Biography of St Faustina Kowalska
Apostle of Divine Mercy, Prophet of Our Times, Great Mystic, Mistress of Spiritual Life – these are the epithets usually appended to the name of Sister Faustina Kowalska, St Faustyna (Faustina), of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Sister Faustina Kowalska is one of the Church’s most popular and widely known saints and the greatest mystics in the history of the Church.
Sister Faustina Kowalska was born on 25 August 1905 in Głogowiec, Poland to Marianna and Stanisław Kowalski as the third of ten children. Two days later she was baptized with the name Helena in the parish church of Świnice Warckie.
At the age of nine, she made her first Holy Communion. She attended elementary school for merely three years and then she went to work as a housekeeper in various well–to–do families in Aleksandrów and Łódź.
From the age of seven, she had felt the calling for religious vocation, but her parents would not give her permission to enter the convent. However, impelled by the vision of the Suffering Christ, in July 1924 she left for Warsaw to find a place. For another year she worked as a housekeeper to save some money for a modest monastic trousseau. On 1 August 1925 she entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw on Żytnia St.
She lived in the Congregation for thirteen years, staying in many houses, the longest time (she spent) in Kraków, Płock and Vilnius; working as a cook, shop assistant in baker’s shop, gardener, and portress.
She suffered from tuberculosis of the lungs and alimentary system and that is why for over 8 months stayed at the hospital in Kraków – Prądnik. Greater sufferings from those which were caused by tuberculosis, she offered as a voluntary sacrifice for sinners and as the Apostle of Divine Mercy. She experienced also many extraordinary graces such as: apparitions, ecstasies, the gift of bilocation, hidden stigmata, reading into human souls, the mystical betrothal and nuptials.
Sister Faustina’s principal task was to pass on to the Church and world the Message of Mercy, a recapitulation of the Biblical truth of God’s Merciful Love for every human being, and a calling to each of us to entrust our lives to Him and to actively love our neighbour.
Jesus not only revealed the depth of His Mercy to St. Faustina, but also gave her new forms of worship: the picture inscribed Jesus, I trust in You, the Feast of Divine Mercy, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and the Prayer in the Hour of His Death on the Cross, the Hour of Mercy.
To each of these forms of worship, as well as to the preaching of the message of Mercy, He attached great promises, on condition that we care about the attitude of trust in God that is to fulfill His will and show mercy to our neighbours.
Sister Faustina died in Krakow on October 5, 1938, at the age of just thirty–three.
Out of her charism and mystical experience grew the Apostolic Movement of the Divine Mercy which continues her mission, proclaiming the message of Mercy to the world through the testimony of life, deed, words and prayer.
On April 18, 1993, the Holy Father John Paul II raised her to the glory of the altars and on April 30, 2000, numbered her among the saints of the Church. Her relics are in the Shrine of the Divine Mercy at Łagiewniki, Kraków.
The Holy Father John Paul II wrote that in the age of totalitarianisms Sister Faustina became the ambassador of the message that the only power strong enough to counteract their evil is the truth of God’s Mercy.
He called her Diary a Gospel of Mercy written from a 20th-century perspective, which has helped people to survive the extremely painful experiences of these times. This message, Pope Benedict XVI has said, the message of Mercy as the Divine Power, as God putting a check on all the world’s evil, is indeed the chief message of our times.
The picture of the Merciful Jesus has been one of the most well-known images of the crucified and risen Christ in the history of the Church and in the contemporary world.
This is an unusual picture not only because of the fact that it is the most popular one but, above all, because the Lord Jesus Himself is its coauthor. On the 22th February, 1931, in a cell of the convent of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Płock, He appeared to Sister Faustina – she saw Him just as He is represented in the image and He commanded her to paint His picture according to the vision.
She wrote about this in her ‚Diary’: In the evening, when I was in my cell I saw he Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in the gesture of blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From beneath the garment, slightly drawn aside at the breast, there were emanating two large rays, one red, the other pale (…) After a while, Jesus said to me: ‚Paint an image according to the pattern you see: with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You’. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel and [then]throughout the world (Diary 47).
Thus, the image was painted because Jesus Himself had desired that. The picture is both a sign and a visual synthesis of the whole Divine Mercy message, which He conveyed by Sister Faustina. On the one hand it reminds us of the mystery of God’s merciful love for man revealed in the Holy Scriptures, it exhorts us to form the Christian attitude of trust towards Him and mercy towards neighbour and, on the other hand, it is a vessel for drawing graces to which He attached many promises.
