St. Faustina: Growing with Grace

October 5 of this year marked the 80th anniversary of the death of St. Faustina and her entrance into eternal life. We continue to honor this special anniversary as we 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.

"You cannot teach children religion," says Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, one of the world's leading experts on the life and spirituality of St. Faustina. "You have to infect them with it. They have to see faith shining through you."

Saint Faustina was infected with the faith in her humble and devout upbringing. In The Life of Faustina Kowalska, the late Sr. Sophia Michalenko, CMGT, wrote:

Stanislaus [Faustina's father] was known to rise very early and begin each day with the singing of the traditional Little Hours of the Immaculate Conception, popularly known as "Godzinki." During Lent he would substitute these prayers with the Lamentations of the Lord's Passion. ... When Marianna [Faustina's mother] would try to silence him with, "Stop your singing. You will awaken everyone," he paid no attention to her.

"The first duty is to God," he would sometimes retort.

It could be said that Faustina (Helen) out of all the children absorbed the virtue and devotedness of her parents the most, as we reflected on in the previous part to this series.

As she grew into her teenage years, Faustina began to have mystical experiences with Jesus and she would share deep reflections on our Lord with her siblings.

Her sister Natalia recalled that when she was a little girl, Helen, three years older than her, explained what really happens in the Mass. Faustina reportedly shared:

Pay attention to what the priest does. When he processes into the church, Christ is going to pray in the Garden of Olives, and He is sweating bloody sweat. When the priest opens the celebration of the Holy Mass, the Lord Jesus is praying. Now the priest kisses the altar: that's when Judas kisses the Lord and delivers Him into the hands of the Jews. The priest approaches the side of the altar - they are leading Jesus Christ to Annas. When he intones the 'Kyrie eleison,' they are slapping Him and spitting in His face; they lead Him to Caiaphas, and next, to Pontius Pilate. When the priest washes his hands, Pilate is washing his hands. When the priest uncovers the chalice on the altar, Pilate is having Jesus disrobed; when the priest stands still, they are flogging Him. The priest covers the chalice, and they are placing the crown of thorns on His head. When he raises the Host - Christ is being raised on the cross. When the priest breaks the Host and drops it into the chalice - Jesus dies (Faustina: The Mystic and Her Message, 43).

Unfortunately, Helen couldn't stay at home with her siblings for long. Once she turned 16, due to the poverty of her family (as in many peasant families at the time), she left home to work as a maid in a nearby town. A year later, in 1921, she returned to her hometown to ask permission to enter the convent.

Both parents refused her request. They wouldn't have the money to pay the dowry necessary for most convents at the time. So, since she couldn't enter the convent as she felt the Lord Jesus was calling her to do, she went to work again as a servant, this time in Lodz. Her employer, Marcianna Sadowska, recalled:

Pleasant, polite, hard-working. I cannot say anything against her, because she was almost too good. She was so good there are no words to describe it. When she and I went shopping in town, she would take the shopping bag from me, but I wouldn't give it to her to carry because she was weak - she was always fasting. I would snatch the bag from her, and she from me. I was very happy with her because whatever I intended to do, she had already done for me. She was agreeable and amusing. In the evening, when she sat on her stool, my three children would gather round her at once. They liked her because she told them stories and laughed, and they with her. If I had to leave home, I could be free of anxiety, because she did everything at home better than I myself. When she left I don't know where she went. She was to have gone earlier, but she waited until my baby was born. She was so obliging (out of print, Sister Faustina Kowalska - Her Life and Mission, 37-39).

Where did she go? To Warsaw. She would not put off the Lord Jesus any longer. As you may know, Jesus Himself appeared to her at a local dance and expressed His longing for her to enter the convent:

Once I was at a dance [probably in Lodz] with one of my sisters. While everybody was having a good time, my soul was experiencing deep torments. As I began to dance, I suddenly saw Jesus at my side, Jesus racked with pain, stripped of His clothing, all covered with wounds, who spoke these words to me: How long shall I put up with you and how long will you keep putting Me off? At that moment the charming music stopped, [and] the company I was with vanished from my sight; there remained Jesus and I. I took a seat by my dear sister pretending to have a headache in order to cover up what took place in my soul. After a while I slipped out unnoticed, leaving my sister and all my companions behind and made my way to the Cathedral of Saint Stanislaus Kostka.

It was almost twilight; there were only a few people in the cathedral. Paying no attention to what was happening around me, I fell prostrate before the Blessed Sacrament and begged the Lord to be good enough to give me to understand what I should do next.

Then I heard these words: Go at once to Warsaw; you will enter a convent there. I rose from prayer, came home, and took care of things that needed to be settled. As best I could, I confided to my sister what took place within my soul. I told her to say good-bye to our parents, and thus, in my one dress, with no other belongings, I arrived in Warsaw (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 9-10).

We will continue next month reflecting on Helen's move to Warsaw and entrance into religious life.

Prayer for St. Faustina's Intercession
Saint Faustina, you told us that your mission would continue after your death and that you would not forget us (see 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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