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Saint Faustina Kowalska
Feast Day: October 5th
Saint Faustina was born in the 20th century, and canonized in the year 2000. Jesus chose her to deliver to the modern world a message as old as eternity. It is the message of his love for all people, especially sinners. Jesus said to Faustina, "Today I am sending you with my mercy to the people of the whole world." It is his desire to heal the aching world, to draw all people into his merciful heart of love.
On February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to Faustina as the King of Divine Mercy. He asked her to have a picture painted of him as she saw him — clothed in white, with red and white rays of light streaming from his heart. The rays represent the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross. Under the image are the words, "Jesus, I trust in you."
Many people did not believe Faustina at first. The sisters in her own convent thought that Jesus could not possibly have selected her for this great favor. After all, she was an uneducated peasant girl. Her superiors often refused to give her permission to carry out Jesus' requests. Church theologians, too, doubted her word. Jesus told Faustina that he loved her obedience and that his will would be done in the end.
In June 1934 an artist completed the painting of the Divine Mercy according to her instructions; and it soon became a focus for devotion. Faustina continued to record in her diary the appearances of Jesus. The diary was translated into English and published in 1987 with the title Divine Mercy in My Soul.
Faustina, baptized Helena, had grown up in a poor Polish family of 10 children. When she was 15 years old, she quit school in order to work as a housemaid to help support her family. By the time she was 18, she was sure that God was calling her to a religious life, but her parents objected. So she tried to put it out of her mind. But one night, while the lively polka music was playing at a village dance, Helena saw Jesus, sad and suffering. The very next day she packed a small bag and went to the capital city of Warsaw to join the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. There she received the name Sister Mary Faustina.
About 10 years later, Faustina contracted tuberculosis. Soon she was too weak to manage the heavy gardening assigned to her. So she was given the job of gatekeeper. She was able to show mercy to the poor people who came to the convent looking for food. Once Jesus came to the door as a poor young man. After he had eaten the soup and bread Faustina gave him, she recognized him. Jesus told her he had come to experience with great joy her tender love and mercy.
Faustina was canonized by the first Polish pope, John Paul II, on April 30, 2000. The first Sunday after Easter was declared Divine Mercy Sunday.
Excerpted from Saints and Feast Days: A Resource and Activity Book by The Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio.