Divine Mercy and the Diary

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

“Mercy is the flower of love. God is love, and mercy is His deed.”
Diary, 651


All throughout your pilgrimage thus far in reading this book, we have discussed many compelling sentiments that St. Faustina recorded in her Diary. We might wonder why she wrote the Diary in the first place. In this week’s spiritual exercise, we explore the process of writing the famous Diary of St. Faustina! We will also learn about the drastic measures the young mystic carried out because she was told to do so. Are you ready? Let’s begin!

As we know, Jesus entrusted the great mission of Divine Mercy to a simple Polish nun, Sr. Maria Faustina Kowalska. The young mystic grew deeply in holiness through perseverance and continual communing with Jesus, and ultimately achieved union with her Divine Lord. She worked tirelessly to carry out every detail of her mission and had to be very patient with the endless delays she faced throughout her efforts. Particular sources of difficulty were, for example, getting the Divine Mercy Image painted, the Divine Mercy message propagated, and the Feast established (Diary, 47-51). We will talk about the Divine Mercy Image in a later reflection. For now, we will focus on the fact that a big part of Sr. Faustina’s mission was writing the Diary. Jesus depended on His little daughter, His “Secretary of Mercy” and told Sr. Faustina that the “graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is — trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive” (Diary, 1578). This faithful nun learned to deeply trust Jesus and His holy will for her. She surrendered her life wholeheartedly to Him and even delighted in every single bit she needed to suffer to bring about God’s will.

One time, Sr. Faustina exclaimed. “O Incomprehensible God, how great is Your mercy! It surpasses the combined understanding of all men and angels. All the angels and all humans have emerged from the very depths of Your tender mercy. Mercy is the flower of love. God is love, and mercy is His deed. In love it is conceived; in mercy it is revealed. Everything I look at speaks to me of God’s mercy. Even God’s very justice speaks to me about His fathomless mercy, because justice flows from love” (Diary, 651).

How do we know so many details of St. Faustina’s mission and experiences with Jesus? Some of the information is from the witnesses of people to whom she was connected. Most of it is from her writings. We have been discussing and quoting from Sr. Faustina’s Diary all throughout this book. But you might wonder how the Diary came about.

Writing the Diary Under Obedience
Sister Faustina wrote her Diary because she was instructed to do so under obedience. Since the saint in the making desired to follow God’s holy will in all things (which, above all, was accomplished by obedience to her superiors), she faithfully recorded all of her experiences. At the time she was writing, she had no way of knowing that her Diary would be read and studied by millions of people for many years to come. The drafting of her Diary began after she made her perpetual vows, when she finally met her spiritual director, Father Sopoćko, who then instructed the young mystic to record all of her experiences. “Write a diary,” he told her. As Sr. Faustina became more comfortable with revealing her heart and soul to Fr. Sopoćko, her time in the confessional grew longer, much to the chagrin of the irritated sisters who were waiting their turn. Sister Faustina sensed the irritation and decided to go last. But the timing of her lengthy Confession didn’t matter to her new director Fr. Sopoćko, because it was just too long for him to hear, no matter when it would occur. He put his foot down and ordered Sr. Faustina to write everything in a notebook. The superiors of her Congregation gave consent. Father would read the accounts when he could. No doubt he wanted ample time to analyze and discern the contents of the writings. Unbeknownst to Father, the Diary would later become an amazing bestseller, considered a gem of mystical literature. Some might say it is one of the most widely read religious works in the world! An article in L’Osservatore Romano pointed out that “[St.] Faustina’s work sheds light on the mystery of the Divine Mercy. It delights not only simple, uneducated people, but also scholars, who look upon it as an additional source of theological research.” Saint John Paul II would say, “To those who survived the Second World War, Saint Faustina’s Diary appears as a particular Gospel of Divine Mercy, written from a twentieth-century perspective.”

