St. Faustina Shows Us Where to Find and How to Serve Our Merciful Lord

The following is part of a series of articles prepared by renowned experts in the writings and spirituality of St. Faustina, namely: Robert Stackpole, STD, director, John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy; Very Rev. Kazimierz Chwalek, MIC, provincial superior of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception; and Rev. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, vice-postulator of the Cause for the Canonization of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. For Sr. Faustina, life as a Catholic is filled with well-springs of divine grace that are available to the soul at every step of her life journey, and filled with opportunities to serve the Kingdom of our Savior and Lord. Thus, we continue our survey of her life, teachings, and spirituality by looking at how she received Divine Love, and shared it with others. a) Experiencing Divine Mercy: the sacraments, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the elements of the devotion Saint Faustina's devotion to The Divine Mercy found its center and wellspring in the Holy Eucharist. It was from this "source and summit" of the Christian life (Catechism, 1324) that she drew all the graces that she needed for her apostolate and her growth in sanctity. As she tells us in her Diary:


All the good that is in me is due to Holy Communion .... Herein lies the whole secret of my sanctity .... One thing alone sustains me, and that is Holy Communion. From it I draw my strength; in it is all my comfort .... Jesus concealed in the host is everything to me .... I would not know how to give glory to God if I did not have the Eucharist in my heart .... O living Host, my one and only strength, fountain of love and mercy, embrace the whole world and fortify faint souls. Oh, blessed be the instant and the moment when Jesus left us his most merciful Heart! (1392, 1489, 1037, 223)

As a result, Sr. Faustina had a special love for the Holy Eucharist, manifest in her chosen religious name: "Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament." Her fellow sisters remembered how she would often interrupt her work for a brief moment to go to the Chapel and pray before the presence of Jesus in the tabernacle. It was at the moment of consecration during the Mass, or immediately after receiving Holy Communion, that she often would be plunged into a mystical state of infused contemplation, sometimes accompanied by interior locutions or visions. Saint Faustina experienced the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a special source of spiritual healing, and a unique encounter with the merciful love of Christ. The most remarkable teaching that our Lord gave to St. Faustina about this sacrament she recorded in her Diary, entry 1448. Jesus said to her:

Write, speak of My mercy. Tell souls where they are to look for solace, that is, in the Tribunal of Mercy [the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated. To avail oneself of this miracle, it is not necessary to go on a great pilgrimage, or to carry out some external ceremony; it suffices to come with faith to the feet of My representative and to reveal to Him one's misery, and the miracle of Divine Mercy will be fully demonstrated. Were souls like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full.

The Catechism teaches that a good confession brings about a true "spiritual resurrection" within us - an Easter morning for the soul (Catechism, 1446). That is precisely what Jesus taught St. Faustina as well: Even if our hearts are as dead from sin as a lifeless corpse, still, the miraculous power of Divine Mercy that flows through this sacrament can restore that soul completely, to new life, and fresh hope. According to St. Faustina, the graces of healing that flow from this sacrament are truly amazing. In Diary entry 1602, Jesus revealed to her that confession is a personal, life-giving encounter with Jesus Himself:

Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrents of grace inundate humble souls.

Sister Faustina regarded the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the most trustworthy guide to her Son. She therefore consecrated to the Mother of God all of her concerns. Indeed, for Faustina Mary was not only her tender spiritual Mother, but also the true model of trustful surrender to Divine Mercy:

O Mary, my mother and my Lady, I offer you my soul, my body, my life, my death, and all that will follow it. I place everything in your hands. O my Mother, cover my soul with your virginal mantle, and grant me the grace of purity of heart, soul, and body. Defend me with your power against all enemies. (Diary, 79) O sweet Mother of God, I model my life on You. You are for me the bright dawn; In You I lose myself enraptured. O Mother, Immaculate Virgin, In you the divine ray is reflected, Midst storms, 'tis You who teach me to love the Lord, O my shield and defense from the foe. (Diary, 1232, cf. 874)

Through the special revelations given by Our Lord to St. Faustina, the Church has received several additional ways in which the faithful can experience afresh the merciful love of God: The Image of The Divine Mercy, The Feast, and The Divine Mercy Chaplet. It is worth noting that each of these elements of her devotion to the merciful God is rooted in Holy Scripture, and in the liturgical and sacramental theology of the Church. The Chaplet, for example, is essentially an intercessory prayer offered in union with the offering of Christ to the Father at every Mass "Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world" (Diary, 476; cf. 1 Jn 2:2). It is entirely from the Eucharist, therefore, that the Chaplet receives its extraordinary intercessory power: "[Jesus said to her] I desire to grant unimaginable graces to those souls who trust in My mercy .... Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will" (687 and 1731). The Feast of The Divine Mercy was appointed by Our Lord for the one solemnity in the liturgical calendar - the Octave Day of Easter - already focused on the celebration of the Mercy of God (Diary, 341 and 699). This finds expression, for example, in the traditional scripture readings for the day (e.g., Ps 118; 1 Pet 1:3-9; Jn 20: 19-51), and the traditional Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter: "God of everlasting Mercy ...." Indeed, Sacred Tradition always recognized this solemnity as an extraordinary day of grace for the Church, pointing forward to the final triumph of the mercy of God at the end of time. St. Gregory of Nazianzen testified to this when he wrote:

