The Feast of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament

By Marc Massery

On Oct. 5, 2019, eight buses containing hundreds of pilgrims descended upon the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Polish mystic who received visions of Christ the Divine Mercy in the 1930s. 

The Very Reverend Fr. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, Provincial Superior of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception — the official promoters of the Divine Mercy message and devotion — started off the events of the day in the St. Faustina Welcome Center with a personal witness and talk about the spirituality of St. Faustina. Father Kaz has been familiar with St. Faustina’s Diary for about 40 years. “It has been a long time, a long time,” he marveled. 

Father Kaz said that the Marians have been publishing literature about St. Faustina in Stockbridge from as far back as 1943, only a couple years after copies of St. Faustina’s Diary first came to the United States from Poland. He got involved with Divine Mercy in 1979, the same year the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith lifted the temporary ban on spreading devotion to Divine Mercy as described by St. Faustina. Father Seraphim Michaelenko, MIC, the vice postulator for the cause of the canonization of St. Faustina asked Fr. Kaz, who hadn't even become a member of the Marians yet, to help prepare St. Faustina’s Diary for publication.  

“It was here right in Stockbridge, right there about 100 feet away right in that building, which is known as the Marian Helpers Center. I was sitting there in that room facing this very place and working on the Diary. We had a photographic copy of the Diary, and we were trying to publish it here in book form,” he said.  

Before the advent of computers, Fr. Kaz’s job was to proofread her script for errors. “So, here I was forced to read the Diary. I have to say ‘forced’ because it was not my intention,” he said. “… but my priesthood, my religious life has been so powerfully influenced by [St. Faustina’s Diary] that I don’t think I can imagine my life without it.” 

In 1987, Fr. Kaz and the Marian Father’s publishing arm Marian Press published the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, and it became an instant spiritual classic. It has since been read by hundreds of thousands of Catholics all over the world.

Most amazing to Fr. Kaz was that St. Faustina had less than an eighth-grade education. “Who would ever believe two and a half years of education would [lead to] 600 pages plus of incredible mystical content?” he asked. 

Understanding the Need for St. Faustina

Father Kaz attributes St. Faustina’s spiritual wisdom to her profound belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist — the essence of her spirituality. 

“Jesus left Himself to us in the Eucharist to be with us till the end of time. … [St. Faustina] took this seriously and literally because it’s true. That’s where her spirituality grew. … The Eucharist gave her the capacity to enter into this profound union with God,” he said. 

On account of St. Faustina's close union with God, Fr. Kaz went on to explain how she displayed profound spiritual gifts, including that of prophecy. She predicted World War II, the destruction of Warsaw, her own canonization, and the temporary ban on Divine Mercy, as well as the subsequent explosion of devotion to Divine Mercy throughout the world. 

Father Kaz said that she wouldn’t have attained such closeness with God, or such spiritual gifts, without her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, St. Faustina’s full religious name was "St. Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament."

“Today, 70 percent of Catholics don’t believe in Real Presence according to latest polls,” Fr. Kaz said. “… The secularism of today has diminished our awareness of the supernatural, to such a great extent, that the most powerful tools of communication tell us there’s no supernatural order.” 

Indeed, St. Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament is a saint for our times. Following the talk, Beth Knee of Palmer, Massachusetts, who “can’t stay away from the Shrine” because she loves it so much, said “Everything [Fr. Kaz] said is true — people have lost understanding of the Sacraments and the Eucharist.”

After the talk, Fr. Kaz showed a preview for the movie "Love and Mercy Faustina," a docudrama about the life and spirituality of St. Faustina and the message of Divine Mercy. It will appear in theaters nationwide on Oct. 28 for one night only (and perhaps more depending on attendance). 

Venerating St. Faustina

The next events of the day took place at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine with Adoration, recitation of the Rosary, Confessions, and celebration of the Mass. In his homily, the rector of the Shrine, Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, also talked about the connection between St. Faustina, Divine Mercy, and the Blessed Sacrament.  

“Receiving Holy Communion is receiving Divine Mercy itself,” Fr. Anthony said. “Our Church desperately needs Divine Mercy. ... We need to invoke Divine Mercy, the rays of mercy to heal our beloved Church, to heal humankind, to heal souls in the depths of sin . ... prayer is so needed today in sacrifice and suffering, and that’s what St. Faustina has shown us in our life. She’s there to take our prayers to God and help aching humanity to receive the mercy of God.”

After Mass, the day’s events concluded with a special presentation by the Apostolate of Holy Relics: a prayer program consisting of quotes from St. Faustina’s Diary and an opportunity for pilgrims to venerate three special relics of St. Faustina. The relics included a piece of her bone, a piece of her veil, and a piece of her rope and habit intertwined with another piece of her bone. Also, on display for veneration was a relic of the True Cross. Hundreds of pilgrims waited in line to get their chance to kiss or touch these relics, in the hopes of becoming a little more like St. Faustina, a little more like Jesus the Divine Mercy. 

Pilgrim Mary Ferg of New Freedom, Pennsylvania, who was visiting the Shrine for the sixth time since 2016, said, “Every time I leave the Shrine, I can't wait to go back. Divine Mercy just keeps transforming my heart, and St. Faustina is an amazing intercessor.”

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