In the early 20th century, an age unaccustomed to women in roles of authority, Helena Kowalska, an obscure Polish nun, was nevertheless able to accomplish what few women could. Though she was unknown and lived a life of poverty, she nevertheless became one of the most influential mystics in the Church's history. During her lifetime, she anonymously influenced the devotion to Divine Mercy and to the distribution of copies of the famous Vilnius painting of the Divine Mercy. (The well-known painting depicts Jesus standing with his right hand held up in blessing and with two rays of light, one red and the other white, emanating from His heart. Under the feet are written the words, "Jesus, I Trust in You.") No one, except for her spiritual director, however, knew that Sister Kowalska was the "secretary" of the Divine Mercy who was responsible for having the painting made and its copy disseminated. Even before her death in 1938, the image was well known in Europe. "During World War II, from 1940 on, the Devotion to The Divine Mercy became a shield of strength and hope for many, especially for those in the numerous concentration camps throughout Poland, and even beyond its borders." (1)
The value of Kowalska's life was not seen until after her death. In her particular case, recognition for her life's accomplishments did not come until forty years later. Upon her death, a compilation of six notebooks was found. These notebooks called Divine Mercy in My Soul were published posthumously. In 1959, the Church banned the 600+ volume for a variety of reasons. In 1978, the Church lifted its reservations and censures. It is interesting to note that Faustina, in an entry recorded in 1935, prophesied:
Once when I was talking to my spiritual director, I had an interior vision - quick as lightning-of his soul in great suffering, in such agony that God touches very few souls with such fire. The suffering arises from this work. There will come a time when this work, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act with great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church, although it has been dormant in it from long ago.
In her Epilogue to the authorized biography, Michalenko attests to Father Sopocko's (Faustina's spiritual director) having been "severely admonished by the Holy See" and having suffered "tribulations in connection with the spreading of the devotion." In 1959, The Holy See forbade the devotion to the Divine Mercy, including the spread of the images, novena and the chaplet associated with it. (2)
The notebooks, written mainly in plain prose, document Faustina's past and present mystical experiences and her reflections about those encounters. It also relates her day to day experiences through a spiritual lens. Throughout the entire work, the entries convey her unceasing devotion to spreading the message she believed God was telling her to relate to the world.
Readers may first wonder about the credibility of Kowalska's revelations and prophecies for the world, and then they may further wonder how a barely literate and obscure nun could be commissioned (by God) with writing these highly theological messages. This paradox, perhaps, adds to the depth of wonder associated with the content of the messages. Some theologians go so far as to suggest that the contrast between her education and the height of her theology indicates a special Divine grace. (3) Another interest to readers may be her several prophecies which she records in her diary, some of which have come true, and other which concern the end of the world. Her life's goal, a theme found on every page of the diary, was to always act in a way that others would know God's love and mercy. Believing quite literally that she was a spouse of Jesus Christ, her writing conveys, in poetic language, intimate professions of love and devotion to her Beloved.
Helen Kowalska, was born on August 25, 1905, to a peasant family living in a small hamlet in Poland called Glogowiec. Her father, Stanislaus, her mother Marianna, and nine other siblings eked out their lives on a farm during a time of political upheaval and poverty. Under the Russian occupation of Poland, Glogowiec was forced to close its school during most of Helen's grade school years. This situation allowed her only two winters of schooling. Since she could read, she began her education in the second grade as a 12 year old. During her third term, she and the other older students were asked to leave to make room for younger students.