A general promise of all possible graces and rewards in this world (provided that they are in accordance with God’s will) as well as specific promises: the grace of eternal salvation, great progress on the path of Christian perfection and the grace of peaceful death – these are the promises Jesus attached to a prayer said in front of the image on condition that it is said with trust and that it is conjoined to deeds of mercy towards neighbour.
What the Lord Jesus said to Sister Faustina Kowalska shows how great the graces attached to this prayer are: By saying the chaplet you are bringing humankind closer to Me (Diary 929).
The Lord Jesus attached great promises to this prayer provided that the conditions of the correct devotion to the Divine Mercy are met, that is, the spirit of trusting God and being merciful towards neighbour is required. Perseverance in praying is an expression of this trust; the greater the trust is, the greater the perseverance in saying the Chaplet is. The Lord Jesus said to Sister Faustina that by saying the Chaplet one can obtain everything.
However, apart from the grace of a good death, He has never claimed that everything can be obtained immediately, having said the prayer once.
The Lord Jesus attached a promise of obtaining all graces to the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy said with trust – He said: It pleases Me to grant everything they [people] ask of Me by saying the chaplet (Diary 1541), adding: if (…) [it] is compatible with My will (Diary 1731). God’s will is an expression of His love for man, thus everything that is not compatible with it is either bad or harmful.
Apart from the general promise, there are promises that concern the hour of death, and to be more precise: the grace of a happy and peaceful death, in other words, death in the state of grace and without experiencing fear and terror. These graces can be obtained not only by those who say the Chaplet with trust themselves but also the dying by whose bedside others will say this prayer.
How to pray Chaplet of Divine Mercy
Begin with: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
On the ﬁve large beads:
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.
On the ten small beads:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Conclude with (3 times):
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
Hour of Mercy
The hour of the Lord Jesus’ death, 3pm, is a privileged time as regards the devotion to the Divine Mercy. At that hour, in spirit we stand beneath Christ’s cross in order to entreat for mercy for us and the whole world for the sake of the merits of His passion.
The Lord Jesus said to Sister Faustina: “At three o’clock implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy for the whole world” (Diary 1320). Immediately, it needs to be explained that what is meant here is not sixty minutes but the moment of Jesus’ agony on the cross, therefore – the prayer at 3pm.
It is frequently written and said that the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy must be said at 3 pm and that the Chaplet said at that time has a special power. It is thought so due to lack of knowledge of the devotion to the Divine Mercy in the forms conveyed by Sister Faustina and maybe due to the need for a ready-made wording of the prayer.
The prayer at the Hour of Mercy is a separate form of devotion to the Divine Mercy. Jesus associated a specific promise with it and He also said how it should be said. He never mentioned that the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy should be said at that hour.
Certainly, at 3pm we can say the Chaplet, as at any other hour during the day and night, however then we do not say the prayer at the Hour of Mercy (but we say the Chaplet).
The Chaplet to the Divine Mercy cannot be the prayer at the Hour of Mercy because it is directed to God the Father (Eternal father, I offer you…), and the prayer at the Hour of Mercy is to be addressed to Jesus directly.
The prayer at the Hour of Mercy when said regularly makes us start having a personal, direct contact with Jesus because it tells us to: meditate upon His Mercy revealed in the Passion, address to Him in a direct manner, like to a very close person, and, it tells us, for the sake of the merits of His Passion, to entreat Him for the graces necessary for us and the world.
The Feast of Mercy
The Feast of Mercy is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter, that is on the Second Sunday of Easter, which is called the Divine Mercy Sunday today. On the day of Sister Faustina’s canonization, 30th April 2000, the Pope instituted the feast for the whole Church.
The institution of the feast was inspired by a desire of Jesus which was conveyed by Sister Faustina. The Lord Jesus told her: I desire that the first Sunday after Easter be the Feast of Mercy (Diary 299).
I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender Mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My Mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.
On that day all the divine floodgates through which graces flow are opened (Diary 699). In many revelations the Lord Jesus did not only define the place of the feast in the liturgical calendar of the Church but also the reason for its institution, the way it should be prepared, celebrated, and He also spoke about the great promises.
The greatest of them is the grace of complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. It is connected with Holy Communion received on that day, following a good Confession (without any attachment to the smallest sin), in the spirit of the devotion to the Divine Mercy, that is, trusting God and loving neighbour actively.
Basically, the most special grace is greater than the graces of the 6 sacraments, apart from the sacrament of baptism, since only the sacramental grace of the holy baptism is the forgiveness of all sins and punishment. However, as far as these promises are concerned, Christ associated the remission of sins and punishment with Holy Communion received during the Feast of Mercy, therefore, as regards this, He raised it to the rank of the ‚second baptism’.
In preparation for this feast we are to recite the novena which consists in saying the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy for 9 days. The novena begins on Good Friday. The Lord Jesus said to Sister Faustina: The Feast of My Mercy has issued forth from My very depths for the consolation of the whole world (Diary 1517).
Spreading of Devotion to The Divine Mercy
Souls who spread the honour of My mercy I shield through their entire lives as a tender mother her infant, and at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them, but the Merciful Saviour (Diary 1075). This is what the Lord Jesus promised to everyone who will proclaim His Mercy, spread its honour in any way.
Priests can rejoice at His additional promise: Hardened sinners will repent on hearing their words when they speak about My unfathomable mercy, about the compassion I have for them in My Heart.
To priests who proclaim and extol My mercy, I will give wondrous power; I will anoint their words and touch the hearts of those to whom they will speak (Diary 1521).
These promises show how important it is to spread the honour of the Divine Mercy since Jesus promises His maternal care, during the lifetime and at the hour of death, to everyone who will undertake this task. Therefore, apart from the Image, Feast, Chaplet and Hour of Mercy, spreading honour of the Divine Mercy is also a form of the Devotion, because Jesus also attached promises to it and the promises pertain to all people.
Spreading honour of the Mercy, that is, proclaiming the mystery of the Divine Mercy, most fully revealed in the crucified and risen Christ, by the testimony of life, deeds, words and prayer is not only to show the road to a beautiful and happy life on earth but also, and maybe first of all, it is to serve the work of salvation and sanctification of the world as well as it is to prepare humanity for Christ’s second coming to earth:.
Coming to know the mystery of the Divine Mercy
In order to preach God’s merciful love and make it present in the world in various manners (by the way we live, by deed, word and prayer), first of all, it is necessary to come to know this most beautiful mystery of our faith – by reading the Bible – and it is essential to search for signs of this love in our life and in the world continuously.
This is what Sister Faustina Kowalska did. Obeying the monastic rule, first she pondered on God’s goodness in the work of creation, salvation, in the Holy Church, in the word of God and in the sacraments, in man’s vocation to union with God already on earth and throughout eternity…
Every day, in everything that happened, she tried to see the loving hand of God. Coming to know the mystery of the Divine Mercy in this way led her to the conclusion that in man’s life everything that is good comes from God and is a gift of His merciful love.
In the ‚Diary’ she wrote: Your mercy runs through our life like a golden thread and maintains in good order the contact of our being with God. For He does not need anything to make Him happy; so everything is solely the work of His mercy.
My senses are transfixed with joy when God grants me a deeper awareness of that great attribute of His; namely, His unfathomable mercy (Diary 1466). She came to know the Divine Mercy by means of her natural powers of intellect and will, which God strengthened by the gift of contemplation. Thanks to this, she was able to penetrate the mystery extremely deeply – in order to proclaim it to the world successfully.
As Sister Faustina’s testimony of life shows, intellectual knowledge of this truth of faith does not suffice to preach about the mystery of the Divine Mercy to the world effectively – it is necessary to live on this truth every day.
Therefore, while teaching Sister Faustina, many times the Lord Jesus encouraged her not only to meditate on His merciful love and goodness, but also, above all, to imitate His merciful attitude towards people. He said: My daughter, look into My Merciful Heart and reflect its compassion in your own heart and in your deeds, so that you, who proclaim My mercy to the world, may yourself be aflame with it (Diary 1688).
Preaching the message of mercy
Above all, Sister Faustina spread the honour of the Mercy by the testimony of her life in the spirit of trust in God and mercy towards neighbour. Solicitude for growing in this spirit every day requires that we work on ourselves properly, nurture our spiritual life, make efforts to fulfil the will of God faithfully and do good to neighbour at every opportunity.
A person who trusts God (fulfils His will) and performs acts of mercy is a living image of the Divine Mercy because everyone who looks at this sign knows that God is good, that it is worth trusting Him and imitating His merciful love for people. Being merciful towards neighbour, whether a matter is of little or great importance, is a sign that is especially powerful.
