Kowalska, Maria Faustina (1905-1938)

views updated

Kowalska, Maria Faustina (1905-1938)

Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Roman Catholic visionary known for having experienced apparitions of Jesus Christ, was born and raised in Poland and as a young woman joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Though most of her coreligionists were not aware of it, her life changed on February 22, 1931, when she had her first vision of Jesus. In His appearances He gave her a basic message of trust in God's mercy. He then asked her to be an apostle of God's mercy and assist its spread throughout the world. He also called her to be a model of the message of mercy and asked her to keep a record of their encounters.

She shared the account of her experiences with her confessor and with her monastic superiors. They arranged for her to see a psychiatrist, who pronounced her in good mental health. Satisfied that she was not simply hallucinating, they arranged for an artist to paint a picture of Jesus as He appeared to Kowalska. The picture shows Christ with a beam of light emanating from His heart. Through the remainder of the decade she continued to see and receive messages from Jesus until her untimely death from tuberculosis on October 5, 1938. She was buried at the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy convent outside of Krakow. Eventually a shrine to Divine Mercy would be erected there.

After her death, word of the visions and message received by Sister Faustina began to circulate in Poland, but World War II (1939-45) made the normal process of authentication impossible. As a result, the Vatican forbade the spread of the message. As the country recovered, reexamination was hampered by the new situation as the country was plunged under Communist rule. However, through the 1960s, churchmen and theologians began to reexamine the writings and found them both theologically correct and spiritually sophisticated. One among them, Archbishop Carol Wojtyla, became her champion and is given credit for having the ban lifted. The release of the writings to the public occurred just a short time prior to his becoming Pope John Paul II.

As people became aware of the message and of Sister Faustina's role in receiving it, she became an object of veneration and healing began to be attributed to her. Even prior to the original ban on the message, a national shrine to Divine Mercy had been established in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The congregations of Marians at Stockbridge have led in the spread of the Divine Mercy revelation and in pressing the cause of Sister Faustina's canonization as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. She was beatified in 1993, a step toward her canonization which occurred on April 30, 2000.


Kowalska, Maria Faustina. Divine Mercy in My Soul. Diary. Stockbridge, Mass.: Marian Press, 1987.