St. Faustina (1905-1938) was a member of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland. Saint Faustina’s mission to mankind began when she had a vision of Jesus Christ on Feb. 22, 1931. He came with a message of trust in God’s mercy that she was told to spread throughout the world.
He asked her to be the apostle and secretary of His mercy, a model of how to be merciful to others, and an instrument for reemphasizing God’s plan of mercy for the world.
After a psychiatric assessment gave her a bill of complete mental health, her spiritual mentor arranged for an artist to produce a painting under St. Faustina’s direction, rendering her vision of the merciful Savior. Christ told her to keep a journal or diary of her mystical experiences. Only a few of her superiors, her confessor, and spiritual director knew of her visions and revelations.
During her lifetime, Faustina was virtually unknown — even to many sisters of her congregation. She died of tuberculosis on Oct. 5, 1938.
Divine Mercy and the Diary of St. Faustina
Christ’s message in His revelations to St. Faustina was that this is a time for mercy. The times we live in, more than any other in history, call for a great outpouring of the mercy of God. As a result, the revelations to Faustina became known as “The Message of Divine Mercy” and Jesus received a new title — “The Divine Mercy” — similar to “The Sacred Heart” as a renaming of Jesus himself.
Following her death, the message of God’s mercy, as revealed to Faustina, began to spread. However, because of the political situation in Poland during and after the war, it was difficult for the Church to authenticate Faustina’s writings. As a result, the Vatican imposed a ban on spreading the message of mercy according to these revelations.
Once the writings were examined, scholars and theologians were astounded that a simple nun with hardly two winters of formal education was able to write so clearly — and with such detail and simplicity about the mystical life. Her writings were found to be entirely theologically correct, and are numbered among the greatest works of mystical literature.
Faustina and John Paul II
The foremost champion of the Divine Mercy message in our day has been Pope John Paul II.
Not only was he instrumental in having the ban on the spread of the message lifted, but he made Divine Mercy the theme of the second encyclical of his pontificate — “Dives in Misericordia.
During his visit to Faustina’s tomb on June 7, 1997, he even stated that Divine Mercy has “formed the image of his pontificate.”
Mere months before being named pope, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, after years of exhaustive work, succeeded in having the ban on Faustina’s writings lifted.
Since that time, Pope John Paul II has promoted Divine Mercy and championed the cause of St. Faustina and her writings. He’s become known as “The Mercy Pope.”
Miracle No. 1
In March 1981, Maureen Digan, of Roslindale, Massachusetts, her husband, son, and Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC (a priest of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception), traveled to St. Faustina’s tomb at the Shrine of The Divine Mercy outside of Krakow, Poland.
From her early teens, Maureen suffered from an incurable illness — and she had all but given up hope that she could ever be rid of it. Milroy’s Disease, a form of lymphedema, had already claimed one of her legs and doctors recommended amputating the other.
At Faustina’s tomb, Maureen prayed for St. Faustina’s intercession and immediately felt the pain leave her and the swelling in her leg going down.
In fact, Maureen later said she thought she was losing her mind. But upon the doctors’ examination, they stated that Maureen’s incurable ailment had disappeared. After exhaustive examination by medical professionals, the Church declared the healing a miracle through Faustina’s intercession.
Becoming a saint
In order to be declared a saint in the Catholic Church, two authenticated miracles (usually physical healings) must be approved. Healings must be instant and irreversible. After one miracle is authenticated (given that the one whose cause is being promoted has had their heroic virtues proven), one may be declared “blessed” in a process known as “beatification.”
St. Faustina was beatified by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on April 18, 1993.
Miracle No. 2
In 1995, Fr. Ron Pytel of Baltimore, Maryland, knew he had a problem. During a bout with bronchitis, he found himself out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs. Upon closer examination, his doctors discovered a massive calcium build-up in his aortic valve. As a result, the left ventricle of his heart had become badly damaged — a condition that rarely heals and if it does, it occurs over a span of many years.
In June of 1995, Fr. Ron had surgery to replace the valve with an artificial one, but the damage to his heart was another problem. When he went for his first regular check-up two months later, the prognosis was not good.
Dr. Nicholas Fortuin, a world-renowned cardiologist from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, said that Fr. Ron’s heart would never be normal and that the 48-year-old priest would likely never be able to return to his priestly duties.
However, all of that changed on Oct. 5, 1995 — the Feast Day and 58th anniversary of Saint Faustina’s death. After a full day of prayer at his parish, Fr. Ron attended a healing service where he prayed for Saint Faustina’s intercession. After venerating her relic, he collapsed on the floor and felt unable to move for about 15 minutes. During his next regular check-up, Fr. Ron’s doctor could not explain the condition of the priest’s heart — it had returned to normal.
This healing, like all presented to the Church as “miracles,” was thoroughly and exhaustively researched by medical professionals and theologians who deal with the causes for saints.
On Nov. 16, 1999, a panel of doctors declared the healing scientifically unexplainable. The healing was dubbed a miracle by theologians from the Church’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints on Dec. 7. Then, one week later, on Dec. 14, a panel of cardinals and bishops gave their unanimous approval.
Finally, on Dec. 20, 1999, Pope John Paul II approved the healing as a miracle. It is expected that St. Faustina will be canonized on Mercy Sunday, April 30, 2000.
Stockbridge Connection: The Marians
The Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, based in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, have strong ties to Pope John Paul II, St. Faustina’s cause for canonization, Maureen Digan, and the Divine Mercy message and devotion.
1. Maureen Digan and her husband, Bob, have been employees of the Marians for nearly 15 years. Maureen is now working full-time for the Marians in promoting St. Faustina’s cause.
2. Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC. A member of the Congregation of Marians, is the Vice-Postulator for St. Faustina’s cause for canonization. In this capacity, he is directly involved in seeing the case through to her eventual canonization. In addition, Fr. Seraphim accompanied Maureen Digan and her husband to St. Faustina’s tomb in 1991 when she was healed. Fr. Seraphim is also the Rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.
3. The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, located on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, was established in 1944. The present shrine was built by the Marians during the 1950s and blessed in 1960. Dedicated to Jesus Christ as “The Divine Mercy,” the Shrine has been celebrating the mercy of God since its dedication. For more than 50 years, the Marians have dedicated themselves to spreading the message of God’s mercy at the Shrine and through their publishing apostolate in Stockbridge. The Shrine draws about 35,000 pilgrims annually. About 15,000 pilgrims from around the world gather at the National Shrine every year to celebrate “Mercy Sunday” on the Sunday after Easter.
4. The Association of Marian Helpers and its press operation produce more Divine Mercy materials than any other publisher in the world. The operation produces close to 10 million pieces of printed information a year in many languages. The Association’s Divine Mercy magazines, newsletters, prayercards, leaflets, booklets, and books are sold and distributed on every continent. The apostolate publishes in three primary languages: English, Spanish, and Polish. The Association also has partners and promoters of Divine Mercy around the globe.
Holy Spirit Interactive: Divine Mercy: Faustina’s Miracles