Very little is written about her youth. Her parents relied on her to help in the care of her siblings and to tend the cows on the farm. The Kowalskas' family life was steeped in a simple yet deeply personal faith. Her father could often be heard singing the Te Deum or other religious hymns in the fields. (5)
Helena records that she was drawn to commune with heaven as a young child. She described a dream she had at the age of 5, "I was walking hand in hand with the Mother of God in a beautiful garden. By age seven, Helen felt called to a deeper life of faith. "It was in the seventh year of my life that, for the first time, I heard God's voice in my soul; that is, an invitation to a more perfect life." During adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Helen experienced what she described as a call to grace. After receiving her first sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion, Helen seemed most intent on praying. Her early rising and frequent and prolonged praying concerned her parents. Helena would respond that her guardian angel must have awakened her to pray. She went to weekly confession, and each time would beg her parents' forgiveness. Adhering to an old Polish custom, she would kiss her parents' hands before asking for their forgiveness. Her parents noted that they did not ask any of their children to do this and that none of their other children followed this practice. (6)
The chores involved in running a farm prevented many from attending Sunday mass. Helen would arrange to get her chores done so as to be sure that she could attend. During World War I, not having more than one dress for three of the girls, the Kowalskas made do. Helen and her sisters took turns wearing the same dress to three different masses on Sunday. (7)
After her two older sisters left the family to work as housemaids, Helen, 14, asked her parents for permission to do the same. Her parents agreed. Not too long after that, she approached her parents about entering a convent. Because they had no dowry to offer the convent, they refused her permission. Not knowing what to do about the situation, Helen let go of her resolve and began to focus on other matters.
A pivotal moment occurred when she attended a dance with her sister, Josephine. While she was dancing, she experienced a most unusual phenomenon. In this entry, Helena relates that Jesus appeared to her as the suffering Christ and said, "How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting Me off?" She immediately left the dance and went alone to the Cathedral of St. Stanislaus Kostka. Not mindful of anyone watching her, she prostrated herself before the tabernacle and begged the Lord to direct her as to His will. She heard the words, "Go at once to Warsaw; you will enter a convent there." She immediately went home and told her sister to say good-bye to her parents. Wearing the dress she had on, and taking no other belongings, she left for Warsaw by train. On her way, and even after she had arrived at her destination, she was totally mystified by what she was doing by herself. She began to pray to the Mother of God asking for guidance. What followed next were specific instructions which she received interiorly while on the train and during mass in Warsaw. The first message was for her to go the nearby town where she would find safe lodging for one night. Another such message was, "Go to that priest and tell him everything; he will tell you what to do next." And so began the extraordinary day-to-day communications with heaven. For the next thirteen years, she would be favored with not only interior messages, but extraordinary gifts which included visions, ecstasies, bi-locations, prophecies, and the knowledge of the condition of souls.
The Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw accepted her into their order. She took her first religious vows and the name Sr. Mary Faustina in 1928. Wishing to sacrifice herself for the conversion of souls and firmly believing that suffering had a redemptive value, she imposed upon herself an austere lifestyle and exhausting fasts. Before the first year of her postulantship was over, she had to be sent to Skolimow to be restored to health. Many times, she was put under obedience by her superiors or spiritual directors to stop mortifying herself. She obeyed because of her vow of obedience. She records that Jesus appeared to her saying, "I don't demand mortification from you, but obedience. By obedience you give great glory to Me and gain merit for yourself."
The theme of obedience is one which runs throughout the course of the five notebooks. This theme runs concurrently with the theme of God's mercy. According to Kowalska, the success of the messages of Mercy, as coming from Jesus, Himself, were, according to Jesus, dependent of Kowalska's obedience to her superiors. This obedience forced her to deny her own free will concerning all aspects of her life. She replaced her will completely to that of God's, going so far as to write the words, "My Will," and making a big X mark over it.
While questioning the credibility of the messages, one must first question the person of Helena Kowalska. Because of the supernatural content of her diary and its prophecies, the first question that comes to mind is one about the willingness of the reader to suspend his disbelief. "Was Kowalska in any way psychotic?" we might ask. Interestingly, Kowalska's diary reveals her own doubts about her sanity. Despite the ecstasies she experiences, including some which were witnessed by others, she reveals doubts about her communications with the triune God. In the first notebook, readers will find many passages where Kowalska questions whether what was happening to her was merely delusional. At first, despite a psychiatrist's diagnosis of a perfectly sound mind, she kept questioning her experiences. Many, many times, she writes entries in her journal whereby she has asked God to prove to her that what she was experiencing is real. Over and over again, she is given the palpable signs she requests to alleviate her doubts. Each sign is made manifest rather quickly. One time, for example, she asked Jesus if a certain ward would go to confession.
