pray that her name be added to the LITANY OF SAINTS. Hopefully this will be made official too. Blessings to all!!!

ics - Oct 4, 2009

To live is to thank God. To the greater glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ St. Faustina, the Secretary of Jesus Christ's Divine Mercy will be named a " Doctor of the Church" soon, let us hope.

Moderator - Oct 5, 2009

In response to "my birthday,"

It turns out that October 5th is already St. Faustina's Feast Day. Her feast is not yet on the Church's "universal calendar," which means that the Church does not yet celebrate her feast in the liturgy everywhere in the world. But Oct 5 is still her feast day.

Christi Stackpole - Oct 6, 2009

Great article. Very well written--as usual!

Brian - Oct 10, 2009

I read this article after I came out a week's retreat, and on the second last day after reading her Diary 'The Infinite Goodness of God in the Creation of Angel' (#1741), God' Infinite Goodness in creating mankind' (#1743) and also #1747 and #1749, I said to myself, 'Yes, St Faustina will be declared a Doctor of the Church'. All readers - please re-read these entries! This really shows the fresh emphasis on God's mercy

What a wonderful confirmation in this article!

Fellow Divine Mercy apostles, remember that St Faustina wants to be your special friend and confidante in gloriyfing God's mercy!

Humble Servant of God's Love and Mercy - Oct 12, 2009

Let us all pray that our most loving Saint Faustina becomes a "Doctor of the Church" so the Love and Mercy of God will be in all of us especially those who do not know God's Mercy but are in most need of it... Jesus, "we-ourselves" entrust this petition to Your Immeasurable Mercy! So be it.