By Mel Mantanona
St. Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Blessed Sacrament was born on Aug. 25, 1905 in Poland. She grew up in a large, poor, and devout family. When she was 7, she attended an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and felt a calling to the religious life but her parents refused when she was of age.
In 1924, she had a vision of a suffering Jesus telling her to leave for Warsaw and to enter into a convent. She left the next day and attended Mass at the first church she saw in Warsaw. She sought out convents to join but was turned away by each one she went to due to her pauper appearance.
The mother superior of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy agreed to have Faustina enter their convent and she took the name of St. Maria Faustina of the Blessed Sacrament. She went on to travel as a cook for convents; however, when signs of illness started to manifest, she was sent away for rest.
In 1931 Faustina was visited by Jesus. Her diary records: “In the evening, when I was in my cell, I became aware of the Lord Jesus clothed in a white garment. One hand was raised in blessing, the other was touching the garment at the breast. From the opening of the garment at the breast there came forth two large rays, one red and the other pale. In silence, I gazed intently at the Lord; my soul was overwhelmed with fear, but also with great joy. After a while Jesus said to me, ‘paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the inscription: Jesus, I trust in You.’”
Faustina didn’t know how to paint and the Divine Mercy image wasn’t painted until three years later. She continued to receive visions of Jesus and told her confessor what was happening. Her confessor had her evaluated by a psychiatrist and when results came back that she was sane, her confessor believed and suggested she keep a diary of all her encounters with Jesus.
One notable documentation in her diary is that Jesus wanted the Divine Mercy image to be “solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter.” She also had visions of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as a means to obtain mercy. Her illness progressively became worse five years later and she died in 1938.
St. Faustina died a virgin at the age of 33. She was beatified in April 1993 and canonized 7 years later by Pope John Paul II. She is the patron saint of Mercy.
Information and photo from http://www.catholic.org/saints