That afternoon, she did. Many of her confessors, including Father Sopocko himself, admitted to doubting her somewhat. When she asked them how she should regard these experiences, some confessors told her to "forget" them, but they always added to make sure she tell them anything else that should happen. Father Sopocko was sent to her, she believes, as an answer to a prayer for someone to guide her through her journey. He believed her, but did not have the time to hear everything she wanted to tell him. He told her to write everything down on a daily basis so that he would be able to go over her experiences at length when he had more time. Later, he told her she had to write everything down from the beginning of her life. Kowalska alleges that Jesus, Himself, also told her to do the same. About a year after she had begun the diary, Kowalska states that she was visited by a false spirit, a spirit disguised as an angel of God. This fallen angel had persuaded her that all of her writings were delusions and were to be destroyed for the good of souls. Kowalska immediately burned the entire year's worth of entries. Upon confessing this to Father Sopocko, he immediately commanded her to rewrite the year's worth of entries. She did so. When Kowalska lay dying, she was visited by Father Sopocko. In his memoirs, Father Sopocko noted "She looked like an unearthly being...At that time I no longer had the slightest doubt that what she had written in her diary about receiving communion from an Angel was really true."
Kowalska's diary reveals several other facets about her personality. In addition to her faith, her strength of character and resolve are perhaps her most salient qualities. Her mental strength is demonstrated by her ability to sift through the mental anguish about her own sanity. It also survives her superiors' questioning and her peers' ridiculing and mocking. Her strength of faith is demonstrated during demonic persecutions. Over and over again, she relates her need to obey her spiritual director. This call to obedience frustrated her, humiliated her, and caused her much suffering. One particularly difficult command, in addition to rewriting all of her year's entries, was to obey her spiritual director's order to never tell anyone about her mystical experiences. Having taken the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, she never spoke to anyone, except for her immediate superiors, about the cosmically huge experiences she encountered and the specific work which she believed Jesus had told her about. She believed that the vows she professed (poverty, chastity and obedience) counteracted the three principal causes of sin: love of money, lust, and power.
At times, through no confession of her own, for instance, others are made aware of her ecstasies. Others in her order frequently ridiculed and mocked her. Faustina relates that one sister told her, "Get it out of your head, Sister, that the Lord Jesus might be communing in such an intimate way with such a miserable bundle of imperfections as you! Bear in mind that it is only with holy souls that the Lord Jesus communes in this way!" Her ability to bite her tongue and not defend herself are traits largely considered negative by today's standards. Yet, her silence and humility amidst ridicule and harassment from the other sisters, seem to frame her silence as far more heroic than a defense, if she had made one, would. Despite her silence, these types of comment from her peers affected her so that she asked Jesus during one of her morning talks with Him, "Jesus, are You not an illusion?" She notes Jesus' response as: "My love deceives no one." Her decision to obey also demonstrates her acceptance of the Church's authority despite her trials, misunderstandings and sufferings. Kowalska was so convinced she was on a special mission from God that she knew He would bring about whatever needed to be, despite her having to work in secret. She confesses that it would be altogether impossible for one given such gifts to support the criticism of others without the help of God. After praying for help, Faustina recorded that on one day, she saw Father Sopocko in the chapel between the altar and the confessional and suddenly heard a voice in her soul say, "This is the visible help for you on earth. He will help you carry out My will on earth." Father Sopocko, as revealed, would become her spiritual director and instrumental in the dissemination of the Divine Mercy Image and Messages.
The great theme of the messages which Faustina relates in her diary is one of the Mercy of God. In 1931, Sister Faustina said that Jesus appeared with His right hand raised in blessing, and with two rays, one red and one white, emanating from His heart. Jesus asked her to have this image painted and to have the words, "Jesus, I trust in You," placed under the image.