That Sunday [that is, Easter Sunday] is that of salvation; this [one, that is, the Octave Day] is the anniversary of salvation; that [one, Easter Sunday] was the frontier between the burial and resurrection of Christ; this [one, the Octave Day] is purely [entirely that] of the second creation, so that, as the first creation began on a Sunday (this is perfectly clear: for the Sabbath falls seven days after it, being repose from works), so the second creation began on the same day [that is, a Sunday] , which is at once the first in relation to those that come after it, and the eighth in relation to those before it, more sublime than the sublime day, and more wonderful than the wonderful day: for it is related to the life above. (On the Ogdoad, XLIV, 608, C; cf. The Apostolic Constitutions, V.20)

The Image of The Divine Mercy, which our Lord asked to be venerated especially on the Feast of The Divine Mercy itself (Diary, 47 and 88) reflects three moments of biblical salvation history: the Lord appearing to his apostles in the Upper Room on Easter Sunday night (Jn 20:19-31); the blood and water flowing from the wounded side of Christ on the Cross (Jn 19:31-37); and the blessing of the People of Israel by the High Priest of the Great Temple in Jerusalem, immediately after the offering of the sacrificial blood at "The Mercy Seat" in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:1-4 and Sir 50: 18-21). By uniting these three key moments of salvation history, the Image of The Divine Mercy fulfills the highest ideals of sacred art. Cardinal Josef Ratzinger (later, Pope Benedict XVI) explained these ideals in his famous work, The Spirit of the Liturgy, and the correspondence between his words and the Image of the Divine Mercy is truly remarkable:

Let us ... identify the fundamental principles of an art ordered to divine worship .... (T)he icon of Christ is the center of sacred iconography. The center of the icon of Christ is the Paschal Mystery: Christ is presented as the Crucified, the risen Lord, the One who will come again and who here and now hiddenly reigns over all. Every image of Christ must contain these three essential aspects of the mystery of Christ and, in this sense, must be an image of Easter. (Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000, pp. 131-132)

In short, the elements of the devotion to The Divine Mercy given to us through St. Faustina echo the Paschal Mystery, direct us to the mystery of the Eucharist, and amplify the biblical witness to the Mercy of God. b) The works of mercy A renewed faith in God's mercy, and a transforming experience of God's merciful love ought to lead us to a deeper commitment to be merciful to others. The practice of the works of mercy, therefore, both spiritual and corporal, were the goal and fruit of St. Faustina's spiritual life, as well a gospel command: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Lk 6:36). Sister Faustina knew very well that it is only hearts that have been transformed by the mercy of Jesus Christ that are fully equipped to share it with others, and so she prayed constantly for the gift of a merciful, compassionate heart:

O Jesus, I understand that Your mercy is beyond all imagining, and therefore I ask You to make my heart so big that there will be room in it for the needs of all souls living on the face of the earth ... and the souls suffering in purgatory. ... Make my heart sensitive to all the sufferings of my neighbor, whether of body or of soul. O my Jesus, I know that You act toward us as we act toward our neighbor. ... Make my heart like unto Your merciful Heart. (Diary, 692, cf. 163, 742, 1317 and 1688)

As a result, Sr. Faustina was noted in her community for her special care for the poor who came to the convent seeking food, for the sick and infirm, and for the dying. She was also especially beloved by the destitute girls whom the sisters trained and educated at their religious houses. One time she even experienced an apparition of the Lord Jesus himself under the guise of a hungry beggar seeking food, a young man who had come to the convent door when she was serving there as portress. Afterward, Jesus said to her:

My daughter, the blessings of the poor who bless Me as they leave this gate have reached My ears. And your compassion, within the bounds of obedience, has pleased Me, and this is why I came down from My throne - to taste the fruits of your mercy. (Diary, 1312, cf. Mt 25:31-46)

Saint Faustina wisely divided the duty to be merciful to others into three forms - by prayer, by word, and by deed. At our Savior's command, she correctly prioritized them as a basis for a plan of action:

You Yourself command me to exercise the three degrees of mercy. The first, the act of mercy, of whatever kind. The second: the word of mercy - if I cannot carry out a work of mercy, I will assist by my words. The third: prayer - if I cannot show mercy by deeds or words, I can always do so by prayer. My prayer reaches out even there where I cannot reach out physically. O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself, for You can do all things. (Diary, 163)

At the heart of her teaching on the works of mercy, therefore, remains the profound hope that it is Jesus living in us and through us who can enable us to follow the merciful Way:

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor. (Diary, 163)

Please see our petition to have St. Faustina declared a Doctor of the Church. Next time: The Many Streams of the Spirituality of St. Faustina See this entire series.

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