Jesus’ Secretary of Divine Mercy
Jesus would call this simple, humble nun His “Secretary of Divine Mercy.” Even though Sr. Faustina accepted the task of writing down the encounters of her soul with the Divine Mercy, it was not at all easy for her to write about herself, nor to write about the unique personal communion she had with Jesus and Mary, or her other contacts with the supernatural world: angels, saints, souls in Purgatory, and attacks by the devil. But the call to write came as an order from her spiritual director and ultimately from God. We must remember that Sr. Faustina had received very little education. Further, she was continually watched by the sisters, so she had to be careful with her notebooks in order to avoid any extra attention. Her writing was done completely in secret. In addition, another great difficulty for her was that the spiritual matters of which she wrote were often almost impossible to describe.

Early in her Diary, she explained her task:

I am to write down the encounters of my soul with You, O God, at the moments of Your special visitations. I am to write about You, O Incomprehensible in mercy towards my poor soul. Your holy will is the life of my soul. 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. O God, can a pen write down that for which many a time there are no words? But You give me the order to write, O God; that is enough for me (Diary, 6).

The young nun’s first writings were put down on loose sheets of paper, but afterwards she wrote in bound notebooks — a total of six notebooks were filled out on both sides of the pages in beautiful penmanship. Father Sopoćko read her writings at the convent. He asked Sr. Faustina to underline Jesus’ words in pencil.

Reading Sr. Faustina’s precious words to Jesus about the writing of the Diary will surely make you smile. It did for me. She wrote, “My Jesus, You see that I do not know how to write well and, on top of that, I don’t even have a good pen. And often it scratches so badly that I must put sentences together, letter by letter. And that is not all. I also have the difficulty of keeping secret from the sisters the things I write down, and so often have to shut my notebook every few minutes and listen patiently to someone’s story, and then the time set aside for writing is gone. And when I shut the notebook suddenly, the ink smears.” She goes on to explain, “I write with the permission of my superiors and at the command of my confessor. It is a strange thing: sometimes the writing goes quite well, but at other times, I can hardly read it myself” (Diary, 839). In spite of coming from someone with very little education under her belt (she had finished less than three grades of school), and who had claimed that she didn’t know “how to write well,” I believe that her description of her writing process is absolutely fabulous!

Saint John Paul II conveyed St. Faustina’s precious relationship with God and her role in communicating Divine Mercy in the Diary when he wrote:

[Saint Faustina] was chosen by Christ to be a particularly enlightened interpreter of the truth of Divine Mercy. For Sister Faustina, this truth led to an extraordinarily rich mystical life. She was a simple, uneducated person, and yet those who read the Diary of her revelations are astounded by the depth of her mystical experience.

The Diary was Burned!
There is no chronological order to the Diary. That is because Sr. Faustina burned all the initial notebooks of her Diary when Fr. Sopoćko went away to the Holy Land for a few weeks in 1934. Satan appeared to Sr. Faustina in the form of an angel, telling her to burn the Diary. Upon his return, Fr. Sopoćko directed Sr. Faustina to rewrite the Diary anew as a penance, which she did, painstakingly keeping everything extremely accurate. She began that task in July 1934. Father explains why there is no chronological order to the Diary. “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. This is why there is no chronological order in her notebooks.”

The Diary continued to flow from Sr. Faustina’s pen in Vilnius and Krakow from 1934 to 1938 as she recalled her mystical experiences and spoke about God’s merciful love for His children. Father Sopoćko was not the only one who had ordered her to write — Jesus also told her to write, many times reminding her not to forget to write certain things. Week after week, Fr. Sopoćko read St. Faustina’s writings and became very united to the message. After all, God had personally chosen him to spiritually direct the Secretary of His Divine Mercy. Yet the well-trained theologian trod prudently because some of what Sr. Faustina had written seemed to him a bit unorthodox. In time, he saw it was all authentic. He would tell Sr. Faustina:

If the things you are telling me really come from God, prepare your soul for great suffering. You will encounter disapproval and persecution. They will look upon you as a hysteric and an eccentric, but the Lord will lavish His graces upon you. True works of God always meet opposition and are marked by suffering. If God wants to accomplish something, sooner or later He will do so in spite of the difficulties. Your part, in the meantime, is to arm yourself with great patience (Diary, 270).

Later, we will discuss his continued role in spreading the Divine Mercy message.