This is the strongest argument by means of which the honour of the Divine Mercy is preached successfully. The testimony of one’s life in this spirit is the first, fundamental way of spreading honour of the Divine Mercy.
However, the testimony of one’s life only does not suffice. What is necessary is also to proclaim the Divine Mercy by word. Sister Faustina took every opportunity to speak about God’s goodness and to encourage people to trust Him whenever she was with them.
She preached the Divine Mercy message not only by the spoken word but also by writing. At the Lord Jesus’ command she kept her diary in which she wrote down mighty works of God which He had done in her life and in the world.
By means of her ‚Diary’ she has been telling the world about the Divine Mercy mystery: how good God is, how much He cares about man, his earthly and eternal happiness; she has been calling us to trust God’s mercy and to live in the spirit of mercy.
The task of proclaiming the Divine Mercy by word is usually associated with ‚public’ works: it is associated with a sermon, religious instruction at school, radio or TV broadcasts, books, press articles etc.
However, most frequently we have opportunities to do that in the daily life, when we meet, speak with a person. We proclaim the Divine Mercy whenever, like Sister Faustina, we try to discern God’s goodness when we converse with someone or interpret facts and events. We do that whenever we can see everyday situations in the light of faith – when we can discern God’s loving hand in them, even in painful trials and great suffering. Such an apostolate – in the daily life – bears great fruit.
Prayer, especially the forms of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy, which Jesus conveyed by Sister Faustina, is another manner of spreading honour of the Divine Mercy. Every day we can worship God in the mystery of His mercy, spread His honour and entreat mercy for the world by taking part in the Liturgy of the Church, by personal veneration of the Image of the Merciful Jesus, by saying the Chaplet or praying at the Hour of Mercy.
The Lord Jesus also says how this task can be carried out in the daily life. He told Sister Faustina: You will join prayers, fasts, mortifications, labours and all sufferings to My prayer, fasting, mortification, labours and sufferings and then they will have power before My Father(Diary 531). Suffering plays a special role in entreating God’s mercy.
The Lord Jesus told her:There is but one price at which souls are bought, and that is suffering united to My suffering on the cross (Diary 324). Every conversion of a sinful soul demands sacrifice (Diary 961). He asked: I have need of your sufferings to rescue souls (Diary 1612). Help Me, My daughter, to save souls.
Join your sufferings to My Passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners(Diary 1032). He told her that she would save more souls through prayer and suffering than would a missionary through his teachings and sermons alone (cf. Diary 1767).
Sister Faustina and everyone who accepts the Divine Mercy message should entreat for graces first of all for sinners, since they are the poorest and need God’s mercy most.
Therefore, the Lord Jesus frequently asked her to pray for them. He said: Beg for this grace for them, so that they too may glorify My mercy (Diary 1160) and, some other time: The loss of each soul plunges Me into mortal sadness. You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered (Diary1397), because it is compatible with God’s will.
What the Lord God desires most is the salvation of all people because He has created everyone out of love, Jesus laid down His life for all people and He wants to be with everyone in the Father’s house for ever.
The second group of those privileged as regards the prayer of apostles of the Divine Mercy comprises priests and religious, thus those who lead the People of God along the roads of salvation and who are in the first front line of the battle for souls.
They also need to be helped by prayer a lot. The Lord Jesus said to Sister Faustina: I place in your care two pearls very precious to My Heart: these are the souls of priests and religious. You will pray particularly for them; their power will come from your diminishment (Diary 531).
In Saint Faustina’s ‚Diary’ the Lord Jesus asks to pray for the dying. By your entreaties, obtain for them trust in My mercy – He said – because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer (Diary 1777).
He also told Sister Faustina to enter often into purgatory, because she was needed there (cf. Diary 1738), thus, He ordered her to pray for the dead, to be merciful towards them – by means of prayer and sacrifice. Although the Lord Jesus does not mention other groups of people, He commands her to pray for everyone because He speaks about entreating God’s mercy for the whole world.
A no time – wrote Holy Father John Paul II – and in no historical period – especially at a moment as critical as our own – can the Church forget ‚the prayer that is a cry for the mercy of God’ amid the many forms of evil which weigh upon humanity and threaten it. Precisely this is the fundamental right and duty of the Church in Christ Jesus (Dives in Misericordia 15)
Proclaim the Divine Mercy correctly
What is essential for spreading honour of the Mercy is to preach the message correctly, which also requires solicitude for the purity of the Divine Mercy devotion in the forms conveyed by Sister Faustina.
