Helena Kowalska, A.K.A Saint Faustina, is a name we know well. She is the one who brought us the concept and practice of Divine Mercy. Divine Mercy Sunday just passed us by so it’s a good time to take a fresh look at this merciful Saint
When we think of Saint Faustina we think of the visions, the diary, or ‘Jesus I Trust In You’. For me, what comes to mind most is the role Mercy played in her short but intense life. I’ve been reflecting on this more so lately, as I see so much of Saint Faustina reflected in the actions of Pope Francis. Her life was dedicated to bringing joy and peace to others. All of her suffering was done in private, to atone for the sins of the world and unit with Christ. When reflecting on her life, we often focus on what took place after she donned her habit. But she was shown an abundance of Mercy on her journey to the convent. The Mercy she experienced must have made her so uniquely able to show it to others…to be ready to translate it in such away that it’s been embraced by our Holy Mother Church, and then bestowed on all of us.
To honor this incredible gift, here are 5 reflections on Helena Kowalska’s life.
- Helena experienced her first calling in front of an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at the tender age of 7. As a mother of a former 7 year old, I find this extremely remarkable. I have, on numerous occasions, brought my children in front of the Blessed Sacrament. They genuflect, cross themselves, and then immediately resort to very distracting shenanigans. One of my most frequently used mom phrases is, “Church is not a playground!!”. So really any situation that doesn’t result in this phrase being uttered would be remarkable. What Saint Faustina experienced really just leaves me speechless.
- Her first attempt to enter a local convent, at age 16, was not supported by her parents. They prevented her and instead she worked as a house keeper to provide for herself and her family. She was one of ten children, in a poor, religious family. I often wonder why they didn’t support her calling. I assume that due to her poverty, and her religious upbringing, marriage at age 16 would be entirely acceptable. Had she refused to marry? Her parents couldn’t have been that shocked when she told them she would like to become a nun. I’d like to think her obedience to her parents was maybe one of her first merciful acts. Choosing to help them in their poverty.
- She liked to party! Kidding. She did attend a dance at the age of 19 and experienced a vision of Christ’s suffering right then and there. He told her to leave immediately and join a convent in Warsaw. This just goes to show you God will meet you where ever you are. I mean really, the first calling was so quintessentially Catholic! But this is the vision for us sinners who danced with boys/girls at parties when we were 19 years old. I just love how the Catholic Church is full of everyday saints and heroes. Love it. And in a move I can only describe as being very Marian in nature, she said yes to Christ and left for Warsaw the following morning.
- Here’s where we really see God showing her Mercy. She got off the train in Warsaw and entered the first church she saw. Her conviction was so complete, she was literally able to walk by faith and not by sight. Her reward came when the priest found her a place to stay.
- In her quest to find the convent God called her to join, Helena was turned down numerous times due to her poverty. Finally, the Mother Superior of The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy accepted her on the condition that she pay for her own habit, which she accomplished after a year of hard work. I like how she became a Sister of Our Lady of Mercy, and then went on to bring us Divine Mercy. How appropriate.
If we reflect on the life she lived prior to becoming Sister Faustina, we see God’s plan played out through the difficult barriers she overcame to do His will. It’s not easy to respond to His call, but when we do, Mercy will surely be shown to us.
Do you ever wonder if there are people in our world, living out a secret life of suffering for Christ, that will eventually result in canonization? I’m looking at you Pope Francis.