Kowalska, Faustina, St.

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Baptized Elena (or Helena), in religion Maria Faustina (Polish: Faustyna), visionary, virgin of the Congregation of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy; b. Aug. 25, 1905, at Glogowiec (west of Łodz), Poland; d. Oct. 5, 1938, at Kraków.

Known as the apostle of Divine Mercy, Faustina was the third of ten children (six survived infancy) in a poor family. Although she had only two years of formal education, her diaries exhibit profound insight. She was baptized at St. Casimir's, Swinice Warckie; at age 7 (1912), she first heard Jesus in an inner locution inviting her to strive for perfection. In 1922, she expressed a desire to

enter the convent, but, because her parents needed her financial help, she worked as a housekeeper in Aleksandrów, Łodz, and Ostrówek. At age 29, she first attempted to enter a convent in Warsaw, but was turned away. Following a vision of the suffering Christ, she entered the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy Aug. 1, 1925, and changed her name. After her postulancy at a vacation house and novitiate in Kraków, she made her temporary vows April 30, 1928. Faustina professed her final vows in 1933 before Bishop Stanislaus Rospond of Kraków. Thereafter, she served her sisters as an unassuming cook, gardener, and porter in the congregation's houses at Kraków, Płock, and Vilnius.

On Feb. 22, 1931, in Plock, Faustina had a vision of Jesus, asking her to promote the Second Sunday of Easter as a celebration of Divine Mercy and spread the devotion throughout the world. After a psychiatric assessment certified Faustina's mental health, Father Michael Sopocko, her spiritual director, arranged for artist Kazimierowski to render a painting of her vision of Jesus as the merciful savior with streams of red and white light shining from his heart. Faustina kept a journal of her mystical experiences. Only a few of her superiors, her confessor, and spiritual director knew of her visions, revelations, hidden stigmata, and gifts of ubiquity, reading souls, and prophecy. A poor translation of her nearly 700-page diary was condemned by the Vatican in 1958. However, when popular veneration of Faustina continued, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła had it re-translated, which resulted in the ban's removal April 15, 1978, six months before his election to the papacy. In visions Christ also asked the humble sister to propagate the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, veneration of the Divine Mercy image inscribed "Jesus, I trust in You," and the remembrance of his death each day at 3 p.m.

Faustina, the inspiration for the Polish Apostles of Divine Mercy, died from tuberculosis. The movement comprised of priests, religious, and laity has spread to 29 countries. Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Faustina's tomb at the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Kraków-Lagiewniki June 7, 1997, where she died and which the young Wojtyła visited daily before work at the Solvay factory.

Her cause for beatification was reopened in Rome Jan. 30, 1968. Faustina was both beatified April 18, 1993, and canonized April 30, 2000, by John Paul II, whose lifelong efforts to propagate devotion to the Divine Mercy (see dives in misericordia, 1980) culminated when he officially declared April 30, 2000, that the Second Sunday of Easter would also be designated "Divine Mercy Sunday" throughout the Church.

Feast: Oct. 5.

Bibliography: Writings by St. Faustina: Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul (3d rev. ed. Stockbridge, Mass. 2000); Revelations of Divine Mercy: Daily Readings from the Diary of Blessed Faustina Kowalska, ed. g. w. kosicki (Ann Arbor, Mich. 1996). Literature about St. Faustina: j. burkus, Gaila minios (Hot Springs, Ark.1983). g. w. kosicki, Now Is the Time for Mercy (Stockbridge, Mass. 1991); Meet Saint Faustina (Ann Arbor, Mich. 2001). marian fathers, The Promise (Stockbridge, Mass. 1987). s. michalenko, The Life of Faustina Kowalska (Ann Arbor, Mich.1999). c. m. odell, Faustina: Apostle of Divine Mercy (Huntington, Ind. 1998). s. urbanski, Zycie mistyczne błogoslawionej Faustyny Kowalskiej (Warsaw 1997).

[k. i. rabenstein]