It is known that nowadays the Divine Mercy devotion is very popular. Therefore, many publications that have appeared on the shelves spread the Divine Mercy devotion in a way that is oversimplified and often incorrect, which, as a result, leads to an incorrect practice of the devotion.
In his treatise on Sister Faustina’s writings which was prepared for the needs of her beatification process, the Rev. Professor Ignacy Różycki laid the theological foundations for this devotion.
An abridged version of the treatise has been published in the booklet entitled: ‚The Divine Mercy. Essential Features of The Devotion to The Divine Mercy’ whereas the whole text – in the book: ‚The Devotion to the Divine Mercy’ (‚Misericordia’ Publishing House, Cracow 1999, second edition – 2008). In the light of the treatise, the attitude of trust in the Lord God (that is, the biblical attitude of trust) and the attitude of mercy towards neighbours are the essence of the Divine Mercy devotion.
Only this foundation is the basis of the forms of the devotion: the Image of the Merciful Jesus, the Feast of the Divine Mercy, the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy, the Hour of Mercy and spreading honour of the Divine Mercy.
The Lord Jesus attached promises to these forms of the devotion to the Divine Mercy which pertain to everyone (not only to Sister Faustina; for example, as regards the act ‚O Blood and Water’ or the ‚Novena to the Divine Mercy’ He attached some promises only to her).
If there is no foundation, that is, if one’s Christian life is not shaped in the spirit of trust in God and mercy towards neighbour, none of the forms will be a true act of the Devotion and no desired results will be obtained by means of it. Therefore – writes Rev. I. Różycki – for instance, if someone says the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy, however, he does it without trust, he will not receive anything that Jesus has attached to the Chaplet said with trust.
As regards spreading and practising the Devotion to the Divine Mercy, the most frequent mistakes result from the fact that only excerpts from the ‚Diary’, analysed out of context, are disseminated and also from the fact that the devotion is practised incorrectly.
Certain sentences are taken out of the ‚Diary’ and disseminated, however, the entire work is not analysed and a sentence (statement) is considered an axiom or the entire truth about something. Examples:
I desire that there be a congregation which will proclaim God’s mercy and, by its prayers, obtain it for the world.Someone who has read this sentence thinks that the Lord Jesus wants a concrete religious congregation to be founded, a congregation which will undertake certain tasks. However, the analysis of the entire ‚Diary’ shows that the Lord Jesus does not mean one congregation but a great work in the Church which today we call the Apostolic Movement of the Divine Mercy (cf. Diary 1155).
The soul that will venerate this image will not perish(or other promises quoted without the conditions). This promise as well as other promises of the Lord Jesus will be fulfilled if man meets certain conditions and, as regards the Devotion to the Divine Mercy, the conditions are the following: trust in the Lord God and the attitude of an active love towards neighbours.
The soul that will venerate this image … that is, the soul who prays with trust before it and also performs acts of mercy; it is not a person who, for instance, has the image in the wallet.
What is a frequent mistake is that the forms of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy, for instance the Chaplet, Novena or Litany, are propagated, however the essence of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy is not explained and the privileged forms of the Devotion are not differentiated from other prayers noted down in Sister Faustina’s ‚Diary’.
The other group of mistakes has its origins in the incorrect practice of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy. Most frequently the faithful are not inculcated with the Christian attitude of trust in God and mercy towards neighbours but they are taught devotions only, for instance – to say the Chaplet, some of the words are added or omitted when the Chaplet to the Divine Mercy is said, private revelations and devotions are combined,
Sister Faustina’s mission is analysed without taking the Holy Scripture into consideration.
The message of Mercy, on which we are to live and which we are to share with others, is God’s great gift for our times. This gift is a sign of hope, pledge of salvation and light on human paths in the third millennium of the faith.
Therefore, those who spread this message need to do this very humbly and in accordance with Jesus’ plan. As Holy Father Benedict XVI said: This message really is a central message precisely for our time: Mercy as God’s power, as a divine barrier against the evil of the world. Therefore, there is a great need to share this gift as well as possible and very generously.
Location & Go To Pilgrimage
Everything about Pilgrimage to Image of Merciful Jesus and St. Faustina relics – HERE
Feast date of St. Faustina
Feast date of St Faustina is 5. October.
Info and Contacts
Official website of Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady Mercy in Krakow: www.faustyna.pl/
- Official site: Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady Mercy – www.faustyna.pl
- Diary of St Faustina Kowalska