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.
Prophet for Our Times
Adapted mostly from the Marian Press title Faustina, Saint for Our Times.
by Rev. George W. Kosicki, CSB, and David Came
A ban, a simulcast, and a spark all figure in the remarkable prophetic ministry of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-38). We'll start with the ban.
On March 6, 1959, after studying some incomplete and inaccurate accounts of Sr. Faustina's visions and mission, the Holy See prohibited further "spreading of the devotion according to Sr. Faustina," pending clarification of its concerns.
Not only did St. Faustina prophesy about the ban, she also told her spiritual director, Fr. Michael Sopocko (now beatified), that he would suffer much as a result of it:
Once as I was talking with my spiritual director, I had an interior vision — quicker than lightning — of his soul in great suffering, in such agony that God touches very few souls with such fire. The suffering arises from this work. There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago. ... When this triumph comes, we shall already have entered the new life in which there is no suffering. But before this, your soul [of the spiritual director] will be surfeited with bitterness at the sight of the destruction of your efforts (Diary, 378).
The ban would continue for nearly 20 years, and Fr. Sopocko would, indeed, suffer much, dying in 1975, three years before the prohibition was lifted on April 15, 1978.
'A New Splendor for the Church'
Six months later, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II (now beatified). Interestingly, his papacy seems to have fulfilled the part of St. Faustina's prophecy about what would happen in the Church after the ban was lifted: "And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of [the message and devotion's] authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church" (Diary, 378).
Divine Mercy was clearly on the mind of John Paul II early in his papacy. On the First Sunday of Advent, November 30, 1980, he published his second encyclical letter, Rich in Mercy (Dives in Misericordia), in which he describes the mercy of God as the presence of love that is greater than evil, greater than sin, and greater than death. In it, he summons the Church to plead for God's mercy on the whole world.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 18, 1993, Pope John Paul II further highlighted the need for The Divine Mercy message and devotion at Faustina's beatification:
"I clearly feel that my mission does not end with death, but begins," Sr. Faustina wrote in her Diary. And it truly did! Her mission continues and is yielding astonishing fruit. It is truly marvelous how her devotion to the merciful Jesus is spreading in our contemporary world and gaining so many human hearts! ... The balance of this century, which is now ending, in addition to the advances which have often surpassed those of preceding eras, presents a deep restlessness and fear of the future. Where, if not in the Divine Mercy, can the world find refuge and the light of hope? Believers understand that perfectly.
"Where, if not in the Divine Mercy, can the world find refuge and the light of hope?" became an important theme of John Paul II's pontificate.
At the canonization of St. Faustina, John Paul II also "canonized" The Divine Mercy message and devotion by declaring the Second Sunday of Easter as "Divine Mercy Sunday" for the universal Church. Of Divine Mercy Sunday, he said in his homily: "It is important that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the Word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called 'Divine Mercy Sunday.' ... By this act, I intend today to pass this message on to the new millennium."
Even Pope John Paul II's death on Saturday, April 2, 2005, the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, gave evidence of the authenticity of The Divine Mercy message and devotion. He had prepared a written message for Divine Mercy Sunday 2005. The message was shared posthumously with the faithful on April 3, Divine Mercy Sunday. In this last will and testament of mercy for John Paul II, he reminds the faithful. "How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!" Then, the Great Mercy Pope sums up Faustina's message of mercy with this prayer inspired by her Diary: "Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. Amen."
The Simulcast at the Canonization
Now, let's turn to St. Faustina's prophecy about a simulcast. On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 30, 2000, before some 250,000 pilgrims and the television cameras of the world, Pope John Paul II canonized her as "the great apostle of Divine Mercy."
The canonization was celebrated concurrently in Rome and at St. Faustina's convent chapel in Lagiewniki, Poland. At both locations, large screen televisions were set up for a simulcast — with live images shared simultaneously by those celebrating.
Many people believe that Sr. Faustina prophesied this simulcast celebration in a vision back in 1937:
I took part in [a] solemn celebration simultaneously here [in Lagiewniki] and in Rome, for the celebration was so closely connected with Rome that, even as I write, I cannot distinguish between the two, but I am writing it down as I saw it. ... The crowd was so enormous that the eye could not take it all in. ... The same celebration was held in Rome, in a beautiful church, and the Holy Father, with all the clergy, was celebrating this Feast [of Mercy] (Diary, 1044).
'The Spark' from Poland
Finally, we consider the prophecy about "the spark" from Poland, which was made famous by Pope John Paul II. Before he solemnly entrusted the world to Divine Mercy on Aug. 17, 2002, John Paul II referred to St. Faustina and her Diary passage about "the spark" from Poland that will prepare the world for Christ's final coming. Many think that the passage, at least in part, refers to St. Faustina and The Divine Mercy message, as well as to John Paul II and his ministry as the Great Mercy Pope:
Today, therefore, in this Shrine, I will solemnly entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God's merciful love, proclaimed here through Saint Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: From here there must go forth "the spark which will prepare the world for [His] final coming" (Diary, 1732).
This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness! I entrust this task to you, dear Brothers and Sisters, to the Church in Krakow and Poland, and to all the [devotees] of Divine Mercy who will come here from Poland and from throughout the world. May you be witnesses to mercy! (emphasis in original).
John Paul II's entrustment and this prophetic passage from St. Faustina's Diary have inspired World Apostolic Congresses on Mercy as a way to pass the "fire of mercy" on to the world.
On April 2, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated the first World Apostolic Congress on Mercy (WACOM), held in Rome on April 2-6, 2008. In his homily, Benedict presents St. Faustina as "a prophetic messenger of Divine Mercy."
At the conclusion of the Mercy Congress, Pope Benedict also used the forceful language of a "mandate" in encouraging the nearly 4,000 delegates from every corner of the globe to "go forth and be witnesses of God's mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world."
'A Wildfire of Mercy'
The second WACOM was held Oct. 1-5, 2011, in Krakow-Lagiewniki, Poland, ending on the feast of St. Faustina. Nearly 2,000 Divine Mercy apostles from 69 countries urgency of The Divine Mercy message and the fittingness of the metaphor that defines its spread, from "spark" to "flame" to "wildfire."
"The fire has been set, and now its light is reaching more and more hearts in more and more places around the world," said congress attendee Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, the Marians' provincial superior in the United States and Argentina.
Saint Faustina's prophecy is being fulfilled in our time. What began as a spark from Poland has become a wildfire of mercy that is spreading across the face of the earth. May this fire continue to spread and help many more souls receive the Lord's mercy before His final coming (see Diary, 1732).