Striving for Sanctity

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

“The more I come to know Him, the more ardently, the more fiercely I love Him, and the more perfect my acts become.” — Diary, 231

In this week’s spiritual exercise, we delve into the universal call to holiness. We will follow Sr. Faustina’s progression in her spiritual life and her desire to become a saint. In addition, we are enlightened about an extraordinary encounter that Sr. Faustina had with another saint whom she loved dearly! Let’s take a look.

Sister Faustina had possessed a deep desire to become a saint ever since she was a little girl. Amazingly, one time she had the opportunity to ask another saint about it! One night during her novitiate in Lagiewniki, Sr. Faustina was going through some great difficulties that, she wrote, she “did not know how to overcome.” During this “dark night,” she decided to make novenas to various saints. Suddenly, it occurred to her to pray a novena to St. Thérèse of Lisieux, to whom she was greatly devoted. On the fifth day of the novena, Sr. Faustina had an intense, vivid dream in which she saw St. Thérèse “as if she were still living on earth” (Diary, 150). She reassured Sr. Faustina that her great trial would be resolved in three days.

During the conversation, Sr. Faustina did not hesitate to ask St. Thérèse if she, Faustina, would someday become a saint.

“Yes, you will be a saint,” Thérèse answered.

But Sr. Faustina wanted to know more. “But, little Thérèse, shall I be a saint as you are, raised to the altar?”

The Little Flower responded, “Yes, you will be a saint just as I am, but you must trust in the Lord Jesus” (Diary, 150).

How interesting that St. Thérèse spoke to the future St. Faustina about the need to trust Jesus! It’s not likely that you or I will have that same type of opportunity to ask a saint about our future. Also, it is certainly edifying to learn of this beautiful conversation between the two saints — one who had already been raised to the honors of the altar and the other a saint in the making who had long had a desire to become a saint in order to aid the Church. In particular, Sr. Faustina would ultimately carry out the great mission to teach the world about Divine Mercy.

All of our journeys to holiness include trials and tribulations to help us grow and urge us to seek our Lord even more deeply. In the fall of 1936, a sister working in the infirmary with Sr. Faustina did not believe the murmurings about Sr. Faustina’s mystical experiences. This sister snarled in anger at Faustina, accusing her of being a hysteric who wanted to be coddled.

“Sister, you want to be a saint?” Sr. Chrysostom Korczak asked sarcastically. Before Sr. Faustina could say a word, Sr. Chrysostom fired away, “Pigs will fly before that’ll happen.” It might seem a little funny to think that the skeptical sister actually said this to the virtuous St. Faustina. But what did Sr. Faustina say in return? “Sister, I love you even more.” 

We can imagine that Sr. Faustina practiced heroic virtue in that moment. Perhaps she was even thankful that bad things were being said about her so that she could lovingly offer them in reparation to her sweet Lord Jesus. That act of love would help her own soul, the soul of the unpleasant sister, and be used in reparation for sinners in need of mercy. Every saint in the making undergoes many a trial. Their response to these challenges is the stuff that eventually makes them a saint. God will grant the graces. We must not forget to ask for them.

Sister Faustina wrote in her fifth notebook, “I am striving for sanctity, because in this way I shall be useful to the Church. I make constant efforts in practicing virtue. I try faithfully to follow Jesus.” Further, she stated that she made constant efforts to practice the virtues in order to become holy. She added, “And I deposit this whole series of daily virtues — silent, hidden, almost imperceptible, but made with great love — in the treasury of God’s Church for the common benefit of souls.” Faustina continued, “I feel interiorly as if I were responsible for all souls. I know very well that I do not live for myself alone, but for the entire Church ...” (Diary, 1505). These are important and helpful words to ponder.

While most reading this are probably members of the laity, who might not feel called to such an intense interior life as Sr. Faustina, a consecrated religious sister, it is important to recognize that every single one of us is called by God to strive for sanctity. Living virtuous lives will not only help our own souls, but also certainly edify others and help them desire to come closer to God. Sister Faustina expressed that she felt responsible for “all souls.” When the Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima, she told us that we need to be responsible for other souls and that our prayers can also help sinners in danger of going to hell. We are truly together on this journey through life. We must help one another.

