Death, 'Our Coronation'

The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“Death does not frighten me. My soul abounds in great peace ... I kiss your hands, most dear Mother, with most profound reverence, and beg for prayers. The greatest misery and nothingness Sr. Faustina.”

— Sr. Faustina’s farewell letter (August 1938)

WEEK 51

Death can be sudden, or one could be afforded a long preparation through enduring a terminal illness. Yet no matter when it happens, death can indeed be a scary reality, especially when it’s our own or a loved one’s death. This week’s spiritual exercise explores death, dying, and eternal life, and how this is a fact of life for us all. Death might not be foremost on our minds; however, death is an important and even holy part of our life — no matter how contradictory that might sound. Let’s look at this in the context of St. Faustina’s last days.

Saint Faustina once wrote in her Diary, “As long as we live, the love of God grows in us. Until we die, we ought to strive for the love of God” (Diary, 1191). This she did each and every day. One day, pondering the great mercy of God, St. Faustina wrote, “The mercy of the Lord is praised by the holy souls in heaven who have themselves experienced that infinite mercy. What these souls do in heaven, I already will begin to do on earth.” She enumerated a few of these things. “I will praise God for His in nite goodness, and I will strive to bring other souls to know and glorify the inexpressible and incomprehensible mercy of God” (Diary, 753). Jesus told her how: “Your life is to be modeled on Mine, from the crib to My death on the Cross. Penetrate My mysteries, and you will know the abyss of My mercy towards creatures and My unfathomable goodness — and this you shall make known to the world” (Diary, 438). We too, can take time to ponder this amazing advice — from Jesus Himself!

It’s true that St. Faustina worked hard to never waste a moment in striving to model her life after Jesus, toiling through everyday occurrences and heartfelt prayers to bring the Divine Mercy to the world. Saint Faustina’s heart was filled with mercy. She was a living victim, striving to atone for sinners. She prayed: “Transform me into Yourself, O Jesus, that I may be a living sacrifice and pleasing to You. I desire to atone at each moment for poor sinners” (Diary, 908). One time, St. Faustina said to Jesus, “O, God, how I desire that souls come to know You and to see that You have created them because of Your unfathomable love. O my Creator and Lord, I feel that I am going to remove the veil of heaven so that the earth will not doubt Your goodness” (Diary, 483).

Towards the end of her life, tuberculosis had ravaged St. Faustina’s body. It affected her respiratory system and also the alimentary canal (the esophagus, stomach, and intestines). As her health deteriorated, her mysticism intensified. In fact, one time, Fr. Sopoćko visited Sr. Faustina when she was very ill, and she was in an ecstasy communing with our Lord. Throughout her illnesses, the young mystic remained courageous, continuing to offer her sufferings to God and wholeheartedly trusting in His great mercy and love. But her charity during her illnesses didn’t stop there. Saint Faustina had a hospital ministry to the dying that unfolded through God’s grace. Even when she was ailing herself, her merciful heart led her to reach out to help others, especially at the most critical time when prayers are urgently needed: when someone is in their last moments here on earth and soon to be judged. The young mystic was spiritually sensitive to the times that various souls needed prayer, sometimes even being awakened in the night to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for them. The Lord had taught her well:

At the hour of their death, I will defend as My own glory every soul that says this chaplet; or when others say it for a dying person, the pardon is the same. When this chaplet is said by the bedside of a dying person, God’s anger is placated, unfathomable mercy envelops the soul, and the very depths of My tender mercy are moved for the sake of the sorrowful Passion of My Son (Diary, 811).

Saint Faustina recalled in her Diary, “Especially now, while I am in the hospital, I experience an inner communion with the dying who ask me for prayer when their agony begins. God has given me a wondrous contact with the dying!” (Diary, 835). Saint Faustina many times felt the needy soul’s presence and prayed for them until she felt peace in her soul. One time, she deeply desired that a dying Jewish woman be baptized before death. She begged Jesus, praying before a small Image of the Divine Mercy that was on the cover of a small lea et she owned. She trusted her Lord wholeheartedly and said, “Jesus, You yourself told me that You would grant many graces through this image. I ask You, then, for the grace of Holy Baptism for this Jewish lady” (Diary, 916). God certainly allowed for her Baptism. She died peacefully soon afterwards. Suddenly, St. Faustina was overjoyed to see the woman’s soul ascending to Heaven! Saint Faustina was fully con dent that the grace was given through the Divine Mercy Image and thanked God. She’d never forget that day and said it was the second great grace she had received for souls before the Image.

Not afraid of death

Saint Faustina was not afraid of death. In her farewell letter, she wrote, “Death does not frighten me. My soul abounds in great peace ... .” The young mystic was certain that she was called to be a saint, just as each and every person is called to holiness. Mother Teresa always said that holiness is but a simple duty for all of us. Saint Faustina recalled in her Diary, “I have noticed that, from the very moment I entered the convent, I have been charged with one thing; namely, that I am a saint” (Diary, 1571). She further explained that since the word “saint” was used scoffingly by some sister or another, she used to feel hurt. Eventually, she rose above the hurt. One time, Jesus told His bride, “Of course you are a saint. Soon I Myself will make this manifest in you, and they will pronounce that same word, saint, only this time it will be with love” (Diary, 1571). Imagine that!