"The rays," Jesus explained, "represent the Blood and Water that gushed forth from the depths of My mercy when My agonizing heart was pieced on the cross. The pale rays symbolize the water, which cleanses and purifies the soul. These rays will shield the soul before the justice of My Father. Fortunate are those who live in this shelter, for the justice of God will not reach them there."
Not having any resources, Sister Faustina had to trust that God would see to the image's being painted and disseminated.
Throughout the 600 pages of notes, Faustina cites many promises of Jesus attached to devotion to the Divine Mercy image as well as to the Divine Mercy messages. One of the most striking promises Kowalska alleges that Jesus said was, "The souls that say this chaplet (Of Divine Mercy) will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death." The chaplet contains short phrases such as , "Eternal Father, I offer you the body, and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, in atonement for my sins and those of the whole world," and "For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world."
One of the most striking promises Kowalski alleges that Jesus said was, "The souls that say this chaplet (Of Divine Mercy) will be embraced by My mercy during their lifetime and especially at the hour of their death." Concerning mercy itself, she alleges that Jesus said, "(Spiritual) Mercy is within the grasp of every soul. If a soul does not exercise mercy somehow or other, it will not obtain My mercy on the Day of Judgment."
Although much of her writing is expository in style, many of her daily entries are intensely intimate expressions of love and devotion, steeped in prayer and poetry:
"O my Jesus, You know, You alone know well that my heart knows no other love but You. . . I am aware that you are dwelling in me, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit; or rather I am aware that I am dissolving in You like a drop in an ocean. . . .I have loved You above all things that exist on earth and in heaven. Our hearts have a mutual understanding and no one of humankind will comprehend this.
"The desires of my heart are so great and incomprehensible
That nothing can fill the abyss of my heart.
Even the most beautiful things, gathered from all over the world,
Would not for a moment fill Your place for me, O God."
"I am a host, laid on the altar of Your Heart,
To burn forever with the fire of love,
For I know that You have lifted me up solely because of
And so I turn all these gifts and graces to Your glory."
In March of 1934, Sister Faustina offered herself as a victim soul. (9) In this entry, Faustina volunteers herself for the conversion of sinners, especially for those souls who have lost hope in God's mercy. This offer includes her acceptance "with total subjection to God's will, all the sufferings, fears and terrors with which sinners are filled." She adds, "In return, I give them all the consolations which my soul receives from my communion with God."
Later, in the same month, Faustina suddenly became mortally ill. She gasped for breath, couldn't see, felt numbness in her limbs and experienced a terrible suffocation. She was deathly ill and received the last sacraments. She united her sufferings to those of Jesus, and suddenly saw her room "filled with black figures full of anger and hatred for me." She reports that one of them said, "Be damned, you and He who is within you, for you are beginning to torment us even in hell." Faustina reports that as soon as she said, "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," the figures vanished in a sudden whir. Although she was restored to health, Faustina suffered many relapses until her death in 1938.
In one entry, Faustina relates that she asked Jesus for whom she should pray. He told her that she would be given the answer to this question on the following night. That night, her guardian angel, ordered her to follow him. She immediately found herself in a misty place full of fire which she named Purgatory. She described the great crowd of suffering souls. They were praying fervently, but all in vain, for themselves. Faustina was made to understand that only the living can come to their aid. Faustina asked the souls what their greatest suffering was. They responded that their "greatest torment was longing for God." Faustina relates that she heard an interior voice say, "My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it." After this encounter, Faustina found herself often praying for the release of the souls in purgatory.
In another entry, Faustina states:
"I, Sister Faustina Kowalska, by the order of God, have visited the Abysses of Hell so that I might tell the souls about it and testify to its existence…the devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: That most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell."
She describes the kinds of tortures she saw in the chasms of hell. These included the loss of God, the perpetual remorse of conscience, the knowledge that the condition would never change, a spiritual fire that penetrates the soul without destroying it, continual darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, (yet the ability to see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own), the constant company of Satan, horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. In addition to these tortures which all the damned experience in common, were specific torments of the senses which are related to the manner in which the soul has sinned. About this experience, Sister Faustina says that she would have died if the omnipotence of God had not supported her.
