Saint Faustina: Her Early Virtues

October 5 marks the 80th anniversary of the death of St. Faustina and her entrance into eternal life. Those who are strong devotees to Divine Mercy and St. Faustina, may know a lot already about her life. In honor of this special anniversary, let's dive a bit deeper into the life of St. Faustina to discover her in a way that perhaps we never have before. May she intercede for us and reveal to us more of the mystery of God's love and mercy.

Marianna and Stanislaus Kowalska, parents of St. Faustina, were married in 1892. For 10 years they were unable to conceive any children. Then, in 1902, they had their first child, Josephine, and a year later another child, Eve. They were difficult pregnancies, and Marianna nearly died each time. Then, on Aug. 25, 1905, Helena was born. The labor was smooth and Marianna did not have any complications.

Almost like a miracle after that pregnancy, Marianna had seven more babies. In total, Marianna had 10 children in an 18-year period. Two of the daughters did die in infancy, but six daughters and two sons survived.

From an early age, Helena stood out among the children. Maria Tarnawska in her now-out-of-print Marian Press book, Sister Faustina Kowalska - Her Life and Mission, wrote that Helena (Faustina) was quite different from the other children. She was especially loved by her parents because she was the only child whom they felt they could completely and absolutely trust.

A few stories from her childhood stand out as examples of her virtue from an early age.

Her family lived on a farm. Her father grew crops, and they also had animals - pigs, chickens, and cows. Their parish church was two kilometers away and only had one Mass. On Sundays, this caused a problem. Who would stay home to take care of the cows and let them graze? Helena decided to wake early before Mass and slip out the window so as to not wake anyone. She took the cows out to graze. The first time she tried this, however, her father awoke, came outside, and saw the cow shed empty.

Terrified that thieves had stolen his cattle, he ran out into the farmyard. He was shocked to see little Helena bringing the cows back in from grazing.

Furthermore, the cows were walking between his two fields of wheat, but they didn't eat a single head of grain. Rather, they were content with the grass growing besides the path. For a long time in the local area this was considered "miraculous," because it seemed as if it was some invisible force that made the cows content with grass instead of wheat.

At another point in the family's life, money was so tight, not all the children had proper clothes for Sunday Mass. The girls, would have to share dresses. Unfortunately, there were not enough dresses for all of them, so one would have to stay behind. Helena would often be the one to offer to stay at home so that the others could go.

She would retreat to a corner in the garden with a large book of devotions and prayers, and would remain there until Mass had finished at the parish church. Her mother would sometimes call out to her while she was at prayer, but she would not flinch or respond. As soon as her prayers were over, she would run to her mother and apologize, saying that Jesus would be angry if she did not perform that duty of her Sunday prayers. Helena would do this every time she had to stay home from Mass. It was her first example of being obedient to God first, and then to her parents.

Helena not only had an obedient heart for God and her parents, she also had a great love for the poor. Her eldest sister, Josephine, is recorded to have shared:

When Helena was about 10 years old, she decided to obtain money for the poor in the same way that they do. She dressed in rags and went around the village from house to house saying a prayer and asking for alms. She came back home very depressed saying, "The poor have a terrible life. How much they have to bear getting food for themselves."

On another occasion she made little gifts out of scraps of cloth and paper and sold them to collect money for the parish priest to distribute to the poor.

These stories from the young life of St. Faustina show the Lord was already at work giving her the grace of sanctity. We must never underestimate what little children are capable of, and what virtues they can practice. But even for those who aren't children anymore, we can do what Jesus has told us to do and have the heart of a little child. Let us learn from the example of St. Faustina and be obedient to God, selfless in love, faithful in prayer, and have a love and care for the poor.

Prayer to St. Faustina
Saint Faustina, you told us that your mission would continue after your death and that you would not forget us (Diary, 281, 1582). Our Lord also granted you a great privilege, telling you to "distribute graces as you will, to whom you will, and when you will" (Diary, 31). Relying on this, I ask your intercession for the graces I need, especially (here mention your special intentions). Help me, above all, to trust in Jesus as you did and thus to glorify His mercy every moment of my life. Amen.


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