When my sister Barbara was dying of cancer, I requested prayers from those I knew were prayer warriors and quickly booked an immediate flight to Texas. The doctors said she had only a few months left. I had no idea at the time that her remaining days on this planet would actually be much less than that. I called my friends in the Missionaries of Charity and requested a relic of Mother Teresa to bring with me to give to Barbara. The kind nun I spoke with reassured me of the sisters’ prayers for my trip and my sister Barbara, and reminded me of Mother Teresa’s words about death. She wrote them down in the letter she sent to me with the relic, which arrived the day before I hopped on the plane. “Death is nothing except going back to God, where He is and where we belong ... Death is the most decisive moment in human life. It is our Coronation: to die in peace with God.” I took the note with me to Texas. I prayed many Divine Mercy Chaplets by Barbara’s side, as well as the Rosary, while she napped. Time with my sister was extremely short, but I am immensely thankful that I rushed to her side because it turned out that the doctor was wrong — my sister died only ve days after I arrived at her bedside.

When Sr. Faustina was getting closer to death, she realized that the new congregation that Jesus had called her to found was not going to come into being during her lifetime. But she had certainly labored hard, tilled the soil, and planted the holy seeds for Fr. Sopoćko, who would carry on with the work. Sister Faustina told Fr. Sopoćko that his main task would be to work hard so that the Feast of Divine Mercy would be instituted on the first Sunday after Easter Sunday. Sister Faustina warned her spiritual father that he would experience many difficulties and even persecutions in spreading the message and devotion of Divine Mercy. She reassured him that the new congregation would come to be, and he would understand the details in time. She added that Fr. Sopoćko “would take vows from six first candidates for the congregation in a little wooden chapel at night.” She informed him that she was finished writing everything she should and that she would soon die. Specifically, she told him on September 26, 1938, that she would die in 10 days.

After 13 years in the congregation, on October 5, 1938, at the young age of 33, Sr. Faustina departed from her earthly life at 10:45 p.m. in the presence of Sr. Amelia Socha and Sr. Eufemia Traczynska, both of whom, through a miraculous occurrence, arrived at her room only minutes before the saint died. Her funeral was on October 7, 1938, the First Friday of the month and the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Father Sopoćko was not able to make it to her funeral. Sister Faustina’s family did not attend the funeral because Sr. Faustina did not want her relatives notified, due to the great expense of travel. Sister Faustina’s sister Natalia Grzelek said her sister (Sr. Faustina) visited her at night in her room (presumably before her death). “She was as white as a communion wafer, so thin, with folded hands. And said to me, ‘I have come to say goodbye to you because I’m leaving. Remain with God. Do not cry, you mustn’t cry!’ She kissed me on the cheek,” Natalia recalled. “I couldn’t say a word. I just pressed my face into the pillow ... .” Natalia and her husband traveled to Glogowiec in the morning. News of her death was spreading now, and there was much weeping.

Up until the time of the funeral, Sr. Faustina’s coffin was open. Father Andrasz said, “In the casket, Faustina regained her freshness and loveliness; she was far more beautiful than during her life.” Mother Irene Krzyżanowska said, “Sister Faustina’s face radiated peace.” Her casket was carried by the sisters themselves, and was buried in the convent cemetery in the congregation’s garden.

After St. Faustina’s death, Fr. Michael Sopoćko disclosed that Sr. Faustina Kowalska was the visionary who had received the message and devotion to Divine Mercy, which had already begun to spread. The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy also disclosed that, under the exterior appearance of a humble, ordinary nun, all along a great saint had been hidden in their midst. Mother General Michael Moraczewska visited all the congregation’s houses and explained the great mission entrusted to His little instrument, Sr. Faustina. Later on, she would testify:

What most struck me about Sr. Faustina and still strikes me today as an extraordinary phenomenon, especially in the last months of her illness, was her absolute self-oblivion for the sake of the dissemination of the worship of Divine Mercy. She never showed the slightest doubts as to the authenticity of her mission nor fear of death; she was absolutely engrossed in the leading light of her entire life — the devotion to Divine Mercy.

As Sr. Faustina foretold, Fr. Sopoćko took the private vows of the first six candidates of the new congregation. It was on the night of November 16, 1944, in the wooden chapel of the Carmelite Sisters in Vilnius. Father Sopoćko said he was “amazed by the striking similarity of what I saw and what the late Sister Faustina had told me.”

Something to Ponder

Reflecting on St. Faustina’s death, ask yourself: Are you prepared to meet your Maker? For the most part, people don’t reflect upon their lives or their imminent death in the course of their day. Yet we really are to ponder our death, and to prepare our hearts and souls for Heaven. Jesus gave very clear instructions when He said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of the family, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). He also said that we will be judged on how we have served “the least.” How are you doing? Are you seek- ing to alleviate the suffering of “the least”? Are you carrying out works of mercy? Each evening, you can reflect on your day. Take time this week to ponder your life and take the necessary steps to prepare for your death — your “coronation”!

A Merciful Action

Pray every chance you have this week for the dying. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the “O Blood and Water” prayer. Make time to visit someone who is sick or dying, or at least call them on the phone. No doubt you will help to lift their spirits. Be instrumental in arranging that a priest come to anoint any Catholic you know who is dying. This week, in addition to giving them your loving example, teach someone about the importance of works of mercy.

A PRAYER OF MERCY FOR THIS WEEK

(To be prayed each day this week.)

Dear Merciful Jesus, help me to ready
my soul for eternal life.

Mother Mary, please protect me from all evil.

Saint John Paul II, please pray for me.

Saint Faustina, please pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You!
Amen.

You can order 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle here: 

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Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

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The following is an excerpt from the Marian Press book 52 Weeks with St. Faustina by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle:

“Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

— Luke 5:4