At the end of her fist year as a novitiate, and again later, she experienced the dark night of the soul, an intensely painful mystical experience:
Darkness began to cast its shadow over my soul. I felt no consolation in prayer; I had to make a great effort to meditate; fear began to sweep over me. Going deeper into myself, I could find nothing but great misery. I could also clearly see the great holiness of God. I did not dare to raise my eyes to Him, but reduced myself to dust under His feet and begged for mercy. . . My soul was in anguish, unable to find comfort anywhere. At a certain point, there came to me the very powerful impression that I am rejected by God. This terrible thought pierced my soul right through; in the midst of the suffering my soul began to experience the agony of death. I wanted to die but could not. The thought came to me: of what use is it to strive for virtues; why mortify oneself when all this is disagreeable to God? When I made this known to the Directress of Novices, I received this reply, "Know, dear Sister, that God has chosen you for great sanctity. This is a sign that God wants to have you very close to Himself in Heaven. Have great trust in the Lord Jesus.
In the same notebook, Sister Faustina writes:
I was suddenly overwhelmed by despair. Complete darkness in the soul. I fought as best I could till noon. In the afternoon, truly deadly fears began to seize me; my physical strength began to leave me. I went quickly to my cell, fell on my knees before the Crucifix and began to cry out for mercy. But Jesus did not hear my cries. I felt my physical strength leave me completely. I fell to the ground, despair flooding my whole soul. I suffered terrible tortures in no way different from the torments of hell. I was in this state for three quarters of an hour. I wanted to go and see the Directress, but was too weak. I wanted to shout but I had no voice. Fortunately, one of the sisters came into my cell. Finding me in such a strange condition, she immediately told the Directress about it. Mother came at once. As soon as she entered the cell she said, "In the name of holy obedience, get up from the ground." "Immediately, some force raised me up from the ground…With kindly words she began to explain to me that this was a trial sent to me by God, saying, "Have great confidence; God is always our Father, even when He sends us trials." [Later, Faustina prayed,] "In spite of everything, Jesus, I trust in You in the face of every interior sentiment which sets itself against hope."
For Faustina, who had enjoyed palpable moments of communion with God, these experiences proved almost unbearable. That night, Kowalska alleges, the Mother of God, holding the Infant Jesus in her arms, visited her. Her soul filled with joy, Faustina relates the dialogue that took place:
"Mary, my Mother, do you know how terribly I suffer?" Faustina alleges that The Blessed Mother replied. 'I know how much you suffer, but do not be afraid. I share with you your suffering, and I shall always do so.' She smiled warmly and disappeared."
The dark night of the soul resumed after a day and continued for almost 6 months. When one contemplates her life's mission, which she said was to help others see the Mercy of God and to help convert sinners so they could be spared hell, one can begin to understand the purpose, perhaps, for her having to experience the near death experience as well as the dark night of the soul.
In another entry, Faustina relates that she was summoned to the judgment seat of God. She spends some time apologizing in frustration for her inability to describe this overwhelming experience in any manner that would help anyone to understand it. She alleges that she appeared before the Lord as He appears in His Passion. She suddenly saw the complete condition of her soul as God sees it. She could clearly see all that displeased God, and was surprised to know that even the smallest transgressions will have to be accounted for. At one point, she says that Jesus asked her which she would prefer: to suffer one day in Purgatory or for a short while on earth. Faustina responded that she would do both. She notes Jesus' reply:
"One [of the two] is enough; you will go back to earth, and there you will suffer much, but not for long; you will accomplish My will and My desires, and a faithful servant of Mine will help you to do this. Now, rest your head on My bosom, on My heart, and draw from it strength and power for these sufferings, because you will find neither relief nor help nor comfort anywhere else. Know that you will have much, much to suffer, but don't let this frighten you; I am with you."