The last of the Diary was written in June 1938, three months before Sr. Faustina’s death. She poured herself out until the end, desiring to help others. “Although I am feeling weak and my nature is clamoring for rest,” nevertheless she said, “I feel the inspiration of grace telling me to take hold of myself and write, write for the comfort of souls, whom I love so much and with whom I will share all eternity. And I desire eternal life for them so ardently that that is why I use all my free moments, no matter how short, for writing in the way that Jesus wishes of me” (Diary, 1471). There are a few blank pages in the Diary. Experts believe that Sr. Faustina left them blank in order to come back to them later. Amazingly, the original manuscript is in very good shape; however, one page is missing. No one knows who tore the page from the notebook, but it is noted as missing in the finished publication.

Mistakes in the Diary
The young mystic did consider that her writings might be read after her death and perhaps give encouragement and consolation to the reader. For that reason, Sr. Faustina attached a note to her writings:

Jesus. Nobody can read the notebooks and notes — Father Andrasz or Rev. Sopoćko must check them first because the notes contain the secrets of my conscience. It is God’s will so that all of that is given to souls for their consolation. Apart from the superiors, the sisters should not be allowed to read the notes until they have been published. Krakow, retreat, 3 April 1938, Sister Faustina.

Saint Faustina’s writings remained in the congregation’s custody after her death. Access to the writings would have been only by permission of the general superior, though practically no one knew about the Diary. But something tragic would happen to the mystic’s writings. The notebooks were transcribed and typed by order of the Mother General, Michael Moraczewska. Unfortunately, it was not done with accuracy, resulting in mistakes too numerous to count. Words were left out; the message was misinterpreted and “corrected” into error. Saint Faustina often included Jesus’ words within her own sentences, which caused some confusion in the later typescripts that did not have her pencil marks to differentiate Jesus’ words from her own. Because of these tragic mistakes, the Diary was initially viewed as heretical. The erroneous typescript was translated into Italian. In 1959, the Holy See banned the spreading of the Divine Mercy message and devotion in the forms conveyed by Sr. Faustina.

Sister Faustina foresaw that there would be a time that the work of Divine Mercy would encounter a most serious problem, when it would be “as though utterly undone.” One time when she was speaking with Fr. Sopoćko, she suddenly had an interior vision about his great suffering — “such agony that God touches very few souls with such fire. The suffering arises from this work.” She was enlightened about what would happen with the Divine Mercy message, but she also knew it would eventually be saved. She wrote, “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” (Diary, 378).

Fortunately, the manuscript was transcribed a second time for the Informative Process, part of the investigation needed for Sr. Faustina’s beatification. This was done from the original. It was carefully collated by Fr. Isidore Borkiewicz, OFM Conv, and Sr. Beata Piekut, OLM. The translation and typescript were certified by the Metropolitan Curia in Krakow on October 19, 1967. The photocopies of the original manuscript were also sent to Rome. Vice-Promoter of the Faith Fr. George Mrówczynski and Sr. Beata Piekut, OLM, prepared this copy of the Diary, along with footnotes and indices, all of which was sent to Fr. Anthony Mruk, SJ, the general postulator (or the person in charge of pursuing the canonization of a particular person) working on the beatification process in Rome. The work was later published in Polish in Rome for the first time in 1981, and then in Poland. This accurate edition has been the source text for any further translations.

Cherished by Catholics around the globe, the Diary, now translated into more than 20 languages, has become one of the most widely-read religious books in the world. The writings are derived from the instruction of Jesus Christ Himself; St. Faustina’s spiritual director, Fr. Sopoćko; and the young mystic’s own spirit of obedience and love, desiring to fulfill the mission of Divine Mercy by getting the essential message out to the world through painstakingly recording all of her experiences as best she could. The Diary is recognized in the Roman Breviary as “among the outstanding works of mystical literature.”

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



You might also like...

Saint Faustina was to tell the world about the great mercy of God for each and every soul. Here are the ways you can do it. 

Call upon Mother Mary and ask for her guidance in carrying out your works of mercy this week. She will help you.

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.