Early Life and Call to the Religious Life
When Helena announced, at age seventeen, her intention to enter a convent, both of her parents were opposed to the idea. Consequently, she did not pursue the religious life for a couple of years. Then, about a month before her nineteenth birthday, Helena went to a dance with her sister. At the dance, she had a vision of Jesus suffering His Passion. The Lord asked her how long that she would put Him off. Immediately, Helena responded by telling her sister that she was leaving home, packing a bag, and taking a train from her native Glogowiec, Poland to Warsaw.
The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy
Through the Lord's guidance, she was led to the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy which she was able to enter about a year after leaving her home. At the beginning of her novitiate, she took the name Sister Maria Faustina of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Within a year, she would complete her novitiate and make the first of five annual temporary vows before making her perpetual vows.
Over those years, Faustina was moved to several of the congregation's houses and worked in various capacities including the kitchen, the bakery, and the bakery store.
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The Call to Spread the Message of Divine Mercy
Then, at the age of twenty-five, Sr. Faustina received a vision of the Lord in which He asked her to have an image painted of Him as He appeared to her. Several years later, the image would be painted by the artist Eugene Kazimirowski of Vilnius. (Sr. Faustina was, at that time, in the congregation's home in Vilnius which is in modern day Lithuania.)
The image shows the risen Lord with wounds in His hands and feet. There are two rays coming from His pierced heart. The pale ray represents the sacraments of Baptism and Confession which make souls righteous. The red ray represents the sacrament of the Eucharist. The sacraments come from the Lord's infinite mercy through His heart which was pierced by the spear.
Under the direction of her confessor, Bl. Fr. Michael Sopocko, the message of God's Divine Mercy began to spread. Also, under this priest's direction, Sr. Faustina wrote her diary which recorded her spiritual growth and the many visions she had of Jesus, the Blessed Mother, and her guardian angel.
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The Years of Suffering
Although she received many graces, Sr. Faustina also experienced great suffering. Throughout her religious life she often had poor health and eventually she contracted tuberculosis which for many years caused her immense pain and suffering and eventually was the cause of her death.
Despite being in great paint, many of her fellow sisters did not treat her as an ill sister but simply assumed that Sr. Faustina was lazy or considered herself special because of her she was reported to have had revelations. As a result, Sr. Faustina was often neglected when she was ill and misunderstood when she could not participate in some of the sisters' activities.
On the other hand, some sisters recognized her holiness and came to Sr. Faustina for spiritual guidance. However, some of these sisters were so convinced of her holiness that they openly spoke with her that they hoped she would die soon in order that they would have a Heavenly advocate!
Sr. Faustina never spoke of any of her revelations with anyone except her superiors or her spiritual directors. The information which most other sisters had about her revelations was based on rumors and hearsay. Over the years, Sr. Faustina strove to accept how she was treated all the same whether it was good or ill.
On October 5, 1938, Faustina died at the age of thirty-three.
The message of Divine Mercy which has been entrusted to her would continue to spread throughout the world due to the efforts of her confessors and her Diary which she had written under obedience.
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A Visit with St. Thérèse of Lisieux
At one point when Sr. Faustina was a novice, she was going through some interior struggles. She began to make novenas to various saints, but instead of getting better, her situation grew worse and it was affecting her exterior life. In a bit of despair, she thought to pray to St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873 - 1897) with whom she had had a deep devotion before entering the convent but had not been as fervent in her devotion since that time.
During the novena, on the fifth day to be precise, she dreamed of St. Thérèse. The saint was being coy with Sr. Faustina and did not let on that she was a saint but gave her comfort over the matter which was bothering Sr. Faustina. She encouraged her to have greater trust in God.
St. Thérèse mentioned that she, too, had suffered much. Sr. Faustina replied that she had not thought that she really suffered that much.
The reply that St. Thérèse gave assured her that she had suffered. And, St. Thérèse continue by telling Sr. Faustina that the matter that was troubling her would be cleared up in three days time. However, Sr. Faustina doubted what St. Thérèse said.
At this point in time, St. Thérèse revealed that she was a saint.
This news filled Sr. Faustina with great joy, and she said, "You are a saint?"
St. Thérèse reassured her that she was a saint.
Sr. Faustina took advantage of the opportunity and asked her if she would go to Heaven.
St. Thérèse replied, "Yes."
"And will I be a saint?"
"Will I be raised to the altar like you?"
"Yes, you will be a saint just as I am, but you must trust in the Lord Jesus."
Then Sr. Fautina asked if her parents would go to Heaven, and St. Thérèse assured her they would.
When she asked about her brothers and sister, the answer was not clear and thus, Sr. Faustina knew that she must pray more for them.
The dream ended and Sr. Faustina continued her novena.
In three days time, the matter was resolved as St. Thérèse had said in the dream.
The Message of Divine Mercy
Throughout her diary, the Lord's message is clear. He is a God of infinite mercy, and He longs to share His mercy with sinners. In fact, the greater the sinner, the more the sinner has access to God's mercy. And that is why the Lord asked St. Faustina to spread the message of Divine Mercy. The Lord desires that every soul know of His mercy and receive it in order that all souls might be united with Him and live forever with Him.
The Diary also makes it clear that Jesus wanted the Second Sunday of Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday. On that day, through God's mercy if a person goes to confession and receives Jesus in Holy Communion, that person will receive complete forgiveness of sins and the punishment due to sins.
The Diary also shared the revelations which St. Faustina received for a novena for Divine Mercy and how to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy*. According to the diary, the chaplet is a powerful prayer to pray especially on behalf of someone who is dying.
How to Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is prayed on a Rosary with five decades. The Chaplet is begun with the Sign of the Cross followed by the Our Father, a Hail Mary, and the Apostle's Creed.
On the bead before each of the ten beads of a decade, the following prayer is said:
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.
Then on the ten beads of each decade, the following prayer is prayed:
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
The "Eternal Father" followed by the ten "For the sake of His sorrowful Passion ..." is repeated for the other four decades.
Finally, after five decades have been prayed, the following is prayed three times:
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
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Feast Day (Memorial): October 5th