On many occasions, Kowalska asserts that she was able to see the condition of certain souls. In several entries, without naming names, she tells how she was made to know that such a one was in danger of eternal damnation. She then proceeds to pray and sacrifice for that soul. Faustina reports that many of the sisters in her community also come to see her privately, asking for prayers.
Although she does not express it herself, her "marital relationship" borders on the human side. An "argument" arises when Kowalska asks Jesus to save a soul for every stitch she makes while crocheting. He replies that she does not know what she is asking. She counters with, "What am I suppose to do to save souls, if you do not permit me to make sacrifices, then?" On another occasion, she recorded that Jesus told her: "I am going to leave this house…because there are things here which displease Me." Faustina describes the Host coming out of the tabernacle and resting in her hands. She replaced it. This was repeated a second and then a third time. At the last time, the Host was transformed in the living Jesus, who said, "I will stay here no longer!" At this Faustina answered, "I will not let You leave this house, Jesus!" Jesus disappeared and the Host returned. She once again put it back in the chalice and closed up the tabernacle.
On February 10, 1938, Kowalska writes that Jesus has told her that she will suffer until she dies and that her meekness will be the way in which she will succeed in her mission. She is made to understand that chosen souls much achieve perfection.
"Chosen souls are, in My hand, lights which I cast into the darkness of the world and with which I illumine the night, so chosen souls illumine the earth. And the more perfect a soul is the stronger and the more far-reaching is the light shed by it. It can be hidden and unknown, even to those closest to it, and yet its holiness is reflected in souls even to the most distant extremities of the world."
Throughout the diary, Faustina cites messages she receives about personal circumstances that will soon come to pass. Later, when the events occur exactly as described, she documents them. These "short term insights" or foreknowledge usually deal with temporal or spiritual problems (how and when those problems will be resolved), warnings about physical sufferings she will receive, or interior knowledge about people who will come into her life before she actually meets them. Such entries are strewn throughout the six notebooks. Faustina said that Poland would be severely chastised and asserts that it is only through the hand of the Mother of God that Jesus has so far not justifiably punished Poland. On her deathbed, she declares that Poland will soon be involved in a great war and that many, many people will die. A year after her death, Poland was plunged into WW2.
In another entry concerning Poland, Faustina alleges that Jesus said: "I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to My will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for My final coming" Some believe that this prophecy has been fulfilled through John Paul II. Others allege that the prophecy concerns Sister Faustina herself. In a more direct prophecy, Faustina alleges that Jesus, through His Mercy, will give the world a special grace. Before the day of justice arrives, there will be given to people a sign in the heavens of this sort:
All light in the heavens will be extinguished, and there will be great darkness over the whole earth. The sign of the cross will be seen in the sky, and from the openings where the hands and the feet of the Savior were nailed will come forth great lights which will light up the earth for a period of time. This will take placed shortly before the last day.
By 1937, her health began to deteriorate. By the next year "...she was not spared any of the terrible sufferings caused by that disease in its final stages." Catholics maintain that "...the last chapter in her life became one of extreme suffering, and she offered up all her sufferings, in union with Christ's Passion, for mercy upon all lost sinners, and especially those near to death." (10) As she prophesied a year earlier, she died in 1938. On September 26, she told Fr. Sopocko, that Jesus told her she would die on October 5. When she died on that day, she was fully conscious and in union with those praying for her. (11). She perhaps remembered that in July of 1937, she recorded Jesus as saying, "Know, my daughter, that your silent, day-to-day martyrdom in complete submission to My will ushers many souls into heaven. And when it seems to you that your suffering exceeds your strength contemplate my wounds."
