Saint Faustina was born Helena Kowalska in the village of Glogowiec west of Lodz, Poland, on August 25, 1905. She was the third of ten children. When she was almost twenty, she entered the Congregation of the sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, whose members devote themselves to the care and education of troubled young women.
The following year she received her religious habit and was given the name Sister Maria Faustina, to which she added "of the Most Blessed Sacrament," as was permitted by her Congregation's custom.
In the 1930's, Sister Faustina received from the Lord a message of mercy that she was told to spread throughout the world. She was asked to become the apostle and secretary of God's mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing god's plan of mercy for the world.
It was not a glamorous prospect. Her entire life, in imitation of Christ's, was to be a sacrifice --a life lived for others. At the divine Lord's request, she willingly offered her personal sufferings in union with Him to atone for the sins of others; in her daily life she was to become a doer of mercy, bringing joy and peace to others, and by writing about God's mercy, she was to encourage others to trust in Him and thus prepare the world for His coming again.
Convinced of her own unworthiness and terrified at the thought of trying to write anything, she nonetheless began keeping a diary in 1934 in obedience to the express wishes of her spiritual director, and then of Our Lord Himself. For four years she recorded divine revelations and mystical experiences, together with her own inmost thoughts, insights, and prayers. The result is a book of some 600 printed pages that, in simple language, repeats and clarifies the gospel story of God's love for His people, emphasizing, above all, the need to trust in His loving action in all the aspects of our lives.
It also reveals an extraordinary example of how to respond to God's mercy and manifest it to others. Saint Faustina's spiritual life was based on deep humility, purity of intention, and loving obedience to the will of God in imitation of the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her special devotion to Mary Immaculate and to the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation gave her the strength to bear all her sufferings as an offering to God on behalf of the Church and those in special need, especially great sinners and the dying.
She wrote and suffered in secret, with only her spiritual director and some of her superiors aware that anything special was taking place in her life. After her death from tuberculosis in 1938, even her closest associates were amazed as they began to discover what great sufferings and deep mystical experiences had been given to this sister of theirs, who had always been so cheerful and humble. She had taken deeply into hear heart God's gospel command to "be merciful even as your heavenly Father is merciful" as well as her confessor's directive that she should act in such a way that everyone who came in contact with her would go away joyful.
The message of mercy that Sister Faustina received is now being spread throughout the world; she has been recognized by the Church as a "Saint"; and her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, has become the handbook for devotion to The Divine Mercy. She would not have been surprised, for she had been told that the message of God's mercy would spread through her writings for the benefit of souls.
In a prophetic statement she had declared: "I feel certain that my mission will not come to an end upon my death, but will begin. O doubting souls, I will draw aside for you the veils of heaven to convince you of God's goodness."
"In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, 'Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.' "
Some time later, Our Lord again spoke to her: "The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous; the red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My most tender Mercy at that time when My agonizing Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross....Fortunate is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him."
As a further sign of His forgiving love, Jesus called for a Feast of the Divine Mercy to be celebrated in the whole Church. He said to Sister Faustina: " I want this image to be solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter; that Sunday is to be the Feast of Mercy. On that day, the depths of My Mercy will be open to all. Whoever will go to confession and Holy Communion on that day will receive complete forgiveness of sin and punishment. Mankind will not enjoy peace until it returns to My Mercy."
In 1933, God gave Sister Faustina a striking vision of His Mercy, Sister tells us: "I saw a great light, with God the Father in the midst of it. Between this light and the earth I saw Jesus nailed to the Cross and in such a way that God, wanting to look upon the earth, had to look through Our Lord's wounds. And I understood that God blessed the earth for the sake of Jesus."
Of another vision on Sept. 13, 1935, she writes: I saw an Angel, the executor of God's wrath... about to strike the earth... I began to beg God earnestly for the world with words which I heard interiorly. As I prayed in this way, I saw the Angel's helplessness, and he could not carry out the just punishment....
The following day an inner voice taught her to say this prayer on ordinary rosary beads: "First say one 'Our Father', 'Hail Mary', and 'I believe'. Then on the large beads say the following words: '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 smaller beads you are to say the following words: 'For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.' In conclusion you are to say these words three times: 'Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world' ".
