Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Secretary of Divine Mercy
Our Lord gave a Polish nun, Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, a means of accruing great graces for our time, devotion to the Divine Mercy. Jesus asked Sister Faustina to write His words down in diaries and to proclaim His message of Mercy. The entries in Sister Faustina’s diaries have been compiled into the book Divine Mercy in my Soul. They form the basis for a Church-wide celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday that is held the first Sunday after Easter Sunday every year. Divine Mercy Sunday carries the grace of a plenary indulgence when the conditions of reciting chaplet prayers, making a Divine Mercy novena, going to confession, receiving Holy Communion, venerating an image of the Divine Mercy and praying for the intentions of the Pope are met.
During her life, Sister Faustina always worked under obedience to her confessor to begin the process of spreading devotion to the Divine Mercy. At Our Lord’s request, Sister Faustina worked with a Polish artist to portray on canvas the sacred image of Jesus with one arm raised in blessing and the other hand showing red and white rays emanating from His illuminated chest. Beneath His image, Our Lord wanted the words Jesus, I Trust in You! to be written. Faustina lamented that no artist could capture the splendor of Our Lord.
Despite illness and other obstacles, Sister Faustina always worked to the best of her ability to convey all that Jesus revealed to her about His unfathomable mercy. Sister Faustina died on October 5, 1938 at the age of 33 from tuberculosis. Due to misunderstandings, the messages of Divine Mercy were banned until 1978 when the messages won the approval of Karol Wojtyla, then archbishop of Krakow, Poland. Cardinal Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II and became an even stronger voice for proclaiming the Divine Mercy throughout the world. He beatified Maria Faustina Kowalska in 1993 and she was canonized on April 30, 2000, the first canonized saint of the jubilee year 2000. She is the patron saint of World Youth Day, a celebration conceived and instituted by Pope John Paul II. It is certainly a related grace that Pope John Paul II entered eternal life on April 2, 2005 on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday that year.
During her life a miracle of roses gave Saint Faustina a sweet consolation in the midst of her household duties in the convent. Sister Faustina recounts, “One time during the novitiate, when Mother Directress sent me to work in the wards’ kitchen, I was very upset because I could not manage the pots, which were very large. The most difficult task for me was draining the potatoes, and sometimes I spilt half of them with the water. When I told this to the Mother Directress, she said that with time I would get used to it and gain the necessary skill. Yet the task was not getting any easier, as I was growing weaker every day. So I would move away when it was time to drain the potatoes. The sisters noticed that I avoided this task and were very much surprised. They did not know that I could not help in spite of my willingness to do this and not spare myself. At noon, during the examination of conscience, I complained to God about my weakness. Then I heard the following words in my soul, “From today on you will do this easily; I shall strengthen you.”
That evening, when the time came to drain off the water from the potatoes, I hurried to be the first to do it, trusting the Lord’s words. I took up the pot with ease and poured off the water perfectly. But when I took off the cover to let the potatoes steam off, I saw there in the pot, in the place of the potatoes, whole bunches of red roses, beautiful beyond description. I had never seen such roses before. Greatly astonished and unable to understand the meaning of this, I heard a voice within me saying, “I change such hard work of yours into bouquets of most beautiful flowers, and their perfume rises up to My throne.” From then on I have tried to drain the potatoes myself, not only during the week when it was my turn to cook, but also in replacement of other sisters when it was their turn. And not only do I do this, but I try to be the first to help in any other burdensome task, because I have experienced how much this pleases God.”
Saint Faustina used the metaphor of becoming a violet to achieve the humility she so desired in the following resolution: “I will hide from people’s eyes whatever good I am able to do so that God himself may be my reward. I will be like a tiny violet hidden in the grass, which does not hurt the foot that treads on it, but diffuses its fragrance and, forgetting itself completely, tries to please the person who has crushed it underfoot. This is very difficult for human nature, but God’s grace comes to one’s aid.”
We give thanks to Our Lord for giving us His Divine Mercy that is so critically needed. The spiritual significance of the red and white rays (Eucharist and Baptism) are significant from ancient times. We may venture to say that all the occasions of red and white rose miracles or red rose and white lily manifestations help us to recall the Divine Mercy of God and His great love for us.