Saint Faustina Kowalska, the world-renowned apostle of Divine Mercy and one of the greatest mystics of the Church, was born on August 25, 1905 in Głogowiec (Łódź region, Central Poland). She was the third of ten children, in a poor Catholic peasant family. At her baptism, in the nearby parish church of Świnice Warckie, she was given the name Helena. During her childhood she distinguished herself by acts of devotion, her love for prayer, hard work, obedience and a tremendous sensitivity to human misery.
Despite completing only three years of schooling, in her Diary she clearly described what she wanted to achieve, in a simple, precise manner, without any ambiguity. In the (Diary, 7) she wrote about her experiences from her childhood:
“From the age of seven, I experienced the definite call of God, the grace of a vocation to the religious life. It was in the seventh year of my life that, for the first time, I heard God’s voice in my soul; that is, an invitation to a more perfect life. But I was not always obedient to the call to grace. I came across no one who would have explained these things to me.”
At the age of sixteen she left her family home for the nearby city of Aleksandrów (Poland) and then moved to Łódź (Poland), where she worked as a servant to support herself and to help her parents. During this period the desire to join a convent was gradually growing inside her. Since her parents were against it, young Helena tried to deaden God’s call.
Years later, she reminiscenced about this in her (Diary, 9-10):
“Once I was at a dance with one of my Sisters and while everybody was having a good time, my soul was experiencing internal torments. As I began to dance, I suddenly saw Jesus at my side, Jesus racked with pain, stripped of his clothing, covered with wounds, who spoke these words to me, “How long shall I suffer and how long will you keep deceiving Me?” At that moment the charming music stopped and any company vanished from my sight; there remained Jesus and I. I took a seat by my dear sister, pretending to have a headache to hide what had taken 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 St. Stanislaus Kostka (Łódź).
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 allow me to understand what I should do next. Then I heard these words, “Go at once to Warsaw (Poland), 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 goodbye to our parents and thus, in one dress, with no other belongings, I arrived in Warsaw”.
In Warsaw, she knocked on numerous convent doors, but with no luck. Finally, on August 1, 1925, she applied to the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, located at Żytnia Street in Warsaw, and she was accepted. Before that though, to satisfy the conditions and put together her outfit, she worked as a housekeeper near Warsaw for a family with several children. In the Diary she described her feelings when joining the convent: “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).
Upon joining the Congregation, Helena took on the name Sister Mary Faustina. She completed her probation in Cracow where, in the presence of Bishop Stanislaus Rospond, she took her initial religious vows, and five years later, perpetual vows professing chastity, poverty and obedience. She was assigned to work in various houses of the Congregation, spending the longest periods of time in Cracow, Płock and Vilnius, working as a cook, gardener and doorkeeper. Her extraordinarily rich mystical life was not visible to others in the convents or outside. She passionately fulfilled her duties and faithfully observed all the monastic rules. She was focused and silent, but at the same time, natural and cheerful, full of a kind and unselfish love for her neighbours. Her rigorous lifestyle and exhausting fasting, which she was undertaking even before joining the Congregation, weakened her body to such an extent that already during her postulancy it became necessary to send her for medical treatment.
After her first year in novitiate, she went through an unusually painful mystical experience: her so-called “dark night”, and then, further spiritual and moral sufferings related to fulfilling the mission she was given by The Lord Jesus. Sr. Faustina sacrificed her life for sinners to save their souls; for that she underwent a diverse range of sufferings.
During the final years of her life, her health deteriorated significantly: she developed tuberculosis which attacked her lungs and gastrointestinal tract. As a result, she underwent two periods of hospital treatment, each lasting a few months. Physically totally ravaged, but spiritually entirely mature being mystically united with God, she died in Cracow-Łagiewniki on October 5, 1938 an athmosphere of holiness, having lived for only 33 years, including 13 years of monastic life. (See annotation of Saint Faustina’s Diary)
On April 30, 2000 in the Vatican Pope John Paul II canonized Sister Faustina.