Jesus said later to Sister Faustina: "Say unceasingly this chaplet that I have taught you. Anyone who says it will receive great Mercy at the hour of death. Priests will recommend it to sinners as the last hope. Even the most hardened sinner, if he recites this Chaplet even once, will receive grace from My Infinite Mercy. I want the whole world to know My Infinite Mercy. I want to give unimaginable graces to those who trust in My Mercy...." "....When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person not as the just judge but as the Merciful Savior".
Jesus further asked that this Feast of the Divine Mercy be preceded by a Novena to the Divine Mercy which would begin on Good Friday. He gave her an intention to pray for on each day of the Novena, saving for the last day the most difficult intention of all, the lukewarm and indifferent of whom He said:
"These souls cause Me more suffering than any others; it was from such souls that My soul felt the most revulsion in the Garden of Olives. It was on their account that I said: 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass Me by.' The last hope of salvation for them is to flee to My Mercy."
In her diary, Faustina wrote that Jesus told her:
"On each day of the novena you will bring to My heart a different group of souls and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy ... On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My passion, for the graces for these souls."
The different souls prayed for on each day of the novena are: 1. All mankind, especially sinners; The souls of priests and religious; 2. All devout and faithful souls; 3. Those who do not believe in Jesus and those who do not yet know Him; 4. The souls of separated brethren; 5. The meek and humble souls and the souls of children; 6. The souls who especially venerate and glorify Jesus' mercy; 7. The souls who are detained in purgatory; and 8. The souls who have become lukewarm. This is prayed along with the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins, but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.
Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in us, that we may perform worthy works of mercy, and that all who see us may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company [of chosen souls] in Your vineyard - upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation, and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.
Most Merciful Jesus, from the treasury of Your mercy, You impart Your graces in the great abundance to each and all. Receive us into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by that most wondrous love for the heavenly Father with which Your Heart burns so fiercely. Eternal Father, turn Your Merciful gaze upon faithful souls, as upon the inheritance of Your Son. For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, grant them Your blessing and surround them with Your constant protection. Thus may they never fail in love or lost the treasure of the holy faith, but rather, with all the hosts of Angels and Saints, may they glorify Your boundless mercy for endless ages. Amen.
Most Compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of pagans who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gave upon the souls of pagans and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.
Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of heretics and schismatics. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of heretics, and schismatics, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your Own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.
Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said, "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart." Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy, and they are the heavenly Father's favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek and humble souls, and upon the souls of little children, who are enfolded in the abode of the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight you take in them: bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.
Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your Mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident in Your Mercy. These souls are united to Jesus and carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy and their spirit, overflowing with joy, sings a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God: Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them, "I Myself will defend as My own glory, during their lifetime, and especially at the hour of their death, those souls who will venerate My fathomless mercy."
Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of purifying fire, that in that place, too, the power of Your mercy may be praised. Eternal Father, turn Your most merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded, manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way than through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.
Most Compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love let these tepid souls, who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love; and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power. Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen
One day that same year, 1935, Sr. Faustina wrote for her spiritual director:
"The time will come when this work, which God so commends, [will be] as though in complete ruin, and suddenly the action of God will come upon the scene with great power which will bear witness to the truth. It will be as a new splendor for the church, though it has been dormant in it from long ago."
This indeed came to pass. On the 6th of March, 1959, the Holy See, acting on information that was inaccurately presented, prohibited "the spreading of images and writings advocating devotion to the Divine Mercy in the form proposed by Sister Faustina." As a result, there followed almost twenty years of total silence.
Then, on the 15th of April, 1978, the Holy See, after a thorough examination of original documents previously unavailable to it, completely reversed its decision and again permitted the devotion. The one man primarily responsible for this reversal of decision was Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, the Archbishop of Sr. Faustina's home diocese of Cracow. On October 16, 1978, he was elevated to the Seat of Peter as Pope John Paul II. God is indeed mysterious and wondrous in His ways!
Sr. Faustina was beatified on April 18, 1993, Mercy Sunday. She has since been bestowed the title of Saint Faustina.
"Act in such a way that all those who come in contact with you will go away joyful. Sow happiness about you because you have received much from God; give, then generously to others. They should take leave of you with their hearts filled with joy, even if they have no more than touched the them of your garment. Keep well in mind the words I am telling you right now."
Excerpt from "Divine Mercy in my Soul"(#55), the Diary of Saint Faustina)