Into The Unknown: Helen Arrives in Warsaw

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.

Knowing that her parents would not agree with her decision (as they had turned her down numerous times before when she was living under their roof), Helen Kowalska had to make a difficult decision: to leave her life of work in the secular world and follow the Lord Jesus' call to enter a convent. Helen - the future St. Faustina - left for Warsaw in July 1924, without even saying goodbye to her family. Maria Tarnawska, in her now-out-of-print Marian Press book, Sister Faustina Kowalska - Her Life and Mission, recorded that Mrs. S. Rapacka, the wife of Helen's uncle, said:

When Helen was about to go to Warsaw, she brought her things to her uncle, weeping so much that she shook. But she did not complain, or say one word about why she was weeping. She asked her uncle to take her the railway station. He afterwards told me that when she was seated in a carriage, she wept so that it was pitiful to see. She was obviously missing her family and saying farewell to them in this way. Her uncle declared, "If the train had remained standing, I would probably have taken her from it. But it did not."

Helen arrived in Warsaw near evening. She later wrote in her Diary about this day:

When I got off the train and saw that all were going their separate ways, I was overcome with fear. What am I to do? To whom should I turn, as I know no one? So I said to the Mother of God, "Mary, lead me, guide me." Immediately I heard these words within me telling me to leave the town and to go to a certain nearby village where I would find a safe lodging for the night. I did so and found, in fact, that everything was just as the Mother of God told me (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 11).

In the morning, she went to the first church she saw - the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in the Parish of St. James the Apostle. Inside the church, Masses were being said one after another. She heard our Lord say to her in her heart, "Go to that priest and tell him everything; he will tell you what to do next" (Diary, 12). Obediently, she did. After bearing her heart to the pastor, Fr. James Dabrowski, he sent her to a "pious lady" of his parish (see Diary, 13). This lady was Aldona Lipszyc, who graciously took Helen in to help around the house and with her five children. While staying with Aldona and her family, Helen also spent time going door to door at various convents asking to be accepted into their congregations. One by one she was turned away due to her lack of education and dowry. Then she knocked on the door of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.

Mother Margaret Gimbutt met with Helen. The Congregation accepted women of any social status, but split them into two choirs - one for the elite and educated young girls, and another for those of a "lower social status" and lack of a dowry. Ewa Czaczkowska in her biography Faustina: The Mystic and Her Message (Marian Press) writes that Mother Margaret described Helen to the Mother Superior as, "Inconspicuous, slightly too old, fragile, a servant, by occupation a cook, and, what's more, having no dowry, and not even the least of any money for a postulant's wardrobe." But thankfully, the Mother Superior, Mother Michael Moraczewska, wanted to see Helen for herself. At the sight of Helen's unkempt external appearance, Mother Michael also thought, "This is not for us." Czaczkowska continues:

She intended to send her away immediately, but she thought, "It would be more in keeping with love for one's neighbor to ask the girl a few superficial questions first before bidding her farewell." During the conversation, she noticed that the "candidate gains in closer contact, she has a nice smile, an amiable expression, and great simplicity, honesty, and common sense in expressing herself." She changed her opinion, therefore, and wished to accept her.

Helen wrote in her Diary what happened next:

She told me, after a short conversation, to go to the Lord of the house and ask whether He would accept me. I understood at once that I was to ask this of the Lord Jesus. With great joy, I went to the chapel and asked Jesus, "Lord of this house, do You accept me? This is how one of these sisters told me to put the question to You."

Immediately I heard this voice: I do accept; you are in My Heart. When I returned from the chapel, Mother Superior asked first of all, "Well, has the Lord accepted you?" I answered, "Yes." "If the Lord has accepted, [she said] then I also will accept" (14).

Still needing to have enough money for her postulant wardrobe, Helen was required to continue working for the Lipszyc family for the next year, saving her money along the way. On Aug.1, 1925, almost 20 years old, Helen was able to officially enter the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Years later she wrote of that day, "I felt immensely happy; it seemed to me that I had stepped into the life of Paradise. A single prayer was bursting forth from my heart, one of thanksgiving" (Diary, 17).

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 (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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