Saint Faustina Kowalska, today known throughout the whole world as the apostle of Divine Mercy, is considered by theologians as the one of the most famous mystics of the Church.
The third of ten children, St. Faustina was born in 1905 to a poor and pious peasant family in the village Głogowiec, Poland. She was baptized in the parish church of Świnice Warckie, and she was christened Helena. From childhood, her devotion to prayer, love for God, diligence, obedience, and her compassion for other people were features of her personality. She attended school for only three years. When she was sixteen, she left the house of her parents so that she could work in Aleksandrov and Łódź to help support her family.
She felt the calling to religious life in her soul from the age of seven, but her parents did not agree to allow her to enter the convent at that time. In that situation, young Helena tried to suppress God’s calling inside her, but when she had visions of her suffering Lord Jesus and heard His encouragement and even reproach – “How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting me off?” (9), she started to search for a place in religious life. She knocked on many doors, but none accepted her. On 1 August 1925, she entered the enclosure of the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw. Later on in her diary she confessed, “It seemed to me that I had stepped into the life of Paradise. A single prayer was bursting forth from my heart, one of thanksgiving” (17).
Nevertheless, after a few weeks she experienced a strong desire to move to another convent where she could spend more time in prayer. Then, the Lord Jesus showed her His wounded and tired face, saying, ”You will cause me great pain if you leave this convent. It is to this place that I called you and nowhere else; and I have prepared for you many graces” (19).
She received the name of Sister Maria Faustina in the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. After the novitiate in Kraków, she professed first vows in front of Bishop Stanisław Rospondł; five years later, her perpetual vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty. In the coming years, she would work in the few houses of the convent, longest in Kraków, Płock, and Vilnius. She worked as a cook, gardener, and doorkeeper.
On the exterior, Sister Faustina didn’t appear to have an incredibly rich mystical life. She faithfully performed her duties and observed the rules of the convent. She was serious and silent yet, at the same time, true, happy, full of good will and unselfish love for her neighbor. All her life was constantly directed to union with God and to cooperate with Jesus in rescuing souls.
My Jesus, - she writes in her diary, - You know that from my early days I have wanted to become a great saint…to love You with a love so great that there would be no soul who has hitherto loved you so. (1372)
The Lord granted Faustina great graces: the gift of contemplation, deep understanding of the mystery of Divine Mercy, visions, revelations, invisible stigmatas, prophecy, and knowledge of the souls of other people, as well as the rare gift of mystical marriage.
Sister Faustina’s strict lifestyle and enervating fasting, which she had practiced even before entering the convent, so exhausted her body that it was necessary to bring her, even when only a postulant, to Skolimów, near Warsaw, to recover her health.
After the first year of novitiate, she went through very painful mystical experiences – so-called ‘dark nights’ – and later on, spiritual and moral suffering, which was related to messages received from Christ and their fulfillment. Sister Faustina offered up her life as a sacrifice for sinners, and because of that she experienced much suffering as well. In the last year of her life, spiritual sufferings and her health became worse. She came down with tuberculosis, which overtook her lungs. She needed to go through several months of constant treatment in the hospital of Prądnik near Krakow.
Physically exhausted but spiritually matured, Sister Faustina died on 5 October 1938. She had lived only 33 years, 13 of them in the convent.
Her body was interred near the convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow - Lagiewniki. In 1966 her body was translated to the chapel. To this simple and uneducated but brave sister, who trusted in God without limits, the Lord Jesus entrusted an important mission: to proclaim message of Divine Mercy to the whole world.
Today I am sending you, - said He, - with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful heart. (1588) You are the secretary of My mercy. I have chosen you for that office in this life and the next life. (1605)