Sister Faustina didn’t become a saint overnight. Just like any other saint, she needed to put forth the effort to become holy. Yes, she received great graces, but she also had to choose to act upon them and use her will to overcome the obstacles and challenges that beset her. One of St. Faustina’s spiritual directors, Fr. Joseph Andrasz, SJ, gave a testimony about Sr. Faustina. He attested that she “worked very hard on obtaining such virtues as purity of heart, humility, patience, conscientiousness, obedience, poverty, gentleness, diligence, active love of one’s neighbor, interior recollection, deep piety, and above all love toward God,” he explained.

And lest we think that she was so gifted and graced that everything was effortless, he made sure to say, “One should not think that she acquired these virtues — especially at their higher levels — without any difficulty. There is no doubt that she had her own petty sins that she fell into occasionally, whether in speech or in relationships with others, or in reacting with impatience, in minor vanities, or some small imperfections at work. ... She confessed them and sincerely asked God for forgiveness, but recovered from them with vigor. She mentions this in her Diary.” We are all works in progress, all called to improve and grow in holiness every day. Father Andrasz’s testimony reminds us that even many of the saints struggle with their fallen humanity throughout their lives and are prone to imperfection. It’s truly within the nitty gritty details of life that we work on our imperfections with God’s grace. In life’s ordinary moments, we can become more virtuous and pleasing to God, as well as radiant Christian examples to others. A lot depends upon our responses to everything that unfolds in our life. Will we be open to God’s grace? Will we try to improve our attitudes and responses to the call to holiness? Father Andrasz added, “And although she gave into those imperfections from time to time (because holiness in this world, even heroic holiness, is not yet heavenly holiness), these shortcomings became less frequent and even smaller, while the lovely owers of the virtues grew in her more and more beautifully.”

Something to Ponder

Do you also feel a sense of responsibility for souls? Maybe we don’t feel a responsibility for all souls, like St. Faustina felt. Yet we should feel a great need to help other souls by striving to live a life of holiness and remembering others in fervent prayers. Yes, Sr. Faustina has much to teach us. We might also ponder, “Do I trust the Lord Jesus, as St. Thérèse asked of St. Faustina?”

The quote beginning this week’s teaching states, “The more I come to know Him, the more ardently, the more fiercely I love Him, and the more perfect my acts become.”

• Do you love our Lord more and more?

• Do you offer everything with “great love”?

• Or do you complain and quibble along the way, or even hold back your love?

• Finally, do you accept God’s will?

Learning to accept the will of God is an essential and foundational step in your spiritual journey.

A Merciful Action

We must make efforts each day to help others get to Heaven. One way is to pray for sinners, as Our Lady of Fatima requested of the three shepherd children and the world. In her Diary, St. Faustina used the analogy of soldiers in battle when explaining how our prayers can help others. She said: “We will bear in mind that a soldier on the front line cannot hold out long without support from the rear forces that do not actually take part in the fighting but provide for all his needs; and that such is the role of prayer, and that therefore each one of us is to be distinguished by an apostolic spirit” (Diary, 539).

Be a holy example to your family, neighbors, and communities. Many times, it is not your words that can help change hearts, but your loving, merciful actions, empowered by God’s amazing and merciful grace. Do you have an “apostolic spirit,” as Sr. Faustina mentions? If not, pray for the graces to obtain this spirit. Pray also to be more generous with your time praying for others. Offer your merciful actions this week to Jesus with great love.

A PRAYER OF MERCY FOR THIS WEEK

(To be prayed each day this week.)

Dear Merciful Jesus, please grant me the graces to accept and trust Your holy will in my life and to offer my virtuous actions with great love to You. Help me to be a vessel of love and mercy to everyone. Mother Mary, please guide me closer to your Son, Jesus. Saint Faustina and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, 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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