Follow the path of Faustina on her journey to sainthood. Award-winning author and historian Dr. Ewa Czaczkowska tenaciously pursued Faustina to ultimately produce a biography that ... Read more
Read an Excerpt from the New Faustina Biography
The following is an excerpt from the new Marian Press title, Faustina: The Mystic and Her Message by Ewa Czazcowska. The excerpt concerns her writing of the Diary, which has since become a modern spiritual classic.
From the moment that Faustina, urged on by Jesus, decided to reveal to Fr. Sopoćko what was taking place in her soul and speak of her closeness with Jesus and her conversations with Him, her confessions became long. Sister Vieslava Effenberg remembered, "I was irritated by ... Sr. Faustina's long confessions and the sweet expression she had when she returned from making one."
Sister Vieslava was not the only one that was irritated by the future saint's long confessions. Faustina, wanting both to avoid the aggravation and the curiosity of the sisters, began to go to confession last. That didn't improve the situation. Father Sopoćko did not have the time to listen to her long "confidences in the confessional" either. He, therefore, recommended that Faustina write them down in a notebook and let him look at them every now and then. It seems that his lack of time was not the only reason for giving her these instructions. This meant that he could analyze the visions and revelations described by the sister when he was calm and collected, without the haste demanded by a waiting line of curious penitents.
Whatever the reason, thanks to Fr. Sopoćko's instructions, a unique document came into existence: the diary of the spiritual experiences of one of the greatest mystics of the Church. Had Fr. Sopoćko not given Sr. Faustina the directions in 1933 to write down "her soul's contacts with God," and had she not submitted to them obediently, we would never have found out so much about her visions. At the very least, we would not have gotten to know them from their direct source, but merely from what was related by her confessor and possibly, her superiors.
"I am to write down the encounters of my soul with You, O God, at the moments of Your special visitations. ... I have received this order through him who is for me Your representative here on earth, who interprets Your holy Will to me. Jesus, You see how difficult it is for me to write, how unable I am to put down clearly what I experience in my soul. Oh, God, can a pen write down that for which many a time there are no words? But You give the order to write, O God; that is enough for me," noted Faustina (Diary, 6).
The task of writing her Diary was not an easy one for Sr. Faustina. First of all, she was not well educated; she had only finished less than three grades of elementary school. Secondly, she didn't have circumstances conducive to writing. She was busy with work in the garden, and in her free moments, she had to conceal her writing from the other sisters. Faustina wrote on a nightstand, on her bed, and in some convents, like Vilnius, she wrote on a small table, separated from the other nuns by a screen. She was always on the watch, so that she could close and hide her notebook at any moment. In such moments, she stopped mid-sentence, and did not return to finish her thought.
Sister Borgia Tichy, Superior of the Vilnius house from December 1934 onwards, wrote, "She devoted her free time to writing her diary entries, which she hid scrupulously. This is what roused the sisters more than once to make many more or less spiteful comments, particularly because this was connected with more frequent contact with the confessor during the week. That is why she received the nickname among the sisters of 'kasztelanka' [her ladyship]."
Sister Vieslava Effenberg recalled, "Once, when Sr. Faustina was ill, I took her evening meal to her cell. Entering the dormitory, I heard the rustle of shuffled papers from behind the curtain of Sr. Faustina's cell, on account of which I remarked, jokingly, 'So, Sister, are you writing your life story that you hide it away so quickly?' to which she responded with a smile, 'Perhaps.'"
Another sister, Placida Putyra, also saw Faustina as she was writing, but that was later in Walendów in 1936. "During the day, she sometimes interrupted her work for a moment and went to her cell to write something down. Being curious, I peeked behind the curtain and saw that she was kneeling at her nightstand and was writing something quickly in her notebook," reported Sr. Placida.
But Sr. Faustina's greatest difficulty in writing had to do with something completely different — that is, in trying to convey what was really indescribable in words, because it related to the spiritual sphere, the contact of her soul with God. This is how Ludmila Grygiel described the task that Faustina was faced with: "She was supposed to convey what is beyond words (union with God) and describe what was inconceivable ('the immeasurable depth of Divine Mercy'), knowing that her description was 'only a faint shadow' of what she understood in her soul. ... The main 'plot' of her Diary did not concern external events, which are relatively easy to describe, but, rather, the essence of the merciful God, as learned through mystical experiences, the rules of His age-old action in the world, and also His direct participation in the history of salvation during Faustina's day."
Not only is the content of her Diary exceptional, but its form as well. While the author was uneducated and made spelling mistakes, her handwriting was elegant and regular. Most importantly, the text contains no erasures or changes. This leaves no doubt that what she conveyed — and particularly considering the unfavorable circumstances — flowed straight from her soul, from the inspiration of God Himself. "Many a theologian with many years of education could not even come close to solving these [theological] difficulties so accurately and easily as Sr. Faustina did," noted Fr. Sopoćko.
At first, Faustina wrote on loose sheets of paper and then in a notebook that her Superior bought for her at her confessor's request. She filled six such notebooks. She kept her Diary in her cell. Father Sopoćko would only take it occasionally for a few hours to look over, always on site at the convent. On December 15, 1971, he testified that he never changed anything in its content. Unfortunately, when he left for a few weeks for the Holy Land in 1934, Sr. Faustina burned her Diary as per the advice of one she believed to be an angel, but who turned out to be Satan.
She began the task of writing it anew on July 28, 1934.
Father Michel Sopoćko recalled, "I directed her to rewrite the destroyed contents as a penance. At the same time, she was having new experiences, which she also noted down, interweaving them with what she recalled from the burned notebook. That is why there is no chronological order in her notebooks."
The more Fr. Sopoćko became convinced of the authenticity of Sr. Faustina's spiritual experiences, the more earnestly he encouraged her to write them down. He continued to do so after she left Vilnius. Jesus also urged her to keep notes and instructed that she write more about His mercy and the goodness of God. Faustina saw Jesus as He was inspecting her Diary, checking what she was writing. He called her the secretary of Divine Mercy.
[Jesus told her] "You are the secretary of My mercy. I have chosen you for that office in this life and the next life" (Diary, 1605).
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