Kowalska, Maria Faustina (1905–1938)
Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, a Roman Catholic visionary
known for having experienced apparitions of Jesus Christ, was
born and raised in Poland and as a young woman joined the
Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. Though most of her coreligionists
were not aware of it, her life changed on February 22, 1931,
when she had her first vision of Jesus. In His appearances He
gave her a basic message of trust in God’s mercy. He then asked
her to be an apostle of God’s mercy and assist its spread
throughout the world. He also called her to be a model of the
message of mercy and asked her to keep a record of their encounters.
She shared the account of her experiences with her confessor
and with her monastic superiors. They arranged for her to
see a psychiatrist, who pronounced her in good mental health.
Satisfied that she was not simply hallucinating, they arranged
for an artist to paint a picture of Jesus as He appeared to Kowalska.
The picture shows Christ with a beam of light emanating
from His heart. Through the remainder of the decade she continued
to see and receive messages from Jesus until her untimely
death from tuberculosis on October 5, 1938. She was buried
at the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy convent outside of Krakow.
Eventually a shrine to Divine Mercy would be erected there.
After her death, word of the visions and message received
by Sister Faustina began to circulate in Poland, but World War
II (1939–45) made the normal process of authentication impossible.
As a result, the Vatican forbade the spread of the message.
As the country recovered, reexamination was hampered
by the new situation as the country was plunged under Communist
rule. However, through the 1960s, churchmen and theologians
began to reexamine the writings and found them both
theologically correct and spiritually sophisticated. One among
them, Archbishop Carol Wojtyla, became her champion and is
given credit for having the ban lifted. The release of the writings
to the public occurred just a short time prior to his becoming
Pope John Paul II.
As people became aware of the message and of Sister Faustina’s
role in receiving it, she became an object of veneration
and healing began to be attributed to her. Even prior to the
original ban on the message, a national shrine to Divine Mercy
had been established in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The congregations
of Marians at Stockbridge have led in the spread of
the Divine Mercy revelation and in pressing the cause of Sister
Faustina’s canonization as a saint of the Roman Catholic
Church. She was beatified in 1993, a step toward her canonization
which occurred on April 30, 2000.
Sources
Kowalska, Maria Faustina. Divine Mercy in My Soul. Diary.
Stockbridge, Mass. Marian Press, 1987.

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