It was the Archbishop of Cracow, Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, (later known as Pope John Paul II) in 1965, who realized that the Vatican had been given faulty translations of Faustina's Diary. He asked Fr. Ignacy Rooycki, a leading theologian, to analyze and write a critical analysis of the Diary. Fr. Rooycki did not want to waste time analyzing "hallucinations of an uneducated nun." To pass the time, he decided to pick up the diary, fully intent on writing a letter to the archbishop telling him of his refusal to analyze the work. He was so impressed by the writing that he not only decided to write the critical analysis but to devote his life to the study and dissemination of her message. (12) Archbishop Wojtyla delegated Bishop Julian Groblicki, to begin the Informative Process "relating to the life and virtues of Sister Faustina." By virtue of the Informative Process, she was called Servant of God. The next year, her remains were exhumed and placed in a tomb in the chapel of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Pilgrims then began to place flowers and ask for her intercession. After the Informative Process was closed in l968, the Process of Beatification began. (13) Two separate miracles, found to be unexplainable by science, were necessary to confirm sainthood.
The first miracle was established to have occurred in March, 1981. The miracle involved Maureen Digan, a Massachusetts resident. She and her husband, along with their son and Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC (a priest who is a member of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception) witnessed the miracle. Digan had previously had a leg amputated because it had been ravaged by Milroy's Disease. Milroy's Disease is a form of lymphedema. Digan and the aforementioned traveled to the tomb of Helena Kowalska to pray for a cure. The doctors she had seen recommended amputating her remaining leg. At Faustina's tomb, at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy near Krakow, Poland, Digan felt the pain leaving her leg and the swelling going down. Upon examining her, her doctor said that her incurable ailment had disappeared. This condition was verified by the Church. The Church necessitates that experts who are non-believers, conclude that the healing is scientifically impossible. The verification of the first miracle made it possible for the Vatican to declare Faustina "blessed." This was the first step in the process of beatification. (14)
The second scientifically unexplainable miracle occurred on October 5, 1995, the anniversary of Helen Kolwalska's death. Fr. Pytel, a 48- year old American priest, had been diagnosed with a massive calcium build-up in his aortic valve. This build up was caused by a congenital heart condition. Now, his left ventricle was permanently damaged. His cardiologist, Dr. Nicholas Fortuin, world-renowned for his work in cardiology at John Hopkins in Baltimore, said that his patient would never be able to return to his work as a pastor because his heart would never be normal.
Members of Fr. Pytel's parish and Fr. Pytel himself gathered on Helen Kolwalska's anniversary of her death to pray for Fr. Pytel's healing. A relic from Helen Kolwalska was venerated. When Fr. Pytel venerated it, he fell to the floor and was unable to move for a quarter of an hour. During his next check-up, Dr. Fortuin discovered that his patient's heart was now normal. Four years later, Dr. Valentine Fuster, Director of Mt. Sinai's Cardiovascular Institute in New York City and his medical team evaluated the situation as "scientifically unexplainable." (15)
Blessed Maria Faustina Kowalska was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II in Rome on April 30, 2000. That particular day, the first Sunday after Easter, was established as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Since her death, the immensity of the Divine Mercy devotion, as recorded in her diary, has spread throughout the world. Because the Feast of Divine Mercy, celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter, has been made catholic in the 'universal sense', all peoples within the Catholic Church have heard Kowalska's messages in their own language.
Links to information on the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Divine Mercy Sunday, and related devotions.
(the author of this article wishes to remain anonymous)
The Primary Source:
Six notebooks written from 1934 to 1938 were originally published in Polish as: Kowalska, Maria Faustina. Z.M.B.M. Dzienniczek. Krakow Stockbridge Rzym: 1981; and translated in English and published as: Kowalska, Maria Faustina. Divine Mercy in My Soul. (translated 1987) Marians of the Immaculate Conception: Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 2001.
1. Michalenko, Sophia. "Epilogue." The Life of Faustina Kowalska, The Authorized Biography. Charis Servant Publications: Ann Arbor. 1999.
3. Deskur, Andrew M. "Original Preface to the Polish Edition, 1981". Diary, Divine Mercy In My Soul Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 2001.
4. Michalenko, Sophia. The Life of Faustina Kowalska, The Authorized Biography. Charis Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, 1999.
8. "Chronology of Events" Diary Divine Mercy in My Soul. Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 2001.
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